Saturday, October 8, 2011

Superb Afternoon at Barr Lake State Park

October 7, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After two weeks of owling every night, Bryan and I resigned after hiking around in 24+ mph winds Thursday night into Friday morning. I dropped Bryan off in Brighton and got a ride over to Barr Lake (Adams County). Rebecca dropped me off and went on to chores.

Surprisingly, winds were 4 mph or less at Barr Lake from 3:00 pm to 6:15 pm. During this time, I had planned to walk from the Visitor's Center to the Old Stone House (approximately 3 miles). Several flocks of birds changed those plans.

A Field Sparrow had been spotted earlier behind the Visitor's Center. So many sparrows were west of the building; it took 1.5 hours to look at them. The final count was 81 White-crowned Sparrows, 3 Chipping Sparrows, 1 Harris's Sparrow, 1 Savannah Sparrow and a Field Sparrow.

Not one of my regular hikes, I walked along the southern weedy edge of the canal from the Visitor's Center to the first tall tree. The Harris's Sparrow was in the pile of dead brush (perhaps 60 yards southwest of the Visitor's Center).

While, another 20 yards farther west, I saw the Field Sparrow with dozens of White-crowned Sparrows below the top of the canal. This flock eventually reversed directions and ended up back behind the Visitor's Center. While I was able to get fair looks at the Field Sparrow three times, I could not tell if it was the one banded earlier in the week.

Returning to the Visitor's Center, I relocated the Harris's Sparrow and a dozen White-crowned Sparrows, which were last observed flying south and landing in the only tall Rabbit Brush south of the Visitor's Center.

Another interesting bird kept flying out of the grasses and landing deep in the grasses several times. It turned out to be a Chestnut-collared Longspur in basic plumage.

One House Wren stayed around the feeders. A female/immature Lark Bunting was on the ground below the Visitor's Center feeders. When I went inside to record the sparrows on their white board, a male Wilson's Warbler flew into the western window. Mostly the Wilson's Warbler is mentioned as he was the only warbler I found during the visit.

I then spent an hour wandering around the banding area. As expected, most birds were found at the southwestern edge of the area (direct sunlight on the trees). A Great Horned Owl was watching from the tall cottonwoods.

A Cassin's Vireo eventually flew to the tree-covered finger of land that juts into the lake. Over sixty Chipping Sparrows and four Black-capped Chickadees were also in that area.

With little songbird activity, I changed to shorebird mode and walked to the north end of the sand/mud spit. Shorebird action was slow however did include: 1 Black-bellied Plover, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 1 Sanderling, 4 Western Sandpipers, 4 Baird's Sandpipers and 6 unidentified peeps (not Least Sandpipers).

Other birds on this spit included 18 Snowy Egrets, dozens of American White Pelicans, Ring-billed Gulls, 8 California Gulls, 5 Double-crested Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron.

One other interesting bird was spotted halfway between the banding area and the first Osprey nesting platform. The bird flew up seven times and disappeared in the weeds 20-25 yards from the shoreline. This bird was quite dark with a hint of rufous color from head to tail (slightly darker wings). It was a very small bird with a short tail and needle like bill. Too big to be a House Wren, It showed no white, just plain dark rufous, streaked belly and flanks. It had to be a Winter Wren (although seemed out of place)!

I called Rebecca for a ride about 6:00 pm. We met at the boat ramp area and then went looking for Short-eared Owls along the DIA Owl Loop. None appeared tonight. Two Burrowing Owls were seen at the prairie dog village (3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue).

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