Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Birding Around Denver Today

Richard Stevens:

I find myself again behind in updating my Blog. Limited access, long days and a tired body, tonight I finally found time to catch up!

November 29, 2011

Bryan Ehlmann and I were at Denver City Park (Denver County) about an hour before sunrise. We searched unsuccessfully for Eastern Screech-Owls in the cold, quite cold air.

A quick look found the Long-tailed Duck at appropriately named Duck Lake. After the Zoo opened, we checked to make sure no Long-tailed Ducks were part of their collection. They agreed; the bird must be wild.

From there, we drove over to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). The Golden-crowned Sparrow had not been reported in a week or so. It still has not; the sparrow was a no show.

Our fortune did not ameliorate at the South Platte Birding Area (Adams) at 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd. We walked south to I270 and back without finding any uncommon waterfowl. We knew the Barrow's Goldeneyes had to be there somewhere; however, their hiding place was not detected.

A lone Northern Shrike "hung out" on the fence bordering the Engineer Pond.

After a late lunch, we drove out to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Adams). At least one Long-eared Owl is out there again this winter. A Great Horned Owl was along the path to pond 13. No Short-eared Owls came out at dusk.

Guanella Pass to Aurora

November 28, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I wanted to try for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) one more time before tonight's snowstorm potentially closes the possibility for the winter. Visiting birder Edward Benson and I threw snowshoes in the car and headed up there early this morning.

We found no owls along Guanella Pass Road (from the Grant Side, hwy 285). We did find that the gate across the road at Duck Lake was closed so we had to hike the last 1.5 miles to the Summit. Later I talked to a ranger who stated that it would now be common practice to gate the road the day after Thanksgiving.

Once we got to the top, it took less than 10 minutes before we stopped six White-tailed Ptarmigan walking around the wooden fence near the Summit. One advantage of fewer visitors at the top!

After dropping Edward off at an Aurora motel, I detoured to 3904 South Idalia Street, Aurora. After about 20 minutes, the Varied Thrush popped up on the shed at the house north of Buzz's home (address above). Later, I followed the Varied Thrush to the yard two houses north of the house with the birdbath and feeders (Myra's home; nice person!).

No Short-eared Owls were observed along the DIA Owl Loop on my drive home.

Canon City to Pueblo

November 27, 2011

Richard Stevens:

It was another picturesque day in Colorado. Winds were mild; temperatures were in the 60s.

My first goal was to find Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers or possibly Williamson's Sapsuckers in Canon City (Fremont County).

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Centennial Park took about an hour to relocate. Perhaps I just needed to wait for the day to warm up before it moved around; the morning was quite chilly. I waited another half hour; no additional Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers appeared.

At Rouse Park, I hoped for find another Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Instead, a male and female Williamson's Sapsucker came along.

No additional sapsuckers were found at the Cemetery or the Elementary School (where a Williamson's Sapsucker had previously been reported).

A check of Florence River Park did not find the previously reported Black Phoebe.

It was a long day so I started back to Denver. However, not before stopping at Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo). The Red-necked Grebe was relocated when the lake was scoped from West Fisherman's Point.

The south marina added a Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull to my day list. The unexpected prize was a Glaucous Gull. While trying to figure out its age, a Bonaparte's Gull flew overhead!

A Canyon Towhee or two walked around the southern Campgrounds.

The definite highlight however, was relocating the Eastern Towhee west of the Valco Ponds parking area. It was a new county bird for me.

Just to press my luck, I walked along the Arkansas River to search for the Rusty Blackbirds. It was my lucky day, two Rusty Blackbirds walked along the shore, a nice end to my birding day!

Park and Chaffee Counties

November 26, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Park County to look into the water conditions. Antero Reservoir was 95 percent frozen. Spinney Mountain Reservoir was 75 percent ice covered, while Eleven Mile Reservoir was only 20 percent ice covered.

Not many waterfowl were on any of the lakes. One Common Loon and a few ducks swam on Spinney Mountain Reservoir. A flock of 6-8 Brown-capped Rosy Finches flew over while I was scanning the lake.

Eleven Mile Reservoir was a little more interesting. A White-winged Scoter and another Common Loon were among a dozen common ducks.

Buffalo Creek Campgrounds and Rough and Tumbling Creek BLM lands had few birds moving around.

I struck out on relocating the Lewis's Woodpeckers in Buena Vista (Chaffee) and the Pinyon Jays along Ruby Mountain Road.

After dark, I drove to the BLM land north of the Buena Vista Overlook. I set out several "owl listening stations" (playing Northern Saw-whet Owls recordings). No owls responded. The question of where Northern Saw-whet Owls winter in Colorado or if they do, still to be answered.

Trip from Burlington to Colorado Springs and On!

November 25, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Five of us listened for owls about an hour before sunrise at Hale Ponds (Yuma County). Only one Eastern Screech-Owl called this morning.

After sunrise, we searched for Long-eared Owls at the evergreen windbreak east of Foster's Grove. None was found today; however, as a consolation, we found a Pine Warbler! It fluttered in and out of the thick fir trees.

We received a text about a possible Streak backed Oriole at Fountain Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs (El Paso). I decided to rush down there and report.

While it was 55 degrees with calm winds north of Burlington, I arrived at the southern end of Fountain Creek Regional Park in the rain. Fortunately, the northern end of this long park was partly cloudy and rain-less.

Eventually, I walked from the Visitor's Center to the north end of the park, to the south end and back without finding any orioles. At least 20 other birders also failed to find the bird. I called back to Bonny Reservoir and suggested not to waste the trip down to Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, Bryan Ehlmann and all had found 2 Long-eared Owls, one each on either side of the lake.

After the several hours of my hike, I drove around to the west side of Fountain Creek, which borders the west side of the park and stopped at the KOA Campgrounds. The Campgrounds were almost directly across from the spot where the Oriole was reported.

I walked around for an hour, inquiring about any "orange bird" sightings and handing out my CoBus business card. No Oriole, however a few new bird-reporting contacts were made.

My birding day ended along the road to the Crags Campgrounds in Teller County. Two Northern Pygmy-Owls were found around the old scout camp. A third was heard at the Campgrounds.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birding In Northeastern Colorado

November 24, 2011

Richard Stevens: As one can tell from the publication dates, I have been rather lax in updating the blog. Tired tonight (not from Turkey as I do not like it), I will try to be more diligent and write less flat postings!

While waiting for our three turkeys to cook, nine of us searched for the Common Ground-Dove near the Wayside Rest Stop (Sedgwick). It was not found today. Two Rusty Blackbirds were our consolation prize.

Later we dropped by Ovid and walked from the northern woods to the sewage ponds. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker drummed along Lodgepole Creek, behind the high school.

The Purple Finch was found again southeast of 2nd and Monroe Street! Again, it was observed flying west into town.

A Brown Thrasher was relocated east of Lodgepole Creek, north of the Monroe Street Bridge.

No Stub tailed Wren or Northern Cardinal could be found today.

A White-throated Sparrow was among a dozen White-crowned Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows at the old Ovid sewage pond area.

Shortly after dusk, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl call at Roger Danka's ranch! It was a decent end to a gorgeous Thanksgiving day! Temperatures reached the middle 60s; winds were calm.

Prewitt and North Sterling Reservoirs

November 23, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Ray Simmons and I visited Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) at 4:30 am. We relocated an Eastern Screech-Owl while walking west between the western parking area and the Ranger's residence!

At least one Common Loon was out on the lake. To avoid geese hunters, we decided to hike the eastern and southern sides of the reservoir. It was a good choice! A Snow Bunting was found flying around just west of the southeastern corner.

Later, we returned to below the dam. Another good choice, this time we found a male Eastern Towhee! A White-throated Sparrow was with a loose flock of 11 White-crowned Sparrows and 3+ Song Sparrows.

Our birding day ended at Sterling Reservoir (Logan). An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 Bonaparte's Gulls were observed from the dam.

Later we visited the picnic grove where a Barn Owl flew out, then circled back into its cover!

A Varied Thrush in Arapahoe County

November 22, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Plans were to stay home and get chores done today. However, a report of a Varied Thrush in Aurora (Arapahoe) altered those plans.

The Varied Thrush was not in the apple trees or yard where first reported. Therefore, I walked south down the bike path through Los Ninos park to the next road.

On the return trip, the Varied Thrush flew out of the yard with 4 tall and 2 short evergreens along its fence (east side of path). It stopped briefly at the bare tree on the west side of the path and then continued to the Russian Olive Tree in front of the sixth house south of the original yard.

By the time, I circled to the front of the house; I only got a glimpse of the Varied Thrush flying to the backyard and then north.

Eventually the Varied Thrush was going to return to 3904 S. Idalia Street. However, I did not want to wait around for it. I suggested to several arriving birders to watch the original yard and the yard to the north which had a birdbath and feeders (the Varied Thrush was observed there on both 11/23 & 11/24).

I drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on my way home. No Harris's Sparrow, two Bonaparte's Gulls were observed flying below the dam.

The last 3 hours of daylight were spent trying to relocate the Winter Wren found yesterday at Barr Lake (Adams). I also scoped the lake briefly; no swans were found.

Return to Barr Lake to Identify Some Swans

November 21, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After hearing that 7 swans were now at Barr Lake (Adams County) I returned in the afternoon. I chose to scope the lake from the north side hoping that would provide better looks to any birds in the middle to western sections of the reservoir.

From Mile Marker 4.5, I could see 7 swans far off in the distance. The Pacific Loon was in the bay around mile 5.0.

Sixty Great-tailed Grackles flew around the Town of Barr (the only access to the northwest end of the lake).

From inside the State Park (mile 7.6) at the boat ramp, I could see 2 Common Loons and the swans, which were still quite far away. They were closer when I scoped from the Niedrach Trail, however still quite a distance.

I circled around the outside of the park to the intersection of Tower Road and 128th Avenue. There is a pullover here and a sliver of land, which allows access to the park (only when there is no water in the canal).

When I dropped down into the canal, several sparrows caught my eye. There turned out to be 4+ White-crowned Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrow. While trying to identify them, a wren came out of the tall grasses at the base of the canal.

This wren was small and had a short tail. I played a Pacific Wren recording, but observed no response. When a Winter Wren recording was played, the small wren came out of the grasses. It was a Winter Wren!

I continued into the park and walked out on the Eagle Watch Boardwalk. The swans were closer however still quite a distance from me. I studied them for 45 minutes (hoping they would swim closer, however, while they swam around, they did not close the distance).

They turned out to be 7 Trumpeter Swans!

Birding Some Metro Denver Lakes

November 20, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I began with a late start to birding today. What another wonderful day of weather in Colorado. Temperatures in the 60s; winds were mild.

On a drive through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe County), I stopped at the Rowing Club. There was no sign of yesterday's Harris's Sparrow or Long-eared Owl. Several Bonaparte's Gulls flew along the Lake Loop's shore.

A Red-necked Grebe swam close to a raft of Western Grebes in the middle of the lake. American White Pelicans have appeared to abandon the lake. It looks to be a little early this year?

A Greater White-fronted Goose accompanied several hundred White-cheeked Geese at the southwest picnic area (tables with gull wings as covers).

I arrived at Lakecrest (Denver County) at approximately 3:00 pm. Thousands of White-cheeked Geese were again swimming on the lake. (They tend to fly off around 3:30 or 4:00 pm to feed in nearby fields). Five Greater White-fronted Geese and a Ross's Goose were amongst the horde.

Three Snow Geese were the biggest geese on the lake. Truly, this indicates that thousands of Cackling Geese were out there!

My birding day concluded at Barr Lake (Adams). From the boat ramp, I could see two juvenile Tundra Swans in the southeast corner (below the dam).

Scoping the north edge of the lake added 2 Common Loons and a Pacific Loon to my day list.

A Ross's Goose was with many White-cheeked Geese at the Niedrach Trail.

Been without internet access for awhile now. Catching up on some interesting birding times the past nine days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday Birding Continued at Chatfield Reservoir

November 19, 2011

Richard Stevens:

In the afternoon, I drove south to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas). While scoping the lake from above the dam, the Pomarine Jaeger was observed chasing gulls in the middle of the lake.

I walked down to the Dam Tower and observed the Pomarine Jaeger fly over the south marina sand spit harassing gulls six or seven times. The Jaeger then flew to the north edge of the lake, and then continued west directly underneath me.

The 1st cycle Glaucous Gull also circled along the shore and eventually also flew directly below me. A Common Loon was 5-10 feet off the shore (at the opening the north marina bay).

Bob Spencer was here and got good looks at the Pomarine Jaeger! He informed me of Eastern Bluebirds along the old Plum Creek Road. I was able to relocate a male Eastern Bluebird! Thanks Bob!

On the trip home, I stopped at Fort Logan National Cemetery (Denver). No Greater Scaup or Lesser Scaup for that matter were found on Memorial or Veteran's Lakes.

Thousands of White-cheeked Geese were in the cemetery, no Greater White-fronted Geese among them.

A lone white goose loomed over the White-cheeked Geese. At first, I thought it had to be a domestic goose as it was so much larger than the White-cheeked Geese. On closer inspection, it was a Snow Goose. The White-cheeked Geese had to be various subspecies of Cackling Geese (they were exceedingly smaller than the Snow Goose).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 19, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I went back to Cherry Creek Reservoir two hours before sunrise (Arapahoe County) to check on the Long-eared Owl. The owl was in the same tree that I left it in at 8:30 pm last night!

No Short-eared Owls showed up at dawn over the cattails just west of where Cherry Creek crosses under the main road.

I then rushed back to the Lake Loop and observed the Harris's Sparrow north of the Rowing Club building. It was first on the grassy patches, however last seen flying to the thin tree northeast of the building.

A few Bonaparte's Gulls were seen flying along the southwest corner when I drove out of the park. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was not on the southwest marina's logs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Owling At Cherry Creek Reservoir

Owling November 18, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After dinner I went back to Cherry Creek Reservoir. I heard a Long-eared Owl east of the Lake Loop at 8:30 PM, later saw it (with night vision binoculars) in the trees along the shore at about halfway to the Prairie Loop.

I did not go near the Rowing Club, did not want to scare the Harris's Sparrow. It should be there in the morning. Either in the short grasses north of the building or the tall weeds along the east side. Sparrow was first found by Kirk Huffstater, not me.

Visits to Boulder, Jefferson, Adams & Arapahoe Counties

November 18, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed a good day of birding in spite of missing the Boulder Sedge Wren in a 3+ hour search. Winds were 18+ mph with gusts to 26; not helpful in locating the wren.

From Boulder, I headed to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). Yesterday, I searched for 2 hours without finding the Golden-crowned Sparrow. Today, the sparrow visited under the feeders within 10 minutes of my visit!

Next, I went to the South Platte Birding Area (Colorado Blvd & 88th avenue). The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the River at 20 yards downstream (south) of the green & white tower.

The Long-tailed Duck was not on Tani Reservoir, East Gravel Lake or north & south West Gravel Lake (western West Gravel Lake was not checked).

My plan was to go to Barr Lake; however, I got the text message about the Harris's Sparrow at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and went that way.

When I arrived at the Lake Loop, Cherry Creek Reservoir, the Harris's Sparrow was with 4 American Tree Sparrows on the small grassy area north of the Rowing Club Building, Lake Loop. I took about 66 photos, surely one or two will come out (will see later).

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the poles around the southwest marina. Several Bonaparte's Gulls flew around the picnic area with Gull wings as table covers. The day ended with a fantastic sunset over Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Red Rocks Park

November 17, 2011

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, I stopped by Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County). The Golden-crowned Sparrow did not show up in the two hours I watched the feeders. Black-capped Chickadees numbered 10-12. Only one Spotted Towhee and dozens of Dark-eyed Juncos also visited.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Ptarmigan and Pine Grosbeak Search

November 16, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Philip Kline and I returned to Clear Creek County for another search of White-tailed Ptarmigan and Pine Grosbeaks. It was a beautiful day on Loveland Pass and the Continental Divide.

The snow covered mountain peaks and blue skies are a picturesque contrast. Winds were slower than last Monday. In all, we searched over 5 hours for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Our first stop was my favorite search location. East of highway 6, reached by stopping at the first pullover on the west side of the road. Several inches of new snow overnight highlighted the many Ptarmigan tracks. The birds were definitely in the area; however, we could not find any.

Kudos to Philip who lives in warm Tucson, Arizona. He hiked up and down the mountain slope for several hours. Many times sinking almost to his kneecaps in isolated snowdrifts, zigzagging along the Ptarmigan trails. No telling how many Ptarmigan were passed as they hid in the willows.

We scoped most every willow bush and under every evergreen tree (more than once, more than twice). No birds, they were probably watching us walk pass them.

A short lunch break and we drove around Keystone and Dillon looking for Pine Grosbeaks in the forested areas. Few birds were seen and no Pine Grosbeak.

Back at Loveland Pass, we scoped the east side of the summit, no Ptarmigan and decided to make the steep climb up the west side trail. It is an effort, for sure.

At the first "flat area" up the trail, I scoped the grassy hillside to the south (just south of the rocky hillside along the trail). A male White-tailed Ptarmigan hopped up on a rock (or would probably have been missed). A female walked around the rock and into view.

Minutes later, they flew downhill, to the east, crossed the trail, and disappeared in the evergreens just below the highway north of the Continental Divide sign.

We walked down there, however could not relocate the birds.

With a few hours of daylight remaining, we tried Georgetown feeders for a Pine Grosbeak; without success. There was no sign of the Rufous collared Sparrow (it was last reported September 7, 2011).

As a last resort, we drove around Empire. Although several feeders were found, only a few Robins and Mountain Chickadees were seen. Pine Grosbeaks would have to wait for another trip.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Testing My Night Vision Binoculars, Banner Lakes

November 15, 2011

Richard Stevens:

I almost kept my promise to my feet to keep them out of hiking boots today. Late in the afternoon, I drove over to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) walked to the northern end of the property, then waited for dark.

No Short-eared Owls came by at dusk. In my recollection, they are observed about 1 in 9 or 10 visits as they fly over the cattails and sparse trees along the eastern side of the string on ponds.

Only a few Dark-eyed Juncos and many Robins were observed on the trip north. After dark, I was able to test out the Night Vision Binoculars. Anyone out there that also uses them? I would enjoy talking about their use in searching for passerines after dark?

They were again impressive and astonishing. I found three Long-eared Owls hiding in the windbreak along the western side of the northern ponds!

On the way home, I stopped at a friend's home. He occasionally has Barn Owls on his property. The Night Vision Binoculars did not find any tonight.

Search for White-tailed Ptarmigan

November 14, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Philip Kline and I went into the mountains in search of two targets, White-tailed Ptarmigan and Pine Grosbeak. Our trek was a victim of the winds. The wind was 28+ mph with gusts to 48+. Neither bird was found.

We drove up and down Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) several times, stopped and scoped for Ptarmigan, without success. Then we hiked down the eastern side and searched around several rock formations that were "Ptarmigan shelters" last year and on my only previous trip so far this season.

We drove into Silverthorne and found one female Barrow's Goldeneye on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

Several flocks of Rosy Finches (60+ Brown-capped in one and 40+ Gray-crowned in another) were observed around town. No Pine Grosbeaks, we stopped at a friend's home and were told about 100+ mph winds just two days earlier (it was around 22 mph during our visit). Fallen trees were quite common. In one area, a strip of fallen trees was about 100 yards long and 10 yards wide.

Loveland Pass looked non-inviting with dark clouds and blowing snow; we did not go back up at 3:30 pm for another search.

Northeastern Colorado

November 13, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After seeing the Common Ground-Dove near Julesburg, Bryan Ehlmann, Jerry Petrosky, Gary Weston and I birded some additional locations in Northeastern Colorado. The Common Ground-Dove when accepted will be a first Sedgwick County record!

We walked Ovid Woods and found few uncommon birds until the southern end. The Purple Finch again visited the area where we have been throwing seeds on each trip (just north of the southern bridge over Lodgepole Creek). A Brown Thrasher was also in this area.

Later, we relocated the Purple Finch a few streets over to the west!

We scoped Jumbo Reservoir and found a Common Loon and the Greater Scaup reported earlier in the week. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the southern shore. A late Baird's Sandpiper was also there.

Then we walked from Jumbo Reservoir west to Little Jumbo Reservoir. Hoping for an uncommon sparrow or warbler/vireo, none was found. We did see a Common Redpoll (looked like a male) flipping about the cattails.

We went back to Roger Danka's ranch and saw a Red race Fox Sparrow. We managed to scare up one of his resident Eastern Screech-Owls.

We stood at the southeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir at dusk (CR 26 & CR 3). A Short-eared Owl flew across the field to the south!

Playing an Eastern Screech-Owl tape at the north side of Jumbo got a response of one!

Part 2 (additional information on a sent email):

Sue or Rebecca already sent an email about the great Sunday we enjoyed on the eastern plains. After dark, four of us continued our merriment. We found Eastern Screech-Owls at 4 locations (a Sedgwick private ranch, Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, Prewitt Reservoir, and Jackson Reservoir).

>>On the way back to Denver, we made several stops. An Eastern Screech-Owl was between Sections 6 & 7 East at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).

>>Another Eastern Screech-Owl was heard at the inlet area of Prewitt Reservoir (Washington). Yet another Eastern Screech-Owl was heard at the western Campgrounds at Jackson Reservoir.

>>Using the Night Vision Binoculars, we saw three Long-eared Owls at the Jackson Reservoir Campgrounds! Pretty cool to walk along and scope the trees, then have these eyes (Long-eared Owl) looking at you!

I had wanted to tryout my Night Vision Binoculars and they worked out fantabulous tonight. I was having too much fun and almost spaced that I am leading a bird trip this morning.

While at Jackson Reservoir, we received a text message about the White-eyed Vireo at Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington). What a way to test the night vision glasses. Bryan, Jerry and Gary were crazy enough allow the detour back 30 miles from Jackson Reservoir and we headed south to Last Chance Rest Stop.

It only took about 20 minutes and I was able to find the White-eyed Vireo in the dark night! Demented, but superb!

>> This was the coolest event tonight! While there are no colors, we could tell from the shape of the bird that is was not a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We could just pick out the bill that looked more like a vireo than a warbler. Only briefly, did we hit the bird with a spotlight and see that it was a White-eyed Vireo!

>>We continued around the small pond. As we walked by the ditch along the southern border, a couple of eyes popped out at us. A Short-eared Owl was perched in a Russian Olive Tree!

The technique would probably not work on a passerine that prefers to stay high in trees. Fortunately, White-eyed Vireos favor "low level" sanctuaries. In addition, if the weather was better, it might have migrated at night. In the cold night air, the vireo appeared to prefer hiding in the bushes.

I do not know how much of a demand a $3000 pair of night vision binoculars will have in the birding Community? However, they just may be something every owling trip needs/requires? Still testing, have to wonder how the $20,000 ones would do? Anyone want to let me borrow his or hers?

5:45 am, off birding!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir, Arapahoe County

November 12, 2011

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, I stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Best location was the southwest marina. Just before sunset (4:41 pm) the hundreds of gulls on the marina poles included a 1st cycle Lesser Black backed Gull, adult Mew Gull, 2nd cycle Thayer's Gull, Herring Gulls, California Gulls, and Ring billed.

Would have taken some great photos, however I needed 3 or 4 additional seconds. Just as my camera was focusing, a huge dog jumped in the water and all the gulls flew.

There was no sign of the adult Lesser Black backed Gull. Many gulls and waterfowl were out in the middle of the lake. In 15 mph winds, gusts to 28, my scope was useless.

After dark I searched for owls (Great Horned Owl) at the Campgrounds and the northwest grove of trees (always felt this would be a good place for an odd owl such as Northern Saw-whet Owl); without success. The two campers I talked to said they have not heard any Great Horned Owls calling at night.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Search for Sapsuckers and Owls

November 11, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Four of us searched around Canon City for Sapsuckers (Fremont). We checked Rouse Park, the Abbey, Centennial Park and the Lakeside Cemetery. One Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was relocated at Centennial Park. It eventually flew southwest. Several Mountain Bluebirds were at the Cemetery.

A quick hike down the Arkansas Riverwalk to the spot where the Worm-eating Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler were reported last week was unsuccessful in relocating the warblers. It had been several days since they were reported. We did see Eastern Bluebirds on the way back to our cars.

We were not able to relocate the Greater White-fronted Geese reported several times along MacKenzie Avenue. The time was not taken to check Willow Street.

We cut our trip short as weather forecasts are for inclement conditions in the mountains and Front Range for Saturday.

On the return to Denver, we searched the Park County reservoirs mostly for Snow Buntings and Rosy Finches. Neither was found. We did relocate the scoters found yesterday.

As we drove toward Antero Reservoir to search for Snow Buntings, two swans flew overhead and descended at Spinney Mountain Reservoir. We drove back there and found 2 Trumpeter Swans on the southwest end.

We checked for owls at the Buffalo Peaks Campgrounds; without success. None was found at the Michigan Creek Campgrounds. Finally, a Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard at the "old American Three-toed Woodpecker" road west of the Campgrounds (see CoBus website for details). Not much was making sounds at the Kenosha Pass Campgrounds.

Birding Mountain Parks South of Denver

November 10, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Four of us (Bryan & Sue Ehlmann and Rebecca Kosten) headed into the mountains for a last check on the Park County trio of lakes near Highways 24 & 285 before they freeze over for the winter.

Antero Reservoir was almost frozen over, no uncommon birds. Spinney Mountain Reservoir was the most interesting with 2 White-winged Scoters, a Surf Scoter and Common Loons. Nearby Eleven Mile Reservoir had a Surf Scoter and Common Loon.

After dark, we searched for owls up Phantom Canyon; without success. A stop at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont County) was a little more interesting. We found a Northern Pygmy-Owl near the most western parking area. Several Townsend's Solitaires called during our whole visit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Drive East of Denver In Search of Geese and Owls

November 9, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Just last week I was mentioning to Rebecca that so few geese were found. We experienced a different phenomenon today.

Our first stop was Lakecrest (Denver County, 40th avenue, east of Chambers). Several thousand White-cheeked Geese swam on the lake. Among them were 5 white Snow Geese, 2 Blue Snow Geese and 1 Greater White-fronted Goose.

Best times to visit the lake are after 9:00 am and before 4:00 pm (when they fly out to eat in the fields to the north and east). In addition, it is best to park at Wendy's or the bank along Chambers and walk 2 blocks to the lake, which is private.

Then we scoped Barr Lake (Adams) from the boat ramp (mile 7.6). Tens of thousands of geese were too far away to identify.

A Common Loon and Pacific Loon were in the southeast corner of the lake. The Pacific Loon flew from right to left giving us great views (dark head no chance it was a Red-throated Loon).

We stopped at the entrance station on the way out and scoped the cornfield to the south. At 4:00 PM, tens of thousands, wave after wave of geese landed perhaps 30 yards south of us!

In the mix were Cackling Geese, Canada Geese, 4 white snow geese, 2 blue snow geese, 1 Ross's Goose and 1 Greater White-fronted Goose.

No Great-tailed Grackles were around the Picadilly Tree Nursery at 5:00 pm.

We found no Short-eared Owls while driving around the DIA Owl Loop.

South Platte River Bird Area, Adams County

November 8, 2011

Richard Stevens:

On the way to give a PowerPoint presentation to a Scout Troupe in Westminster, Bryan Ehlmann and I stopped at the S. Platte River at 88th & Colorado Blvd (Adams County). A new sign calls this area the South Platte River Birding Area (will now be referred to that in the future).

We walked south on the west side of the River to Highway 224 and back along the east side of the Platte. The gate to West Gravel Lakes was open so we walked into the park (supposedly closed on November 1st).

A few Ruddy Ducks swam at the north end of the lake. A Long-tailed Duck was along the eastern shore at the halfway point. Two dozen California Gulls were on the overflow drains in the lake.

We left the park and walked south along the dirt track outside of West Gravel Lake. Four hundred+ gulls stood on the S. Platte shore, just below the northern West Gravel Lake. These included 461 Ring-billed Gulls, 11 California Gulls and a Mew Gull.

A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on the S. Platte River below the green and white tower (about 0.5 miles south of 88th avenue). A construction truck scared the ducks up and they flew to Tani Reservoir to the east.

Most of the common ducks in good numbers could now be seen on the River. The most uncommon by number was one male Northern Pintail Duck.

The Barrow's Goldeneye pair swam on Tani Reservoir as we returned to our car. Almost no birds were on East Gravel Lake (only a pair of American Coots). Raptors included a female Northern Harrier and an adult Bald Eagle. A few American Tree Sparrows have also shown up now.

After my presentation, Bryan and I decided to go owling at White Ranch Open Space and Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Jefferson). Winds were 10+ mph; temperatures were in the low 40s. We could not conjure up any small owls this night. A pair of Great Horned Owls called in the State Park.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Aurora Reservoir and DIA Owl Loop

November 7, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I circled Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) on our bikes this afternoon.

Only one Common Loon was found. The highlight was an adult Mew Gull at mile 2.5. This could be the Mew Gull found a few days ago by Don Beltz at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

The two reservoirs are only 9 miles apart. The Red-necked Grebe found by Bill Cryder probably ended up at Cherry Creek State Park two days later (last week).

Canada Geese and Cackling Geese are starting to arrive in numbers. Redheads, Ruddy Ducks and other waterfowl also are increasing in numbers.

A half hour before sunset, we sat at the hill south of the Prairie Dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue. A Short-eared Owl flew low over the hills (quite a distance away) about 5:10 PM (sunset was 4:52 PM).

I calculate that we see one about 1 out of 6 trips along the DIA Owl Loop. Another place to search is along Queensburg Street, south from 114th avenue (about 0.2 miles west of Trussville Road).

Search for Owls and Grouse

November 6, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, John Westin and I searched for owls overnight. No Flammulated Owls were encountered in a three hour search on Pennock Pass (Larimer County). My late date for Flammulated Owls on Pennock Pass is 10/19. Late date for anywhere else in Colorado is 10/5.

We found only one Boreal Owl. It was along highway 14, just west of Cameron Pass (Jackson). Winds were quite strong 12+ mph. None was found at Ruby Jewell Road in the Colorado State Forest.

At civil twilight, we drove Jackson County Road 26 and 26B (circling back to Coalmont). Two Greater Sage-Grouse were along CR 26, just north of the CR 26B turnoff.

Later we visited a friend who had 3 Greater Sage-Grouse coming under his feeders in Steamboat Springs (Routt). Four Sharp-tailed Grouse were also found in Steamboat Springs.

After a few hours of sleep, we searched for Bohemian Waxwings in Steamboat Springs (without success).

The Tundra Swan was still on a half frozen Lake Catamount. Bohemian Waxwings sometimes winter in the trees where the road crosses the river; however, none today.

Our journey then turned back toward Fort Collins. We enjoyed a great stop at the maintenance shed road on Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand). A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was on one of the telephone poles on the south side of the road.

While watching her, two White-winged Crossbills circled overhead, and then disappeared in the trees to the north!

A lone Brown-capped Rosy Finch stopped by the feeders at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center. Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, a male Pine Grosbeak, and Steller's Jays were also there.

After dark, we searched the Colorado State Forest (Ruby Jewell Road) for Boreal Owls. Winds were once again quite strong (it makes hearing the quiet calling owls difficult).

We eventually found a Boreal Owl along Highway 14 at four miles west of Cameron Pass (Jackson). Another was about 0.1 miles east of the Summit (Larimer). None called at the Joe Wright Reservoir parking areas.

We detoured back to Denver by way of Pennock Pass. No Flammulated Owls found; it does not look like my late date can be broken this year. I would not recommend driving Pennock Pass without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The road was quite muddy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trip to Northern Plains; High Winds

November 5, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, John Westin and I had planned on a trip to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) and Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) today. Winds were 24-25 mph with gusts to 39 mph.

We did make it to Jackson Reservoir about two hours before sunrise. An Eastern Screech-Owl was in the western Campgrounds. After sunrise, we found several Long-eared Owls!

Winds were ridiculous. Two Bonaparte's Gulls flew by (or were blown by us?). A Common Loon swam at the northwest corner.

We looked for Snow Buntings along the dam; without success. A Harris's Sparrow in the thickets below the dam was a nice consolation.

We gave up on going to Prewitt Reservoir and looking for birds there in the wind. Instead drove up Morgan County Road 4 (turns into Weld County Road 105). Several Lapland Longspurs were found (look for flocks of Horned Larks).

I called a friend who has a Northern Saw-whet Owl in his windbreak and we drove up there and saw small pieces of it as it hid in the thick fir trees.

At sunset, we walked County Road 48, south side of Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld). Several Marsh Wrens popped up from the cattails. Two Short-eared Owls flew by just after sunset.

Having a good owl week, going for Flammulated and Boreal Owls Sunday morning and night!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Douglas and Arapahoe Counties

November 4, 2011

Richard Stevens:

This afternoon I stopped by Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). When I arrived, the Red-necked Grebe was swimming off the picnic area southeast of the swim beach. Thanks Bob Righter!

The Mew Gull (Beltz, 10/3) was not found off the southeastern sand spit. Next, I stopped at the Bird Observation Platform, Prairie Loop. The mudflats have temporarily disappeared due to the rising water from snowmelt.

I could not conjure up any sparrows. Many times in November, the cattails will catch a Swamp Sparrow. No Song Sparrows were around either.

Two Common Loons and a Pacific Loon could be seen from there. The loons were diving much and it took quite awhile to identify the Pacific Loon. No Red-throated Loon was found.

The Mew Gull was not found at the southwest marina either. However, hundreds of gulls were flying around the center of the lake. They could not all be identified.

This morning about 2 hours before sunrise, John Westin and I drove Sugar Creek Road (off Hwy 67). One Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard and seen about 0.4 miles off Hwy 67.

Later, we watched the woods northeast of Highway 67 and Rampart Range Road. One male American Three-toed Woodpecker flew within 10 yards of hwy 67.

Some Mountain Birding in Clear Creek & Summit Counties

November 3, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Today, British birder John Westin and I explored the snowy mountains west of Denver.

We were able to find 3 species of Rosy Finches in Summit County. Recent snowstorms appeared to have "pushed" them down in search of food to lower elevations.

Two Barrow's Goldeneyes were at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit). These numbers should increase any day now (additional snowstorms forecasted for Saturday).

Fortune was with us! It only took 20 minutes to find a White-tailed Ptarmigan in all its grandeur. The white plumage in winter is magnificent The bird was below the eastern side of the Loveland Pass Summit (Clear Creek)!

An hour search (more or less) at Georgetown did not produce the Rufous collared Sparrow. It was not expected (last reported 9/7/2011).

We had time on our hands and drove east and south to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson). American Three-toed Woodpeckers were not as cooperative as the Ptarmigan. None was found today. Neither were Northern Pygmy-Owls, they did not appear during our visit nor respond to recordings near dusk.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Birding Denver After a Snowstorm

November 2, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove into the snowstorm in search of Murrelets Tuesday morning. Early November snowstorms seemed to be when they show up in Colorado. We found none at Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas County) or Bear Creek Lake Park (Jefferson).

We saw two Common Loons on Chatfield Reservoir during our first visit. After searching unsuccessfully for Northern Pygmy-Owls up Deer Creek Canyon (Jefferson) we returned to Chatfield Reservoir where we counted three Common Loons and saw the Mew Gull!

Nearby Platte Reservoir and McLellan Reservoir did not have any uncommon birds. We found two Common Loons and a Pacific Loon at Marston Reservoir. Again, nothing uncommon was found on nearby Bowles Lake & Bowles Reservoir #1.

We stopped at the S. Platte River at Florida Avenue (Barrow's Goldeneyes and Long-tailed Ducks seen here the last couple of years), however found no uncommon birds.

In the afternoon, we hiked the South Platte River from 88th avenue to hwy 224 and back. A male Barrow's Goldeneye was on the Platte River below the green and white tower. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was on Tani Reservoir (southeast of the tower).

The wintering birds along the S. Platte are easier to find once the nearby lakes have frozen. We were looking for "early dates" on several species (which did not happen, no scoters or Long-tailed Ducks today; early date for Barrow's Goldeneyes in the area is 10/30).

We watched Barr Lake (Adams) at sunset. The Common Loon was still at the 4.5 mile marker. After sunset, a swan flew in, however landed too far away for us to identify. Several Great-tailed Grackles were still around the Picadilly Tree Nursery (at 152nd avenue & Picadilly Road, northeast of Barr Lake).

A Winding Route Back to Denver

November 1, 2011

Richard Stevens:

We had to abbreviate our birding today. We wanted to return to Denver before the foreshadowed snowstorm hit (forecast up to 7 inches of snow; Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, we received 9 inches at home).

A stopover at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) discovered a Dunlin among Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs and some peeps at the inlet area.

A Bonaparte's Gull flew by as we observed a Common Loon from the old boat ramp.

At Jackson Reservoir (Morgan), we found 2 additional Bonaparte's Gulls and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes off by themselves (observed from the dam, at the southern parking area).

It was still fairly decent out so, we detoured to Pawnee National Grasslands and Crow Valley Campgrounds.

Several small flocks of Lapland Longspurs (total 21+ birds) were observed along Weld County Road 105 (just north of where Morgan County Road 4 changes counties and names).

We walked around the Washington Work Center searching for Northern Saw-whet Owls in the thick firs; without success.

A Long-eared Owl was in the fir at the southwest corner of the Campgrounds. The female Red-bellied Woodpecker was still around the group camping area.

Our plan was to drive north to Wellington Wildlife Area (Weld) and wait for Short-eared Owls to fly around at dusk (or Lower Latham Reservoir). It was altered when we watched the heavy clouds rapidly roll in from the northwest.

Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area and Some More Walk-In-Areas

October 31, 2011

Richard Stevens:

The CoBus group started the day at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County). Two Eastern Screech-Owls were heard before civil twilight along the north side. We then drove to the southern section (north of CR 46 & 89) in search of Short-eared Owls and Greater Prairie-Chickens; neither was found.

Back at Tamarack Ranch WLA, our next stop was quite enjoyable. A fall plumaged Black-throated Green Warbler and Northern Cardinal flew around the east side of Tamarack Pond. A Spotted Towhee and many White-crowned Sparrows were also here.

Field Sparrows were found at section 7 East. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were seen at the East and West sections (as we stood on the Highway 55 Bridge over the S. Platte River.

We walked several miles of the Platte River hoping for an American Woodcock; hopes were not fulfilled.

Then we headed south into Sedgwick & Phillips Counties. We again visited 5 "Walk-In-Areas" in search of Sprague's Pipits. Again, none was found and it looks like the late date of 11/22 is safe for another year.

An hour walk around Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) found a Harris's Sparrow and 2 Field Sparrows. We found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker at the Pony Express Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).

It was a beautiful fall day in spite of our misses.

Logan/Sedgwick Counties (Jumbo Reservoir)

October 30, 2011

Richard Stevens:

The CoBus group hiked around Jumbo Reservoir and Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan/Sedgwick Counties) today.

An Eastern Screech-Owl was heard at the north end of Jumbo Reservoir. A Short-eared Owl was seen flying in the field below the south end of Jumbo (we stood at Sedgwick County Roads 26 & 3).

Several Gulls flew around the southeast corner. These included a Thayer's Gull and 2 Bonaparte's Gulls.

A Pacific Loon, Common Loon and Black Scoter swam in the distance. No shorebirds could be found (well, except a few Killdeer).

Red Lion Wildlife Area (Little Jumbo Reservoir) provided the highlight of the day. Two Common Redpolls flew along the east side of the reservoir.

We then visited three "Walk-In-Areas" in Sedgwick County and two in Logan County. Our goal was to get a new late date for Sprague's Pipits in Colorado. None was found and 10/22 date was safe.

We found 2 Long-eared Owls at one private ranch and 2 Eastern Screech-Owls at another.