Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Search for White-tailed Ptarmigan 2011

December 31, 2011

Richard Stevens:

The last day of 2011, it was difficult to comprehend that this was the final day of the year. The year went by too rapidly. I enjoyed a fantastic birding year. Highlights included achieving 400+ species in Colorado for the third time, visiting some new birding areas, a lifebird, meeting new people, some birders, and making many new friends.

Yesterday, I received a telephone call from someone claiming to be a current movie star. He was staying in Vail and wanted to see a White-tailed Ptarmigan. I said sure, we can meet somewhere in Dillon where he would not feel harassed and a location was set. I would bring a friend if that were okay?

I called Bryan Ehlmann and told him the story. If nothing else (hoax or not) we would try and "pin down" some White-tailed Ptarmigan for several birders arriving the next days, Sunday and Monday.

The telephone call turned out not to be a joke. Fortuitously, people can put on a bunch of winter clothes and not be recognized if so desired. Our guests said that they had seen the movie "Big Year" and became interested in the hobby.

It was fortunate that winds in the mountains were much less than down in Denver. I measured 23 mph, gusts to 37 mph near DIA (Denver International Airport) when I left home.

Bryan and I showed them some Rosy Finches (3 species), Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, 3 species of nuthatches, and a few other mountain birds. Then we stopped briefly at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant and found 20+ Barrow's Goldeneyes.

Next, our troupe headed to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). Luck was with us. It took less than twenty minutes to discover two White-tailed Ptarmigan hunkered under an evergreen tree (from the first pullover on the west side of highway 6. Thanks to the birds for making us look like we knew what we were doing. I did point out that much luck is involved and my Ptarmigan searches have at times turned into nightmares. I did not want to mislead our invitees into thinking bird searches were always this easy.

They expressed their gratitude; we said goodbye.

Bryan and I made a brief run up highway 119 into Gilpin County. Unfortunately, no owls were found at previous successful GPS waypoints. We did have a Northern Goshawk fly across the highway. A target bird for birders arriving tomorrow; unlikely a chance it can be relocated.

Another Look at the Arapahoe County Snowy Owl

December 30, 2011

Richard Stevens: Email sent to "cobirders":

This afternoon we went by Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) on our way to dinner. With a little research, I was able to find out who owned the land south of Aurora Reservoir and acquired permission to search it for the Snowy Owl.

The Snowy Owl is still within 1.5 miles of Aurora Reservoir. It was on private land and not accessible to the public. However, it might return to the Reservoir.

I also found a birder who watched the Snowy Owl after sunset (until dark) on 12/28 on the roof of a house at the northeast corner of the Lake Shore development. It was observed quite late in the day flying along the south side of Aurora Reservoir on 12/29.

Due to recent events involving trespassing and approaching the Snowy Owl a little too close, further details will not be provided.

For those wanting to see the Snowy Owl, scopes and binoculars can be utilized to see quite far. I suggest watching from the many open spaces along the south side of the Reservoir.

I had intended this afternoon to watch the Reservoir from the public roads on the south side of the Reservoir. However, while waiting for sunset (the most likely time for the owl to return) three birders (they had scopes and binoculars) stood within 10 yards of the two buildings that I hope the Snowy Owl would return to and roost. We departed and searched the fields around DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) and the Buckley Air Force Base for Snowy or Short-eared Owls; without finding any.

Earlier today, Bryan Ehlmann and I observed several hundred Rosy Finches (3 species, although only a couple of Black Rosy Finches) coming to the feeders at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

The rest of our three day trek will be posted on the "Bird Trip Reports" link on Colorado Birding Society's website before I retire tonight.

Trip Around North Park

December 29, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After a few "wink's, Bryan and I attempted to get to the old Teller City Ghost town (Jackson County). Even with a 4 wheel drive, we were left with an 10-12 mile snowshoe or cross country ski trip (one way).

Deciding against that, we visited the feeders behind the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center. Several hundred Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Steller's Jays, White-crowned Sparrows and Downy Woodpeckers were enjoyable to watch.

We searched unsuccessfully for American Three-toed Woodpeckers at Ranger Lakes. Then stopped by a friend's ranch. Close to a thousand Rosy Finches were visiting his feeders!

Three-toed Woodpeckers and any crossbills were missed at Rabbit Ears Pass. No waxwings were found around Steamboat Springs and Lake Catamount. Two Sharp-tailed Grouse were found at a private yard!

With a couple of hours of daylight left, we snowshoed into the Colorado State Forest. About an hour after civil twilight were turned around and headed back out.

Surprisingly, few winds were blowing tonight. The sound of our snowshoes breaking the snow hardly covered up the sounds of the forest. The sliver (quarter) of moon appeared to light up our way. The number of stars appeared infinite. A trek through the forest is always quite pleasurable. Many birds called throughout the night. As a bonus, Boreal Owls were heard at two locations!

A Nine Owl Day

December 28, 2011

Richard Stevens:

In the past, I have written about my owling experiences, sharing sightings and locations. In the past month, several incidences have been brought to my attention.

Bryan and I stayed at a motel in Walden. As my usual behavior, I inquired with the innkeeper about any bird sightings in the neighborhood. She gave me a piece of paper with directions to the bird(s) I was looking to see. This paper described in detail directions to the birding spot. Unfortunately, the directions were word for word directions that I have given to another birder for finding the bird(s). That contribution was presented with a promise not to tell anyone else about the birding site. So much for secrets, as is said, if you want a secret kept, tell no one.

In addition, this month, two other of my most visited and unadvertised birding locations were revealed on the internet. These directions were also shared with a promise (word given) that they would not be published.

I have learned my lesson and will not be as forthcoming in the future of sensitive birding locations.

Bryan Ehlmann and I started out with a simple goal of seeing the Snowy Owl at Aurora Reservoir. It blossomed into much more. At first light, we scoped the south side of Aurora Reservoir from a friend's balcony. The Snowy Owl was down there.

Not even sunrise and our target bird was found. What to do with the rest of the day? After checking my text messages, I read about a friend in Weld County who had a Golden-crowned Sparrow visiting his feeders. Another friend had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in his evergreens (also Weld County).

The idea came to our minds to attempt to see as many owls as we could in the one day. After all, we had already seen one of the most uncommon owls.

As we headed north to Weld County, we stopped at a friend's ranch in Adams County. The Barn Owl was of course in his barn!

A detour to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) added two Long-eared Owls to our day list.

We had to detour into Morgan County to pick up an Eastern Screech-Owl.

Wellington Wildlife Area added a pair of Great Horned Owls. A check of the windbreak found a Short-eared Owl!

Next a stop for lunch (thanks Bill) at my friend's home. One Golden-crowned Sparrow and a Northern Saw-whet Owl seen (Weld).

The next owl was tricky and not at all a sure thing. Bryan and I drove up and down Rist Canyon (Larimer) for about an hour. Finally, we got a response to a Northern Pygmy-Owl! It was just east of Whale Rock (a known location for Pygmy Owls).

After dark, we reached Cameron Pass and relocated a Boreal Owl (heard only).

In was not that late and we tossed around the idea of heading west for a Western Screech-Owl. The location of known Western Screech-Owls could have been reached an hour before midnight.

The idea of adding 170+ miles to our day was not that inviting. Dotsero was 40+ miles less, however we could not be sure of access to Colorado River Road in winter. I called a friend in Glenwood Springs. He had not heard or seen his Western Screech-Owl in several months. This ended our "quest". Nine owls in one winter day are not so bad!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Late Afternoon Search for Aurora Reservoir Snowy Owl

December 27, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Late this afternoon, Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I returned to the south side of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

We were fortunate to scope the reservoir from high on a private landowner's deck. The Snowy Owl was not found by us.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was observed near the swim beach.

It was too dark to see any owls as we passed the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Georgetown Christmas Count

December 26, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Today we conducted the Georgetown Christmas Count. The center point is such that Loveland Pass is in the count circle.

Bryan Ehlmann and I found 2 White-tailed Ptarmigan south of Loveland Pass' Summit (at first pullover on right/west side of the highway).

We also observed small flocks of Rosy Finches (Gray-crowned and a few Brown-capped) while walking around the Summit.

About an hour before sunset, Bryan and I cross country skied up the Hunkidori Trail. After dusk, two Boreal Owls responded to our recordings. They were at least 1-1.5 miles west of the trailhead.

Before the hike, I passed out "Colorado Field Notes", my email address and cell phone number. On feeder counter found a Northern Pygmy-Owl south of Montezuma.

Bryan and I also ventured a mile up both St. Johns and Argentine Pass trails. No additional owls were encountered.

Finally a Snowy Owl Arapahoe County

December 25, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I had the idea to scope Aurora Reservoir (which was closed on Christmas Day) from the south side.

It was a fortuitous choice. We were able to see the Snowy Owl along the east side of the reservoir!

In the afternoon, I returned to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) hoping for better photos of the Snowy Owl. This time I acquired permission to walk onto the South Shore development property.

I was able to hike 300 to 400 yards closer to the reservoir. Again, the Snowy Owl was found; however, it was not in the same position as earlier in the day. Digiscoped photos again were only witness quality.

On the trip home, thousands of White-cheeked Geese were feeding in the fields between Gun Club Road and 470 (the toll road). A Greater White-fronted Goose was seen 0.8 miles south of Quincy Road (west side of Gun Club Road).

Another Greater White-fronted Goose and three Snow Geese (adult and 2 juveniles) were just east of Quincy Road and 470.

No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Yet Another Snowy Owl Search

Email I sent to "cobirders":

December 24, 2011

Rich Stevens and I drove around Morgan and Weld Counties looking for Snowy Owls. We found an Eastern Screech Owl at Jackson Reservoir and two Short eared Owls flying around at dusk at Lower Latham Reservoir's marsh on Weld County Road 48.

Then we heard about the Snow Owl at the east side of Aurora Reservoir. Too late in the day for us to try to find.

Good Birding!

Bryan Ehlmann, Colorado Birding Society Denver, CO
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
cobirders-subscribe AT
Read "cobirders" at:

We also stopped by a friend of Richard's and saw 9 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches that have been visiting in Weld County since last Thursday's snowstorm.

Long-eared Owls were found at two locations (to remain unnamed in Weld and Morgan Counties).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Snowy Owl Search Turned to West, Logan County

December 23, 2011

Richard Stevens:

We stopped to listen to the two Eastern Screech-Owls calling at Roger Danka's ranch and then headed west.

Having not heard of any additional reports in the northeast corner of Colorado, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove around Logan County today (mostly north of I76). We did venture into Weld County as far as Highway 71. There was no sighting of the Snowy Owl reported north of Avalo (Weld) on 12/21.

Again, we tried to hit most of the roads with open land. The many stops were scoped for any sign of a Snowy Owl; without success. There was no sign of the Snowy Owl near Sterling Reservoir.

We only stopped at Sterling Reservoir to ask about any sightings and handout our email addresses and telephone numbers.

While no Snowy Owl was found, we enjoyed "exploring" the many roads in Logan County. Nothing like looking for a needle in a haystack (a large haystack), especially when there may not be a needle in that haystack anymore!

Tomorrow we try Weld and northern Morgan Counties.

More Snowy Owl Searches, Sedgwick County

December 22, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After checking Jumbo and Little Jumbo Reservoirs for Snowy Owls (none found), Bryan Ehlmann and I drove most of the roads in Sedgwick County. A Long-eared Owl was found in the windbreak at Little Jumbo Reservoir (Red Lion Wildlife Area).

We stopped several times when we ran into people along the road. They were asked about Snowy Owls and informed that several were in the area. I made another dozen contacts for future bird sightings, passed out my email address, website address and cell phone number.

We were quite confident that most likely locations for a Snowy Owl were covered; without success.

Late in the afternoon, we found ourselves on the south side of I76. Our birding day ended with a walk into the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area. No Snowy Owls were found; however, we did see a Short-eared Owl about 500 yards north of Logan County Road 46 at 50-100 yards west of CR 91.

Continued Search for Snowy Owls, Phillips County

December 21, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County) about an hour before civil twilight. One or possibly two Eastern Screech-Owl(s) were heard along the eastern side.

At sunrise, we returned to Jumbo Reservoir. No Snowy Owls were found on Jumbo or Little Jumbo Reservoirs.

Later we returned to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area and found Red-bellied Woodpeckers on both sides of the Highway 55 bridge (up to one section each east and west of the highway).

The highlight was a Stub tailed Wren between sections East 1 and 2. It was quite shy and made no sounds. In addition, it did not respond to either Winter Wren or Pacific Wren recordings. During our brief looks, we believed it to be a Winter Wren.

Having heard that the Logan County Snowy Owl was not relocated, we decided to drive roads in the northern half of Phillips County. No additional Snowy Owls were found.

Denver to Sterling; Great Birds!

December 20, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I searched unsuccessfully for the Pine Warbler at Denver West Office Complex. A brief stop at Red Rocks Park relocated the Golden-crowned Sparrow under the platform feeder behind the Trading Post.

Then we heard about the Snowy Owl in Logan County and headed that way. We relocated it along County Road 44, west of County Road 33!

We received a text message about the second Snowy Owl at Jumbo Reservoir. However, by the time we arrived, it was too dark to see much. We did hear an Eastern Screech-Owl along the north side of Jumbo!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Golden and Denver Bird Searches

December 19, 2011

Richard Stevens:

An interesting day, weather-wise, I do not believe that the snowstorm was predicted. Fortunately, the Denver area only received a dusting of snow.

"Inspired" by our Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sighting yesterday, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove over to Golden to search for additional sapsuckers. One Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was found in our 3 hour search. It was along Ford Street (moved north from 16th to 14th streets).

We searched for the Tundra Swans reported Saturday. However, we were never able to determine if the correct lake was searched. No swans were found (Tucker Lake, Arvada Reservoir and one unnamed lake).

After dusk, we walked a Denver neighborhood in search of Eastern Screech-Owls. Two owls were found. (By the way, our search area was Five Points, not a recommended search area).

On the way over, we drove through Denver City Park. The Long-tailed Duck was still on Duck Lake.

Bonny Reservoir Back to Denver

December 18, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Four of us stopped at Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) on our way back to Denver. We searched briefly for the Carolina Wren reported on 12/16; without success. We also stopped to make sure that the American Woodcock reported last on 12/1 had not been relocated.

Bryan Ehlmann and I continued our birding day at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). It took about an hour and a half; finally, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was relocated. It flew out of the draw west of the three pines at the north end of the elementary school (southeast corner of Red Rocks Park).

Several Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead during our search. The only additional birds found included just 2 Dark-eyed Juncos, 3 Northern Flickers and 7 American Robins.

Shortly (less than 2 minutes) after I threw out seed below the platform feeder behind the Trading Post, the Golden-crowned Sparrow walked out of the brush (along ditch to the north) to eat.

Bryan and I headed over to the Denver City Park area. The Long-tailed Duck was still on Duck Lake. After sunset, we walked the Park Hill area for 3 hours. Eventually 4 Eastern Screech-Owls responded to our recordings.

Wray Christmas Count

December 17, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Today, eight of us conducted the Wray Christmas Count. Total numbers and count will be published in "Colorado Field Notes".

Highlights were many on this beautiful winter day in Colorado.

Before sunrise, all of us drove Yuma County Road 45, east of Highway 385. Two Greater Prairie-Chickens (one walking, another a flyover) were just east of the intersection.

Sparrows were the most numerous at Sandsage Wildlife Area. A late Swamp Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow were found. We returned to the Wildlife Area after dark and received a response to our recordings from an Eastern Screech-Owl!

Wray Fishing Unit had few birds. However, the two found were nice sightings. A Northern Cardinal and Barn Owl flew out of the windbreak along the entrance road.

Stalker Ponds provided the best surprise. A Golden-crowned Sparrow was a rare sighting for Yuma County (however, not a first). Again, sparrows were the most numerous birds. Another Harris's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow and 2 Field Sparrows topped the list (Song, White-crowned and a Lincoln's were also found).

Other birds worth noting included 5 Northern Cardinals (2 private yards), a Northern Mockingbird, a Hermit Thrush and a red race Fox Sparrow (which has been around for over a month).

We searched along the Republican River for Short-eared Owls at dusk; without success.

Then our day ended back at Sandsage Wildlife Area.

North Park to Bonny Reservoir

December 16, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Mark and Kevin had to be at DIA Airport by noon. We headed back from Gould shortly after sunrise. A quick stop at a friend's ranch found 1000+ Rosy Finches! A rest stop at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center found another 40+ Rosy Finches. (Something to add to the North Park Christmas Count).

I dropped off Mark and Kevin, picked up Sue & Rebecca and headed to Burlington and Bonny Reservoir (Yuma).

Bryan Ehlmann was already at Bonny Reservoir where he found 2 Field Sparrows along Yuma County Road 2 (southeast entrance to the State Park/Wildlife Area). Bryan also found a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the sharp right hand turn along CR 2.

After dark, we walked the Republican River from Highway 385 to Foster's Grove Campgrounds. Then skipped over to Yuma County Road 4 and walked east to Kansas!

Our Eastern Screech-Owl count was 7! We also found one Long-eared Owl! Earlier Bryan and Jerry Petrosky had relocated a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

North Park

December 15, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Mark Martinez, Kevin Payton and I searched for Greater Sage-Grouse at dawn. We had no better success than last night.

No crossbills or Three-toed Woodpeckers were found when we passed Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand) on the way to Steamboat Springs.

Sharp-tailed Grouse were found at a private yard in Routt County.

We rented snowmobiles are spent the afternoon riding around north of Steamboat Springs. The highlight was seeing a Dusky Grouse, an American Three-toed Woodpecker and a flock of Red Crossbills (unfortunately no White-winged Crossbills).

After dark, we searched for Boreal Owls in the Colorado State Forest and Cameron Pass. One Boreal Owl was heard and later seen west of Cameron Pass (Jackson).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trip to Loveland Pass and North Park

December 14, 2011

Rebecca Kosten;

Richard Stevens, Mark Martinez and Kevin Payton finally found two White tailed Ptarmigan after a four hour search at Loveland Pass, Clear Creek County. Their last resort was to climb up the steep western trail at the summit. Birds were about 0.4 miles up the trail.

Rosy Finches were found flying around north of Silverthorne, Summit County. A dozen Barrow's Goldeneyes were seen at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant, Summit County.

They continued north to Rabbit Ears Pass, Grand County. No crossbills or Three toed Woodpeckers were found and they continued east.

No Greater Sage-Grouse were found along Jackson County Road 26 at dusk.

Trip to the Butterfly Museum

December 13, 2011

Rebecca Kosten;

Richard Stevens and I visited the Butterfly Museum to see the exhibits and the "Living Lights" Christmas lights.

We passed Barr Lake State Park on the way and stopped for a look. A Ross's Goose was off the boat ramp with hundreds of White-cheeked Geese.

Forty five plus Great-tailed Grackles were around the Town of Barr. None was found at the Picadilly Tree Nursery.

We also searched for the "white" Red-tailed Hawk that has for years been around 104th avenue and Sheridan Blvd. It was not found.

Butterflies were not very active in the late afternoon. The highlight was an Eurasian Collared-Dove that we believed to be trapped in the Museum. Turns out that someone donated the Dove to the Museum.

Museum personnel pointed out that the dove was a "grain eater" and did not threaten the live butterflies. It did "clean up" the dead ones.

The "Living Lights" was spectacular!

Misplaced Plans

December 12, 2011

Rebecca Kosten;

Richard Stevens and my plans were to travel down to Morrison and search for the Varied Thrush reported earlier. Then we were to search for the Golden-crowned Sparrow at Red Rocks Park. Neither happened.

Rebecca Kosten: Following is an email sent by Richard to "cobirders" listserve:

Beautiful day outside, slightly chilly, I was able to spend much time in the fresh air. Reason: two flat tires, one spare, one good wrist.

I was able to get a look at the Barrow's Goldeneyes at the South Platte Birding Area (88th & Colorado Blvd), before seeing the first flat tire. Then discovered that my Saturn Vue had a car jack, but no way to take off the lug nuts. Called AAA.

Changed tire and started to Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area when we got a second flat tire (about 3.5 miles from the first). Okay, no spare, called AAA.

After waiting 2 hours for a tire to be fixed, went to nearest Discount Tire. Huge nails in both tires, too big to take chance with a car that I drive 100s of miles on back roads in the middle of nowhere.

Cost: Too much time $600 for new tires AAA priceless!!! Thanks guys!

Highlight: Expensive Barrow's Goldeneyes on Platte River below green/white tower. Two males and a female! Had plenty of time to scope East & West Gravel Lakes, few birds.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Snowy Owl Search

December 11, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I returned to the prairie east of Aurora in search of the Snowy Owls reported yesterday. The owls were never found.

We again saw the dark morph Ferruginous Hawk and several Red-tailed Hawks on our trek around the north, east and south sides of DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) and Aurora Reservoir.

The flock of Horned Larks (and one Snow Bunting) was not along E. Jewell Road (nor found today).

We stopped briefly at the Aurora Reservoir swim beach. No uncommon gulls were among the hundreds of Ring-billed, dozens of California and Herring Gulls.

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls came out (for us) this evening.

Aurora Reservoir & Search for Snowy Owl

December 10, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to hike the 8.9 miles circling Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe). We arrived when they opened and found many gulls at the swim beach. Shortly after sunrise, the gulls tend to fly over to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site). They return several times during the day, however are usually spread all over the reservoir.

A first year Lesser Black-backed Gull was the highlight at the swim beach. The Mew Gull was not found among hundreds of Ring-billed, dozens of California and Herring Gulls.

A few American Tree Sparrows were along the southeast corner of the reservoir. A Say's Phoebe was on the fence at mile marker 4.0. A Greater White-fronted Goose swam with hundreds of White-cheeked Geese below the dam.

Two Bald Eagles stood in the trees to the north of the dam at mm 6.0.

During the hike, we received a text message that two Snowy Owls were seen at the toll road (C470) and East Jewell Avenue. This is not far from Aurora Reservoir. The rest of our day was spent driving the roads north, east and south of DADS and Aurora Reservoir.

Unfortunately, the Snowy Owls were not found.

We did find a couple of interesting sightings. A flock of 200+ Horned Larks was along E. Jewell Avenue at 3.6 miles east of C470. A beautiful winter plumaged Snow Bunting was with this flock. They were at the dirt road going south into the field (just west of four cattle watering tanks).

We were so busy watching the Snow Bunting that it was not until the flock flew further south, that we noticed a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk on a fence post behind us to the north. We were too busy looking for Snowy Owls that the Ferruginous Hawk was missed (we must have driven right past it).

As daylight disappeared, we continued. No Snowy Owls found, we did see a Great Horned Owl in a riparian area along Senac Creek (which leaves Aurora Reservoir and flows north past E. Jewell Avenue).

Raptor count included 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 American Kestrels, 1 Rough-legged Hawk and a Prairie Falcon.

Fantastic Day Birding Around Denver

December 9, 2011

Richard Stevens:

At 7:30 am, I visited Becky Campbell's home near Cherry Creek Reservoir. After the fog lifted, the Pine Warbler flew to her suet feeder about every 15-20 minutes. At other times, it was foraging in the nearby pines. Once it spent 10 minutes drinking and foraging in the neighbor's gutter.

Cherry Creek Reservoir was mostly ice and snow covered. Thousands of White-cheeked Geese (no uncommon geese) were on the ice. Hooded Mergansers were swimming in the small open water area around the marina. A lone American White Pelican stood on the marina.

I drove over to Denver City Park. The Long-tailed Duck was standing on the ice on the backside (south side) of Duck Lake. Two Double-crested Cormorants were still around.

My next stop was Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas). The two Brants were walking along Plum Creek where it empties into the lake. After photographing the geese, I walked Plum Creek from the reservoir to the footbridge to the south; no Rusty Blackbirds were found.

Although it was only 41 degrees, I enjoyed sitting on the bench at the parking area above the dam. There was no wind and the sun was out; it was quite comfortable. Hundreds of ducks swam below.

A Common Loon was constantly diving off Massey Draw. A 1st/2nd year Glaucous Gull was among them many Ring-billed Gulls.

I turned my scope to the north and watched the South Platte Park Reservoir (north of C470). A dark bird chased the gulls around this newest reservoir. It was most likely the Pomarine Jaeger that spent weeks at Chatfield Reservoir.

My birding day ended at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). In the waning light, the Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared below the platform feeder behind the Trading Post.

Some More Owling & A Pine Warbler

December 8, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Starting yesterday a little before sunset, Bryan Ehlmann and I snowshoed Michigan Ditch Road. Round trip we went about 6 miles. For those attempting, it is quite a strenuous trek. Good physical conditioning and snowshoe skills are a must. Especially if attempting in the dark.

There are two places where an avalanche is a slim chance. While rare at night, they can occur. Both of us are aware of the locations (and pass through them rapidly, they are not very wide). In addition, both of us carry avalanche beacons.

Eventually, we heard 2 Boreal Owls (at least 2.6 miles south of highway 14).

In the morning, we snowshoed down to the Crags Campgrounds. No owls were found. Not much of anything.

Rosy Finches visited the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders. Other birds included Mountain Chickadees, Cassin's Finches, Pine Siskins, Steller's Jays and a Gray Jay.

We wanted to return to Denver anyway because reports of heavy snowfall at sunset. A text message about a Pine Warbler near Cherry Creek State Park, hastened our plans.

We arrived at Becky Campbell's home just about sunset. A peek through her fence on the north side of the house allowed us to see the Pine Warbler visit the suet feeder on two occasions before dark.

Winter Search for Grouse in North Park

December 7, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove around Jackson County Road 26 and 26b about an hour before sunrise. Our target bird was a Greater Sage-Grouse. We found plenty of tracks in the snow. Finally, two Greater Sage-Grouse were observed crossing CR 26b.

We then hurried to Steamboat Springs (Routt County). Several Sharp-tailed Grouse were found wandering around on private property!

Several locations in and around Steamboat Springs were checked for waxwings. A flock of about 20 Cedar Waxwings was found along the Yampa River (south of the library). Unfortunately, no Bohemian Waxwings were encountered.

There was no access to Buffalo Pass so we headed back to Walden. Several stops along Rabbit Ears Pass (Routt/Grand) did not find any American Three-toed Woodpeckers or White-winged Crossbills this trip.

A stop at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center added Rosy Finches, Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, a pair of Pine Grosbeaks and Steller's Jays to our trip list.

Back to Owling

December 6, 2011

Richard Stevens:

A little after midnight, Bryan Ehlmann and I found (heard only) Boreal Owls on both the east and west sides of Cameron Pass (Larimer/Jackson). Two were heard on the east side (between the Summit and Joe Wright reservoir) and one just west of the Summit.

After a few hours sleep, we checked feeders around Gould and the Colorado State Forest. Nothing unexpected was found.

In the late afternoon, we snowshoed up Ruby Jewell Road. The forest was quiet this night; no Boreal Owls were found. Snowshoeing after dark (our return trip) in a forest with almost no wind is quite a treat! We could have heard a pin drop (well not in the snow of course). Our trek was quite pleasant in spite of missing the owls.

Chatfield Reservoir and Search for Tufted Duck

December 5, 2011

Richard Stevens:

In the morning, I drove over to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas Counties) hoping for photos of the Brants. Unfortunately, I could not find them. Later, I heard that they had moved over to the Plum Creek Delta area.

Scoping the reservoir from the bench at the parking area above the dam was quite useful. I relocated the Pomarine Jaeger, 1st/2nd year Glaucous Gull and 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull.

On the way to Bryan Ehlmann's house in Brighton, I stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). The Golden-crowned Sparrow was quite cooperative. He made an appearance during the first 10 minutes of the stop. Then I picked up Bryan.

Email sent by Bryan Ehlmann to "cobirders"

Richard Stevens and I went out in the cold searching for the swans and Tufted Duck reported Sunday. We found neither. When open water was found, no rare birds were found. Frederick Recreation Area, St Vrain Ponds, Luna Reservoir and a few additional ponds were searched.

The exception was Union Reservoir in Weld County. We relocated the 1st cycle Little Gull but not the adult. Many Bonaparte's Gulls were still there.

We did not have enough daylight to drive up to Rawhide Reservoir for the Red throated Loon; it will have to wait for another day.

Our highlight was watching two Short eared Owls fly over near sunset at the southern Lower Latham Reservoir marsh.

Return to Denver from Northeast Colorado

December 4, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I wandered around Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) about an hour before sunrise. Two Eastern Screech-Owls were heard calling (between sections 6-7 East).

As birds "woke up" in the morning, we were able to find a Northern Cardinal at Tamarack Pond. Two Field Sparrows were around the windbreak at section 7 East. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found on both the eastern and western sides of CR 55.

There was no sign or additional reports of a Snowy Owl. We headed back to Denver. A quick stop at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) found little not expected. The highlight was a Snow Bunting at the southeastern end of the dam.

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned from a great four days of birding on the Eastern Plains. We were avoiding driving back to a snow covered Denver; also, we searched several days for a reported Snowy Owl; without success,

Then, I hopped on the E470 toll road and drove down to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas). In spite on cloudy skies and temperatures in the teens, my afternoon was quite enjoyable and successful.

I looked for the Brants at the Heron Rookery Overlooks, below the northwestern Campgrounds and from the Fishing Pier. While at the Fishing Pier (labeled on Chatfield Reservoir map as such), the 1st/2nd cycle Glaucous Gull flew over my head (which figures as I left my camera in the car to keep it warm).

Then I saw many geese on the swim beach and headed that way. It was too cold to search for the Rusty Blackbirds at Plum Creek Delta. On the way over, I scoped many geese in the field south of the model airplane runways. The two Brants were there (in Douglas County).

At least one (I thought two) Lapland Longspurs were mixed in with dozens of Horned Larks along the model airplane entrance road.

Having missed the Pomarine Jaeger at previous stops, I decided to drive up to the top of the dam. It is still my favorite location to scope Chatfield Reservoir and it did not disappoint.

The Pomarine Jaeger was chasing gulls along Massy Draw and the northern boat ramp. Hundreds of gulls swam and circled over the bay (below me)! One of the gulls was a 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull.

While making a "rest stop" back at the swim beach, many geese started flying into the area. The two Brants were among them (Jefferson County)!

Snowy Owl Search Moves to Phillips & Sedgwick Counties

December 3, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I spent most of the day searching for Snowy Owls and longspurs. Lapland Longspurs appear to be easy to find this winter along the eastern Colorado border.

We stopped several times to visit friends. Long-eared Owls were relocated at one private ranch (Sedgwick).

Late in the afternoon, we stopped at Sedgwick County Roads 46 and 89. The Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area ranger clued me into this spot years ago. Two Greater Prairie-Chickens were found wandering the fields.

It is a good location to check especially after a dusting of snow. Greater Prairie-Chickens sometimes wander the fields along with Ring-necked Pheasants.

At dusk, we watched the field below the hill (about 0.3 mile walk north of above intersection. For at least the third time in 2011, a Short-eared Owl was observed flying across the field (eastern end of southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area).

Winds were mild; the calm, silent evening was superb; the sunset was fantastic!

Continued Search for Snowy Owl, Common Ground-Dove

December 2, 2011

Richard Stevens:

After wandering Yuma County the last couple of days in search of Snowy Owls, Bryan Ehlmann and I headed north into Phillips and Sedgwick Counties. Still no Snowy Owls were found.

We stopped for 30 minutes at the S. Platte River south of Julesburg. The Common Ground-Dove was quite cooperative. We got great looks although from too far away for photos.

Our next stop was Julesburg Wildlife Area (Sedgwick). The uncommon sparrows found last week were not relocated. A consolation, a pair of Rusty Blackbirds was along the Platte River (about 350 yards east of the parking area).

Our birding day ended at the southeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick). No Short-eared Owls came out tonight.

Search for Snowy Owl in Yuma County, Gyrfalcon!

December 1, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I were avoiding heading back to Denver. It had received perhaps 6 inches of snow recently.

We wandered up Yuma County Road 45 at civil twilight. Greater Prairie-Chickens search for food in the corn stubble fields. This morning was no exception. Two or three Greater Prairie-Chickens were found. For those attempting the same, be sure to stay on public roads. Landowner Bob Bledsoe does not favor birders who trespass on his land.

The highlight of the morning and day was a light phase Gyrfalcon along CR 45. It flew over us where CR 45 turns from east to south (Road name changes to Yuma County Road PP).

The course of our trip was changed when we received a call from a rancher/friend northwest of Arvin. His neighbor had seen a Snowy Owl on Tuesday and today.

We would spend much time in the next couple of days in search of the White Owl! While visiting the Snowy Owl finder, he gave us two photos of his discovery. It was a great prize for a part time/new birder!

The rest of our day was spent searching Yuma County for the Snowy Owl. Regrettably, it was never found.

Two stops to say "Hi" to friends in Wray, added an eastern Fox Sparrow and 4 Northern Cardinals to our trip list.

Of course, the other highlight was missing the heavy snow in Denver; the plains only received a dusting in most areas.

Some Great Yuma County Birds

November 30, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove to Burlington Colorado. A surprise American Woodcock has been in a yard at the north end of town. The bird was a great start to our trip!

A trip through Bonny Reservoir and Hale Ponds found Eastern Screech-Owls both at Hale Ponds and along Yuma County Road 3 (between Foster's Grove Campgrounds and Hwy 385).

We also relocated a Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been in the area for several weeks.

A Harris's Sparrow was along Yuma County Road 4 (east of Hale). A flock of 50+ Cedar Waxwings was also at Hale.

We searched several riparian areas on the trip to Wray for Eastern Screech-Owls and/or Barn Owls; without success.