Sunday, December 11, 2011

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.

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