Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cherry Creek Reservoir and Snowy Owl Near Barr Lake

January 29, 2012

Richard Stevens:

After getting tired at looking at computer screens all morning, I drove south to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). The 1st cycle Glaucous Gull was on the ice off the southwest boat ramp.

Most of the other gulls were Ring-billed Gulls. However, a few Herring Gulls and at least two California Gulls were also around. An adult Thayer's Gull was on the ice off the handicapped fisherperson dock (north side of reservoir).

I received a text message about the darker (young) Snowy Owl observed near Barr Lake State Park (Adams) and headed back toward home.

The young Snowy Owl was first found in high grasses around the gas riser south of the circle irrigation system. At 4:00 pm, it flew to the top of the irrigation system where it was still standing when I left at 4:40 pm.

No additional owls were found during a drive around the DIA Owl Loop.

Adams and Broomfield Counties Today

January 28, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I tried again for a photo of the Harris's Sparrow at Star K Ranch Open Space. The sparrow stopped below the southern feeder several times. Unfortunately, many people visited the Visitor's Center this Saturday. I was only able to get a few blurry photos.

We felt like some exercise and decided to hike along the South Platte River at 88th avenue (South Platte Birding Area, Adams County).

A male Barrow's Goldeneye was on the Platte River at 10 yards north (downstream) of the green/white tower. There was a good assortment of common ducks for those searching for photo opportunities.

Thousands of gulls were on Tani Reservoir. Unfortunately, they were all Ring-billed Gulls.

We heard about the gulls at Parkside Center Pond (Broomfield) and drove north. No gulls were at the pond when we arrived.

The good news was that several hundred gulls were on the ice at nearby Siena Pond (south of Parkside). The adult Iceland Gull and California Gull were among many Ring-billed Gulls and a dozen Herring Gulls.

One last Gull, at first glance appeared to be a 1st cycle Glaucous Gull. When I put a scope on it, field marks were just not right. Others reported a Glaucous X Herring Gull at Parkside Center Pond (this is most likely the same Gull).

We were not able to find the Thayer's Gull or Lesser Black-backed Gull reported earlier in the day. On our second stop at Siena Pond later in the afternoon, nothing additional was added to our day list.

Our next stop was 138th avenue west of Harvest Road (Adams). There was no sign of either Snowy Owl.

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. A few Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were observed, no Short-eared Owls tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Short-eared Owls at Lower Latham Reservoir

January 27, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I tried for another photograph of the Harris's Sparrow at Star K Ranch. The sparrow appeared shortly after sunrise and kicked around the snow for some seed. Unfortunately, the light was not good and all photos were blurry.

I had some business in Platteville and we headed north. We passed by Harvest Road and 138th but did not stay long. Neither Snowy Owl was conspicuously apparent.

It took several hours to set up a computer network for a friend. Afterwards, we had considered going to Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer County) and search for Short-eared Owls. After reading that Gary Lefko had found a Short-eared Owl yesterday, we decided to drive around Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld) instead.

A Marsh Wren popped out of the cattails along CR 48. Raptors included Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels and one Rough-legged Hawk. A Great Horned Owl was east of the reservoir.

No Short-eared Owls were north of the reservoir this afternoon. Two Short-eared Owls flew around the field south of Lower Latham Reservoir (County Road 48) at sunset.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beautiful Winter Day Around Denver

January 26, 2012

Richard Stevens:

It was a fantastic day for birds and weather. Temperatures reached the high 50s and winds were calm.

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove around again searching for Snowy Owls. Today we focused mostly on the areas east and northeast of Denver International Airport. No Snowy Owls were found (we did not go over to Harvest Road, however did hear the darkish Snowy Owl was seen there).

None of our new "recruits" called to report a Snowy Owl. Over 200 observers were recruited this week (according to supervisors) from two trash disposal sites, two water treatment plants and baggage handlers at DIA. If any additional Snowy Owls are around, someone should see them.

Bryan "gave up" by noon and I timed my arrival at the Dinosaur Ridge for 2:30 pm. The Greater Roadrunner has been mostly reported between 2:45 pm and 4:45 pm.

I walked up the road and found the Greater Roadrunner walking along the closest ridge to the road. Originally, the roadrunner was 10 yards east of the three white culvert markers at 2:55 pm. It was directly above the markers from 3:10 pm to 3:20 pm (when I departed).

The Golden-crowned Sparrow was below the Red Rocks Park Trading Post feeders when I peeked around the building. It was a good day when both those birds can be observed without any waiting time!

My route back home was along Colfax Avenue. A quick detour to Denver City Park found the Long-tailed Duck still on Duck Lake. On a previous visit, I talked to the person who has a list of all birds in the Zoo. He assured that any ducks and geese on Duck Lake are wild birds and not part of their collection.

It was quite dark by the time I drove along the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Day of Snowy Owl Searches

January 25, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I again searched east of DIA for Snowy Owls. Again we used the technique "discovered" yesterday. We asked ranchers if we could pick up white bags and trash on their land. This again allowed us to hike over hills and scope fields not accessible to public roads. Two landowners did not find our request too outrageous and granted permission.

Several times, we checked the areas around 56th avenue and 470 toll road and east of Powhaton Road and south of 6th avenue (areas of previous sightings).

Unfortunately, the only Snowy Owls seen by us was those "hanging around" Harvest Road and 138th avenue. The "whitish" Snowy Owl was northwest of Harvest Road & 138th avenue. The "darkish" Snowy Owl was east of Harvest Road & 144th avenue.

Our birding day ended with a hike around Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Adams). Two Long-eared Owls were found in the windbreak along the west side of lakes 7 & 8.

Search for Snowy Owls Continues

January 24, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to drive around DIA today in search of Snowy Owls. We did not relocate the Snowy Owl that Rebecca Kosten and I found yesterday afternoon at 56th avenue and 470-toll road.

During the day, we did go over to Harvest Road and 138th avenue and see the Snowy Owl there. Thanks to Sue Ponsor for reporting the owl was back there.

In between the two stops, we drove roads south and east of DIA. We tried to cover roads that we had missed in the past.

Whenever we found a person who appeared to spend some time in the area, we stopped and asked if they had seen any "white owls". One stop was quite productive. A "cowboy" feeding cows had seen a Snowy Owl earlier today (1/24) and also on 1/20! These sightings were approximately 6 miles from our sighting yesterday!

Early in the morning, I came up with the idea to ask landowners if we could pick up the white bags on their property. Some fields had dozens of these white grocery/store bags.

Several ranchers gave us "weird looks" about our request. Three landowners said go for it. This technique allowed us to walk over hills and scope fields that were not visible from a public road. No additional Snowy Owls were found, however one never knows. We at least explored fields never encountered before by us.

We stopped at two disposal sites and two water treatment plants, again asking about any "white owl" sightings. While this did not find any sightings, before the day was over, we had "recruited" another 200+ potential observers!

Our birding day ended along the DIA Owl Loop. The Short-eared Owls did not appear tonight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Search for Snowy Owls!

January 23, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I took our own bird feeder to Star K Ranch, Adams County (closed on Monday and Tuesdays, they take down their feeders).

The Harris's Sparrow eventually arrived below the closest feeder to the parking area. However, 90 Red winged Blackbirds also flew to the feeders. The Red wings kept the Harris's and White crowned Sparrows deep in bushes. There never was a good photo opportunity in 2 hours.

After lunch, Rebecca and I drove around DIA for about 4 hours. This trip, we concentrated on the south side of the Airport.

Thousands of Horned Larks were north of the Front Range Airpark (southeast of Denver International Airport). We managed to pick out 2 Lapland Longspurs among the flocks. Most of these flocks were along Hudson Mile Road, north of 56th avenue.

There were dozens of white bags in the fields we passed. Late in the afternoon, we stopped to scope another "white bag". This one turned out to be an adult Snowy Owl! Yes, we were surprised after looking at several dozen white bags. Our scope was set up along 56th avenue (about 100 yards east of E470, the Toll Road, I mention this in case the Toll Highway is not called E470 here).

We sent out two RBA text messages and four birders came by before it was too dark to see the Snowy Owl.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Little Time to Bird Today

January 22, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Football playoffs today, we only had time for short and quick trip to the store for supplies. A brief stop at Star K Ranch Open Space (Adams County) did find the Harris's Sparrow.

We drove along Harvest Road and the 138th avenue loop on the way home. We did not find the Snowy Owl.

Beautiful Winter Day Around Denver

January 21, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Plans today were for a short birding day. We drove to Denver City Park to search for a Barrow's Goldeneye reported yesterday. While we did see the Long-tailed Duck, none of the Goldeneyes swimming around could be called a Barrow's Goldeneye.

We decided to drive to Golden for lunch. My favorite restaurant was closed "out of business, guess I did not go there enough).

We passed within a mile or two of Dinosaur Ridge; of course, we had to stop and attempt to see the Greater Roadrunner. It did not show up during the hour stop.

We drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on our way to the Barr Lake area. While watching 27 Mule Deer right next to the main park road, a Great Horned Owl flew across "old parker road". A second one followed. It was great to know that some Great Horned Owls are still in the park. Let us hope they nest successfully!

No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop this evening. However, the sunset was spectacular!

White-tailed Ptarmigan Finally

January 20, 2012

Richard Stevens:

"Persistence" paid off today. Robin Quintanilla, Mark Talbott and I were at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) at sunrise. For those who are not familiar with the area, many young skiers will hitch rides to the top of the pass and ski back down to Loveland Ski Area. This way, they avoid the hefty lift tickets. The commotion however, tends to scare Ptarmigan away.

We beat the rush today and we were compensated for our early rising and arrival time. Two White-tailed Ptarmigan walked around the thin evergreen trees just below the western side of the summit!

A trip over the Eisenhower Tower into Summit County provided for additional looks at the Barrow's Goldeneyes at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant and some Rosy Finches flying around Silverthorne.

A plan to drive north to Rabbit Ears Pass was scrubbed. Winds at Silverthorne were measured at 21 mph, gusts to 33 mph. Higher winds were predicted for Rabbit Ears.

After dropping my birding pals off, I decided to drive the DIA Owl Loop and also search for the Snowy Owl(s) near Harvest Road and 138th avenue. The Snowy Owl(s) were not found in a two hour search so we decided to drive the Owl Loop.

There were no Snowy Owl sightings. A Prairie Falcon and 2 Ferruginous Hawks were found. Both species have been hanging around the area for weeks.

At dusk, I stopped at the Snowy Owl location of a few weeks ago (3.1 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue). No Snowy Owl, however a great consolation prize was seen. A Short-eared Owl was flying around just east and downhill of my vehicle. I was able to capture a 1-2 minute video of the owl!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Birding In the Mountains

January 19, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Yesterday, I talked about conjuring up White-tailed Ptarmigan. It did not happen today. We searched Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) for a total of six hours during two different stops. No Ptarmigan were found as we covered 2-3 miles of the area.

Highlights had to be three species of Rosy Finches at a private yard and 10 Barrow's Goldeneyes at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County).

After dropping Robin Quintanilla and Mark Talbott off, I stopped at Star K Ranch Open Space (Adams). The Harris's Sparrow appeared below the feeders around sunset (in spite of the feeders having been taken down).

No owl activity was detected along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Birding Around Douglas, Jefferson & Adams Counties

January 18, 2012

Richard Stevens:

This morning, Robin Quintanilla, Mark Talbott and I went out searching for Three-toed Woodpeckers and Owls. My last few trips before sunrise in search of Northern Pygmy-Owls were not successful. Therefore, today we tried for them later in the morning.

Our first stop was Highway 67 and Rampart Range Road (Douglas County). A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was within 15 feet of Highway 67 at 20 yards east of Rampart Road.

We continued on to Reynolds Park (Jefferson). It was too icy to hike up to the intersections of Oxen Draw, Raven's Roost and Eagle's View (a good location for Three-toed Woodpeckers).

An hour hike along the Songbird Trail (between Reynolds's two parking areas) did not find a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We did see Dusky Grouse tracks; however, no birds.

On to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson), we walked up to the intersection of Buck Gulch and Strawberry Jack Trails. No Northern Pygmy-Owls were found. Then we tried along the Narrow Gauge Trail to the closed gate; again no Pygmy Owls.

We stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson). The Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared within 15 minutes.

After dropping off Robin and Mark at their motel, I stopped at Star K Ranch Open Space (Arapahoe) on my way home. Sparrows have been scarce here this winter. Only a couple of Dark-eyed Juncos and two Song Sparrows were encountered on my trip around the park.

As I was leaving, I decided to check the feeders, which in the past have only produced sightings of Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches and House Sparrow. I wondered why an uncommon bird did not stop off at this nice wild area with feeders.

Surprise, a Harris's Sparrow was below the feeder closest to the parking area! About time, this must have been my 60+ visit to the park. The best bird in the past was a Northern Shrike.

No owls were found on my way home along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams). Although a white grocery bag enticed me to stop and get out my scope near 56th avenue and E470. Tens of hundreds of White-cheeked Geese were in the fields west of Picadilly Road between I70 and 56th avenue (Adams County).

Adams County Birding

January 17, 2012

Richard Stevens:

This morning, Robin Quintanilla, Mark Talbott and I drove the roads east of Barr Lake State Park (Adams County).

Our first stop was the area west of Harvest Road and 138th avenues. This rewarded us with distant views of the darker Snowy Owl. It was quite a ways west of 138th avenue. We did not find the lighter (adult) Snowy Owl.

We continued around the DIA Owl Loop where a nice assortment of raptors was observed. Two Ferruginous Hawks one of which was a dark morph (east of Trussville Road and 120th avenue) were found.

Our search for Horned Larks and possible longspurs or Snow Buntings was not very successful. Only a handful of Horned Larks flew around public roads.

Other raptors included: Prairie Falcon, one Rough-legged Hawk, nine Red-tailed Hawks, four American Kestrels and a Great Horned Owl.

A stop at a friend's home added a Barn Owl to our day list!

Few birds lingered at Barr Lake State Park.

We continued to the South Platte Birding Area (newly signed and named). Here a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was swimming on the Platte River just north of the green and white tower.

Meandering Around Arapahoe County Before Snowstorm

January 16, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to the Aurora Reservoir area (Arapahoe County). On the trip over, we stopped briefly at Lakecrest. Thousands of White-cheeked Geese (a few Cackling Geese) swan "shoulder to shoulder". One could walk across the lake if the geese would hold you up.

We found one juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose among the many geese. The greatly outnumbered ducks included Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall and Mallards. One Scaup looked quite a bit like a male Greater Scaup. However, we never confirmed it to our satisfaction to record it as such.

Once at the Aurora Reservoir area, we first hiked the private land south of the reservoir (with permission). Several flocks of Horned Larks with 2 Lapland Longspurs were observed. No Snowy Owls were found.

Then we hiked the 8.7 mile bike path around the reservoir. It was a national holiday; the 46+ ice anglers still surprised us (had not they heard about the fisherman who fell through the ice yesterday in Colorado Springs or the guy in Lakewood who drown?).

We had expected the gulls to be standing on the ice near the marina. However, with the many anglers, the gulls were in a tight circle in the middle of the reservoir. We entered the park at mile 1.0 and had to walk to mile 6.0 to get a good look at the gulls.

Off and on, the gulls flew to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) several miles to the north. During our trek, we saw perhaps 200 Ring-billed Gulls, 9 Herring Gulls, 1 California Gull, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, and an adult Thayer's Gull.

In the late afternoon (and when we were 2.6 miles from our car), it started snowing rather heavily. We rushed to get out of the park, as the rangers will lock the southern gates early during inclement weather.

A Short Owling Trip

January 15, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Shortly after midnight, I drove toward Penrose and stopped at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont County). I managed to get a Northern Pygmy-Owl to respond to my recordings (first parking area).

Roads were icy and slick which made my decision to deter from continuing to Phantom Canyon easy. The high walls of the canyon surely would have prevented the snow and ice from melting on the canyon road.

Instead, I backtracked to Aiken Canyon where birds were scarce. I wanted to stop at Turkey Creek Ranch, however was not sure if there was access on Sundays, so drove on by.

I wandered around the new Red Rock Canyon Open Space (El Paso) searching for the Northern Pygmy-Owl reported there a week or so ago; without success.

An attempt to get to Green Mountain Falls was stopped by icy roads. It has been a few years since anyone has reported Band-tailed Pigeons wintering there.

My birding day ended back on my stomping grounds, DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls came out this evening.

Trip to Pueblo For Gulls

January 14, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Pueblo Reservoir was only 50 miles or so south. Therefore, I decided to add a few gulls to my year list. Eventually I relocated a Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull.

The reservoir was scoped from West Fisherman's Point. After 20 minutes or so, the White-winged Scoter was found.

A walk around Valco Ponds did not find the previously reported Winter Wren or Rusty Blackbirds. Birds were in fact scarce?

A Black Phoebe and Great Horned Owls were found at the Pueblo Nature Center. No Rusty Blackbirds here or below Pueblo City Park. It was a nice day for a hike in spite of the lack of birds.

Wandering Around Colorado Springs, El Paso County

January 13, 2012

Richard Stevens:

After some personal business was taken care of in the morning, I wandered over to Fountain Creek Regional Park.

The Harris's Sparrow came below the feeders behind the Visitor's Center. The Ross's Goose was still at Rice's Pond. A Virginia Rail was found with some patience as I waited at the bridge over the hiking path at Rice's Pond outlet stream!

An interesting flyover was a raven. It was rather small in size. It had a smallish bill and tail. Could have been a Chihuahuan Raven; however, I had no way to confirm it.

Nearby Big Johnson Reservoir was slow. I hiked around to the eastern side and managed to pick out an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull among hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls. A single Herring Gull was among them.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Five Owl Day

January 12, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann

Richard Stevens, I, and four additional birders drove over to Harvest Road and 138th Avenue at sunrise. The Snowy Owl was easy to spot when we scoped the field to the northwest (scoping spot was northeast corner of Harvest Road & 138th Avenue).

There is no need to drive down 138th and stress an already stressed owl. They are finding many of the Snowy Owls (27+) in Iowa dying probably from stress and lack of food.

Afterwards we drove the DIA Owl Loop in Adams County and found 2 Ferruginous Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels and Northern Harriers. Where are the Rough-legged Hawks this winter?

We dropped Richard off at home to conduct personal business and the rest of us went up I76 toward Jackson Lake State Park in Morgan County.

Just before I76 exit 60, a Northern Goshawk was on a telephone pole. It is really a strange place to find one, far from any forest or trees for that matter.

Finally a Rough-legged Hawk which turned out to be a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk standing on a fence post along highway 144, south of Jackson Lake.

A few Yellow-rumped Warblers and many Robins were around the Campgrounds at Jackson Lake. The Eastern Screech-Owl was out sunning himself and provided nice looks for all. A Great Horned Owl was in a cottonwood off to the distant west.

Several groups of Lapland Longspurs were mixed with Lapland Longspurs along Morgan County Road 4, which turns into Weld County Road 105.

We ended the birding part of our trip at Lower Latham Reservoir. A Peregrine Falcon was southwest of the reservoir, location along Weld County Road 43 at 0.6 miles south of County Road 48.

We searched for the Short-eared Owl that Richard and I found last week north of Lower Latham Reservoir. We did not find it. Fortunately, two Short-eared Owls flew after sunset over the fields south of County Road 48 and Lower Latham Reservoir.

We also found Long-eared Owls, location to remain not posted to protect the owls.

Search for Greater Roadrunner

January 10, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann:

Before I report Thursday's trip, I want to go back to Tuesday.

Richard Stevens and I were at the Dinosaur Ridge Tour parking lot (Stegosaurus parking lot) at around sunrise. We hiked up to the top under clear skies, mild to no wind and 28 degree temperatures. It was a beautiful morning. The stress of the hike warmed us up rapidly so 28 degrees did not present a problem.

As soon as we got to the top, we spotted the Greater Roadrunner on top of an evergreen tree. Maybe to warm himself up from the cool night before.

We had not gotten more than a 5 second look when an adult Red-tailed Hawk swooped in and landed in the tree. Needless to say, the Greater Roadrunner and dozens of Robins in the tree drove deep into the interior.

We could pick out the tail of the Greater Roadrunner and had short glimpses of the head. The birds were not coming out of that evergreen.

Editorial Note: A group of birders is organizing trips to search for the Greater Roadrunner. They are limiting the number of birders and attempting around 11:30 am Friday and Saturday.

It is a public road, anyone can hike up it. We found the bird at 8:17 am. No need to bother with a restricted group nor not go because they do not have priority.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fantastic Birding Day in Adams & Jefferson Counties

January 10, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Lynn (no last name) informed us about the Snowy Owl presence. We relocated the Snowy Owl by stopping at the green box along the south side of 138th avenue. Looking northeast to the house, go one telephone pole west, then one fence post east. The owl was 10 feet east in higher grass. The small group of taller grass provided cover.

This was after we drove for three hours and scoped most of the fields to the south. It was a sunny day and quite an enjoyable ride. We stopped at 138th as an after thought, glad we did.

Two Ferruginous Hawks, one Prairie Falcon, many Red-tailed Hawks and a first year Bald Eagle were along the DIA owl loop.

Another 12+ Bald Eagles were at Barr Lake.

We hope birders took time to look at tonight's sunset. It was one of the superior sunsets of the many winter sunsets in Colorado!

Not a bad day with this morning's Greater Roadrunner sighting at Dinosaur Ridge and the Golden-crowned Sparrow at Red Rocks Park.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Trek Around Arapahoe County

January 9, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I received a call Sunday from a friend in Centennial about a large reddish sparrow. From her description, it sounded like it could be a red form of Fox Sparrow.

I have wanted to get over to the Highline Canal in the area to check on Owls, so Bryan Ehlmann and I headed that way early this morning.

We watched my friend's backyard for about 20 minutes before the suspect sparrow made an appearance. The bird was a very reddish looking Song Sparrow.

Afterwards we hiked the Highline Canal from Hampden Avenue to East Bellevue Avenue. An Eastern Screech-Owl was "out sunning" at the north end of our hike (Arapahoe County).

Centennial Park was not far away; it was visited next. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the ice when we arrive. After 10 minutes, it took off with many Ring-billed Gulls and flew to the Waste Management Area across the road.

Continuing in Arapahoe County, our trek took us to Cherry Creek Reservoir. The less than 20 gulls there were all Ring-billed Gulls.

On the eastern Arapahoe County and Aurora Reservoir, we decided to checkout the gulls there. None of the uncommon gulls from last week was found when we hiked down to the swim beach area.

Our birding day ended on Bill Cryder's deck. We scoped the reservoir until dark. No Snowy Owls appeared.

A Short Birding Day in Denver

January 8, 2012

Richard Stevens:

We passed Denver City Park (Denver County) on our way Downtown. The Long-tailed Duck continues on Duck Lake (perhaps she will stay until time to search for a mate?).

We walked about Confluence Park in search of Barrow's Goldeneyes (Denver). None was found, however, an American Dipper was a good consolation prize! It was along the South Platte River, just upstream of the confluence with Cherry Creek.

Run From a Snowstorm

January 7, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Storms with a foot or more of snow were predicted for the mountains. We greatly desired to drop back down to the foothills before the major storm.

However, we had several scheduled stops before leaving North Park. A dozen Sharp-tailed Grouse were observed at a friend's home near Steamboat Springs.

Several hundred Rosy Finches were coming to the feeders behind the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center. No Pine Grosbeaks were here or at Gould; we gave up on finding any this trip.

It was still snowing just west of Fort Collins when we arrived.

A detour to Weld County to visit a friend allowed us to see the Golden-crowned Sparrow and Northern Saw-whet Owl that have been on his ranch for several weeks now!

Light snow was falling, but becoming heavier as we drove north. This determined our course and we gave up on scoping Rawhide Reservoir (Larimer) for the Long-tailed Ducks (one could be seen at Denver City Park).

Our birding day ended as we passed Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld). Many raptors north of the reservoir included 4 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, a pair of American Kestrels and a Short-eared Owl (north of Weld County Roads 54 & 45.

Another Short-eared Owl was found flying over the fields south of CR 48! Then we continued to Denver.

Trip Back Into The Mountains

January 6, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Today, Nancy and Jon Beard, Rebecca Kosten and I headed into the mountains to search for a few birds.

We missed White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (3 hour search) and then went into Dillon for lunch. Rosy Finches were found at mountain feeders. We missed Pine Grosbeaks, which appear to be uncommon this winter (I have now missed them on three consecutive trips).

Eighteen Barrow's Goldeneyes were swimming around on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County).

Then we returned to Loveland Pass by way of Keystone (again not finding any Pine Grosbeaks). First, Jon and I hiked up the western side of the Summit. A most strenuous hike, I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I would never attempt it again (however, we did find ptarmigan up there on that trip). Today we were not so fortunate; no ptarmigan.

As the sun started to set, I climbed down the western side of the summit. Two Ptarmigan were hunkered underneath an evergreen tree, not 30 yards from the highway. With a little maneuvering, my companions were able to see the birds!

We continued up through Kremmling to Walden. Jon and I went forward to Cameron Pass (Jackson) to search for Boreal Owls. It was another snowy night on the pass. Strange looking to see clear skies and stars above the falling snow, eerie and picturesque.

As happens often on such nights, the forest was rather quiet. Well, except for the chattering of birds (Pine Siskins, Finches and what we thought was a Pine Grosbeak).

Eventually Jon and I heard two Boreal Owls call briefly. This in itself was strange. I usually have no success in locating Boreal Owls during a snowstorm. It was after midnight before our successful adventure!

Search for Woodpeckers and Owls

January 5, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I were at Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) about an hour before sunrise. We listened for Northern Pygmy-Owls (or any owls); without success.

A quick hike up to the Oxen Draw, Raven's Roost & Eagle's View Trails intersection did not find any American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Then we headed over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) to search for the Northern Pygmy-Owl found there yesterday by Merlynn Brown (along the Narrow Gauge Trail, 30 yards west of the 2nd bridge). Again, we enjoyed no success. In my experience, when the owls are not nesting, they are seldom found in the same location two days in a row.

We hiked up the Buck Gulch Trail and the Strawberry Jack Trail (this intersection has been successful for Northern Pygmy-Owl sightings in the past, however not today. Then our trek continued to the Parkview Trail.

An adult male American Three-toed Woodpecker was fluttering about below the Strawberry Jack Trail switchbacks (on our trip back to the car). No Three-toed Woodpeckers were found near the Strawberry Jack/Parkview intersection today (another good location for them).

We then headed south to Cheesman Canyon to search for woodpeckers and owls. In the past, Red-headed, Lewis's, and Three-toed Woodpeckers have been recorded near and west of the Cheesman Canyon Trailhead. None was found today.

A hike up the Cheesman Canyon Trail to the reservoir did find two American Three-toed Woodpeckers. When we returned to our car, a Great Horned Owl was heard on the north side of highway 126.

No Northern Pygmy-Owls were found along Highway 67 as we returned to Denver.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Snowy Owls Today

January 4, 2012

Richard Stevens:

As usual, I am updating the Blog at a strange hour. We are about to head back to Barr Lake area and search for the Snowy Owls.

Today Bryan Ehlmann and I found (well, actually planned on it) ourselves at Aurora Reservoir about an hour before sunrise.

We planned to scope the lake and hoped to find the Aurora Reservoir Snowy Owl (would prove that at least three Snowy Owls were in the area).

First we walked some private land southeast of the reservoir; without success. I acquired special permission to search for a Snowy Owl on the land. However, I figure that permission will expire with the owl's departure. Therefore, we gave it one more look over.

Afterwards, we sat on a friend's balcony and scoped the south side of Aurora Reservoir for an hour or so. There was no sign of a Snowy Owl; we decided not walk the 8.7 miles around the lake. We scoped briefly from the northeast end of the dam and moved on. There is plenty of land for the owl to hunt and rest. He could still be out there.

Wednesday was a fantastic winter day, mild winds and relatively warm temperatures. Bryan and I decided to drive around the country roads east and south of Aurora Reservoir; perhaps we would come upon another Snowy Owl.

That never happed as we covered eastern Arapahoe County, looked at some Douglas County land (but never drove onto it), covered a small part of Elbert County, then turned north through Arapahoe County, into eastern Adams County.

Highlights included Lapland Longspurs in Arapahoe, Elbert (county lifebird) and Adams Counties. An Eastern Screech-Owl in Kiowa (Elbert, county lifebird). Two Long-eared Owls in Arapahoe County. Four Great Horned Owls (2 each; Arapahoe & Elbert Counties).

Other raptors included: 2 dark morph Red-tailed Hawks, 14 western Red-tailed Hawks, 2 dark morph Ferruginous Hawks, 1 light morph Ferruginous Hawk, 5 Rough-legged Hawks, 4 American Kestrels, 1 Merlin (Arapahoe) and 1 Prairie Falcon (Adams).

We handed out issues of "Colorado Field Notes" and our business card. Added three valuable new birding sources for Elbert County and eastern Arapahoe County.

Third & Fourth Snowy Owls of 2012!!

January 3, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I sat in a cold car parked at Sedgwick Draw (Sedgwick County). About 20 minutes before sunrise, a Short-eared Owl flew down the field!

We then rushed over to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick Counties). The Snowy Owl was not found in our brief search.

Again, no Rusty Blackbirds were found around Jumbo Reservoir. Few birds were found Arapahoe Red Lion and Duck Creek Wildlife Areas. We had decided to drive to Sterling Reservoir when we received a text about a Snowy Owl near Barr Lake State Park (Adams County).

We headed for home.

I dropped off Bryan and picked up Rebecca Kosten and we headed to Harvest Road (Adams). I scoped the advertised field and found the Snowy Owl within 15 minutes.

I also noticed a person with a scope walking in the field quite a bit west of us. It seemed like a good idea to take down his license number so we moved a little closer. I did not want to get too close (within 1/4 of the Snowy Owl).

Therefore, I set up my scope again and tried to figure out who the birder was. While doing this, I noticed a dark spot in the field behind the birder. To my surprise, it was another Snowy Owl (darker than the first one).

Later I found out that two Snowy Owls had been found (however, I discovered the second one without that knowledge)!

Second Snowy Owl of 2012!

January 2, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I left Denver for northeastern Colorado at about 3:00 am. We arrived in the dark at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) around 5:30 am.

We relocated an Eastern Screech-Owl (Sedgwick County) on the north side of Jumbo Reservoir and watched for Short-eared Owls below the reservoir (south side). No Short-eared Owls appeared this morning.

At around 6:15 am, we started searching for the Snowy Owl reported yesterday by Bill Kaempfer. The Snowy Owl was not at the same location (as expected). However, we finally relocated the owl as we drove along Sedgwick County Road 24.5. The owl was 1/4 mile or so north of CR 24.5 and east of CR 3.

When we returned a few hours later, it had moved (to where, we did not discover).

Our morning was spent birding Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan). The highlights included 2 Common Redpoll (south of the main road, slightly east of Tamarack Pond), a Field Sparrow (at section 7 East), and a Northern Cardinal (northwest of Tamarack Pond).

Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found along the South Platte River (both east and west of Hwy 55). We walked quite a bit of the Platte River; our target bird was an American Woodcock; none was found.

We returned to Jumbo Reservoir (missed the Snowy Owl) and searched for the Rusty Blackbird reported yesterday. It was never found.

Our birding day ended at the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan). Our technique that has been successful several times in the past was to hike northwest of Logan County Roads 46 & 89.

We then spread out overlooking the "valley" below (sit on stools about 100 yards apart) and scope for Greater Prairie-Chickens and Short-eared Owls.

Bryan who was west of me, radioed first. He was looking at a Greater Prairie-Chicken! I snuck over and added the Greater Prairie-Chicken to my 2012 bird list!

No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening. We stopped briefly back at the northeastern sections and heard an Eastern Screech-Owl (Logan)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good First Day of the Year 2012

January 1, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I started the New Year by trying to relocate some metro Denver birds.

Several dozen Great-tailed Grackles flew around the town of Barr. The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was at the South Platte River Birding Area (below the green and white tower).

The Golden-crowned Sparrow visited below the platform feeder behind the Red Rocks Park Trading Post (Jefferson County). I threw out seed and the bird appeared within 5 minutes.

A two hour search for the Denver West Office complex Pine Warbler was not successful.

The Long-tailed Duck was on Duck Lake in Denver City Park (Denver). Although, the ducks and geese on Duck Lake got a scare when a Bald Eagle dove down several times. We wondered how the Bald Eagles in the Zoo cages would feel about that (and yes, that is anthropomorphizing).

Then we spent the next three hours searching for the Snowy Owl near Aurora Reservoir. First southeast of the reservoir, then northeast, no sightings. Finally, we returned to the southeast area and found the Snowy Owl on the ground (private property, no public access)!

We ended our birding day sitting in chairs and scoping Aurora Reservoir from the balcony of a friend's home in the Lake Shore Development. We figured the Snowy Owl might return to Aurora Reservoir at sunset because the reservoir was closed today. The last few days, the open park experienced relatively mild weather. Many bikers, walkers and dog owners probably discouraged the return of the Snowy Owl.