Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Douglas County Birding

February 28, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Loveland Pass was again closed due to snow and blowing snow. Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to try to relocate the Northern Pygmy-Owl found yesterday at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County). No Northern Pygmy-Owl or American Three-toed Woodpecker was found along the Buck Gulch Trail to the switchbacks on the Strawberry Jack Trail. We did not continue farther up the trails.

Instead, we headed to Rampart Range Road and Highway 67. Photos of a male American Three-toed Woodpecker were taken here (20 yards east & 5 yards north of intersection).

The rest of the day and several hours after sunset, we drove around intermittent snowfall in search of owls. I should not post; however, we have found two Northern Pygmy-Owl nesting sites. Please do not ask location, private landowners do not want visitors but do not mind us monitoring the progress.

Beside, I became discouraged by recent disclosures of bird locations that people gave their word they would not divulge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jefferson County Parks

February 27, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Frank & Ann Oliver and I visited Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) at first light. No Northern Pygmy-Owls called this morning. The park had too much snow to hike up the mountain; instead, we headed over to nearby Pine Valley Ranch Park.

Fortune smiled on us. A male American Three-toed Woodpecker crossed Buck Gulch Trail around 50 yards south of Pine Lake.

Frank wanted a photo so we continued up Buck Gulch Trail to Strawberry Jack Trail in search of another Three-toed Woodpecker.

To our surprise, a Northern Pygmy-Owl was perched in the trees along the gully/stream at the above intersection. That is much better than another Three-toed Woodpecker in my opinion.

We wanted to drive up to Loveland Pass and search for White-tailed Ptarmigan. All the information I could gather (calling CDOT is a pain, no way to get a live person, only recordings that are usually out of date) suggested that Loveland Pass was closed. This makes 6 days in a row that snow, blowing snow and high winds have closed the road. The search will have to wait for tomorrow.

Later I picked up Rebecca and we sat at Star K Ranch Open Space (Arapahoe) for about 1.5 hours. The Harris's Sparrow did not show. Winds were measured at 24 mph with gusts to 32 mph.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area

February 26, 2012

Rebecca Kosten for Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I looked for a leisure walk and chose Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County). Recent high winds had melted much of the snow; however, trails were muddy.

Sparrows were represented by Song and many White crowned. Quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos (50+) and American Robins (100+) flew around the windbreak between ponds 5 to 8.

We again found 2 Long-eared Owls in the Windbreak. I find it better to walk the east side of the trees and let the setting sun silhouette the owls hidden well in the thick windbreak.

No Short-eared Owls appeared at dusk.

End to Northeastern Plains Trip

February 25, 2012

Rebecca Kosten for Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I finally had our fill of the high winds and decided to return to Denver. Winds 28-30 mph with gusts to 42 mph influenced our decision to not stop at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) or return to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

We made a brief stop at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick), could not get the resident Eastern Screech-Owls to call or appear.

A flock of Cedar Waxwings at Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan) stopped us. One Bohemian Waxwing was among 32 Cedar Waxwings (along the southern windbreak).

After an early dinner (or late lunch), Bryan, Sue Rebecca and I decided to check on the Snowy Owl(s) east of Barr Lake (Adams County).

It was a good choice. The adult Snowy Owl was found north of 14550 Harvest Road. Scope along the fence line at the north end of the yard. The Snowy Owl was near the 47th wooden fence post east of the line of white vinyl fence. Beware of the white plastic bag at fence post 34 and ignore the white metal southeast of that.

The immature Snowy Owl was back at "his favorite spot". He hid well in the small high grasses along the ridge north of 138th avenue and west of Harvest Road.

High winds made steadying our scopes difficult. Eventually all managed good views of the Snowy Owl.

Northeastern Plains Trip

February 24, 2012

Rebecca Kosten for Richard Stevens:

High winds continued on the northeastern Colorado Plains. Today we ventured into Nebraska in search of wintering Eastern Meadowlarks (none found).

A drive to Lake McConaughy for gulls was a bust. High winds probably kept them out of sight. We did see dozens of Bald Eagles. We thought a Northern Goshawk was uncommon here.

February 23, 2012

Snowed at 2:00 am

It started snowing about 2:00 am. The area did not receive as much as what Denver did; however, the snow did cover the grass.

Bryan Ehlmann, Roger Danka and I headed over to the southern sections of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) before sunrise.

We hiked to the northern section of the south Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area. Many animal tracks were visible in the snow. Ring-necked Pheasants and a Greater Prairie-Chicken eventually were found near Logan County Roads 46 and 89!

Years ago, the resident Ranger suggested this area especially after a dusting of snow. Today did not disappoint us.

We hiked around the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area west of Highway 55, south of I76. Few birds were found. Twelve+ Lapland Longspurs became the highlight.

Duck Creek, Atwood and Dune Ridge Wildlife Areas had few birds. Lapland Longspurs and a few Dark-eyed Juncos were just about it.

Our birding day ended by listening to Eastern Screech-Owls back at Roger's ranch.

February 22, 2012

Our luck ran out in regard to the wind. Today winds measured 20-22 mph with gusts to 35 mph.

After walking around Roger Danka's ranch (Eastern Screech-Owl, Harris's Sparrow), we birded Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) late in the morning. High winds made finding any birds quite difficult.

Both a Lesser Black-backed Gull and Glaucous Gull were the highlights of the day! Several Greater White-fronted Geese and many Ross's Geese were also around Jumbo Reservoir.

Later, we hiked along the South Platte River at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area from Hwy 55 to Logan County Road 93. Because the river is downhill from I76, winds were much quieter here.

Several Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found at East 1 and West 1 sections. A male Northern Cardinal was just west of Tamarack Pond.

Other surprises included a Brown Thrasher East 7 and 2 Spotted Towhees East 6.

After dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings!

Back at Jumbo Reservoir, the Eastern Screech-Owls could not be coaxed into sight this evening. No Short-eared Owls came out. We did not want to be in the high winds either.

Jackson Lake State Park and Brush Wildlife Area

February 21, 2012

Rebecca Kosten for Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to the northeastern Plains. While winds were reported up to 80-100 mph along the foothills (Denver to Wyoming), we only measured winds 8-10 mph. That was our first bonus to miss the high winds.

Our first stop was Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan County). The stop required back tracking later in the day; however, we were chasing a report of an American Woodcock along the small creek at the Wildlife Area.

Unfortunately, the American Woodcock was not found during a 2 hour search of the creek and pond. We did run into a male Red-bellied Woodpecker along the west side of the pond.

Then we drove back to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

Our number one target bird, the American Black Duck reported at Jackson Reservoir by Steve Mlodinow on 2/19 was found rather easily. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was also relocated; however, the Iceland Gull was not.

Half a dozen Long-eared Owls were found along the western side of the reservoir. Two Great Horned Owls called at dusk. We also relocated the Eastern Screech-Owl.

A brief hour stop at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) did not relocate any Eastern Screech-Owls.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Birding From the Foothills to the Plains

February 19, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to search one last time (perhaps) for the Greater Roadrunner at Dinosaur Ridge (Alameda Blvd, Jefferson County).

We hiked several miles up both sides of the ridge and the trail above the ridge. Then scoped the hillside below. The Greater Roadrunner was not found.

A stop at nearby Red Rocks Park found 3 species of Rosy Finches and the Golden-crowned Sparrow (in a 15 minute stop).

After lunch, we headed east to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Adams). A walk along the windbreak from ponds 5 to 8 was quite productive.

Best birds were two Long-eared Owls!

We also encountered Dark-eyed Juncos, many Robins, a Virginia Rail (heard only), Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper's Hawk and Great Horned Owl.

No Short-eared Owls appeared at dusk.

We later found a Barn Owl at Barr Lake (using my night vision binoculars).

Successful Snowy Owl Search!

February 18, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I enjoyed a week of snowmobile birding/owling. It is a different culture.

We returned this afternoon and picked up Rebecca and Sue then drove around searching for Snowy Owls.

The immature Snowy Owl was found. Since the last huge snowstorm about 10 days ago, at least one of us has been out looking. Therefore, our group was zero for 10 days. Last sighting I had heard about was by Suzie Plooster last Tuesday.

At 5:00 pm, the owl was seen east of the Barr Lake entrance. From the south side of the entrance, look east to the circle irrigation system. You will see a tall telephone pole beyond the east end of the system. This pole is taller than others in the distance. Scope southeast to the next tall electric pole. Behind this pole, there is another "gas riser", far in the distance from the riser where the owl was seen several weeks ago. This "riser" has a tall orange/red pole at its south end.

We first picked the owl up on the fence around the "riser". It eventually flew to the ground about 20 yards in front (to west) of the riser. We could see it turn its head in our direction several times.

No Short-eared Owls were found tonight when we drove the DIA Owl Loop.

Summary of Owling Trip

February 15-18, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann:

We did enjoy the week of snowmobiling and snowshoeing around for Boreal Owls. Interesting learning curve on the snowmobiles, it took several days to learn how to control the machines.

A more pressing challenge for me was walking around most nights and then trying to catch some sleep from 8:00 AM to noon. That is a new experience for me.

Great time! I don't know the final Boreal Owl count yet. We managed to get GPS waypoints on at least a dozen, closer to two. Richard will go into more detail in an upcoming issue of "Colorado Field Notes".

He's developed an interesting technique to approach the challenge.

We also ran into White-winged Crossbills twice, Three-toed Woodpeckers three days, several flocks of 100+ Rosy Finches. The solitude when the machines are not running is outstanding.

Owling In Jackson & Larimer Counties

February 14, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann and Richard Stevens are snowmobile birding/owling this week in Jackson County. They use the snowmobiles to get 10-20 miles off highway 14 and then snowshoe most the night in search of owls. It sounds like a great adventure.

They have passed the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center each day. 50+ Rosy Finches, three species have been visiting the Visitor's Center feeders. The White-throated Sparrows have eluded them each visit.

As a disclaimer: while this owling is not extremely dangerous, Richard is very familiar with northern Jackson and Larimer Counties. Both have taken avalanche classes and both carry avalanche beacons. One must be aware when hiking in the backcountry in winter.

Sue Ehlmann

Start of an Owling Trip near Cameron Pass

February 13, 2012

Jackson County & Larimer County Yesterday, Ehlmann and all relocated a BOREAL OWL just east of Cameron Pass. Stevens relocated ROSY FINCHES (Ehlmann, 12/6) at the Colorado State Forest Visitors Center.

Sue Ehlmann

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Birding On the Way to Cameron Pass

February 12, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I checked out the Snowy Owl report in Westminster (Jefferson County). Although we believed it to be the "leucistic" Red-tailed Hawk that has been in the area for years. We relocated the Red-tailed Hawk, found no Snowy Owls, 9Sheridan Blvd and 104th avenue).

From there, we swung over to Broomfield County where several interesting gulls were found.

Parkside Center Pond had both an adult and 1st cycle Thayer's Gulls!

Nearby Siena Pond had hundreds of gulls. Among them were an adult Mew Gull, adult Thayer's Gull and adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. We did not believe that the adult Thayer's Gull was the same bird from Parkside Center Pond.

We ended out birding day north of Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer County). The three Short-eared Owls reported the day before by Gary Lefko flew around to the southeast again tonight.

More Owl Searches

February 11, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Another 3 hour drive ended with no Snowy Owl sightings along public access. Our new ranch hand friend called when he found the Snowy Owl southeast of I70 and 470. We rushed over and watched an adult Snowy Owl for an hour!

No Short-eared Owls again tonight along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Gull Search at Aurora Reservoir

February 10, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I again searched for Snowy Owls south and east of Barr Lake (Adams). Again we did not find any.

We picked up Bill Cryder and hiked the 8.8 miles around Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe). No matter what side we were on, the gulls appeared to be closer to the other.

Throughout the day, gulls fly back and forth from Aurora Reservoir to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site). The best times to catch them resting at Aurora Reservoir seems to be 10:00am to 3:00pm.

Their favorite "resting sites" are below the east end of the dam, the swim beach and mile 2.5.

Eventually we did obtain good looks at several uncommon gulls. The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that has appeared several times since 1/16 was at the swim beach.

An adult Mew Gull stood among many Ring-billed Gulls at mile 2.5!

Our birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owl sightings to report tonight.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cherry Creek Reservoir and Snowy Owl Search

February 9, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I again drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir while out doing chores.

We managed to pick out a 1st cycle Thayer's Gull and a young black backed gull. Glenn Walbek agreed with me that the bird was a 2nd cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Did not see the Glaucous Gull. Forgot our scope so could not ID many gulls in center of lake.

At least 9 Bald Eagles! One adult perched by campgrounds.

Late in the afternoon, Bryan Ehlmann and I went out searching for Snowy Owls. First, we looked around the south side of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County). No Snowy Owls, however, we did find the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at the swim beach.

We continued east and north of Aurora Reservoir to east of Barr Lake (Adams). No off road private properties were checked.

No signs of a Snowy Owl were found. No Short-eared Owls were flying around the DIA Owl Loop.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Birding in Douglas County

February 8, 2012

Richard Stevens:

David Bowman and I left Denver an hour before civil twilight. We stopped at a friend's home in Douglas County. He has a pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls on his land. One was quite cooperative and allowed us good looks.

Next, we stopped at Rampart Range Road and Highway 67. After waiting about an hour, we managed good looks at a male American Three-toed Woodpecker (east of Rampart and north of hwy 67).

Several American Dippers were observed as we drove along the South Platte River.

A flock of Cedar Waxwings was at Sedalia Cemetery. Unfortunately, no Bohemian Waxwings were among them.

We stopped at the Lewis's Woodpecker location near Louviers. If the woodpeckers are still along, we could not find them.

Only two Mountain Bluebirds were found along Castlewood Canyon Road south of the State Park.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back to the Mountains

February 7, 2012

Richard Stevens:

We received another "dusting" of snow overnight. In the past when I skied several dozen times a season, I found that if it was snowing in Denver, the weather in the mountains were usually clear. This was not the case today. When we reached Evergreen and Idaho Springs, it was still snowing.

David Bowman and I continued to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) only to find the road temporarily closed. We continued into Summit County in search of some mountain birds.

A quick stop at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit) did find a dozen Barrow's Goldeneyes were still there.

We did manage to find a few Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks and other mountain species. Then we returned to Loveland Pass, which was now open.

Unfortunately, our luck continued to be not so good. Windy and foggy conditions impaired our search for White-tailed Ptarmigan. Eventually we returned to Denver without a Ptarmigan sighting.

Cherry Creek Reservoir, Arapahoe County

February 6, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir while out doing chores.

The 1st year Glaucous Gull and adult Thayer's Gull were out on the ice.

At least 8 Bald Eagles there too!

Snowy Owls

February 5, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann;

Richard Stevens got a call from a friend who works east of Aurora. He was looking at an adult Snowy Owl. I rushed over, picked up Rich and along with Sue and Rebecca, we continued to the private ranch.

Sure enough, we finally got good looks at the elusive adult Snowy Owl!

After lunch, we continued to drive around the Harvest Road and Barr Lake area looking for additional Snowy Owls. Regrettably, none was found.

At sunset, we missed any Short-eared Owls along the DIA Owl Loop.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

DIA Owl Loop, Adams County

February 4, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann;

Rich Stevens and Rebecca Kosten, Sue and I drove around east of Barr Lake. We looked unsuccessfully for a Snowy Owl. One would have had to perch off the ground for us to see it after yesterday's snow.

A Short eared Owl flew east to west across Queensburg Road, halfway between 114th and the DIA entrance.

Raptor count included 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 American Kestrels, 2 Ferruginous Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Waiting Out the Snowstorm

February 3, 2012

Richard Stevens:

It started snowing around 5:00 pm yesterday and has continued into Feb 4th. Snow accumulation reached over 12 inches (up to 17 inches) in some areas.

Rebecca and I (well mostly myself) could not resist going for a drive. I chose the DIA Owl Loop.

Finding a white owl in a snowstorm is not easy and we did not find one. Our hope was that the Snowy Owls would choose a high perch and thus be visible through the falling snow. If they chose such, we were not able to find them.

A few dark looking (wet?) Red-tailed Hawks perched on telephone poles. A female Northern Harrier at sunset (what we guessed as sunset) made us take a second look and see that it was not a Short-eared Owl.

Let us hope the birds found a shelter for the day. We wondered how the Greater Roadrunner at Dinosaur Ridge was surviving with the ground covered? Hope it is all right!

Racing a Snowstorm Back to Denver

February 2, 2012

Richard Stevens:

On our final day of a Colorado Birding Society fundraising trip to North Park, our main concern was getting back to Denver before the snowstorm reached full force. Predictions are for the storm to last a day and a half and perhaps drop up to a foot or two of snow.

We enjoyed a successful trip, seeing both Greater Sage-Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse. Three species of Rosy Finches and Boreal Owls also were nice. American Three-toed Woodpeckers were seen at two locations. Birds on public access areas were reported to the RBA.

White-winged Crossbills were also found at two locations (with the aid of snowmobiles there was no access without them). A Dusky Grouse was also found on one of the two snowmobile trips!

Today, the snowstorm brought 3 species of Rosy Finches to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders. If the weather is nice, early mornings are best (before the Visitor's Center opens).

We stopped at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld) and hoped the storm would not hit there hardd before sunset. Just after sunset, we observed a Short-eared Owl flying about south of the reservoir (off Weld County Road 48).

Then we rushed back to Denver.

CoBus Fund Raising Trip # 2

January 30 to February 1, 2012

CoBus Fund raising trip.

To be filled in later!