Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area and Adams County

July 30, 2012

Richard Stevens:

The Colorado Birding Society now has five "listening stations" set up along the plains east of Denver.  See "Colorado Field Notes" September 2006, April 2009 and October 2011.

One of my friend's stations near Roggen has been hearing Upland Sandpipers migrating in the middle of the night.  I thought this might be a good time to set up a portable "listening station" at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Adams County).

Unfortunately, it was raining at 3:00 am.  However, I decided to drive over to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area anyway and wait for the rain to stop.

At 4:00 am, it had stopped raining and I made the rather wet walk across the northern section of Banner Lakes Wildlife Area.  Perhaps a Short-eared Owl or Long-eared Owl would be heard.  While neither of them did call, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was heard somewhere in the trees around Pond 13.  I was never able to catch it in my spotlight.  Returning later, I could not see it either.

My route by the way was along the east side of Pond 13, to the northern end of the property, then to the northwestern end of the property, returning by way of the eastern side of the windbreak along ponds 5-9.

The sounds at night are quite interesting and numerous.  I heard Upland Sandpiper flight calls twice.  Chipping Sparrows appeared to be numerous.  Other sounds I could only speculate as to what was migrating. 

I am not that familiar yet with Vesper Sparrow flight calls; however thought that several were heard.  Some species of warbler flew by; I would not be able to guess which one.

On the ponds, there were definitely Virginia Rails, a Sora, American Coots, Mallards and other ducks, and at least one Black-crowned Night-Heron (however, I would not be able to separate the BCNH from a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron).

After civil twilight, I spotted a "shorebird" walking through the grasses at the northwest corner.  My first thought was a Mountain Plover.  Even better, it turned out to be my target species, an Upland Sandpiper!  (Several poor witness shots taken, light was poor).

I waited for better light; unfortunately, the Upland Sandpiper took off west to private property before sunrise.

Returning to my car, I found a Long-eared Owl.  We are certain that they successfully nested here this year (see previous posts).  Bryan and I believe that at least one pair stays year round.

The more unusual species observed on the return trip included a male Black-headed Grosbeak, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, an eastern White-breasted Nuthatch (I am just starting to separate the eastern and western songs), 4 Cedar Waxwings and a Lincoln's Sparrow.

The plan is to return tonight and set up a listening station.  Note: It started to rain an hour before sunset, which changed my plans to wait until 4:00 am.  Unfortunately, while I am going to head over there now, 4:30 am, winds are presently 18 to 23 mph.

Burrowing Owls continued at 3.4 miles east to Tower Road and 96th avenue.

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