Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mt Evans and Barr Lake

August 3, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Earlier this morning (about 2 hours before sunrise), John Kendall, Robert Moss and I drove the Mt. Evans Byway (Clear Creek County).

Once at the pullover just north of the Summit Lake parking area, we walked the east side of the road in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan.   It took about 50 minutes before John yelled, "I have a couple"!

It is always nice to find one in short time.  Too many times, I have spent 4-6 hours searching for the elusive birds (many times, missing them altogether).

The difficult find was out of the way and we walked to the northwest corner of Summit Lake.  Rosy Finches were quite cooperative; luck was with us!  Two Brown-capped Rosy Finches flew in and walked around the rocks not 15 feet from us!

John and Robert had to be at DIA Airport by noon and we skipped driving to the top of Mt. Evans.  A quick and brief look at the hummingbird feeders on the side of Echo Lake Lodge found both Broad-tailed and two Rufous Hummingbirds.

After dropping my friends off at the Airport, I decided to try for another look at the Royal Tern at Barr Lake (Adams).  I arrived at noon and stayed for the next 8 hours.  Temperature was 89 degrees when I arrived; by 2:00 pm, it rose to 97 degrees.  The sun reflecting off the sandy shore made it feel much hotter.

I first walked from the Niedrach Trail north to the end of the sand spit.  Carefully the shoreline was scoped for the 3rd Colorado Royal Tern.  It was not spotted until I reached the very northwestern end of the sand spit.  Rolling hills blocked any view of the Tern until I dropped over the final hill.

The Royal Tern was still quite far away.  It appeared to be 500 yards north of the Eagle Observation Boardwalk.  I suppose closer looks could be obtained by walking the dried lakebed, starting at the beginning of the Boardwalk Trail.

This was still 1.0 to 1.2 miles west of my location and I chose not to make that trek.  Instead, the hundreds of shorebirds attracted my attention.

Most were along the sand spit that is directly north of the banding station.  A Black-bellied Plover was definitely the highlight of the loose flocks.

Among the group were 80+ Baird's Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, Western, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, 1 Sanderling, many Killdeer and dozens of Solitary Sandpipers.

Three young Killdeer threw me off for a bit.  Lacking the double black breast bands and quite small, they could have been one of the smaller plovers.  Eventually the "tatty" tails gave them away.

Dozens of Spotted Sandpipers came of the weeds/plants along the shore.  I believe the plants are some type of Water Buckwheat?  Feel free to correct me!  Many of the Spotted Sandpipers were obviously quite young (small).  One adult gave away a late nesting attempt (two eggs).

After spending several hours on the southern shore, it took another 1.5 hours to search the riparian area below the banding station.  Birds were not numerous.  Most were nesting birds, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, American Robins and common blackbirds.

Two Warbling Vireos took awhile to get good looks and proper ID.  Surprisingly, no Yellow Warblers were found.  A male Blue Grosbeak along the Pioneer Trail was the most uncommon bird found.  Most of the 2 dozen Bullock's Orioles were along the dry irrigation canal.

Finally, I drove over to the northern side of the reservoir.  Shorebirds were less numerous on this side of the lake.  Baird's Sandpipers were the highest number.  No uncommon shorebirds were found.  Surprisingly, no Yellowlegs were found.  Neither was the Buff-breasted Sandpiper of last weekend.

The Royal Tern was not observed.  However, I probably did not make much of an effort to look for it again (more interested in shorebirds, especially relocating the Buff-breasted Sandpiper).  A sub-adult Bald Eagle flew by as did several Swainson's Hawks.  One Yellow-headed Blackbird flew around the cattails below the trail.

On the way home, I drove over to an undisclosed location and set up two "migration listening stations".  Will not reveal the sites until I pick them up in the morning.

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