Monday, September 24, 2012

Search for Sprague's Pipits

September 20-23, 2012

Richard Stevens:

September 20, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons and I started a trek in search of Sprague's Pipits.  Our early date is September 14, however most Sprague's Pipits are not found until the last week of September into the first couple of weeks of October.

Our expectations were not high.  Temperatures have been rather warm which we figured would keep the pipits farther north still.

On our trip to the northeast corner of Colorado, we decided to skip regular stop at Jackson Reservoir, instead stopping at less birded locations such as Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan County).

Our stop at Brush Wildlife Area was a great choice.  Birds were everywhere (along the creek, along the pond and over at the northern border by the South Platte River.

Our Yellow-rumped Warbler count was over 110 birds, mostly immature birds.  We found both White-breasted Nuthatches and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  Red-breasted appear to be in high numbers on the eastern plains this fall.  Two Brown Creepers were also found.

Best birds included a Palm Warbler on the eastern side of the pond.  Townsend's Warblers flew around the taller cottonwoods along the creek (especially the western end of the property).

A Red-eyed Vireo was in the cottonwoods along the Platte River.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker called from the same area however never allowed us a look to determine sex.

A White-throated Sparrow was found east of the parking area. 

Misses: the resident Eastern Screech-Owls ignored our recordings today.

Brush Ponds Wildlife Area was just the opposite.  Few birds were found and we moved on to Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington).

We did not spend a lot of time (one can take the whole day to cover this huge property).  We walked below the dam and east of the manager's home/office.

Highlights included a Northern Parula, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and 2+ Townsend's Warblers. 

We walked around DePoorter Lake (Sedgwick) in the late afternoon.  A Field Sparrow was found on the hill southwest of the parking area. 

A Magnolia Warbler was found fluttering about the old dump.

Misses: no Northern Bobwhites or Harris's Sparrows were encountered today.

Our energizing birding day ended at the Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop.  At the eastern side of the Rest Stop, we enticed two Eastern Screech-Owls to answer our recordings (this was Sedgwick County)!

We walked Roger Danka's ranch around midnight and heard a couple of additional Eastern Screech-Owls!

September 21, 2012

Bryan, Jacob, Ray and I drove the Sedgwick County Roads in search of pipits, especially Sprague's Pipit.  During the morning, we parked at half a dozen locations and walked the roads where Sprague's Pipits have been found in the past.

Any Pipits were quite scarce.  In the end, we only found 1 or 2 Sprague's Pipits.  This was along Sedgwick County Road 59, between CR 30 & 26.  Sedgwick County Road 61 was a bust (usually the best road to find Sprague's Pipits).

We came across quite a few longspurs.  The majority were McCown's with half a dozen Chestnut-collared Longspurs in the mix.  Even Raptors were numerous.  Swainson's Hawks numbered over 38, Red-tailed Hawks 21, American Kestrels 9 and 1 Prairie Falcon.

A stop at Mark's Butte was essential.  Greater Prairie-Chickens have been seen here on more than five occasions in the past 10 years.  Unfortunately none was found today.

Next, we headed to Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) and several private ranches of my friends.

Sand Draw was fantastic and delayed further pipit searches.  The windbreak along the western side had a Philadelphia Vireo, Cassin's Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, and 2+ Townsend's Warblers.

Two Field Sparrows were along the eastern fence line.  A Loggerhead Shrike and young Blue Grosbeak also were a surprise.

Misses: no owls.  While I have found Eastern Screech-Owls here (quite rare), Barn Owls were more likely; none was found today.

We "got" our Barn Owl for the day at a nearby private ranch (Sedgwick).  Two watering holes on private ranches were checked for Eastern Meadowlarks; none was found.

September 22, 2012

Our target birds today were Sprague's Pipits and Eastern Meadowlarks.  Pipits were few as we expected; no Eastern Meadowlarks were found at previous years' locations.

I was determined to make my annual fall hike of the southern sections of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  Jacob Washburn joined me for a rather long day hike on the sandy hills.  Be sure to take plenty of water when attempting this.  One way was approximately 6.8 miles (with zigzags, our round trip was more than a 14 mile hike).

Our early start before sunrise allowed us to chalk off a few miles before the sun warmed the plains.  Sparrows were quite numerous.  We eventually ran into two Sprague's Pipits, dozens of American Pipits and a Greater Prairie-Chicken.

Sprague's Pipit
(40.82148N 102.79205W and 40.83487N 102.74318W)
Greater Prairie-Chicken
(40.84720N 102.70573W)

Hundreds of Vesper Sparrows (300+) topped the count list.  Jacob and I also ran into 100+ Lark Sparrows, 51 Chipping, 21 Brewer's, 16 Cassin's (that we could properly ID), 2 Clay-colored, and 1 Field Sparrow.

A flock of 5 Lark Buntings added the state bird to our day list.

While Jacob and I "leisurely" wandered the sand hills on foot, Bryan Ehlmann and Ray Simmons drove the Sedgwick county roads to the east.  They stopped at several of the WIA properties that I have conducted point counts in past years.

Eventually Bryan and Ray found 1 Sprague's Pipit (40.83910N 102.55757W) and several dozen American Pipits out on the sand hills.

They reported dozens of longspurs, mostly McCown's, more than a dozen Chestnut-collared and 2 Lapland Longspurs.  Their sparrow (species) count was similar to ours; numbers were less as they drove the county roads.

In the afternoon, we all headed to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  It was a fantastic stop.

Along the shore in the southeast corner, we found 2 American Golden-Plovers, 2 Black-bellied Plovers, a Pectoral Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers and 2 Least Sandpipers.

The highlight of the stop however was a female Cape May Warbler at the southwest corner of the Campgrounds.  She was with 7-8 Yellow-rumped Warblers and an Orange-crowned Warbler.

We walked the northern woods and found a Tennessee Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler.  No Eastern Screech-Owls were tempted to respond to our recordings.

We enjoyed a great barbecue at Roger Danka's ranch.  The long day of hiking peaked our hunger.  Cholesterol levels soared tonight. 

September 23, 2012

The four of us started our day with a return to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  Unfortunately, the Cape May Warbler appeared to have moved on from the Campgrounds.  We did find a Tennessee Warbler at the Campgrounds.

We only took the time to check the southeast corner of the reservoir.  Most of the shorebirds were somewhere else.  The pair of American Golden-Plovers and a few Western Sandpipers were all that were left here.

After yesterday's trek, I give Jacob credit for willing to do it again today.  While our hike today was only about 7 miles or so, temperatures were warmer.  Higher winds blew the hot air and sand around.  Hiking on the sandy hills of the southern sections of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) can be quite strenuous. 

Again we encountered hundreds sparrows, most were Vesper Sparrows (also at least one Brewer's, Clay-colored, Lark, Chipping, no Field Sparrows).

A Greater Prairie-Chicken wandered around the windmill near (40.79184N 102.80389W).  A great start to our day.

We identified one Sprague's Pipit (40.79291N 102.87218W)

Bryan and Ray continued to drive the Logan and Sedgwick County Roads.  They even ventured into Phillips County without finding any Sprague's Pipits.  They did report high numbers of longspurs (three species, with only 2 Lapland Longspurs identified).

In the early afternoon, they picked us up and we abandoned our Sprague's Pipit search until next week.  A brief stop at Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) found only the Philadelphia Vireo and Tennessee Warbler (first seen 9/21).  We detoured south to Haxtun and Holyoke on the drive back to Denver.

Afternoon appears not to be the best time to bird Haxtun and Holyoke.  Steve Mlodinow had reported some quite uncommon birds yesterday.  We did not experience the same fortune.  High winds from the northwest may have aided the birds in moving south?

Haxtun City Park was slow.   A juvenile Broad-winged Hawk was the only interesting bird.

Holyoke was slow also.  We found none of the interesting birds reported yesterday at the Cemetery, Justice Hall and High School.  Our only uncommon bird was a Red-eyed Vireo at the Holyoke City Park.

We rushed to get to Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington) before sunset.  Perhaps our late arrival was the cause of our low bird count.  Only an Ovenbird and a Townsend's Warbler remained of the Nashville Warbler, Swamp & White-throated Sparrows reported yesterday.  We all had hoped to add a Swamp Sparrow to our Washington Bird Lists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You continue to make the CFO dudes jealous! Keep it up!
Bill Cryder