Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Little Sit" and Return to Barr Lake

October 13, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I conducted our third annual (or maybe 4th) "Little Sit".  Around the state, several groups are having their "Big Sits" (sit and count birds all day that are observed from a 19 foot circle).  I do not know the origin of a 19 foot circle; perhaps that is to fit more birders into it?  Our "Little Sit" is a 12 foot circle and limited to 2-4 people.

We picked a location of Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) where we would see a few uncommon birds.  Highlights included a Winter Wren that we scoped out several days ago.  Also a Long-eared Owl, which is resident at the Wildlife Area.  We did see a Virginia Rail as the third most interesting bird.

Total species was not high; we only stayed from 6:30 am to noon.  I will have to get totals and put them in a comment on this post later (if anyone cares).  We did enjoy the morning in spite of 25 degree temperatures at sunrise.

Shortly after noon, it started to rain.  Bryan went home; I went over to Barr Lake (Adams) after lunch.  When I first started birding, it was said that if it was raining, I should just go home.  My experience is just the opposite.  Some of my favorite uncommon bird sightings have been found during rainstorms.

While there are too many to remember, number one would have to be a Connecticut Warbler May 28, 1996.  I sat in a chair and walked around the Wildlife Area for 9 hours, 34 minutes waiting for the warbler to pop out of the wet grasses.  It was still raining when he did just that.

Number two was a male Mourning Warbler at Wagon Wheel Campgrounds (Bonny Reservoir).  It was pouring down rain when I walked the Campgrounds on 5/14/1996.  The Mourning Warbler popped out of a rabbit brush 10 feet from me.  The dripping wet bird perched there and watched me for 5 minutes or so!

Back to Barr Lake, it was raining at 2:00 pm.  I looked around the back of the Visitor's Center and saw the Harris's Sparrow below the bushes next to the old farm equipment.  Then I walked from the footbridge to the banding area (for the next 3.5 hours).

First, I went to the far shore of the shrinking lake.  The shorebirds do not have anywhere to go; they should be there.  The highlight was a Black-bellied Plover among a hundred or so smaller sandpipers.

Back in the woods at the banding station, two quite wet American Redstarts fluttering about the willows behind the picnic table.  Nearby, a Winter Wren came out of the willows in response to my recordings.

Other birds seen moving about included 2 Hermit Thrushes, a Swainson's Thrush, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, dozens of White-crowned Sparrows.  A White-throated Sparrow was among them as they flew up and down the dry canal.

Around 4:00 pm (a guess, I do not wear a watch) the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds.  Bird activity boomed; birds appeared everywhere.

A flock of a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers had a Magnolia Warbler among them.  These were at the extreme southwest corner of the banding area, where the direct sunlight hit the willows.  Another Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird and Golden-crowned Kinglet were also in this area.

The Philadelphia Vireo was first observed by another birder in the tall cottonwood along the main trail (next to the large dead/fallen tree).  Later it would be observed in the four small willow trees just south of the banding table.  If the birder who found the Philadelphia Vireo is reading this, please contact me with your name to give you credit for the find.

Eventually the two American Redstarts, Philadelphia Vireo, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Hermit Thrush ended up in these willow bushes/trees.

Finally, I peeked around the back of the Visitor's Center and observed the Harris's Sparrow one last time before heading for home.  The Harris's Sparrow again came from the bushes next to the old farm equipment and ran along the watering hose to the feeder.  It stayed only seconds before returning to the bushes.

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