Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Uncommon Birds at Rocky Mountain Arsenal or Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 27, 2012

Richard Stevens:

No uncommon birds to report today.  Temperatures were warmer than yesterday and winds mild. 

Rebecca Kosten and I stopped by Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) while out doing chores.  Three American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were the only non-Red-winged Blackbirds to visit the Contact Station feeders.

On the way to dinner, we stopped at the bird observation platform at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  A few California Gulls were mixed in with 231 Ring-billed Gulls.  The only shorebirds on the mudflats were Killdeer.

The lake was like a mirror with the lack of wind.  Unfortunately, no scoters, loons or swans were among the many Western Grebes.  At least one Eared Grebe and Pied-billed Grebe were also observed.

The colorful sunset and full moon were the highlights of the trip.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Return Trip to Boulder County

November 26, 2012

Richard Stevens:

After reading about an escaped Gyrfalcon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove the county roads between Parker Road and Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe to Douglas Counties).  I drive these roads many times in a year and know them quite well.  Perhaps I could find the bird.  It was not to be.

On the way south toward Parker, we passed the eastern Denver Lakes and stopped for a quick look at the thousands of White-cheeked Geese (mostly Cackling Geese).  A Greater White-fronted Goose was among hundreds of White-cheeked Geese on Lakecrest.  A Ross's Goose was on Emerald Strand Park Pond.  Another Greater White-fronted Goose was with hundreds of White-cheeked Geese at the Green Valley Recreation Center Pond.

The weather today was much different from yesterday.  Temperatures were 22+ degrees lower; winds were calm most of the day.  It felt quite cold.  We passed a bank around 3:00 pm with the temperature displayed.  If accurate, it was 27 degrees out, definitely cold!

It was late morning, Rebecca and I did not feel like going home to be stuck indoors.  Instead, we picked up a non-birding friend and headed to Boulder County.  I had missed most of the uncommon birds there last week and thought to "give it another try".

We arrived at Baseline Reservoir shortly before 1:00 pm.  Several birders were there and had not found the flock of Common Redpolls.  As I walked Cherryvale, a flock of small finch like birds flew from the west of Cherryvale to the south end of Baseline Reservoir.  They were 32 Common Redpolls.  No American Goldfinches accompanied them today. 

Photos can be found at:

The five adult and three juvenile Tundra Swans "rested" on a sandbar on Baseline Reservoir.  The lone American White Pelican was also there.  A flock of Pelicans came through just two days earlier, and then left.  Perhaps this lone Pelican is injured and could not join them on their trip south?

Our next stop was Hawthorn Gulch at the northwest corner of Boulder.  The pump house where the male Northern Cardinal has been seen is about 400 yards up the switchbacks.  The view of Boulder is superb along the switchbacks.

A dozen Dark-eyed Juncos fluttered about the willows around the pump house.  A Townsend's Solitaire "hawked" insects just ten feet from us.  After about 20 minutes, the Northern Cardinal came from below the trail and hid in the willows around the pump house.  Several witness shots (same webpage above) were taken.  He never exposed himself in the open, so no great shots.

Rebecca was cold so I dropped her off at a local fast food restaurant and made the next stop on my own.  A half hour walk at Cottonwood Marsh, Walden Ponds was productive.  A Swamp Sparrow popped out of the cattails for about 10 seconds.  Location was halfway between the most western boardwalk and the closure sign at the natural area.

Then I drove around to the northeast corner of the property (75th Street and Boulder Creek) hoping to find additional Swamp Sparrows or the Winter Wren reported last week.  Neither of those birds was found. 

However, a great bonus/consolation was a pair of Rusty Blackbirds walking the northern shore of Boulder Creek.  They popped in and out of the tall grasses along the shore at about 200-300 yards west of 75th street.

After picking up Rebecca, we made one final stop at North Teller Lake # 5.  It was now late in the day; I walked around the windbreak at the parking area looking for the Golden-crowned Sparrow found last week. 

The Golden-crowned Sparrow was not among 60+ House Sparrows.  Neither was it under the fallen down cottonwood east of the parking area (this is where Bryan and I found it last week, with half a dozen American Tree Sparrows).  It was cold and getting dark; the sparrows may have been there and not leaving the ground (tall grasses made searching difficult).

While on the walk, I heard the calls of thousands of geese.  It was a deafening sound but entertaining to a birder.  However, the geese could not be seen.  I walked over to Teller Lake, which turned out to be almost dry.  Only a couple of Ring-billed Gulls stood around, no geese?  I never saw the crowd that was making the thunderous noise.

We savored another outstanding day of birding on the drive home!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Afternoon Trip to Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 25, 2012

Richard Stevens:

In the afternoon, Rebecca and I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  We found a Rusty Blackbird on the mudflats between the Prairie Loop and the Lake Loop.  No loons were found on the lake.  The only shorebirds were Killdeer.  No uncommon gulls could be found either.

The Harris's Sparrow was not found behind the Barr Lake Visitor's Center.  Raptors along the DIA Owl Loop included a Ferruginous Hawk, 4 Rough-legged Hawks, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 American Kestrel and no owls.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Aurora Pine Warbler

November 25, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I finally answered my phone calls this morning.  That is a mistake I will try not to make in the future.  Several great bird reports were on the phone.

An Aurora homeowner had a Pine Warbler visiting his yard for the past three days.  Rebecca and I drove over and relocated the Pine Warbler which visited his feeders every half hour or so.  Unfortunately, the owner preferred not to have a lot of birders visit.  I had called Jerry Petrosky and he also saw the bird.  We thanked the owner and I gave him my field guide for future reference.

Gone now, Bill Cryder had watched an adult Great Black-backed Gull at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) from Thanksgiving 11/22 to 11/24.  One showed up at Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo) and could be the same bird?

Ptarmigan & Northern Pygmy-Owl Search, Clear Creek to Douglas Counties

November 24, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I returned to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) with three Georgia birders today.  The weather was fair with temperatures in the high 40s and mild winds (16+ mph is mild for up there). 

This was after a brief trip into Summit County for Rosy Finches and mountain birds.  We relocated the Barrow's Goldeneyes on Lake Dillon and the Angler Mountain Ranch Pond.  The Lake Dillon Surf Scoter was not relocated.  We also found a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant.

Guanella Pass is a beautiful Colorado location.  Trying to forget the many hours, I have missed White-tailed Ptarmigan, that can be a problem.  Someday, I will have to add those hours up (not today).

Four of us searched over three hours on the southeast hills.  Then we dropped down the 603 trail to the flats and walked over to the lake (not named as far as I can find out).  Finally, we found a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan sitting on a small patch of snow deep in the willows along the east side of the lake.

Heading back toward Denver by way of Grant, we stopped at the closure gate and listened for American Three-toed Woodpeckers.  A favorite spot in past year, none was found today.

Once on highway 285, we detoured the six miles over to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).  Hoping we did not have to make the whole six mile loop to find a Three-toed Woodpecker, we took Buck Gulch Trail toward the Skipper Trail.  A female Three-toed Woodpecker was eventually found calling 20 yards east of the Buck Gulch Trail and 200 yards south of the Park Boundary sign (one of Merlynn Brown's favorite spots to find them)!

We split into two groups (limited to two radios) and took separate routes back to the parking area.  Our target bird was an elusive Northern Pygmy-Owl.  While most of the previous successful locations were examined, no owls were found.

We then drove up and down Pine Road (Harold Holt's favorite "Northern Pygmy-Owl drive") without finding a Pygmy Owl. 

The other three birders were game, what the heck, now completely dark, we drove the Platte River Road to Deckers, then highway 67 past Cheesman Reservoir (now in Douglas County) and back to toward Denver. 

The detour route along Sugar Creek Road finally ended our torment.  Well, mine, seven unsuccessful hours of searching and dozens of stops, we finally found a Northern Pygmy-Owl (at about 1.2 miles south of hwy 67). 

 It was a superb night out, with mild temperatures and little wind.  Still, seven hours is a long time to search and miss a bird. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trip Around Morgan and Weld Counties

November 23, 2012

Jerry Petrosky;

Richard Stevens and I birded in Morgan and Weld Counties.  We wanted to explore as many WIAs as possible in the nine and a half hours of daylight.  As a result, most of the public birding areas, reservoirs and parks usually searched were skipped today.  The day was colder than average but still nice for this time of year.

We arrived at Brush Wildlife Area in Morgan County 30 minutes before sunrise.  The resident Eastern Screech Owls could not be found.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker called from the northwest corner of the Wildlife Area.  As Richard says, the area was very quiet.

We walked as quickly as possible over seven WIAs south of Brush.  Because of our limited daylight, our emphasis was in areas that the "major" creek, Beaver Creek ran through.  Although the creek is dry, it provides some riparian areas where migrating birds may use.

The WIAs east of Highway 71, mostly between Morgan County Roads I and C fit this requirement.  Few rare birds were found.  Mostly Horned Larks and longspurs were found.  Lapland Longspurs were the majority, in fact all but one McCown's Longspur.

A Field Sparrow for Morgan County was at WIA 33-C.
Savannah Sparrows were found at 31-H and 33-B
A late Grasshopper Sparrow was found at 15-F

After a quick lunch in Brush, we continued north along Highway 71 and stopped at nine of the twenty-seven WIAs north of Highway 34 and south of Hwy 14.  The WIAs were split about 50:50 between Morgan and Weld Counties.

Horned Larks out numbered any other species of birds.  Most of the WIAs here were grasslands with little riparian area.  Lapland Longspurs were the only representatives of their family.

We did find any Savannah Sparrow at WIA 31-JJ; which is in Morgan County.

To summarize, our only "Ammodramus" sparrow was the Grasshopper Sparrow in Morgan County.

Historically, Baird's and Henslow's Sparrows are seen in October (no November records), while Le Conte's Sparrow sightings peak in November and December.  Reference: November, 2012 "Colorado Field Notes".

Le Conte's Sparrows are usually reported in marshy areas with cattails.  We did not come upon such a habitat all day.  Although we kept our hopeful, eyes open to a possible sighting.

Raptors included three Prairie Falcons, two Merlin, many Red-tailed Hawks, many Rough-legged Hawks and a few American Kestrels throughout the day.

I enjoyed the company and exploring areas not visited before!  Thanks Richard!

Early Morning Drive to Weld County

November 22, 2012

Jerry Petrosky;

Rich Stevens and I visited a friend's ranch east of Prospect Valley. The ranch has two Long-eared Owls in its windbreak. Owner Bob saw a Golden crowned Sparrow last Sunday and again Monday. It did not return today.

We stopped at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area also Weld County. A Long-eared Owl was in the windbreak along the western side of Ponds 6-8.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trip to Boulder County

November 21, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided on travel to Boulder County in search of the 7 Swamp Sparrows reported Monday (11/19) by Ted Floyd.

We arrived at Baseline Reservoir about an hour before sunrise and walked the Bobolink Trail in search of owls.  Long-eared, Northern Pygmy and Eastern Screech-Owls have all been reported in the past; we found none this morning.

After sunrise, we could see the five Tundra Swans along the far side of Baseline Reservoir. 

Then we headed to Walden Ponds.  While the Swamp Sparrow at Cottonwood Marsh was missed, we did find one of three reported along Boulder Creek, west of 75th avenue.  The Sawhill Ponds Swamp Sparrow was also a no show.

Heading north, we looked for the McIntosh Lake Swamp Sparrow; without success.  Many Bonaparte's Gulls were a consolation.

We did find a Long-eared Owl at a suspected nesting area in Boulder County (location to remain unnamed).

We abandoned (temporarily) our Swamp Sparrow and tried for the Northern Cardinal at Hawthorn Gulch (west side of Boulder).  He was not found (had traveled quite far from its first sighting to last and could still be in the area).

Following a text message about an eastern Fox Sparrow, we returned to Walden Ponds and missed the bird in a short search.  Heard later, that it was relocated, we should have spent more time there.

After missing the Boulder Fairgrounds Swamp Sparrow, we also missed the Panama Reservoir # 1 Swamp Sparrow.  We then thought to search for Swamp Sparrows at Teller Lake # 5.  None was there; however, we did see the Golden-crowned Sparrow that has wintered several of the past few years.

Finally, headed to Erie where few gulls were around and then home, too tired for any owling.  The sunset was superb tonight; hope all watched it!

Colorado Lifebird, Bear Creek Lake Park

November 20, 2012

Richard Stevens:

It has been a long week or so of birding and once again, I promised my feet that they would not have to wear hiking boots today.  Once again, I was not accurate.  I had to chase the Brambling report at Bear Creek Lake Park (Jefferson County).

The location was not difficult to find as dozens of birders were already there when I arrived.  It had been seen just 4 or 5 minutes before my arrival.  I waited the "reported 20 minute interval" and the male Brambling put in an appearance.  He seemed to follow 6-12 American Tree Sparrows to the seed put out by Mike Henwood.

Later I hiked Bear Creek where it enters the lake.  The previously reported Harris's Sparrow was not found. 

I stopped off at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) on the trip home.  The Harris's Sparrows also did not show at the Contact Station feeders.

Quick Trip to Northeastern Plains

November 19, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Today I took 5 out of state birders up to Pawnee National Grasslands area (Weld) in search of Common Redpolls.  We eventually found 2 along County Road 100, west of CR 57 (similar area to David Leatherman's sightings).

Norma's Grove was quiet and we continued east to Crow Valley Campground (Weld).  Nothing uncommon was found (the resident Long-eared Owl was missed, as was any Northern Saw-whet Owls at the Washington Work Center).

Then we drove my favorite route from Briggsdale to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).  I try to stay on as many roads with telephone wires as possible.  I have found that if a flock of Horned Larks (with longspurs) flies the Horned Lark return to the ground while longspurs will land on the telephone wires first.  They appear to look around and then return to the ground. 

This has worked numerous times for me; as it did today.  We found Lapland Longspurs and 2 McCown's Longspurs (near CR 84 & 85 intersection).  Just before Weld County Road 105 turns into Morgan County Road 4, we ran into a flock of 300 Horned Larks and 4 Lapland Longspurs.

Jackson Reservoir was pretty slow also.  We did find one of the Long-eared Owls that I believe stayed all summer (and perhaps last winter) in the western Campgrounds.

I got the birders back to their motel north of Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and decided to check out Bob Righter's report of Rusty Blackbirds.

When I arrived at the Prairie Loop mudflats, I saw Bob's reported Pectoral Sandpiper far to the west.  I walked down to the Lake Loop and returned to the Prairie Loop (following the Pectoral Sandpiper, which was moving east).

In the distance, three Rusty Blackbirds also walked the mudflats.  I stopped and at one time, they approached within 15 feet of me.  They probably would have come closer, but a noisy Killdeer scared everything away.

Then I drove over to the dam parking area and scoped for the reported 3 Pacific Loons.  Sure enough, they were in the northern center of the lake.  Except there were 4 "Pacific Loons".

Note: when I got home and examined the photos of the four loons, three were Pacific Loons and the fourth a Red-throated Loon!

White-tailed Ptarmigan and American Three-toed Woodpecker Search

November 18, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I took five out of state birders up to Guanella Pass for a Ptarmigan and American Three-toed Woodpecker search.  Temperatures were in the 40s; winds "quiet" at 8-10 mph (sometimes they reach into the 40 mph range; one trip I measured 60+ mph).

We split into groups and two and covered the area quite well in the next FOUR hours.  I was about to call it a day, when Bob Thames (Missouri) called on the radio "I got two!"  He was 300+ yards southeast of the Rosalie & 603 trails. 

We must have covered the area at least three times without a sighting.  The pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan was sitting on a small patch of snow, buried deep in three foot willows.  At least they were all able to see one!

Guanella Pass Campgrounds did not have one bird.  No American Three-toed Woodpeckers, no Mountain Chickadees, no Pine Grosbeaks, zero.  It was difficult to believe nothing was in the area.

We continued back to Denver by way of Grant.  Most of the businesses in Grant are now "out of business".  I will miss the owner of the Grant store.  She was a little odd (are not we all?) but had some great stories to tell.  She kept me apprised of the status of Guanella Pass throughout the year.  I wish her well, wherever she is?

Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) is only a six mile detour off highway 285.  We decided on a Three-toed Woodpecker search.  I hoped for an "easy sighting" as my last three trips have required long hikes (and missed on two of them).

Today was no different, as we had to hike up the Buck Gulch Trail to the Strawberry Jack Trail past the Parkview Trail intersection.  We spread out and eventually I found a male American Three-toed Woodpecker 100 yards east of the Strawberry Jack Trail at 300 yards south of the Parkview Trail.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl sighting would have been nice but was not to be.  We definitely got in our exercise today.

Colorado Eastern Plains Trip

November 12-17, 2012

Richard Stevens:

November 12

Bryan Ehlmann and I head to the Eastern Plains today.  Target birds included Common Redpolls, "Ammodramus sparrows" and late migrating birds.

We stopped in Bennett (Adams County) attempting to relocate the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker we found several times last month; without success.

A stop in Byers (Arapahoe) did not relocate two Common Redpolls reported Elam Avenue.

Flagler Reservoir was disappointing.  No target birds or owls were found.  Consolation prizes included a Swamp Sparrow below the dam and a Harris's Sparrow with many American Tree Sparrows at the northeast corner.

The weather was fantastic.  Highs in the 60 degrees and little wind.  We camped at Karval Wildlife Area (Lincoln).

November 13

We rose early to look for Short-eared Owls flying over Karval Reservoir Wildlife Area (Lincoln).  While we did not find any Short-eared Owls, after sunrise we found a Long-eared Owl (almost as good a sighting for Lincoln County).

Many sparrows flew about; however, none was uncommon.

At Kinney Lake Wildlife Area (Lincoln), we relocated the Common Redpolls reported a few days earlier by Mark Peterson.  A Northern Shrike was nearby, hope it does not get the redpolls.

Several flocks of Horned Larks and longspurs were encountered along the drive back north.  The best flock of 110 birds included majority Lapland, a dozen McCown's and at least one or two Chestnut-collared Longspurs!  This in itself was quite a highlight of our trip.

An hour of daylight (valuable with the shortening days) driving around Burlington (Kit Carson) looking for feeders and uncommon birds (including eighth and Rose, a good location for uncommon birds in the past).  A few Great-tailed Grackles were at the park north of I70 and southeast of the McDonald's Restaurant. 

Another hour was used up at Fairview Cemetery at the north end of Burlington.  Again, nothing uncommon was found.  A flock of 10+ Yellow-rumped Warblers kept our attention for a little while.  There were plenty of Eurasian Collared-Doves around town.

As we drove north, we detoured into Kansas to visit a friend (he went to high school with my parents).  In the last month, he had seen an eastern Fox Sparrow and Varied Thrush.  Eastern Screech-Owls nest on his ranch.  We found nothing uncommon and headed to Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) just before sunset (hoping to see a wandering Greater Prairie-Chicken; without success).

An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings as we set up camp.

November 14

The weather continued to be superb with temperatures in the 60s and mild winds.  Most of our morning and early afternoon was spent in the Bonny Reservoir & Hale Pond area.

We started about 2 hours before sunrise and walked along the Republican River from Hwy 385 to the old Foster's Grove Campgrounds.  We located 3 Eastern Screech-Owls before sunrise.

A male Northern Cardinal wandered around the western end of the Campgrounds.  A group (flock?) of Wild Turkeys crossed CR 3 and walked toward the ranger's office.

No Long-eared Owls were found throughout the day (Foster's Grove windbreak or the windbreak along the road that runs along the southern border of the old now dried up lake).

We did run into a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the southern road.  The Fox Sparrow found last month was not relocated.  We got a brief look at a possible Harris's Sparrow at the Wagon Wheel Picnic area (too short to confirm).

The old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds was quiet.  Best bird was a Red-naped Sapsucker.  Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers had been found last month; this was definitely a Red-naped.  American Goldfinches were in winter plumage (basic). 

The lack of water in this once thriving lake is sad.  Does not help the bird count either.

Another pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers worked the trees on the west side of the eastern Hale Ponds.  No Winter Wrens or interesting birds were found when we walked from Hale Ponds to the Kansas border.

A walk around the "camping area" at CR 4 & LL.5 found a Harris's Sparrow about 80 yards east of the intersection.

We searched for Northern Saw-whet Owls at the windbreak below the Bonny dam; without finding any today.

The highlight of the day came when we searched for Common Redpolls around the buildings below the dam.  A first year male Purple Finch flew around with American Goldfinches, House Finches and Horned Larks.

On our way to Wray (Yuma), we stopped at two friend's ranches north of Joes (Yuma).  One had visits from 4 Common Redpolls from November 9th to 11th.  They did not show today.

My other friend had a nice list of uncommon birds recorded last summer (Prairie Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Vermilion Flycatcher, Harris's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Winter Wren, possible Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Greater Prairie-Chickens).  Unfortunately all long gone before August (I should have visited earlier, plan to next year).

Stops at 3 WIAs along Hwy 59 (between CR 32 & 35) did not find any uncommon birds.  Our search for Greater Prairie-Chickens at two active spring leks south of Yuma (Yuma County) was not successful.

November 15

Today Bryan and I drove the county roads just along the eastern Colorado border, from Bonny Reservoir to Wray.  Properties visited included 6 'WIA" along Highway 36.

No Sprague's Pipits or "Ammodramus" sparrows were found.  Interesting birds included:
WIA 16-QQ: Field Sparrow
WIA 10-PP: White-throated Sparrow
WIA 33-LL: Field Sparrow (2)

The highlight however was a fall plumage Bay-breasted Warbler at a windbreak along the Arickaree River (Yuma).  It was the only warbler found all day (but quite a nice one).

The last few hours of daylight were spent at Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Yuma).  A Harris's Sparrow was along County Road CC.  Two Common Redpolls were found at the eastern side of the Wildlife Area (along the Republican River which is not wide here).

Misses: Eastern Screech-Owls and Swamp Sparrows have been found on the property in past years.

November 16

Our birding day started just before sunrise at the Wray Fishing Unit and Stalker Pond.  Misses: Eastern Screech-Owls and the resident Barn Owl.  No sign of the resident Northern Cardinals either.

While counting the number of American Robins (191) at Stalker Pond we found a Varied Thrush among them.  American Goldfinches were the next most common bird at 79.

Our plans changed while showing two Nebraska birders the Varied Thrush.  They saw Common Redpolls at Beecher Island yesterday.  That was our next stop.  Sure enough, two Common Redpolls were along the Arickaree River (does not look much like a creek).  A Say's Phoebe seemed out of place here (time of year).

Afterwards, we turned back north and visited 9 of the 16 WIAs north of Yuma (Yuma County).
Again no Sprague's Pipit or "Ammodramus" sparrows.  Highlights:

WIA 47-N: Common Redpoll (2)
WIA 48-M: White-throated Sparrow
WIA 55-K: Brown Thrasher
Near CR 55-K: Eastern Screech-Owl (responded to our recording while we tried to find sparrows)
WIA 56-J: Harris's Sparrow
WIA 57-H: Field Sparrow (2)

November 17

Bryan and I enjoyed a nice evening in Wray.  For a change, we did not get up before sunrise.  It was our last day on the eastern plains and we checked up on several friends in Wray and the surrounding county.

Our first stop was back at Stalker Pond.  Again, the Varied Thrush was found among 100+ American Robins.  We watched the Varied Thrush accompany many of the robins as they flew toward the Wray Fishing Unit.  The Fishing Unit resident Barn Owl did not make an appearance nor was the Varied Thrush relocated.

Visiting birding friends is always a pleasure and usually quite productive.  Between two yards in Wray, we observed 3 male and 2 female Northern Cardinals.  At what I call private yard # 1 (they had a nesting eastern Fox Sparrow pair this summer) we relocated a first year eastern Fox Sparrow!

At private yard # 4, we were alerted to a Varied Thrush that had been seen for three days in a row.  Our sighting today was day 4 (no relation to yard #; yards are not numbered by importance, but as I made new friends over the years).

Two flocks of Common Redpolls were eventually found in Yuma County.  One (6 birds) was on Bob Bledsoe's property (CR PP, south of CR 45).  Another flock of 11+ birds near the Republican River near CR KK 5.

Unfortunately, time was limited and we headed north to Holyoke (Phillips).  A friend told us about a pair of Common Redpolls and a Purple Finch.  They did not show in the 30 minutes allotted for our search.

Quick searches at the Holyoke City Park and Cemetery did not find any uncommon birds.  Haxtun City Park was quiet also.

Frenchman Creek Wildlife Area (Phillips) was a must stop for sparrow searching.  We were rewarded with sightings of an eastern Fox Sparrow and 2 White-throated Sparrows!

Time was running out on us as we hit just 5 of 11 WIAs south of highway 6 (between Holyoke and Haxtun).

One Field Sparrow and one White-throated Sparrow were just about all uncommon found.  No Common Redpolls were encountered in Phillips County.  I hope that we can return after Thanksgiving and hit a few additional WIAs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unsuccessful Search for Murrelets

November 11, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Today Bryan Ehlmann and I went searching for Murrelets.  The large majority of Murrelet sightings in Colorado have been between 11/2 and 11/14.  They have been found during or the day after a snowstorm (which we had yesterday).  Our final Murrelet count was zero.

We stopped at many of the lakes along the foothills.  At Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas), we scoped the reservoir from above the dam (great view of the lake).  Perhaps we should have driven to the south side of the lake.  We found 5 Common Loons and several Bonaparte's Gulls.  Others found a Rusty Blackbird, Red Phalarope, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pacific Loon.

Our focus was on the tiny Murrelets however and we probably missed some uncommon birds.  Marston, McLellan, Bear Creek Lake, Arvada, Ralson, Standley were scoped.

We stopped at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) on the way to Barr Lake.  Winds were steady at 17 mph with gusts to 28 mph.  The Harris's Sparrows were not found below the Contact Station feeders today.

Lake Ladora and Lower Derby had many waterfowl, nothing uncommon was found.

I dropped Bryan off at his Brighton home and drove over to Barr Lake (Adams).  The Harris's Sparrow was still behind the Visitor's Center.  Winds again were over 15 mph while I hiked the shoreline.

Highlight was a Black-bellied Plover; however, there were Long-billed Dowitchers, a Sanderling, and Least Sandpiper.  A Bonaparte's Gull flew by.  The biggest surprise was two male Red Crossbills (type undetermined).

My birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop.  No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.  Raptors included: Ferruginous Hawks (2), Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk (3), Rough-legged Hawk (2) and American Kestrel (2).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birding Adams County, Then a Murrelet Search in Jefferson County

November 10, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I followed up on a report of Common Redpolls at a private ranch in Weld County.  Sure enough, my new friend and new birder had a pair of Common Redpolls visiting his feeders!  He also has two resident Long-eared Owls.

We stopped at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  Too many hunters had reserved hunting areas and we decided to skip walking the windbreaks today.

The two Harris’s Sparrows were again below the eastern feeder at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Contact Station (old Visitor’s Center, Adams County).

No uncommon ducks were on Lake Ladora or Lower Derby Lake.  Several dozen American Tree Sparrows and two Song Sparrows lingered along the western side of Lake Ladora.  We could not find any Swamp Sparrows at Ladora or Mary Lake.

Many gulls were on Havana Ponds.  Unfortunately, they were mostly Ring-billed Gulls with a couple of California Gulls.

We stopped by Barr Lake (Adams).  The Harris’s Sparrow was still behind the Visitor’s Center.  Scoping the lake from the boat ramp did not find any uncommon birds.

We heard about the possible Iceland Gull at Lake Estes (Larimer) and started in that direction.  Fortunately, a text was sent that the bird was most likely a 2nd year Thayer’s Gull.  We decided not to make the long trip up there and wait for additional information (possibly try for the Gull tomorrow).

Instead, we decided to drive south to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) and scope several lakes along the way.  It started to snow.  All Murrelets found in Colorado have been reported during or the day after a snowstorm.  None was found at Chatfield Reservoir, Marston, McLellan or Bear Creek Lake Park.

We found a couple of Common Loons at Chatfield Reservoir, not the Mew Gull.

Nothing uncommon visited the feeders behind the Red Rocks Park Trading Post (Jefferson).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Back to Summit & Clear Creek Counties

November 9, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I accompanied David Starlett and his wife for some mountain birding in Summit County.  We enjoyed success with many of the usual species and then headed to Guanella Pass.

Two male Barrow's Goldeneyes were found on the Angler Mountain Ranch Pond (Summit County).  None have arrived on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant Pond yet.

We searched two hours unsuccessfully for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Guanella Pass (Clear Creek).

Our birding day ended at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).  Birds were scarce the whole day.  Our total bird count at Pine Valley were four American Dippers (one on Pine Lake and three on the creek (Narrow Gauge trail).; one male Downy Woodpecker, and one Mountain Chickadee.

Search For A November Sprague's Pipit

November 8, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I drove south of Julesburg today.  Zigzagging the back roads of Sedgwick County in search of Sprague's Pipits did not turn up any.  A November date for a Sprague's Pipit sighting (for us anyway) was safe for another fall.  We did run into several flocks of American Pipits, which also seemed scarce on the eastern plains this fall.

We stopped at Sand Draw Wildlife Area, one of my favorite birding locations in Sedgwick County. 
No owls were found in the western windbreak today.  The eastern border was more exciting.  Two Common Redpolls and a Field Sparrow were at the southeastern corner.  Four Red Crossbills circled overhead at the northeastern corner.

Continuing south, we wandered along the Phillips County roads in search of Sprague's Pipits; without success.  Then we stopped at several places in Holyoke.  The cemetery was quiet as was the Fishing Pond.  Two female type Purple Finches were found at the City Park!

Dozens of sparrows were found at Frenchman Creek Wildlife Area (Phillips).  Unfortunately, no "Ammodramus" sparrows popped up out of the wild grasses.

We followed Highway 6 through Haxtun back to I76.  Nothing uncommon was found at Haxtun City Park.

I had to be back in Denver tomorrow and did not have time to stop at our usual birding spots.  A quick jog around Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan) found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker and not much else.

Birding On The Eastern Plains

November 7, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Sprague's Pipit reports have been scarce this fall.  We hoped to have the first November sighting.  In addition, Common Redpolls have been somewhat common.  A sighting of them would be exciting.  Perhaps a migrating "Ammodramus" sparrow would appear?

An early stop at the Pony Express Wildlife Area found four Common Redpolls in the field between Sedgwick County Road 28 and the parking area.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the trees at along the South Platte River.

A drive around Jumbo Reservoir was superb.  We found a Dunlin along the shore in the southeast corner.  Several Greater White-fronted Geese were among hundreds of geese trying not to be shot by hunters.  At least two Greater Scaup were among the many waterfowl on the lake.

A singing meadowlark sounded quite like an Eastern Meadowlark.  We scoped it for a long time before deciding that it was a Western Meadowlark.  Unfortunately, the yellow on the face extended too far onto the malar area.  Its flanks looked more creamy colored than buffy.  The song however…….sure sounded like an Eastern.

The day was fantastic.  Almost no wind and temperatures in the high 60s.  We hiked from Jumbo Reservoir to Little Jumbo Reservoir to enjoy this fall day.  Our reward was another two Common Redpolls (hills southeast of Little Jumbo).

In the afternoon, we visited two friend's ranches.  Both have had American Woodcocks on their properties in the past.  There were no recent reports however.

Sedgwick Cemetery had few birds and no uncommon ones.  Our birding day ended with a walk along Sedgwick Draw. No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.  Many sparrows seen along the Ditch included White-crowned, American Tree, and one Field Sparrow.

Misses: Sprague's Pipits

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Birding Trip Up Interstate 76

November 6, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I took Roger Danka back home to Sedgwick County.  Several birding stops were made along the way.

We did not make any hikes around Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) to see shorebirds or waterfowl.  A quick jog below the dam found a White-throated Sparrow, Brown Creeper, and a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The highlight was a pair of Rusty Blackbirds!

We stopped in Ovid (Sedgwick County) and walked the northern and southern woods.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was in the northern section and a Brown Thrasher in the southern section (near the bridge).

I always enjoy checking out the Ovid Sewage Pond area.  One never knows what might show up; however, there always seems to be plenty of sparrows.  Today there were many White-crowned Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, a couple of Song Sparrows and 2 White-throated Sparrows.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the trees along the River.

We also stopped at the Julesburg Wildlife Area.  No uncommon sparrows were found today.  The highlight was a singing male Northern Cardinal West of the County Road 27 Bridge.  Many times, I find a Northern Cardinal while driving the western side of Ovid.

A check of feeders around town, did not find any Purple Finches.  This town is a good place to look for them.  With the many Common Redpoll sightings this week, the fields north of town and east of Lodgepole Creek at the northern woods maybe a good location to search.

Two Eastern Screech-Owls called on Roger's Ranch (after dusk)!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Successful White-tailed Ptarmigan Search!

November 5, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Jeffery Poulin and I went into the mountains today.

No Barrow's Goldeneyes were at Blue River Water Treatment Plant (only Gadwall & Mallards). However, 8 males and 4 females were at the extreme southeast end of Dillon Lake.

We spent 2 hours on Loveland Pass missing White tailed Ptarmigan.

An hour on Guanella Pass was more satisfying. A pair of Ptarmigan was southeast of the Rosalie and 603trails.

While looking for American Three toed Woodpeckers, two Brown capped Rosy Finches landed in front of us at 0.1 miles east of the closure gate by the old Duck Lake Club (Park County!).

A stop at Lair 'o Bear Park found 3 American Dippers.

There was no seed out at Red Rocks Park. The only birds were 2 Western Scrub Jays (1 hour sit).

Mountain Birding In Jackson, Grand & Routt Counties

November 2, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Roger Danka and I headed up to Cameron Pass and Gould for a couple of days of owling.

We hit a couple of reservoirs on the trip up to Jackson County.  A Common Loon was at North Poudre Reservoir #3 (Larimer County).

While it is not possible to prove the negative-owls have migrated on and departed Pennock Pass, we could not find any Flammulated Owls on Pennock Pass.  Winds were almost still and walking around for five hours was quite pleasant and enjoyable!

We did heard Boreal Owls both east and west of Cameron Pass (within 0.2 miles either side).

November 3, 2012

After staying up most the night, we got a late start (around noon) for some passerine searching in Jackson County.

The White-throated Sparrow was not relocated around the Gould Store (after being found for 10 days).

Only a couple of Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were found at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders.  The usual suspects did appear; Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, a few Cassin's Finches and a Gray Jay.

A drive down Jackson County Road 20 (south from Gould) found only a few birds.  Highlights were a late Red-naped Sapsucker, an American Three-toed Woodpecker and an American Dipper.

We went into Steamboat Springs (Routt) to look for Sharp-tailed Grouse (without success) and decided on a drive up Buffalo Pass Road.  This afternoon, we found 7 American Three-toed Woodpeckers.  Unfortunately, no White-winged Crossbills could be found.

After dark, we walked south from the Crags Campgrounds back in Jackson County.  Two Boreal Owls responded to our recordings.  Again tonight, winds were surprisingly quiet.  We enjoyed the hike tremendously; the only sounds being the calls of the forest birds.

A jog up Ruby Jewell Road (from Michigan Creek Road) in the Colorado State Forest at 4:00 am did not find any Boreal Owls or Flammulated Owls.

Notable misses were the lack of time to visit Lake Johns and Delaney Buttes Wildlife Areas or to stop along Rabbit Ears Pass.

November 4, 2012

Today we tried to stop and several places that time forced us to bypass yesterday. 

The majority of our late morning and early afternoon was spent at Little Red Park (Routt).  Target bird was a White-winged Crossbill.  Unfortunately, we could not duplicate last week's sightings.

Highlight was 3 or 4 Dusky Grouse in a tree about 0.3 miles after entering the forest northeast of Little Red Park.

Later we hiked around the maintenance shed area on Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand County) looking unsuccessfully for American Three-toed Woodpeckers, White-winged Crossbills or Red Crossbills for that matter.

Our plan was to be at Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer) at dusk to scope for Short-eared Owls.  A stop at the Cobb Section found a Long-eared Owl!  Then after sunset, a Short-eared Owl was observed at the CR 64 section. 

Actually, we had two Short-eared Owls, however prefer to keep exact locations unreported (to prevent the overly disturbing of the owls).  I suggest to those wanting to see a Short-eared Owl to stand at the parking lot along CR 3 (north of CR 64) and scope the hills to the east and west (of course just before or after sunset).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Visits to Morgan and Adams Counties

November 1, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I made a quick trip to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) this morning.  Winds were less than 5 mph; temperatures reached into the 60s.

We arrived about an hour before sunrise and waited for Short-eared Owls to hunt north of the northwestern Campgrounds.  Unfortunately, none showed this morning.

The resident Eastern Screech-Owl also did not cooperate (no response to our recording).  At least one Long-eared Owl continues around the Campgrounds.  A Great Horned Owl did call from north of the Visitor's Center and west of the Campgrounds. 

Only a few birds were along the western Campgrounds.  The highlights were a Harris's Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow around the Pelican Campgrounds.

We spotted a Dunlin from the dam, east of the southern outlet parking area.  Several Bonaparte's Gulls flew over the shrinking lake.

Later in the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I looked for a place to walk and chose the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  Winds remained less than 5 mph; temperatures went to the high 70s.

Red winged Blackbirds have found the feeders at the Contact Station. We waited 40 minutes for them to fill up and leave (for ten minutes).

The two Harris's Sparrows, a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos, and one Tree Sparrow quickly came.

Nothing uncommon was on Lake Ladora. Four Cackling Geese were the highlight.

While hundreds of ducks were on Lower Derby Lake.

The ducks on Derby included at least two Greater Scaup, dozens each of Canvasbacks, Redheads, Lesser Scaups, Ring-billed Ducks, etc. 

We enjoyed the walk to the Rod and Gun Club bird blind in spite of few bird sightings.

The sunset was dull as the sun had disappeared into clouds an hour before.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir

October 31, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I was busy doing chores today, however did past through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  I stopped at the bird platform at the Prairie Loop for 20 minutes.

Gulls on the mudflats were mostly Ring-billed Gulls, a dozen California Gulls and 3 or 4 Herring Gulls.

The two Long-billed Dowitchers were joined by 6 additional birds.

The highlight was a pair of Greater Scaup in a raft of American Coots and 4 Redheads.

I stood at the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue (Adams), mainly to watch the fabulous sunset.  Colorado does get some superb sunsets in the winter.

No Short-eared Owls flew about at dusk.