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!

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