Friday, December 28, 2012

Birding in Broomfield and Adams County

December 28, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I was on my own today, no birding partners.  The temperature reached 32 degrees; it felt mild in the areas where there was little wind.  First, I checked the Broomfield Ponds near the Anthem Community.

Anthem Community Park Pond (Parkside Center) was scoped three times and Sienna Pond twice (between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm).

Highlights at Parkside Center Pond were an adult and 4th cycle Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two adult Thayer's Gulls.  A couple of California, a dozen+ Herring Gulls were among half a thousand Ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gulls and a dozen+ Herring Gulls were the mixed at Sienna Pond.  A 1st cycle Thayer's Gull was the highlight.

No sign of an Iceland-type Gull or Mew Gull were observed at either pond.  I also checked behind the Medical Clinic were 2 Herring Gulls were with 31 Ring-billed Gulls.

When I passed the South Platte Birding Area (88th and Colorado Blvd), I took the time to make a quick walk to just south of the green and white tower.  Highlight was 2 male and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneyes among just about all of the common wintering ducks found in Colorado.

East and most of the West Gravel Lakes were ice covered.  No Long-tailed Ducks were found.

My birding day ended at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  Lake Ladora and Lower Derby Lakes were mostly ice and snow covered.  Two Mallards swam in a small open water area of the southeast corner of Ladora.

Someone had filled the feeders near the Contact Station.  Perhaps quite recently, as only a couple of American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos visited the eastern feeders and four House Finches visited the western feeders.

The arsenal stays open until 6:00 pm and I took advantage to stay until after civil twilight.  The highlight of the rather cold wait was a Long-eared Owl.

While 58 Bald Eagles had been reported the day before, only one white belly Bald Eagle was found this afternoon.

I enjoyed the full moon with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).  Nothing unusual was found although a Great Horned Owl was found near 56th avenue and Buckley Road!

Trip to Chatfield Reservoir and the South Platte River

December 27, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I finally made the long trip down to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas Counties).  We were quite disappointed as the reservoir was 100 percent ice and snow covered (except for the dozen holes drilled by ice anglers).

We drove to the north side of Interstate 470 and checked the South Platte River for the Long-tailed Ducks reported there off and on since November 17. 

When none was found around the parking area and south to the dog walking area back in Chatfield State Park, Bryan and I decided to walk the several miles north to South Platte Park.  Sue and Rebecca planned to drive to the Park and pick us up.

Bryan and I found a nice collection of ducks along the Platte River, however, no Long-tailed Duck was found.  Some sharp looking male Hooded Mergansers, brightly colored male Buffleheads and many common ducks took advantage of the open water along the S. Platte River.

We kept eyes open for a wintering Dunlin and checked the thicker bushes for Stub-tailed Wrens; without finding either.

Sue and Rebecca enjoyed better fortune.  They noticed that the South Platte Reservoir had open water.  They set up scopes at the Parking Area for the Kiewit Company (I may have that spelled incorrectly) along South Platte Canyon Road.  From there they saw many Common Mergansers, a Red-breasted Merganser or two and more importantly, a Long-tailed Duck.

They also saw briefly what they thought was a Red-necked Grebe.  The bird swam out of sight along the western shore and never returned.

Later, we drove to Marston Reservoir, which had several strips of open water.  The closer open water had 58 Common Mergansers and a couple of Common Goldeneyes.

The northern strip had 36 American Coots.

The farthest strip of open water had the two White-winged Scoters and Long-tailed Duck among many Mallards and Gadwalls.  I have a friend living in the nearby complex and we were able to get some nice closer views.  Without this access, a good scope is required to view this strip of open water far out along the northern shore of Marston Reservoir. 

After a late lunch, we drove the DIA Owl Loop.  The usual raptors were found including a Prairie Falcon; no Short-eared Owls appeared.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Unsuccessful Brant Search

December 26, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Jerry Petrosky, Bryan Ehlmann and I circled Aurora and eastern Denver in search of the Brant Jerry found at Aurora Hills Golf Course on December 24.  We stopped at every park within the 42 square miles of Alameda Avenue and Peoria (The Golf Course).

Just to name parks visited to show our earnest, we searched:
Aurora Hills Golf Course
Highline Park
Delmar Park
Hoffman Park
Havana Park
Freedom Park
Nome Park
Jewell Park
Fulton Park
Mayfair Park
Crestmoor Park
McMullin Park
BiCentennial Park
Aurora City Center
Delaney Farm Park
Centerpoint Park
Tollgate Park
Rocky Ridge
Wheeling Park
Expo Park
Canterbury Park
Village East Park
Lowry Park
Peoria Hills Park
Utah Park
Village Green Park
Highline Hollows Park
Side Creek Park
Tierra Park
Panorama Park
Crestridge Park
Olympic Park
Eagle Park
Meadowood Park
Seven Hills Park
Eldorado Park
Great Plains Park
Montclair Park
Kittredge Park
Denison Park
Springhill Park
Apache Mesa Park

We did find that there are many parks in Aurora and we did not cover the whole town!

NO Brant, Greater White-fronted Goose or Ross's Goose.  They flew the coop!

Afterwards, Bryan and I headed to eastern Denver County.  The lakes there were ice covered.  Wind chills last night were -13 degrees.  The temperature at noon was 20 degrees and dropped from there.

No uncommon geese were found.  Some White-cheeked Geese, however not as many as before the snowstorm on Monday.

We passed through the DIA Owl Loop at sunset.  No owls found, a pair of Northern Harriers hunted along 96th avenue.  Only about 120 Horned Larks were seen; numbers down greatly from years past.

Unsuccessful Search for Aurora Brant

December 25, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca and I searched for the Aurora Brant this morning.  Yesterday's snowstorm appeared to scatter the geese.  Temperatures were single digits at 10:00 am.  The ground was covered with snow, leaving few bare areas for the geese to feed.

There were many less White-cheeked Geese than Jerry found yesterday at Aurora Hills Golf Course and Highline Park. No Brant, we found a Ross's Goose and Snow Goose. May go back out after lunch.

Returning in the afternoon did not help.  Few geese and no uncommon ones could be found.

Aurora Reservoir Gulls

December 24, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jerry Petrosky and I relocated a Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull at Aurora Reservoir. No Glaucous Gull was found.

We watched the Barr Lake (Adams County) feeders for 2 hours. The Fox Sparrow did not appear. With misses for an hour each on Saturday and Sunday, we will probably not go back unless someone else finds the sparrow (gone?).

White-crowned Sparrow numbers (7) and American Tree Sparrow numbers (6) were up yesterday. One rufous crowned sparrow appeared bigger than the American Tree Sparrows. It turned out to be a Chipping Sparrow. Clear breast, no spot, and no rufous color on sides of breast.

No owls along the DIA Owl Loop, other raptor numbers were up, perhaps wanting to eat before last night's snowstorm.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eastern Area Lakes and Gulls

December 23, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I took our little two-car caravan around to east metro lakes today.

Our first stop was Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  We walked in from the south side and scoped the swim beach area, which had few gulls.  The majority of gulls were at mile marker 2.5.  Six hundred+ gulls included a Lesser Black-backed, two Thayer's, a dozen+ California, six to twelve Herring and many Ring-billed Gulls.

Then we quickly drove to the north side of Aurora Reservoir and scoped from the northeastern end of the dam.  Another four hundred+ gulls included another Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Yesterday's Glaucous Gull was not found.

At nearby Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) which is about eight miles west of Aurora Reservoir,   as we expected, fewer gulls were here.  We counted about 250+ gulls off the southwest marina, mostly Ring-billed, a few Herring and half a dozen California.

When we drove to the dam tower, we noticed the large whitish Glaucous Gull standing on the ice (at about halfway between the marina and the dam tower).

Fifty eight Bald Eagles were reported yesterday; we found none today.

Bryan and I went to Barr Lake (Adams) and missed the Fox Sparrow during an hour wait.  Sue and Rebecca went to Lakecrest (Denver) where they saw one of the Greater White-fronted Geese.

Nothing uncommon was found during a drive around the DIA Owl Loop.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Drive Around a Snowy Adams County

December 22, 2012

Richard Stevens:

After getting a late start, I drove over to Barr Lake (Adams County) to see if the "red" Fox Sparrow had stayed through the recent snowstorm.  It did not make an appearance during my hour stay.

I drove the DIA Owl Loop on my way home.  The drive was most uneventful.  No raptors, it was strange not to find at least one.  One flock of 300+ Horned Larks was south of Trussville and 114th Streets.  No Lapland Longspurs or Snow Buntings were found among them.

Another Trip to North Park

December 19-21, 2012

Richard Stevens:

December 19, 2012

Warren Shin and I headed to the mountains early this morning.  We beat the snowstorm in Denver by leaving early.  However, it was snowing in Clear Creek and Summit Counties.

Thirty eight+ Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant.

After wandering around looking for Rosy Finches and other mountain species we went back to Loveland Pass by way of Keystone.  From there, we snowshoed up to Loveland Pass.

Along the way we found a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan twice.  The "easiest" pair to relocate was east of the first pullover on the west side of Highway 6, south of Loveland Pass' Summit.

In late afternoon, we returned to Dillon for lunch/dinner and then headed toward Steamboat Springs hoping for better weather on Thursday.

After dark, Warren and I drove down Highway 14 (3 miles east and west of Cameron Pass) and listened for Boreal Owls.  Winds were 22+ mph with gusts to 34 mph.  Hearing anything but the wind was quite difficult.  Two Boreal Owls were eventually found within 1.5 miles west of Cameron Pass' Summit.

December 20, 2012

At first light, Warren Shin and I sat (in the car, it was 10 degrees) along Jackson County Road 26.  We should have figured out it was too cold for grouse also.  We drove up and down CR 26 finding only Horned Larks.  Returning to our parking spot, two Greater Sage-Grouse were spotted walking through the snow covered sage.

Later we drove into Routt County and found a flock of 4+ Sharp-tailed Grouse!

A walk along the Yampa River Riverwalk was quite productive.  A flock of 20+ Bohemian Waxwings was not far from the 9th Street Bridge.

Later, no Crossbills could be found along Rabbit Ears Pass.  A female American Three-toed Woodpecker down the road to the maintenance shed and cabins was a nice consolation!  Then we returned to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center. 

Several times a flock of 150+ Rosy Finches came to the feeders behind the Visitor's Center.  Most were Gray-crowned Rosy Finches.  A dozen or so Brown-capped Rosy Finches and one Black Rosy Finch were also seen.

An hour before dark, we strapped on snowshoes and headed into the Colorado State Forest.  The moon was only about 1/4 full; however, it lit up the forest quite a bit.  Fortunately, winds tonight were mild for that area.  A few Cassin's Finches calling and our breathing were about the only sounds heard.

Finally, after trekking about 6 miles into the Colorado State Forest, we found two Boreal Owls up Ruby Jewell Road (at about 0.6 miles from Michigan Creek Road). 

December 21, 2012

We returned from our night snowshoe trek about civil twilight and tried to get a few hours of sleep.

Warren Shin and I headed back to Rabbit Ears Pass after first stopping at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.  Again, a flock of about 150+ Rosy Finches came to the feeders.  This time no Black Rosy Finches were among the flock.

The American Three-toed Woodpecker found yesterday was not relocated.  We put on snowshoes and made a 4 mile loop into the forest (east of the maintenance shed/cabin road).

Later, to rest our legs, we walked another 4 miles along highway 14 (about a mile either side of Rabbit Ears Pass' Summit).  We picked opposite sides of the highway.  Warren yelled out, CROSSBILL.  I rushed over to see a male White-winged Crossbill perched on top of a Lodgepole Pine Tree (located just east of the Grand/Jackson County Line). 

The male White-winged Crossbill stayed for quite a while and then flew west into Grand County (thanks! We were able to list the bird in both counties).  Warren thought he saw a female White-winged Crossbill following the male; unfortunately, I was not able to get my binoculars on her.

As we returned east, we had an unsatisfactory meal in Walden (I will do them a favor and not mention the name of the biggest restaurant in town).

Our final target of the trip was a Northern Pygmy-Owl.  We stopped at every Campground and Picnic Area along Highway 14 from Cameron Pass to Fort Collins.  Regrettably, no Northern Pygmy-Owls could be found.

A Great Day Birding Along the Front Range

December 18, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I was not able to join the CoBus trip to Southeastern Colorado this year because of commitments elsewhere.  This morning, I made a quick trip down to Colorado Springs (El Paso County) to pick up a couple of "personal first county sightings"

The Acorn Woodpecker was still around Willow Circle (as described by Marty Wolf and birders last week).

Finding the Palm Warbler at Colorado College at Colorado Springs was more difficult.  It took over an hour to relocate the elusive warbler.  Finally, I found the bird east of Palmer Hall.

I did not want to return to Denver in rush hour traffic (Palm Warbler search took too long and traffic through the Denver Tech Center and DIA Airport is a nightmare between 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm) and decided to skip searching for the Varied Thrush along Platte River Road in Jefferson County.

Instead, I rushed through the metro area and stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) for another chance at photos of the "red race" Fox Sparrow.

Unfortunately, when I arrived a couple of birders also were getting out of their car and going over to the Visitor's Center.  They stood within 15 feet of where I would have expected the Fox Sparrow to appear.  That is when they were not walking within 2 feet of the path and looking underneath the bushes.  Really, can anyone expect the bird to come to the area when they are so close?  Really?

I waited in my car for 40 minutes (giving them 45 before leaving).  Fortunately, they left just before my patience ran out.  After they departed, I went over to the path and sprinkled down some seed.  They I sat 60 feet away waiting for the birds. 

Within 5 minutes, six Dark-eyed Juncos appeared, then two American Tree Sparrows and a Black-capped Chickadee, all eating the seeds on the ground.

Within 10 minutes, two White-crowned Sparrows came by.  Then at 21 minutes, the Fox Sparrow came and stayed for 30 minutes!

Every birder has techniques to finding birds.  One must use those that work for them.  Almost all of us have binoculars, which allow us to see for quite a distance.  Standing next to a bush in which one wants a bird to appear, most likely is not a good technique.

I have also found that when putting down some seed, it is better to throw down loose and wide spread.  Piles of seed attract Red-winged Blackbirds, House Sparrows and squirrels.  Works for me, quite often!

On the way home, I drove the DIA Owl Loop.  No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.  A couple of Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk represented raptors.

After dark, I met up with Warren Shin and we drove to the western side of Denver to check several previous locations of Northern Pygmy-Owls.  We walked Highway 93 from the Southern Red Rocks Park entrance to Morrison and back, no Northern Pygmy-Owls.

A drive through Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Jefferson County) also did not find any Northern Pygmy-Owls.  We did hear a Great Horned Owl calling.

Finally, we checked White Ranch Open Space (Jefferson).  This time a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings (near its traditional location).

Fox Sparrow and a Snowy Owl

December 17, 2012

Richard Stevens:

After hearing about the "red" Fox Sparrow at Barr Lake State Park (Adams), I arrived at 7:30 am.  It was rather cold; fortunately, winds were mild.  The Fox Sparrow showed up to search for food near the old farm equipment at 9:17 am (fortunate since I was only giving it two hours and planning to leave at 9:30 am).

Since sunrise, a Sharp-shinned Hawk came about every 15 minutes and stood on the farm equipment (figured to be my only photograph of the morning).  He would perch for 5 minutes, then circle to the front of the Visitor's Center, and then fly across the canal to the trees along the lake.

I waited until 10:30 am, the Fox Sparrow never made another appearance.  The Sharp-shinned Hawk seemed to successful scare off most of the birds for the morning.

As I was leaving, a flock of American Goldfinches on the thistle feeder caught my eye.  A lone Common Redpoll was among 10-12 Goldfinches.

I headed to Weld County to search for the Snowy Owl reported by Joe Himmel two days earlier.  While many raptors were found in the next four hours, no Snowy Owl was.

Raptors included: Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels and a Peregrine Falcon (near Lower Latham Reservoir).

Sunset is/was around 4:41 pm.  Daylight is short and valuable this time of year.

Search for a Thayer's Gull and Harris's Sparrow, Bonny Christmas Count

December 16, 2012

Richard Stevens:

German birder, Jurgen Lehnert had two target birds, a Thayer's Gull and Harris's Sparrow.  I figured our best chance was Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo County).  Both were found on their Christmas Count the day before.

While no gulls were on the south marina tires when we arrived, the cove to the west of the marina was full of gulls.  An hour was spent counting 450+ Ring-billed Gulls, 12 California Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull.

We then drove to the western end of the lake (off W. Fisherman's Point Road) and scoped from there.  Over 150 Bonaparte's Gulls flew about and dove for fish.

Jurgen picked out a first year and female Greater Scaup among 150 Common Goldeneyes.  I found one male Barrow's Goldeneye in the raft of ducks.

No gulls were back at the North Marina.  Two Curve-billed Thrashers were found, one on a trash bin and the other on the road sign on the way to the marina.  See photos on the CoBus photo library (

A stop at the Sailboard Launch Area did not find additional Gull species.  However, a Pacific Loon swam not too far off shore and allowed us great looks!

Next, we headed to Valco Ponds area of Pueblo Lake State Park.  No Swamp Sparrows or the Harris's Sparrow was found during an hour search. 

Back at the south marina, thousands of gulls now stood on the tires surrounding the marina.  It took us the next two hours to scope all the gulls.  They were tightly packed, shoulder to shoulder along the line of tires. 

Eventually I was able to find one adult Thayer's Gull among the horde.  Twenty+ mph winds, gusts to 32 mph did not aid in the search.

Then we rushed to Fountain Creek Regional Park (El Paso) and arrive an hour before sunset.  Unfortunately, the Harris's Sparrow was a no show (near the gazebo at the waterfall, its most often reported location).


Meanwhile, Bryan Ehlmann counted the CoBus Bonny Reservoir Christmas Count

They found most of the birds found on the Audubon Christmas Count and in addition:

Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl (different location than Audubon)
Barn Owl
Northern Mockingbird
Winter Wren
Field Sparrow 

Wray CoBus Christmas Count

December 15, 2012

Richard Stevens:

The eighth annual Wray Christmas Count was held today.  The weather was perfect with little wind and temperatures in the 50s!  Seven birders spent the whole day wandering around a 15 mile diameter circle counting birds.

I had commitments in Denver and Amy Davenport and I did not arrive until after Noon.  I stayed until an hour or two after sunset, however also had to be back in Denver for additional commitments the next day.

Birds that could be relocated with public access were listed on the Colorado Birding Society's website.  Additional Christmas Count Birds on private land included:

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Loggerhead Shrike (confirmed the next day, as Northern Shrike is more expected)
Northern Cardinals (3 Locations-- no public access)
Varied Thrush (private yard)
Fox Sparrow (eastern)
Rusty Blackbird (pair along private section of Republican River)
Greater Prairie-Chickens (12+)
Eastern Screech-Owl (2 Locations-- no public access)
Pine Warbler (private ranch)
Eastern Bluebirds (private ranch)
Harris's Sparrow (2 Locations-- no public access)
Purple Finch (private yard)
Common Redpoll (3 Locations-- no public access)

The final count was 88 species!  Christmas Count Report will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes".

CoBus North Park Christmas Count & Summit County Birding

December 14, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan and Sue Ehlmann led six other birders on the CoBus North Park Christmas Count.  The report will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes".

They did relocate the three species of Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, Sharp-tailed Grouse in Steamboat Springs area and Greater Sage-Grouse at a private ranch in Routt County.  After dark, they heard Boreal Owls at 3 Locations.

Meanwhile, I joined German Birder Jurgen Lehnert and we explored Summit County.  At sunrise, 38 Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant Pond.  Later in the afternoon, there was only one male.  We figured the main flock went over to the open water area of Lake Dillon (southeast corner).

Eventually we found the entire mountain species expected.  Unfortunately only Gray-crowned and Brown-capped Rosy Finches were found.  Most of the day was spent searching for a Black Rosy Finch.

A surprise was a flock of 48 Common Redpolls (turns out to be a first Summit County Record of Common Redpolls).

Scouting Trip for the North Park Christmas Count

December 11-13, 2012

Richard Stevens

December 11, 2012

We were not going to make the North Park Christmas Count on Friday (12/14) so we drove up to do a little scouting for a couple of days.

A flock of 100+ Rosy Finches were visiting the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders (mostly Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, no Black).  Other birds included Pine Grosbeaks, Cassin's Finches, Pine Siskins, White-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and a pair of Black-capped Chickadees.

After dark I heard a Boreal Owl at the upper Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer) and another west of Cameron Pass (Jackson).

December 12, 2012

We heard about the Common Redpolls at Cowdrey, north of Walden (Jackson County) and arrived a little after sunrise.  About two dozen of the 58 Common Redpolls reported by Hollowed on 12/11) were fluttering about when we got there.

Walden Reservoir and the lakes at Johns Wildlife Area and Buttes Wildlife Area were frozen.  No uncommon birds were found.  No Rosy Finches could be found around Walden (Jackson).

Ray Simmons and Jacob Washburn came up and we watched the flock of Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

After dark, we relocated three Boreal Owls west of Cameron Pass (from the pass to 4 miles west).

December 13, 2012

The flock of Rosy Finches coming to the feeders at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center increased from about 100+ to 160+ today.  A Black Rosy Finch was found among them today.  A Common Redpoll was a pleasant addition to the usual mix of birds.

We spent the rest of the day in Routt County in search of Bohemian Waxwings.  Zero found, but we did find several Sharp-tailed Grouse (private land). 

No Crossbills or American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found on Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand/Jackson Counties).

After dark, we heard a Boreal Owl at the Crags Campgrounds.  When the troop retired, I headed back to Denver and other commitments.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eastern Denver Lakes and Aurora Reservoir

December 10, 2012

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, Rebecca Kosten and I scoped the Eastern Denver County Lakes: Lakecrest, Emerald Strand Park and Green Valley Recreation Center Pond.  The only uncommon goose found was a Greater White-fronted Goose at Green Valley Recreation Center Pond.  No Brants, still hoping and looking for them among thousands of White-cheeked Geese.

We stopped by Bill Cryder's home near Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  It was too cold and windy (32 degrees, wind chill 21 with winds 14 mph, gusts to 22 mph).  We did not walk down to the lake, but could see a Common Loon from his deck.

Return to Rocky Mountain Arsenal

December 9, 2012

Richard Stevens:

In late afternoon, Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I returned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County) to search for Harris's Sparrows and the Greater Scaup reported earlier in the week.

Bryan pointed to the Harris's Sparrow when it popped out of the willows at the southwest corner of Lake Ladora.  No Harris's Sparrows came to the feeder area next to the Contact Station. 

The Greater Scaup may still be at Lower Derby Lake; however, we could not pick them out.

No Short-eared Owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) at sunset.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Odds and Ends Around Denver

December 8, 2012

Richard Stevens:

While doing chores Rebecca Kosten and I followed up on several bird reports sent to us.

We received a report of eight or so Barrow's Goldeneyes at the southwest pond at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  This pond is reached by parking at Cherry Creek High School and walking 500 yards east down the path running along the southwestern border of the park.

The pond did indeed have several dozen White-cheeked Geese and eight Goldeneyes.  Unfortunately, the Goldeneyes were all Common Goldeneyes.  The five males were first year Common Goldeneyes and females appeared to be Common also.

At around 1:00 pm, we visited the trio of lakes in Eastern Denver County.  To our surprise, there were few geese on any of the lakes (Lakecrest, Emerald Strand Park & Green Valley Recreation Center Pond). 

Usually, the geese "rest" on the ponds from 10:00 am to about 3:30 pm.  They leave in late afternoon to feed and do not return until dusk.  Could they sense the predicted snowstorm is coming in after sunset?

We stopped at Barr Lake State Park (Adams) to see if the Harris's Sparrow reported last month was still around.  When we arrived, an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk was standing on the water fountain near the feeders behind the Visitor's Center. 

Unlikely any sparrows were going to show any time soon, we decided to drive back to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) and scope the lakes (report of a possible adult male Black Scoter).

Waterfowl were few on both Lake Ladora and Lower Derby Lake.  Again, do they know/sense a coming storm and have flown south?

While we scoped the southern end of Lake Ladora, a Harris's Sparrow popped up from under the few willows next the road at the southwestern end of the lake.  It looked much like one of the two Harris's Sparrows that came to the feeders near the Contact Station last month (the one I called two stripes, for the two black stripes on its breast.  The other had one solid stripe).

For another question that may not be answered, if it does snow tonight and enough to cover the ground, and if this is one of the two Harris's Sparrows from last month, will this Harris's Sparrow remember the food supply back about 1000 yards to the northwest?

We plan to return if there is heavy snowfall in the next couple of days.

Southern Owling Trip

December 3-7, 2012

Richard Stevens:

December 3, 2012

Bryan and I had wanted to search for Spotted Owls in Fremont County for months.  Finding the time was difficult.  The added bonus of "collecting" a first El Paso County Dunlin sighting for both of us started this trip.

One of my favorite routes to Peyton/Falcon is Elbert County Road.  It bypasses the traffic of I25 and Highway 83.  An uncommon bird sighting is always a possibility. 

The Dunlin was still at the "Falcon Pond" and easy to spot when we arrived.  We continued into Colorado Springs and tried unsuccessfully for the Pine Warbler reported four days earlier (too long to wait for a search, for sure).

Later we scoped Big Johnson Reservoir (El Paso) for about an hour and eventually both the Long-tailed Duck and Barrow's Goldeneye were relocated. 

Next, we wandered around Victor, CO searching for Rosy Finches.  Our weather has just been too good.  Rosy Finches seem to be still at higher elevations.  None were in Victor or Cripple Creek.

After dark, we drove down the Phantom Canyon Road in search of Spotted Owls.  None was found tonight.

December 4, 2012

After a late start (due to owling all last night), Bryan and I checked several locations around Canon City (Fremont County).

Several previous locations of wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were checked.  At our third stop, Centennial Park, we found a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the west end.

Florence River Park was searched for Black Phoebes and Swamp Sparrows.  One Swamp Sparrow was our prize. 

Not having much luck around town we headed up to Temple Canyon State Park.  A few Mountain Bluebirds were just outside the eastern entrance.  A Juniper Titmouse was a surprise at the western entrance.  A flock of 6-8 Pinyon Jays flew along the creek below the western entrance.

At dusk, we headed back up Phantom Canyon.  We enjoyed better fortune tonight.  A Spotted Owl was heard and way points taken.  Location to be kept undisclosed.

Just before dawn, we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl near Oro Juno (Fremont).

December 5, 2012

Another late start, Bryan and I again stopped at several parks and Lakeside Cemetery in search of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  Our only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sighting was again at Centennial Park. 

While missing Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at the old Holy Cross Abbey, a female Williamson's Sapsucker was found.  She flew about the pines at the western side of the property.

We decided to see if any Northern Saw-whet Owls could be found on the BLM Land up the Shelf Road.  On the trip north, we stopped at Red Canyon Park.  The highlight was a flock of 8+ Pinyon Jays!

We set up our three "owl listening stations" on the drive up the road.  No Spotted or Northern Saw-whet Owls were observed during the all night trek.  Later: one of the "listening stations" (search for "listening stations" on previous blog posts) picked up a Northern Saw-whet Owl! 

The Technology is cool!  We could have sat at one location all night and never heard an owl.  The stations definitely expand our reach.

The night was young; we were wide-awake and headed to Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont).  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings played at the most northern parking area.

December 6, 2012

Another late start, we continued west to Salida and Buena Vista.  The resident Western Screech-Owl(s) were not to be found.

A flock of 20+ Pinyon Jays was in the pinyon-junipers along Highway 285 (at 3 miles south of Buena Vista).

Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were found along North Pleasant Street, south of Brookdale Avenue.

The KOA Campgrounds east of Buena Vista and Ruby Mountain Recreation Area southeast of town were checked for birds (especially Pinyon Jays).  While none was found at either location, a flock of 30+ Pinyon Jays was observed along Chaffee County Road 301.

After dark, we set up our three "listening stations" for Northern Saw-whet Owls on the BLM Land east of Buena Vista.  Regrettably, none was encountered this night.

December 7, 2012

Predictions that winter is finally coming (snowing farther north) lured us back to Denver a day early.  Sunday Bryan is to lead a trip to Guanella Pass for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Winds were outrageous today.  Anemometer readings were "steady" at 19 mph with gusts to 31 mph.  Holding our scopes steady to view Eleven Mile Reservoir and Spinney Mountain Reservoir was quite difficult to impossible.

A couple of scoters were found on each reservoir.  Tentatively, we were 90 percent sure that Spinney Mountain Reservoir: Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter & 2 Surf Scoters.  Eleven-Mile Reservoir: Surf Scoter.  A Common Loon was at Spinney Mountain Reservoir.

We are sure that neither reservoir had a swan.

Owling at Kenosha Pass was a bust.  High winds, occasional snow hampered any serious attempt.  We did hike up the eastern Kenosha Pass trail to the Twin Cone Peaks trailhead.

Another Northeastern Trip

November 28-December 2, 2012

Richard Stevens:

November 28, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to the northeast corner of Colorado to bird some of the remaining WIAs not visited yet this fall/winter.

We stopped at Jackson Reservoir, found nothing uncommon on the lake, and then checked out the western Campgrounds.  Varied Thrushes have been found in past falls, none was today. 

We did relocate two Harris's Sparrows and two White-throated Sparrows.  One of the two+ Long-eared Owls that appeared to spend the summer (perhaps last winter) was relocated.  A Green-tailed Towhee was around the Visitor's Center (no owls there today).

The highlight was a calling Stub-tailed Wren in the thickets south of Pelican Campgrounds.  The bird was recorded and later the sonogram indicated a Winter Wren.  Since the Winter Wren split, Stub-tailed Wrens found in Colorado should be considered Winter/Pacific Wrens unless examined closely (see December, 2012 "Colorado Field Notes").

A stop at the Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan) did not find one of the resident Eastern Screech-Owls.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was again working the trees along the northern border of the property.

Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) was slow until we walked below the dam.  A flock of 40+ waxwings included 2 Bohemian Waxwings!  After dusk, we found Eastern Screech-Owls below the dam and at the western end of the property.

Winds were mild and our hike after dusk was quite enjoyable under the full moon!

November 29, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann and I continued our northeastern Colorado trek today.  Temperatures reached the mild 60s and winds were mild.  It was quite a pleasant day!

We planned to examine the seven WIAs in Logan County that are north of I76.  First, we stopped at North Sterling Reservoir (Logan).  While no uncommon gulls, ducks, geese or swans were found, we did find a lone Snow Bunting near the Campgrounds.

The WIA 25-54 is classified as "grass".  The eastern border does have a dried creek.  Highlights included a Field Sparrow, a dozen American Pipits and several Lapland Longspurs in a flock of Horned Larks.

WIA 39-52 & WIA 39-54 added additional Horned Larks, a few (4) Lapland Longspurs, a Northern Shrike and half a dozen American Pipits.

The other four WIAs are designated "Extended WIAs" and are open until March 2013.  The biggest downfall in birding the WIAs in my opinion is the dates there are public access.  The dates are good for hunters; however, most migrating is over before we can access the properties.  The extended WIAs still close before spring migration may have some interesting birds appear.

WIA 55-57 does include the Iliff Valley Ditch.  Usually the areas with any type of water flow will have a riparian area, which attract more birds.  A few Mourning Doves were the low interest highlight here today.

WIA 87-66 may have some ponds in spring.  They were dried up today.  A few Horned Larks flew about.  WIA 85-58.5 is one of my favorite as it borders the South Platte River.  Nothing interesting was found here today. WIA 91-138 is another one to keep an eye on and has a good bird list.  Again, the downside is open dates of 9/1 to 3/1.

Bryan and reached Jumbo Reservoir in the early afternoon.  The only shorebirds were a few Killdeer.  Thousands of White-cheeked Geese, hundreds of Ross's Geese and 7 Greater White-fronted Geese were on the lake.

While looking for shorebirds south of the Campgrounds, we saw a Snow Bunting circling overhead.  It appeared to land along the shore.  Unfortunately (and of course) is landed over a small hill on the private property just south of the Campgrounds.

We ended our birding day at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County).  We missed the Pine Warbler reported by Joey Kellner four days earlier.  A couple of Common Redpolls (which have been around since at least 11/11) were along the main road and south of the old ranger's home.

At dusk, we received responses from two Eastern Screech-Owls along the South Platte River   (sections 6-8 East).

November 30, 2012

Bryan and I went to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) about an hour before sunrise.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings (played along the north side of the lake).

We birded the western Campgrounds which was quite slow.  Until, a Snow Bunting was observed circling overhead.  Unfortunately, it circled the private property just south of the Campgrounds.  When it landed, it was along the shore over a slight hill. 

The thousands of White-cheeked Geese including White Geese (Snow & Ross's) and a few Greater White-fronted Geese continued on the lake.  Many flew to feed in the fields northwest of the reservoir.

Before checking the six WIAs in Sedgwick County, north of Highway 138, we stopped at Ovid.  A pair of Rusty Blackbirds was found walking along Lodgepole Creek in the northern woods (they were between Morgan and Clark Avenues).

A Red-bellied Woodpecker drummed on the telephone pole by the maintenance building for the High School.

A couple of White-throated Sparrows flew about the Ovid Sewage Pond area (south of Ovid Woods and along the South Platte River.  Harris's Sparrows were frequently observed along the river; however, none was today.

Most of the afternoon was spent visiting the WIAs.  None had running or standing water.  Most were cultivated.  No uncommon birds were found.  The usual suspects Horned Larks, Red-winged Blackbirds, House Sparrows and two Lapland Longspurs were just about all we found.

We ended our birding day north of Sedgwick.  Nothing uncommon was found at the Sedgwick Cemetery.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker did flutter about.

No Short-eared Owls appeared over Sedgwick Draw at dusk.  No Eastern Screech-Owls were found at nearby abandoned farm sites.

December 1, 2012

Bryan and I returned to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) about an hour before sunrise.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings (played along the north side of the lake).

We returned to the western Campgrounds hoping to get a photo of the Snow Bunting that we observed flying around yesterday.  The Snow Bunting was joined by a second one and circled the private property just south of the Campgrounds. 

Again, when they landed, it was over a slight hill.  We continued to be frustrated for about an hour and an half before giving up on getting a photo.

The thousands of White-cheeked Geese including White Geese (Snow & Ross's) and a few Greater White-fronted Geese continued on the lake.  Many flew to feed in the fields northwest of the reservoir.

Sue Ehlmann and Rebecca Kosten drove up from Denver and joined us.  Along their drive, they stopped at Jackson Reservoir and relocated two Harris's Sparrows and two White-throated Sparrows.  Unfortunately, they did not relocate the Winter Wren Bryan and I found on 11/28.

Today Bryan and I visited a couple ranches of my friends.  Fall passerine migration appears over and few uncommon birds were found.  One rancher, Bill reported that his son has seen an American Woodcock along the South Platte River several times in the past two weeks.  Our efforts to relocate the bird failed. 

The day was a beautiful fall day with cool temperatures and mild winds.  The walk along the S. Platte River on property (private ranch # 5) that birders seldom access was enough of a treat to diminish our disappointing attempt.  We did find a Red-bellied Woodpecker and two Harris's Sparrows.  They kept our interest up!

We met Sue and Rebecca at Jumbo Reservoir in the afternoon.  After a short wait, we again found the Snow Buntings circling around south of the Campgrounds.  Again and of course, they only landed over a small hill on private property.  Bedeviling!

After dark, we joined Roger and Judy Danka for some great barbecue.  Two Eastern Screech-Owls called in the distance.  It was another dandy ending to a superb day of birding.

December 2, 2012

We took a leisure walk around Roger's Ranch (Sedgwick).  No uncommon birds were found, just an enjoyable hike in the cool morning.  Fresh air and quiet (no wind, cars or traffic) does not make one miss Denver.

Harris's and White-throated Sparrows were among the dozens of White-crowned and American Tree Sparrows visiting below the Danka's feeders.  The dozen or so Dark-eyed Juncos were mainly pink-sided.

After another barbecue of chicken raised my cholesterol who knows how much (but so good), it was time for us to head back home.

Nothing uncommon was found during brief stops at DePoorter Lake (Sedgwick) and the Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop.  Two Harris's Sparrows and a Field Sparrow were at DePoorter.  Nothing uncommon at the Wayside Rest Stop.  We checked the "Common Ground-Dove" spot of Nov-Dec, 2011.  None found today.

To break up the monotony of the same route back to Denver, we drove south down highways 55 and 59.  The route took us through Siebert (Kit Carson County).  While we found no Common Redpolls, a Field Sparrow was found at the sewage ponds!

Our main stop of the day was at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson).  There was little bird activity below the dam.  Plenty of sparrows flew around the trees at the northeast corner, regrettably no uncommon ones.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was found about halfway down the eastern side.  Sue spotted two Common Redpolls at the southeast corner (past the parking lot).

We made brief stop at the Bennett Rest Stop (Arapahoe County); found no uncommon birds.  Looked briefly for the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Bennett, without success and then we returned to Denver.