Saturday, December 8, 2012

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.

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