Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hike Along the South Platte River, Adams County

January 30, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I walked the South Platte River (Adams County) from the parking area south of York (near the sewage treatment plant) all the way north to 88th Avenue & Colorado Blvd.  We hiked east of the Platte River on the trip north and returned along the west side.

Highlights were 8+ Rusty Blackbirds between the I76 Highway Bridge and the footbridge across the river.  A male and three female Barrow’s Goldeneyes were on the Platte River just south of the green and white tower.  Another male Barrow’s Goldeneye was on East Gravel Lake.

West Gravel Lakes had no uncommon birds.  Most wintering waterfowl species can be observed on the South Platte River (without making the whole hike).

No uncommon sparrows were found (only a 2-3 Song Sparrows and one flock of 8-9 American Tree Sparrows).  One Northern Shrike was north of Engineer Lake.

Raptors included three Red-tailed Hawks, one Prairie Falcon and one adult Bald Eagle.

This evening Bryan and I planned on searching for Northern Pygmy-Owls at Golden Gate Canyon State Park and White Ranch Park.  None was found.  Winds measuring 16 mph with gusts to 24 mph did not aid in our search.  We gave up shortly after 10:00 PM.  The 60 percent waning moon did provide much light during our journey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Drive Around Barr Lake Area

January 29, 2013

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores, we made a stop at Barr Lake (Adams County).  No Fox Sparrow, thought maybe if it was still around, the seed below the feeders would entice it to come by.

A Common Redpoll made a brief visit to the thistle feeder in front of the Visitor's Center.  It was seen only once in 1.5 hours.  The American Goldfinches in winter plumage are interesting to watch.  It amazes me how small they are when I am not looking through binoculars.

Toward sunset, I made another drive along 160th avenue, no Snowy Owl.  Nothing more frustrating than looking for a white bird on the snow covered ground or rooftops.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quick Trip to Morgan County

January 28, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Sean Reese and I returned to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) this morning.  The weather deteriorated as the day continued.  Temperatures rose to 45 degrees, later dropped to 32 degrees.  It snowed in the late afternoon.

We relocated the birds that Bryan Ehlmann's group reported yesterday afternoon.  A Harris's Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow were in the western Campgrounds.  At least five Long-eared Owls were relocated!

Next Sean and I drove over to Fort Morgan.  No uncommon birds were at Riverside Park on the northwest side of town.  We enjoyed a great surprise by a female type Purple Finch at a private yard in Log Lane Village!

Eastern Screech-Owls were missed at Jackson Reservoir; we rushed over to Brush Wildlife Area for another opportunity.  The resident male Red-bellied Woodpecker was working trees at the northwest corner of the Wildlife Area.

Unfortunately, no Eastern Screech-Owls were enticed to "come out" by our recordings.

Snow fall was more rapid the closer we got back to Denver.

Owls and Woodpeckers, Reynolds Park

January 27, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jerry Petrosky, Sean Reese and I headed to Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) about two hours before sunrise.  Temperatures eventually reached the high 50s; winds were mild (at less than 6 mph).

No Northern Pygmy-Owls responded to our recordings played at the larger (western) parking area.  We drove to the smaller (eastern) parking area and walked the Songbird Trail back to the western parking area.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl called north of the trail (between the two parking areas) about 45 minutes before sunrise!  Unfortunately, we were not able to see the bird after civil twilight and sunrise.

Our trek continued up the Oxen Draw Trail to the intersection with the Eagle's View and Raven's Roost Trails.  Note: caution was needed, as parts of the trail were quite icy.

Just before the intersection, the distinct drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker was heard.  Fifteen minutes or so later, we observed a male Three-toed Woodpecker along the Eagle's View Trail (approximately 100 yards south of the intersection of the three trails).

Instead of continuing the long route along the Eagle's View Trail back to the Raven's Roost Trail (over the new section of Eagle's View), we cut across Raven's Roost and back to the Elkhorn Trail which connects with the Songbird Trail leading back east.

Regrettably, we did not come across any Dusky Grouse.  Other birds observed included three species of Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers.

On the trip back home, we stopped briefly at the South Platte Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  We picked out the Common Loon and Long-tailed Duck and ended out birding morning.

In the afternoon, Bryan Ehlmann took several birders to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County).  I chose not to join them.

Late in the afternoon, Rebecca and I drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  I do not know what I was thinking; thought we would see birds on open water.  Lake Ladora and 95 percent of Lower Derby Lake were ice and snow covered.  Few waterfowl were found.

The feeders at the contact station were empty.  Few birds were seen on the trip.  At least one each Ferruginous Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk and Bald Eagle were just about it.

The Bison have been moved to a field closer to the Visitor's Center (for those interested in mammals).  We counted 59 of the herd of 78 reported on the property.

Rebecca and I drove the last hour and a half of daylight back along 160th avenue.  Again, no Snowy Owl was found.  We hoped it would roost on a building, telephone pole or fence post for the night.  Not while we were there.  We especially watched the ranch where the landowner had told us he saw it several times behind his barn.  Sadly, he did not invite us to go look.

Bryan Ehlmann 1/27/2013:

Bob Varnon, Amy Davenport, Sue and I went to Jackson Reservoir Sunday.

We found several Long eared Owls, two White throated Sparrows, one Harris's Sparrow, five Bald Eagles, four Yellow rumped Warnlers, and two Great tailed Grackles.

Search for the Snowy Owl

January 26, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove around a large area northeast of Barr Lake (Adams County) for five hours in search of a closer look at yesterday's Snowy Owl.  It was never relocated.

Our trip took us east to Peterson Mile Road and north to I76.  The field near Prospect Valley where a Snowy Owl stayed for a couple of weeks last year was also checked.  The thought being that this owl could be the same bird that had success finding food there in 2012.

We did learn that a Snowy Owl had been seen off and on for the past 10 days behind a barn/shed on private property in the area.  Unfortunately, unless the Snowy Owl perches on the top of a building, telephone pole or fence post, it may not be relocated.

Bryan and I did stop for a brief walk at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County).  American Robins were the most numerous birds.  We did find two Long-eared Owls!

Late in the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove the 160th avenue area for about two hours.  Again, the Snowy Owl was not found in the waning light.

At one stop at 24383 160th Avenue, 10-12 White-crowned Sparrows got our attention.  We stopped and found a Harris's Sparrow with the flock.  It was our consolation prize for the afternoon.

Raptor count included 11 Rough-legged Hawks, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Ferruginous Hawks, 2 American Kestrels (pair) and 4 Northern Harriers (all males, which is a little unusual to not have an accompanying female).

Bird of the Year (so far, at least for January)

January 25, 2013

Richard Stevens:

When we arrived back in Denver around 3:00 pm, I read a report of a Snowy Owl northeast of Barr Lake (Adams County).  It was last seen at 25,600 160th Avenue (first at Powhaton & 160th).

Rebecca and I drove 160th and nearby roads until sunset.  Shortly after sunset, our efforts paid off.  The Snowy Owl was about 1/4 to 1/2 mile south of 160th Avenue (across from mailbox, 27705).

Over the next two days, it would not be relocated by us (total hours: 9; many miles driving and scoping the fields).

By the way, earlier in the day, Sean Reese and I had drove the roads around Yuma County Road 45 unsuccessfully searching for Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Southern Trip for Gallinaceous Birds and Owls

January 22-25, 2013

Richard Stevens:

January 22, 2013

Sean Reese and I started a trip to southern Colorado (detour to Gunnison County).

Our first stop was the Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop in Colorado Springs.  The Acorn Woodpecker was eventually found at its usual location.

Our next stop was Fountain Creek Regional Park (El Paso).  No Harris's Sparrow at the Visitor's Center feeders, we hiked down to mile 18 and back.  While no Stub-tailed Wrens were found, the Harris's Sparrow was found.  It was with a couple of White-crowned Sparrows and Song Sparrows on the small hills near the gazebo at the Fountain Creek waterfalls.

Several hours were spent at Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo County).  Gulls were not as numerous as my previous visits.  We did manage to pick out a Mew Gull, a Thayer's Gull and the Great Black-backed Gull.

From the north side we observed the loon trifecta (Red-throated, Pacific and Common Loons).  A Curve-billed Thrasher was found along the north side of the parking area for the North Marina.

Most of the night was spent searching unsuccessfully for Spotted Owls up Phantom Canyon in Fremont County.

January 23, 2013

Under little sleep, Sean Reese and I drove around Gunnison (Gunnison County) in search of Gunnison Sage-Grouse.  Two Gunnison Sage-Grouse were found but with great effort.  We put on snowshoes and hiked almost a mile into the Miller Ranch  Wildlife Area.

Sean has a great story of a flatlander's trek at high altitude, first time on snowshoes and quite cold temperatures.  Does not an outstanding effort make a lifebird sighting all the more valuable?

Our trip detoured to Buena Vista in search of Lewis's Woodpeckers and Western Screech-Owls.  A flock of 25+ Pinyon Jays stopped us along highway 285 (about 2 miles south of town).

Then we walked along North Pleasant Street, south of West Brookdale Street and found a pair of Lewis's Woodpeckers!  The resident Western Screech-Owls were not enticed to appear today.

Afterwards, Sean caught some sleep while I drove to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca County).

We arrive late (after the 300 mile drive).  I woke Sean up when two Western Screech-Owls called.  Then I caught some greatly needed sleep!

January 24, 2013

A couple of warm sleep bags kept us comfy in a rather cold car.  After sunrise and temperatures rising to a "warm" 35 degrees, we hiked several of the draws along Baca County Road 5 (starting at Carrizo Creek).

A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker was up the "old cabin draw' across from the primitive and not well marked 'camping area". 

The draw leading south (west of the road up to Carrizo Mountain) was quite birdy.  We found a Cooper's Hawk and two Bewick's Wrens (in the evergreens about 0.6 miles from CR 5).  Nothing unusual was up the north draw here (sometimes a good spot for Northern Cardinals).

A Steller's Jay was about a mile east of the above "camping area".  Area where many bunting sightings are reported in spring, summer & fall (Indigo, Painted and Lazuli).

The rocky hillside at 1.4 miles east of the "camping area" seldom disappoints.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow popped out of the rocks in response to my recordings!

Continuing east to exit the canyon, we found a Say's Phoebe near the lone ranch house along the north side of the road.

A flock of 6-8 Mountain Bluebirds was at the old stone house after climbing out of the canyon.  It was a productive and enjoyable trip to one of my favorite canyons in Colorado!

Having missed Greater Roadrunners we took a side trip to Picture Canyon (another great birding location; also has many Indian pictographs).  In past years, Greater Roadrunners have been seen on the taller hills along the entrance road heading toward the picnic area; however, none was found today.

We walked from the parking area south to the cliffs with pictographs.  Along the way, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow was observed walking along the short cliff (50 feet high) about 300 yards south of the parking area.  Another surprise, a Northern Mockingbird fluttered about the leafless trees around the cliffs with pictographs.

Our trek continued south to Elkhart, Kansas where we had planned to search for Lesser Prairie-Chickens the next morning.  We arrived about 2 hours before sunset and decided to drive over to the western lek (only 7 or 8 miles outside of town).

A lone Lesser Prairie-Chicken was found along the entrance road to the blind.  No Lesser Prairie-Chickens visited the lek (too early in the season and not suspected).

Since we found a Lesser Prairie-Chicken, we got the "wild" idea to drive to Wray and search for Greater Prairie-Chickens the next morning.  I have made the long drive from Gunnison to Elkhart to Wray five times now in the past three years.  It is a crazy plan but does serve a purpose of saving a day in a week long Lek trip.  (From Gunnison, the day requires an additional 400 miles, total 740+ trip).

It is a 340 mile trip from Elkhart, Kansas to Wray, Colorado.  For those only interested in going from Elkhart to Wray (no birding stops), the best route is Highway 27 to Haigler, Kansas, then west to Wray.  This is much faster than returning to Springfield, CO and heading north along Highway 385 (although, there are few birding stops along the hwy 27 route and is best taken in the dark).

Greater Prairie-Chicken were missed the next morning!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guanella Pass and Pine Valley Ranch Park Birding

January 21, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Sean Rease (maybe spelled incorrectly) and I made the long trek up Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County).  White-tailed Ptarmigan were our target birds.  We drove up from the Grant side (highway 285) and were stopped at the gate near Duck Lake.  From there, it was a 1.6 mile hike to the Summit.

Once at the top, our choice was to first hike down to the frozen and snow covered lake about 0.5 miles below the Summit.  This has been the most successful route to find Ptarmigan this season.  We were not disappointed.  Two White-tailed Ptarmigan hid under the willows along the southern side of the lake.

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found around the closure gate (have been in the past) and we chose to try for them at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County). 

An afternoon hike to the Strawberry Jack and Parkside Trails was not successful in locating any.  In retrospect, afternoon searches for Three-toed Woodpeckers have not been productive in the past (perhaps two in ten tries).  Mornings are best; however, one cannot be everywhere at once.

No Northern Pygmy-Owls showed up either.  Three species of nuthatches turned out to be the highlights.

Search for Snow Buntings In Weld County

January 20, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jerry Petrosky and I decided to drive the Weld County Roads in search of Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls today.  Temperatures warmed up to the low 40s; winds were measured at 8-10 mph, gusts to 13 mph.  Sunshine and good company made for a wonderful birding day!

We stopped at the Fort Collins Discovery Science Museum at first light and counted 60+ Common Redpolls visiting the feeders.  No Hoary Redpoll candidates or Bohemian Waxwings were observed.  Then we headed east to the Pawnee National Grasslands area.

A walk around Crow Valley Campground (Weld) did not find many birds.  A Long-eared Owl was in the firs at the southwest corner of the Campgrounds.  A Northern Shrike was in the area just north of the group camping area.  This area has been good for Common Redpolls in past years.

We checked the evergreens around the Washington Work Area for Northern Saw-whet Owls; none was found today.

At the USDA Central Plains Experimental Range Office area, we hiked down to Owl Creek. Then we walked about 3/4 mile south and north along the Creek.  No Snow Buntings or owls were found today.

We finally found a Snow Bunting along CR 122, approximately 0.75 miles east of CR 45!  The only one of the day.  Hundreds of Horned Larks and about 30 Lapland Longspurs were counted along our trek!

Stops at two friend's ranches added a Long-eared Owl sighting today at one and reports of two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches visiting about a week ago (last snowstorm) at the other.

Our birding day ended at Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer).  Neither Long-eared nor Short-eared Owls were found today.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

DIA Owl Loop and South Platte River, Adams County

January 19, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) starting about 30 minutes before sunrise.  Our target bird was a Snow Bunting.  None was found, however we enjoyed a good morning with owls.

Thousands of Horned Larks are currently flying, feeding, resting in the fields south of Barr Lake.  We stopped many times to watch the phenomenon at they flew back and forth across the roads.  Unfortunately, we could not pick out a Snow Bunting (which should be quite obvious among the brown Horned Larks with their black tails).  We did see a dozen Lapland Longspurs (brown birds with white outer tail feathers).

We recently obtained permission to count birds on some of the private roads.  Jürgen Lehnert had pointed out (as he accidentally drive a private road) the where a bouts of a Short-eared Owl.  We drove this road and found two Short-eared Owls almost in the same area as Jürgen!

No additional Short-eared Owls were found.  The best strategy is to drive the Loop during the hours 30 minutes before sunset to dark.  The most successful areas are 96th avenue from the south end of Quency Street (where 96th turns from west to east from Tower Road to north, which is Quency) to 114th avenue and Trussville.  In addition, a drive down Queensburg toward the entrance to the Airport has been quite successful in the past.

We also found a Long-eared Owl at a windbreak around a private airport building.  This bird is probably not chaseable without permission.

Rebecca and I were looking for a place to walk late in the afternoon on this beautiful winter day and chose to search for the Rusty Blackbirds along the South Platte River (Adams County).  Temperatures reached the high 50s; winds were mild.  Our walk was quite pleasant and enjoyable!

We parked at the York Avenue parking area next to the sanitation plant and walked downstream (north) to Highway 224 & I76 and back.

Along the way, we found five+ Rusty Blackbirds on the west side of the Platte River at approximately 30-50 yards north of the I76 Bridge.

On the trip back to our car, we counted four adult and six juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron and three Double-crested Cormorants just south of the Sand Creek footbridge (just south of the I270 Highway Bridge).

Most of the common winter ducks were found in good numbers on the South Platte River.  Obvious misses were Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup and Ruddy Ducks.

A Northern Shrike was a little ways down Sand Creek.  One flock of Killdeer had 14 birds just south of the Sand Creek Footbridge.  A Wilson's Snipe was in the same area!

With light diminishing rapidly, I made a quick walk down to the green and white tower (from and south of 88th avenue and Colorado Blvd).  Two male and a female Barrow's Goldeneye were just upstream of the tower.

A Prairie Falcon flew down the Platte River.  An adult Bald Eagle was not far behind (although much slower).  A Great Blue Heron stood at the rapids.  I suppose keeping his eyes on any swimming food and me as well.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jumbo Reservoir to Flagler Reservoir

January 18, 2013

Richard Stevens:

We woke to a couple of Harris's Sparrows visiting Roger's feeders.  A White-winged Dove also made an appearance.  Temperatures would climb to a "warm" middle 50s today.  Winds however were quite strong (anemometer readings, steady at 13 mph, gusts to 21 mph).

We headed to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) to search for uncommon gulls or perhaps an Eastern Meadowlark (only Ring-billed and a few Herring Gulls were found).  A good highlight was a Dunlin walking the shore south of the Campgrounds (private property).

Then we drove south on Fleming Road (Highway 59) and east to Haxtun (Phillips County; where birding was slow).  Holyoke did not provide any additional uncommon birds to our trip list.  A consolation was a Northern Goshawk at the City Park

In Wray (Yuma), we made two quick stops at friend's homes.  This added 3 male and 2 female Northern Cardinals and a red Fox Sparrow to our trip list!

We passed by Bonny Reservoir and Burlington, observed half a dozen Great-tailed Grackles at Palmer Park (Highways 385 & I70).

Our final stop was Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County).  Birding was slow here.  No Common Redpolls or wrens.  A lone Red-bellied Woodpecker was the highlight. 

We scoped the northwestern fields late in the afternoon.  A Short-eared Owl flew over about 15 minutes after sunset.

Counting Birds At Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area

January 17, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Roger Danka and I spent most of the day walking many miles of the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County).  Temperature was warmer than any of the past week (however, only in the middle 40s).  Anemometer readings varied from stead 7 mph to 13 mph (later in the day); gusts were 21 mph.

The best bird was a Stub-tailed Wren around the Tamarack Pond.  This bird was first reported on 12/30.  We watched it and the general area for a good 45 minutes, unfortunately, it never made a sound.

We checked the South Platte River hoping for an American Woodcock (sometimes show up in January along this section of the Platte).  Most of the birds observed were found on my last visit on 12/30.

Common Redpolls, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds were all relocated.  All are enjoyed be seen again!

We stopped at two local ranches (again to connect with old friends).  Both ranchers keep an eye out for American Woodcocks (none yet this winter; last reported 11/20/2012 & 9/4/2012).

Our birding day ended at the southern sections of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  We walked about a mile north from CR 46 and watched for Greater Prairie-Chicken (for a 2013 year bird) and Short-eared Owls.  Eventually a Short-eared Owl was found; no Greater Prairie-Chickens appeared.

Eastern Screech-Owl were found on Roger's Ranch (Sedgwick) after dark.

Searching for Snow Buntings in Weld County

January 16, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Yesterday, Bill Schmoker found a Snow Bunting up my favorite Weld County Road (CR 45, north of CR 122) for sightings.  Rebecca Kosten and I headed up that way just before sunrise.

A brief stop at Crow Valley Campground did not find any owls.  We looked around the Washington Work Center also, no owls.

A drive up CR 45 north of CR 122 did not find any Snow Buntings.  We stopped at ranch homes of two friends just to reconnect.  My friends are getting up in age (90+) and are leery of visitors, so I do not advertise their locations.  Six Gray-crowned Rosy Finches visited one of the ranches from January 1 to 6!

Next we visited by second favorite location for Snow Bunting sightings.  A gravel road heading west from CR 39 at approximately one mile north of the USDA Central Plains Experimental Range Office.

We walked west to Owl Creek.  From the top of the hill, looking west to Owl Creek, we found our prize.  A Snow Bunting flew back and forth along the dry creek bed (accompanied by dozens of Horned Larks and two Lapland Longspurs).

A trek took us down to Owl Creek and we followed it for about a mile south.  Short-eared Owls have been found here in at least four of the past ten years.  We also hiked about 1/2 mile toward of our entry onto the creek.  A Great Horned Owl was in the cottonwoods just south of the private property line.

Then, Rebecca and I continued driving the gravel county roads north of the Pawnee National Grasslands.  No additional Snow Buntings were found.  Raptors were plentiful; 3 Golden Eagles, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 Rough-legged Hawks, 2 Prairie Falcons, 5 American Kestrels and a Great Horned Owl!

Nothing uncommon was found around the small town of Grover.  "Plains" Sharp-tailed Grouse were once found just west of town.  I believe these were part of a re-introduction project.  None has been reported for the past 2 or 3 years.

In Sterling, we took brief walks around Pioneer Park (west side of town) and Overland Park (east side of town).  No Eastern Screech-Owls or uncommon birds were found.

We passed by Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) after sunset.  Two Eastern Screech-Owls responded to my recordings (around sections 5-7 East).

Frustrating Day In Boulder County

January 15, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jürgen Lehnert and I had a somewhat frustrating birding day.  Most of our target birds were missed.  Temperatures warmed to 24 degrees; fortunately, we experienced little wind.

We started before civil twilight back up Lefthand Canyon Drive west of Boulder.  We walked about a mile or so either side of the previous Northern Pygmy-Owl site.  Unfortunately, no Northern Pygmy-Owls were seen or heard.

Dropping back down to Boulder, we walked Boulder Creek west of 75th avenue for about an hour or so.  No Swamp Sparrow or Stub-tailed Wren was found.  An American Dipper drove into the icy waters just west of the 75th avenue Bridge.

Our next stop was greatly frustrating.  Three and a half hours were spent walking around Brockway Avenue west of 76th Street (forms a circular route with Crannell Drive).  The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was never found.

It was reported earlier in the day by the homeowner at 7397 Brockway and at 7492 Brockway.  The first address had many feeders and birds (usual suspects).  The evergreen trees are quite thick and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker could have been there.

I mentioned to Jürgen that we could at least have a Common Redpoll; that did not happen either (although two days later, Steve Mlodinow reported 10+ Common Redpolls, no Yellow-bellied Sapsucker).

Daylight was limited and we had to skip a search for Bohemian Waxwings up Flagstaff Mountain Road.  Still hoping to find a Northern Pygmy-Owl, I suggested a trip south to South Platte Reservoir (Arapahoe County) and nearby Deer Creek Canyon (several Pygmy Owl sightings in the past).

The female Long-tailed Duck was swimming around South Platte Reservoir when we arrived.  Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were also on the reservoir.  A Common Loon was a surprise!

Then we spent the last hour of light and 30 minutes after sunset walking a mile or so along Deer Creek (from Deer Creek Canyon Road and West Buckhorn Road.  Regrettably, no Northern Pygmy-Owls were encountered.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Retracing a Mountain Birding Trip and the DIA Owl Loop

January 14, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Kept my promise to my feet today, they saw no hiking boots or shoes and stayed in a warm house!!!

Several other birders had fine days:

Jerry Petrosky

Hi birders,

Janet and I enjoyed a couple of full days of birding. It was great except for the extremely cold weather! We mostly followed Richard Stevens & Jurgen Lehnert's route.


Sunday, 1/13/2013

Blue River Water Treatment Plant, Summit County
40 Barrow's Goldeneyes

Kremmling, Grand County: birds spread across town but especially at Gore and 9th avenue, view back of houses from 9th
190+ Common Redpolls
1 Hoary Redpoll; for sure
Rosy Finches; three species; about 150 birds, 14 blacks

Colorado State Forest, Jackson County
Rosy Finches; no Blacks, 111 birds
Cassin's Finches
Pine Grosbeaks

Monday 1/14/2013

Started east around 5:00 am
Boreal Owl; one or two heard just west of Cameron Pass

Searched several Campgrounds along highway 14 for Northern Pygmy Owls. None found

Fort Collins Museum, Larimer County
80+ Common Redpolls
2 possible Hoary Redpolls (we did not go into museum and had to view from below feeders, which is not the best angle to see rumps

Teller Farms/White Rock Trails; Boulder County
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Harris's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrows

Parkside Center Pond; Broomfield County
1st year Thayer's Gull
4th cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull

Valmont Reservoir; Boulder County
Tundra Swans
adult Thayer's Gull
interesting very white Gull; Thayer's Gulls or Iceland Gull???

We skipped Lefthand Canyon Drive, as several birders have not found the Northern Pygmy Owl again.

Good birding!

Jerry Petrosky

Visiting German Birder Jürgen Lehnert drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) and reported:
Short-eared Owl
Lapland Longspur
Northern Shrike
Great-tailed Grackle at the Town of Barr

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Adams County Fox Sparrow

January 13, 2013

Richard Stevens:

After walking around yesterday for half a day in temperatures 0 to -11 degrees, I promised my feet they would not be in hiking boots today.  Once again, I did not quite make it through the day. 

In the afternoon, we went over to Barr Lake (Adams County) and watched the feeders on both sides of the Visitor's Center.  At least we watched from inside today.  Warm birding is kind of nice!

Many American Goldfinches and Dark-eyed Juncos took advantage of the abundance feeders and seed on the ground on the north side of the center.  A few Black-capped Chickadees and White-throated Sparrows came to the seed on the south side of the building.

I forecast that any uncommon birds would capitalize on the free food at least once an hour or so.  This was confirmed when the Fox Sparrow briefly came out of the bushes behind the building.  It took one and a half hours, but we finally relocated the bird.

There is a Rabbit Brush with yellow flowers/leaves? behind a short bare bush just to the left of the tall deciduous tree at the southwest corner of the building.  He only came of the of the Rabbit Brush once.  However, this may have been influenced by the now and then visit of the resident Sharp-shinned Hawk?

Afterwards, we drove the DIA Owl Loop hoping for a Snow Bunting sighting; never happened.  We did find several Rough-legged Hawks, a Red-tailed Hawk and a young Ferruginous Hawk along the drive.

Thousands of Horned Larks flew around the fields between 128th avenue and 114th avenue to the south.  No longspurs or Snow Buntings were among them.  In addition, no Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trip to Adams, Jefferson Summit and Routt Counties

January 12, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jürgen Lehnert and I searched for additional target birds today.  At 7:30 am, the temperature was 7 degrees along the South Platte River.  At 11:30 am, it was 0 degrees when we drove through the Eisenhower Tunnel.  We did not know at the time, that those were the high temperatures we would see today.  Rabbit ears pass was -6 degrees and the drive from Steamboat Springs after dark saw temperatures at -11 until we returned to Denver (where is was a warm 2 degrees).

We walked the South Platte River (Adams County) from York to the inlet drainage at the water treatment plant.  Eight Rusty Blackbirds were on the near shore just south of the Clear Creek Footbridge (just far south of the I270 Highway Bridge).  Several adult Black-crowned Night-Herons, Wilson's Snipes and a Killdeer were also interesting.

We arrived at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) around 9:30 am (where it was 5 degrees).  Fortunately, the Golden-crowned Sparrow made an appearance below the Trading Post platform feeder soon after our arrival.  Many Dark-eyed Juncos and a few Black-capped Chickadees were observed.  No Common Redpolls or Rosy Finches appeared.

As we passed through Silverthorne 42 Barrow's Goldeneyes were counted on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

Kremmling (Grand County) had much bird activity.  Common Redpolls were quite common at the sites reported yesterday by Forrest Luke.   We added a couple of locations ourselves.  Total count was at least 160 birds.  A very white Redpoll with white upper rump and little/no streaking on the undertail coverts was a good candidate for a Hoary Redpoll.

The highest number of Common Redpolls was at the feeder behind a house near Gore Avenue and Ninth Streets (viewed from 9th).  The Rosy Finches count here was 14 Black, 4 Brown-capped and the rest Gray-crowned.

Next, we headed to Steamboat Springs (Routt) by way of Rabbit Ears Pass.  No American Three-toed Woodpecker or White-winged Crossbills were found at a couple of stops along the Pass in Grand County.

We continued to Steamboat and missed Bohemian Waxwings and Grouse.  A few Common Redpolls were observed around town.

After dark a colorful fireworks show was presented on the Ski Area Slopes! 

Search for Northern Pygmy-Owls, Rist Canyon to Lefthand Canyon

January 11, 2013

Richard Stevens:

German birder Jurgen Lehnert and I took a circuitous route to find our target birds today.  Temperatures never reached 40 degrees and our birding day ended in a snowstorm.  In spite of that, we did find several of our desired birds.

We departed Denver at 5:00 am and arrived at Whale Rock in Rist Canyon 30 minutes before sunrise.  We then walked from Whale Rock a mile or so back east in search of a Northern Pygmy-Owl.  Regrettably, none was found.

Whale Rock is a medium sized rock painted blue with a whale face by local residence.  It is on the south side of Rist Canyon Road and just east of Whale Rock Road.

The area was hit hard by last fall's forest fire.  We talked to a local who said that only 13 of 60 homes survived.  His was one of them.  However, he was forced to leave his home for 30 days and when returning, did not have electricity for another 30 days.

Our next target bird was the Harris's Sparrow at Teller Farms.  On the trip, back east and south we stopped for an hour at the Fort Collins Discovery Museum.  Eighty plus Common Redpolls frequently visited the feeders behind the building.

One or two were quite light and could possibly be a Hoary Redpoll.  Will have to examine my photos later.

At Teller Lake #5 trailhead, we walked down the new path on the south side of Valmont Road.  The trail leads west to the creek that runs under Valmont and connects with the White Rock Trail, which goes north.

The Harris's Sparrow and seven or eight White-crowned Sparrows were on the fence along the path.  After ten minutes of so, they crossed north across Valmont Road and went to the willows along the creek.

From here, we drove east to Erie and Anthem Subdivision (Broomfield).  About 600 gulls were on the ice at the Parkside Center Pond.  Most were Ring-billed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls.

Highlights were our target bird, a first cycle and two-second cycle Thayer's Gulls!  An adult and 4th cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull were also there!

After an hour, a Bald Eagle flew over and the gulls scattered.  We checked the nearby Sienna Pond; no gulls were here.

Our final stop of the day was a drive up Lefthand Canyon Drive.  We walked around 7791 Lefthand Canyon Drive where a Northern Pygmy-Owl had been seen two days earlier.

We never saw a Northern Pygmy-Owl, but did have one make a contact call near 7730 Lefthand Canyon Drive.  Around 4:00 pm, snow started to rapidly fall and we departed for Denver.  The snow forced us to skip watching gulls return to Valmont Reservoir at sunset.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Aurora Reservoir and Return to Platte Birding Area

January 10, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I went to Aurora Reservoir. Unfortunately we did not arrive when they first opened (gulls tend to head over to DADS, Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site, early in the morning).

We entered from the most southeastern gate (there are three gates on the south side). By the time, we walked the couple of miles down to the shore at mile 2.5 only about 200 gulls remained. The adult Thayer's Gull was with a few Herring Gulls and many Ring-billed Gulls. We did not find the Trumpeter Swans reported yesterday.

In the afternoon, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove to the South Platte Birding Area (88th and Colorado Blvd).  Three male and two female Barrow's Goldeneyes were just south of the green and white tower (about 0.5 miles south of the parking area).

Our aim was to get better photos of the Rusty Blackbirds reported and observed last week.  We drove down to I270 at York and walked the Platte River from I270 north to I76.  At least seven Rusty Blackbirds were near the I270 Bridge.  Unfortunately, they stayed on the far side of the river; witness photos only were taken.

A Northern Shrike was on the fence at the Engineer Lake north of I76, south of Hwy 224.  We did not find any Short-eared Owls flying around the DIA Owl Loop at sunset.

It was a cloudy sunset.  Skies were cloudy, temperatures in the middle 30s and winds steady at 11 mph, gusts to 23 mph.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Visit to Morgan County

January 9, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, William Byers and I drove out to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) this morning.  One of the Harris's Sparrows was still around Pelican Campgrounds.  Several Long-eared Owls and an Eastern Screech-Owl were also relocated.  We did not stay until dusk; no Short-eared Owls were found today.

We stopped at Fort Morgan Ponds.  One White-throated Sparrow was with seven or eight White-crowned Sparrows along the Platte River (north of the parking area).  The area is quite dry in spite of several snowstorms in December.  There was little chance of an American Woodcock; one can hope.

Our next stop was Brush Wildlife Area.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the trees along the northwestern property line.  We could not entice the resident Eastern Screech-Owl to come out this afternoon.

Our final stop was at a friend's ranch in Weld County.  He has had a pair of Long-eared Owls in the surrounding windbreak for several months.  They were still there.

No Snowy Owls were encountered throughout the day!

A Day in Boulder County

January 8, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to Boulder County to pick up a few birds for our year list.  It was a nice day for winter with temperatures in the 50s; winds were a little strong at 11+ mph, gusts to 28 mph.

Our first stop was Teller Lakes where we found one of the two previously reported Harris's Sparrows and the Golden-crowned Sparrow!

The male Northern Cardinal was cooperative.  When we arrived, he was in the bushes near the old pump house!

We tried to find the Bohemian Waxwings previously reported at the top of Flagstaff Mountain Road; without success.  When we could not find any Bohemian Waxwings, we continued west to Gross Reservoir.

A small flock of six Bohemian Waxwing flew around the subdivision at the northeast corner of the reservoir!  A drive down to the ranger's office/home did not find any Northern Pygmy-Owls (found in previous years).

We ended our daylight birding at Valmont Reservoir.  Gulls continued to fly back to the reservoir long after sunset.  Highlights were several Thayer's Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  The dozen Tundra Swans were still on the reservoir.

After dark, we drove up Eldorado Canyon and hiked up the Mesa South Trail for about a mile or so.  No Eastern Screech-Owls or Northern Pygmy-Owls could be found.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Search for an Eastern Towhee, Adams County

January 7, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Got bored doing computer chores today until we heard about a possible Eastern Towhee near Barr Lake (Adams County).  We were not far from home and drove over to 160th avenue.  The weather was better today.  Highs reached into the 50s; winds were mild.

During the two hours, we sat watching the feeders and beneath, the only birds to appear were a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos.  Gave it a try anyway, it would have been better if the bird had been reported four days earlier when it was first found.

I walked from the railroad tracks to the creek east of the yard with the reported towhee.  A flock of five or six White-crowned Sparrows along the creek was accompanied by a White-throated Sparrow!  The name of the creek is really "Beebe Seep Canal".

Afterwards we drove 160th avenue to its eastern end.  Highlight was a Prairie Falcon and mouse standing on a wooden fence just 10 feet from the road.

Twenty Great-tailed Grackles were along the main road into the town of Barr!

Slow Day, East Side of Denver

January 6, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Bill Cryder and I walked down to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) from the southern gate.  An adult Thayer's Gull was among 300+ Ring-billed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls.  Several Bald Eagles stood on the ice.

Later, Rebecca Kosten and I drove through Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  Few birds flew around today.  Black-billed Magpies, European Starlings and American Crows represented the larger birds.

Five House Finches and four Dark-eyed Juncos were the only birds on the feeders near the Contact Station.

Both Lake Ladora and Lower Derby Lake were almost completely ice covered.  We found no waterfowl and wondered where they went for food and shelter?

Highlights were a Long-eared Owl and Barn Owl inside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal property.

Overall, it was a slow birding day.  Tempertures only reached near 40 degrees.  It was a cold winter's day.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Back to Denver and Red Rocks Park

January 5, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I snowshoed all night in the Colorado State Forest (8:00 pm to 5:30 am, 7 Boreal Owls heard in 17 mile trek).  The moon is no longer full; however, it was still bright enough to light up the forest.  Winds were negligible; we could almost hear a pin drop.  The night sounds of the forest were quite entertaining.  Surprising or not, many birds call during the night.

After sunrise, we stopped at the Visitor's Center. Only about 40 Rosy Finches today, no Black Rosy Finches.  A White-throated Sparrow was hanging around Gould. Perhaps it will show up at the Gould Store?

We stopped at a friend's home in Loveland.  He recorded up to 5 Northern Saw-whet Owls migrating through his ranch during fall migration.  At least one has "lingered" on his property since 12/26 (within the Fort Collins Christmas Count Circle!).  It will be interesting to see if the owl stays all winter.

We returned to Denver about 2:00 pm. I dropped Bryan off and headed to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson County) hoping to add the Golden-crowned Sparrow to my year list.

I arrived just before 3:00 pm and of course just missed the Golden-crowned Sparrow. Two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were on the platform feeder behind the trading post.

At 4:01 pm, a Common Redpoll stopped by the thistle feeder. About every 30 minutes, a feral cat walked below the platform feeder, not helping my cause.

After a third trip through from the cat, all the birds disappeared about 4:45 pm. Just before 5:00 pm, Song Sparrows started to reappear. Final count was 6 Song Sparrows, 1 Spotted Towhee and 1 Black-capped Chickadee. Then at 5:04 pm, the Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared!

Another Trip to the Colorado State Forest

January 3-4, 2013

Richard Stevens:

January 3, 2013

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to Cameron Pass and the Colorado State Forest today.

On the drive up, we stopped at the Parkside Center Pond & Sienna Pond in Broomfield County in search of gulls.  Gull numbers were down quite a bit from last week.  Still an adult Thayer's Gull was found at Parkside and a 1st cycle Thayer's Gull at Sienna.

While we did not find the 60+ Common Redpolls at the Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Museum, we did count 11+ birds.

Stops at several of the Campgrounds and picnic areas along Highway 14 did not find a Northern Pygmy-Owl.

After complete dark, we heard a Boreal Owl at the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer County).  We heard another Boreal Owl at the Crags Campgrounds (Jackson County).

January 4, 2013

Bryan and I drove to Steamboat Springs; target birds were Common Redpoll, Bohemian Waxwings and White-winged Crossbills.

We found both Sharp-tailed Grouse (14+) and Greater Sage-Grouse (4) and private yards!  Two Common Redpolls also visited feeders at the Greater Sage-Grouse yard!

About a dozen Bohemian Waxwings were found along Oak Street (between 7th and 9th Streets).  None was along the Yampa River today. 

No Crossbills were located during several stops along Rabbit Ear Pass.  The American Three-toed Woodpeckers were missed at the Maintenance Shed off Road.

We stopped by the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center and saw about 100+ Rosy Finches (Gray crowned & Brown capped).  The usual Pine Grosbeaks, Cassin's Finches, Mountain Chickadees and Red-winged Blackbirds were also there.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day Two, 2013, Not a Bad Day!

January 2, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, George Maas and I waited for civil twilight at the northern Campgrounds at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County).  One Short-eared Owl worked the fields just before sunrise.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called from the southern Campgrounds.

Later we found seven Long-eared Owls at the western Campgrounds.  One Harris's Sparrow was also located.  We had planned to wander over to Brush Wildlife Area and Fort Morgan Ponds; however, we received a text message!

After receiving the text message about a Snowy Owl near Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County), Bryan Ehlmann, George Maas and I headed back to Denver (Aurora, Arapahoe County).  We searched unsuccessfully for about two hours.  Our search area included Green Village Park, below the Cherry Creek Reservoir dam, Kennedy Soccer Fields & Golf Course.  No Snowy Owl was found.

Then we drove up to the South Platte Birding Area (Adams County).  We parked near Washington and Highway 224, and walked down Clear Creek to the confluence with the South Platte River.

Two Rusty Blackbirds were found along Clear Creek about 0.1 miles west of the confluence.  Another Rusty Blackbird was found along the South Platte River about 40 yards south of the I76 Highway Bridge.  An American Dipper in the same area was a surprise.  It was not too long ago (3-4 years when Dippers were not reported in Adams County).  A PEREGRINE FALCON stood on the tall metal electric poles between Barrington Reservoir # 5 and the South Platte River (directly west of the Rusty Blackbirds and Dipper).

Eventually we would find several birds that were not reported, as far as I know, on the Denver Urban Christmas Count yesterday.  Our target bird was a Long-tailed Duck, of which at least one has wintered in each of the last seven years and nine of the last ten in this section of the South Platte River.

Tani Reservoir had hundreds of ducks including at least 38+ Ruddy Ducks.  East Gravel Lake also had many ducks.  These included a pair of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES and another dozen Ruddy Ducks!  An adult THAYER'S GULL was among 300+ Ring-billed Gulls and stood nicely next to two Herring Gulls (good comparison).

West Gravel Lakes (northern and southern) had less ducks.  Construction created much noise and did not aid in the waterfowl count there.

After returning to our car (by way of RTD), we drove up to the S. Platte River at 104th avenue.  An American Dipper has been reported here several times in the past month.  We did not find the American Dipper.  However, a better find was a SPOTTED SANDPIPER.  It was easy to identify, flying with bowed wings and dipping up and down when feeding along the shore.

No Long-tailed Ducks were found.  The South Platte Reservoir is hosting a Long-tailed Duck, closest to the South Platte River this winter?

Hustle for First Birds of 2013!

January 1, 2013

Richard Stevens:

A New Year and time to start a 2013 bird list.  Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed a fantastic first day of the year.

The Acorn Woodpecker was easy to spot along Willow Circle in Colorado Springs (El Paso County).

The Eurasian Wigeon was at Centennial Park in Canon City (Fremont County).  A Greater Roadrunner was observed along the road to Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont).  A Juniper Titmouse and male Ladder-backed Woodpecker were at the Wildlife Area.

Pueblo Reservoir (Pueblo County) provided some great year birds.  These included a Mew Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Thayer's Gulls, California Gulls, Bonaparte's Gulls and many Ring-billed Gulls.

A Curve-billed Thrasher was again near the trash container at the northern marina.  A Common Redpoll was found at the picnic area.  Both a Pacific Loon and Red-throated Loon were on the lake.

Not a bad start and we were not done.  We missed a Spotted Owl in Fremont County.  However, we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl at the entrance to Phantom Canyon and heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area.

Northeastern Colorado Christmas Counts

December 29-31, 2012

Richard Stevens:

December 29, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons and I headed to the northeast to conduct a couple of Christmas Counts.

Most of our day was spent around Sterling Reservoir (Logan County).  Two Common Redpolls were around the picnic area.  A Barn Owl was found at the Campgrounds.  While we looked for shorebirds at the north end, a Snow Bunting circled overhead and landed several times!

Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs were numerous along the southern edge of the property.  Raptors included: Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, a Prairie Falcon and a pair of Great Horned Owls.

At dusk, we drove to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  Two Eastern Screech-Owls were located between sections 6 & 7 East (perhaps missed by the Crook CBC)?

December 30, 2012

The four of us walked much of the South Platte River that flows through Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County).  We were inside the Crook Christmas Count area (that took place yesterday, 12/29).

Highlights included 2 Field Sparrows (7 East), 3 Northern Cardinals (1 West & Tamarack Pond), 7 Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Surprise finds included a Stub-tailed Wren (never made a sound) between 1 & 2 East) and 2 Common Redpolls along the main road between Tamarack Pond and County Road 93.

Great finds were a Greater Prairie-Chicken wandering around with 7 Ring-necked Pheasants and a Short-eared Owl flying over the Prairie Chicken.

Our Christmas Count will be published in a future "Colorado Field Notes".

December 31, 2012

Time to head back to Denver, of course making several stops along the way. 

We stopped at Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop (Location of last year's Common Ground-Dove and several Eastern Screech-Owls earlier this year).  Nothing uncommon was found this morning.

Nothing uncommon was found at Ovid Woods and Julesburg Wildlife Area (Sedgwick County).  We skipped the usual stops (Holyoke, Haxtun, Jumbo Reservoir) and drove Highway 59 down to Interstate 70.

Flocks of Horned Larks and several flocks of Lapland Longspurs were run into.  Four Common Redpolls were found along Highway 59, south of Phillips County 38.

We hoped to relocate the Stub-tailed Wren and Eastern Meadowlark last reported by Bill Kaempfer on 12/27 at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County).

It was not birdy when we stopped at Flagler.  Two Common Redpolls were found with House Finches at the northeast corner of the reservoir.  No wrens lurked below the dam or the thickets at the southern end of the lake.  The only meadowlarks found were definitely Western.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the cottonwoods along the east side of the reservoir.  No uncommon sparrows could be found either.