Saturday, January 12, 2013

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.

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