Monday, February 25, 2013

Yet Another DIA Owl Loop Drive, Spring is Coming, Longspurs

February 25, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Just to get out of the house (played bridge most of the day), Bryan Ehlmann and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).  Roads were quite sloppy from the 10+ inches of snowfall yesterday.  Winds were 13 mph with gusts to 21 mph.  High temperature around the Airport for Monday was around 24 degrees.

No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.  However, we did not leave the main roads and check the fields; no one felt like shoveling a vehicle out of snow and mud.

The highlight was finding a flock of 300+ Horned Larks.  While there were no Snow Buntings (one can wish), there were a dozen to fourteen Lapland Longspurs and two McCown's Longspurs.  They stayed close to Trussville and 114th Avenue for quite a while and allowed great looks!

Cross Country Skiing for Short-eared Owls in Adams County

February 24, 2013

Richard Stevens:

No chaseable birds to report, mostly this is an update on the weather.

Bryan Ehlmann and I went out to check road conditions and look for Short-eared Owls along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).  Visibility was poor and no birds were observed along the drive.

When we left the car at 8:00 am, temperature measured at 21 degrees.  Anemometer readings were at 19 mph with gusts to 33 mph.  At times, the blowing snow took our breath away.  We could not breathe for several seconds on more than half a dozen occasions.

We again cross-country skied along the southwest area of the loop.  The Short-eared Owl found in the area of 96th Avenue and Quency Street on Thursday was not relocated.

When we tried another area (Gun Club Road, south of 114th avenue, fortune shined (but no sun).  A Short-eared Owl was perched on a fence post where the road dead ends.  This is actually in Denver County.

Road conditions are bad.  We decided not to try to get to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  The question of whether Rosy Finches are visiting there today will be left to someone else.

Careful out there, if you decide to go outside!

Back to Douglas County for Northern Saw-whet Owls

February 23, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I decided to attempt to track down the Northern Saw-whet Owls we have been hearing in Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County).

On the trip south, we stopped at McCabe Meadows Park (Douglas).  The Barrow's Goldeneyes were swimming at the northern end of the lake.  They could be observed from the end of the park road at the southwest corner (a hike around the muddy trail was not necessary).

After an early dinner, we headed over to the park where we had taken GPS Waypoints the previous week when several Northern Saw-whet Owls were heard.

Bryan and I trudged down the west side road to Cherry Creek and over to the eastern side (near the waterfalls).  This is a traditional location of Saw whet Owls in the park.  We examined under most of the evergreen trees for owl pellets and/or wash. 

The Owls are supposed to be quite loyal to their roosting trees.  Unfortunately, no signs of Northern Saw-whet Owls were discovered.

However, about 60 minutes after dark, a Northern Saw-whet Owl was heard calling from the very area that Bryan and I thought was covered in much detail.

Weather was deteriorating rapidly (wind and snow had moved into the area).  Further investigations were left for another day.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Birding Around Denver

February 22, 2013

Day after 2-4 inches of snow dropped in Denver, Rebecca and I drove over to the Crown Hill Park area (Jefferson County).  We only had to wait about five minutes before six Common Redpolls visited Bob Santangelo's feeders (3525 Estes Street, Wheat Ridge).

A dozen American Goldfinches, many House Finches and House Sparrows visited Bob's 9+ bird feeders and birdbath.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk watched for a while from a skinny cottonwood across the street (all the smaller birds disappeared).

On the way over to Wheat Ridge, we stopped at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  A flock of 6-7 Bohemian Waxwings was along Montview Blvd at Krameria Street.  They slowly moved west toward the museum.

Later, we drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  The feeders at the Contact Station (old Visitor's Center) were empty.  Only two White-crowned Sparrows, one American Tree Sparrow and a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos appeared.

No Harris's Sparrows, we also searched for the Harris's Sparrow reported days earlier by Jerry Petrosky (before the snowstorm, southeast corner of Lake Ladora).  It was not relocated.

No Bald Eagles were yet roosting.  The Bison head (up to 74 animals) was in the field just north of the new Visitor's Center.

A drive along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) on our way home did not find any Short-eared Owls tonight.  A Ferruginous Hawk and two Red-tailed Hawks represented the raptor list.

Birding In a Snowstorm

February 21, 2013

Email sent to "cobirders" listserve by Bryan Ehlmann:

"Rich Stevens and I drove the DIA Owl Loop before sunrise this morning. No Short eared Owls were seen along the drive. Then we cross-country skied up one of the gravel roads that goes into the fields absent of no trespassing signs. When we popped over a hill, a Short eared Owl was found on a small mound!

Best technique to find a Short eared Owl on the Owl Loop is to drive it about 30 minutes before sunrise or sunset. Richard has found Short eared Owls during the day at 2:00 and 3:00 pm on road posts along the Loop during snowstorms."

Back to Northeast Colorado

February 17-20, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Once again I find myself behind in updating the CoBus trip blog.  Time goes so fast.  I am already a week behind; it seems like I just updated it.

February 17, 2013

Late in the morning, Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to Sedgwick County.  Along the way, we made several stops.

Email to "cobirders":

Getting a late start this morning, Bryan and I are headed to Morgan County. Perhaps only 40 or so miles from my house.

Almost time for gallinaceous bird trips, only a couple of more weeks; difficult to "sink in" that it is almost March. Yesterday's fantastic weather got us excited about heading out on new adventures!

Our first stop was Boyd Ponds Wildlife Area (Morgan County).  There is not much to this Wildlife Area located at the southwest corner of Log Lane Village (a small village/town) northwest of Fort Morgan.

While searching for the Stub-tailed Wren reported at least three times in the past month, we ran across the Rusty Blackbirds first reported by Joe Roller (probably while he was looking for the wren).

Finally, the Stub-tailed Wren chattered from along the S. Platte River.  Unfortunately, we did not get a recording of the wren (only a brief look of 4 or 5 seconds).  Neither Bryan nor I could decide if it was a Winter Wren or Pacific Wren (others reported it as a Winter Wren).

We visited a friend in town and saw the female/immature Purple Finch which has been around since at least 1/28/2013, then continued northeast up Interstate 76.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was found below the Prewitt Reservoir dam.  First, it was heard as we glanced over the dam to see if there were any uncommon birds at the reservoir.  Nothing uncommon was observed and we continued northeast.

Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick Counties) was more interesting.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull were observed from the southeast corner of the lake.  Several Greater White-fronted Geese were found at the northeast corner.

A male Northern Cardinal was below the western road at the northwest corner.  Then we decided to walk west to Little Jumbo Reservoir (and Red Lion Wildlife Area, Logan County).

Two Long-eared Owls were "buried" deep in the bushes below the western road.  After encountering nothing else "interesting" or just about no birds, we returned to Jumbo Reservoir.

At dusk, a Short-eared Owl flew over the field at the southeast corner of the property.  After dark, we played a recording at the northern side of the lake (private property) and an Eastern Screech-Owl responded!

Quite a nice end to our birding day (temperatures in the high 40s and mild winds).

February 19, 2013

Before sunrise, Bryan and I sat at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek waiting for some sign of activity.  Regrettably, no Greater Prairie-Chickens appeared.

A visit to homes of three Wray friends took up most of the morning and early afternoon.  Five Northern Cardinals (three males, two females) were spread between two yards.  A pair of Great Horned Owls appear to be nesting at one of the yards.

We drove the 40 miles south to Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  No uncommon birds were encountered as we walked from Highway 385 to Foster's Grove, around Wagon Wheel old Campgrounds and the Wagon Wheel Picnic Area.

The Hale windbreak has not done well in high winds the past couple of years.  We found little cover for Long-eared Owls and no owls.  No Northern Saw-whet Owls were found at their usual location.  After sunset, an Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings played at Hale Ponds. 

February 18, 2013

The main purpose of our northeastern trip was to help a friend who broke his leg several weeks ago.  Nothing like getting up early in the morning and doing chores on a ranch.  Both Bryan and I were quietly glad this we did not have to do this for months or years at a time.  Quite a strenuous workout; who needs a gym membership.  Fortunately, Roger's wife is a great cook (or unfortunately for our cholesterol levels, but tastes great)!

In the afternoon, we drove over to DePoorter Lake.  Two Harris's Sparrows continued along the South Platte River.  We again missed a reoccurring American Woodcock at a nearby private ranch (Sedgwick County).

February 20, 2013

Predictions of a major snowstorm to hit the eastern plains, changed our plans to return to Sedgwick County.  Instead we headed back to Denver (and just in time as we experienced the first of snow just east of Byers/Denver).

A quick stop at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County) found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker at the northeast corner of the lake.  Nothing uncommon was found in the northeastern windbreak or below the dam.

Rushed to return home!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wanding Around Adams County

February 16, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Once again, Rebecca Kosten and I were seeking a place for a leisure walk.  The South Platte Birding Area was chosen (Adams County).  We hiked from the Denver Water Treatment Plant at York, South of I270 north to Highway 224 and back.

It was a windy day, anemometer readings were 16 mph with gusts to 26 mph.  However, once we reached the South Platte River Basin north of I270, the banks sheltered us from the wind.  Temperatures reached into the 60s; it was a beautiful winter day!

The unusual suspects were found on the River.  Just about any common wintering duck in Colorado can be found on the South Platte River and in good numbers.  Belted Kingfishers rattled at more than three Locations.  Half a dozen Black-crowned Night-Herons kept their eyes on the water looking for some food.  Most are used to people along the bike path and do not fly away when we passed.

Red-tailed Hawks appeared in higher numbers than usual.  Perhaps to take advantage of the high winds, expending little effort to stay above the river.  Several pairs appeared to be getting "frisky"; mating time is getting close.

A Prairie Falcon zoomed down the Platte and scared up a pair of Rusty Blackbirds.  They would not have revealed their location if not for the Falcon.  They flew into a leafless cottonwood tree on the west bank and returned to be hidden on the eastern shore shortly after the Falcon left.  (This was just north of the halfway mark of Barrington Reservoir # 5).

A flock of Brewer's Blackbirds offered a nice comparison with the Rusty Blackbirds.  They really are easy to tell apart when seeing both at the same time.  (This was just south of the wooden fence along the bike path, southern end of Barrington # 5).

When we reached the footbridge just north of I76, we detoured east over to Engineer Lake.  The shoreline was scoped well and two Rusty Blackbirds were observed coming in and out of the tall yellow grasses at the southeast shore.  (They were just southwest of a cement "dock"/bridge like platform in the southeast corner of the lake).

No Yellow-rumped Warbler today, he had been observed several times over the pass couple of weeks.  Perhaps he moved on or did not survive the snowstorm earlier in the week?

Later, we drove to Colorado Blvd and 88th Avenue then walked the half mile upstream (south) to the green/white tower.  A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was diving for food just south of the tower.

On the way home, we stopped at Barr Lake State Park (Adams County) and walked the canal below the dam (from the Old Stone House parking area).  The Long-eared Owl found yesterday by Jerry Petrosky was not relocated by us.

No Short-eared Owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop this evening.  Two Rough-legged Hawks a Ferruginous Hawk, two American Kestrels and three Red-tailed Hawks added to the raptor count.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Canon City, Florence and Phantom Canyon, Fremont County

February 15, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jim Oliver, Matt Spencer and I began our birding day with a late start.  We birded mostly in Canon City, waiting for sunset and a search for Spotted Owls up Phantom Canyon (Fremont County).  See March, 2013 "Colorado Field Notes".

Several of the many parks in Canon City were visited.  The Williamson's Sapsucker and Black Phoebe were relocated in Centennial Park.  Rouse Park was quiet as was Veteran's Park.  The flock of Eastern Bluebirds was relocated at Pathfinder Regional Park.  Florence River Park was quiet.  The sapsuckers at Lakeside Cemetery were not found. 

The local "hotspot" for Curve-billed Thrashers added one to our trip list!  A flock of Bushtits was found along the western third of the Arkansas Riverwalk.  We also found a Western Screech-Owl (eastern third).

The Rufous-crowned Sparrows at Tunnel Drive (west of Canon City) could not be found.

About an hour before sunset, we drove to Phantom Canyon Road.  Jim pointed out a Greater Roadrunner "running" east of Fremont County Road 67 (about 0.3 miles north of highway 50).

The four hour search for Spotted Owls was not successful.  It was quite windy up the canyon.  Winds 14-16 mph; gusts to 23 mph.  If the Spotted Owls were calling, it was possible that we were not hearing them.

Gunnison to Buena Vista

February 14, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jim Oliver, Matt Spencer and I were "winging it"; our plans were quite spontaneous.  Last night, we decided to drive to Gunnison and look for Gunnison Sage-Grouse in the morning.  We rented snowshoes and headed to Miller Ranch Wildlife Area (Gunnison County).

It was a beautiful morning, although it was quite cold.  The nice thing about snowshoeing, it does heat up the body.  In the end, we traveled about 5 miles round trip.  Our reward was coming upon four Gunnison Sage-Grouse at the far end of the Wildlife Area. 

Someday, the birds are going to be at the trailheads, instead of way out in the distance (I hope; however, I am still waiting for the day that I pull up to Loveland Pass or Guanella Pass and someone has a White-tailed Ptarmigan in their scope.  Would be nice, instead of my 2-4-6 hour searches to find them).

I did take enjoyment that the two 25 year olds were as tired as I was!

In the afternoon, we headed to Buena Vista.  A nice flock of 100+ Pinyon Jays was along Highway 285 at approximately 1.5 miles south of town.  The highway between Salida and Buena Vista (Chaffee) is always a good location to keep an eye out for them.

The walk around Buena Vista was more for stretching our legs than finding birds.  We did run into one Lewis's Woodpecker (along West Arkansas Street).  We did not relocate the resident Western Screech-Owls.

After dinner and sunset, we hiked the BLM Land north of the Buena Vista Overlook.  Our target bird, Northern Saw-whet Owl, was not found.

The hour of civil daylight and an hour after were spent hiking around the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont).  Our target bird, Northern Pygmy-Owl, was never found.  We did see several Wild Turkeys.  Townsend's Solitaires called from the top of several trees.

Colorado Springs to Penrose

February 13, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jim Oliver, Matt Spencer and I headed south today.  Our first stop was at Willow Circle and Cheyenne Blvd in Colorado Springs (El Paso County).  It is always nice to start the day with an easy find.  It only took 10 minutes to relocate the Acorn Woodpecker that has been reported in the area since December 15, 2012.

Our next stop was Turkey Creek Ranch (El Paso).  Only one Lewis's Woodpecker was found near the picnic area.  No Williamson's Sapsuckers or Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, which had not been reported for a month.

As we continued to Penrose, we stopped and watched the flock of 150+ Bohemian Waxwings along Highway 115 (first reported by Mark Peterson yesterday)!

We walked around Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (just west of Penrose, Fremont County) for several hours.  A Ladder-backed Woodpecker was below the dam.  Two+ Juniper Titmice were south of the parking area at the west end of the dam.  A flock of 10-12 Bushtits also flew through the area!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Owl and Ptarmigan Search

February 12, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jim Oliver, Matt Spencer and I got an early start to a long birding day.  We left Denver at 3:00 am for Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County).

One Northern Saw-whet Owl was heard along the western side of the State Park.

Then we rushed to Reynolds Park (Jefferson) to search for Northern Pygmy-Owls.  Regrettably, none was found.

Instead of heading to nearby Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson), we decided to rent snowshoes and try Guanella Pass (Clear Creek) for White-tailed Ptarmigan.  The decision was advanced because of reports of a pending oncoming storm later in the week.   In addition, I belong to a scientific organization that predicts wind speeds (rather accurately) and winds were to be mild today (by mild, 10-20 mph on Guanella Pass).

The trip definitely required first a 4 wheel drive.  We had to dig our jeep out of the snow twice.  Fortunately, a third time, which we determined would turn us around, was not required.  Secondly, snowshoes were a must.  The snow is quite deep and being fresh, quite soft.

Luck was with us.  After a 2.2 mile snowshoe trip (over 2 hours), we arrived at the top.  Five White-tailed Ptarmigan were under the small firs just north of the upper parking area (our first locations searched!).

On the way back to the jeep, we saw a flock of 14+ Red Crossbills and a pair of Pine Grosbeaks. 

Winds were as predicted, 12 mph, gusts not more than 18 mph.  I have mentioned before, how can they predict wind speeds four or five days in advance, and NOT predict precipitation (sometimes for the next day).  Will have to look into that in the future!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hike In Pine Valley Ranch Park/Pike National Forest

February 11, 2013

Richard Stevens:

James Oliver, Matt Spencer and I had planned to drive up to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) and snowshoe 2 miles to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan.  We chose to skip Loveland Pass because of the recent low success rate there this season. 

Our choice was mute.  Looking on the internet, winds were predicted at 40+ mph on Guanella Pass today.  Having gone up there under those conditions several ill-fated times in the past (could not even hold binoculars steady) we decided to defer to later in the week.

Instead, we hiked the six-mile loop at Pine Valley Ranch Park/Pike National Forest hoping to find a Northern Pygmy-Owl.  No owls were regrettable found.  A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was encountered (our consolation prize).  It was a cold day as temperatures never reached to the 30s and made for a long, cold hike.

The Three-toed Woodpecker was 30 yards east of the Strawberry Jack Trail at 150 yards south of the junction with the Parkview Trail.

Here's hoping for better success for Northern Saw-whet Owls and Northern Pygmy-Owls tomorrow!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Afternoon At Jackson Reservoir

February 10, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I stopped at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County) today.  Winds were not as strong as yesterday, 8-10 mph, gusts to 16 mph; temperatures never reached 40 degrees.

Long-eared Owls can still be found in the western Campgrounds.  Two Yellow-rumped Warblers fluttered about the trees around the Visitor's Center.  No uncommon sparrows were found today.

Highlights came from a group of gulls.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull stood out among the light mantled gulls.  A quite whitish Gull appeared to be a possible Iceland Gull (Kumlien's).  See February's "Colorado Field Notes" for our views on the Iceland Gull/Thayer's Gull taxa.

Two Great-tailed Grackles were around the house east of the southern parking area below the dam.

Misses: No Varied Thrushes among 100+ American Robins.  No uncommon sparrows.  Eastern Screech-Owl did not come out of its hole.

A Drive Around Sedgwick County

February 9, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Winds were ridiculous today.  Measured at 18-20 mph with gusts to 34 mph.  Holding binoculars steady was a task.  Bryan Ehlmann and I spent most of the day "tidying" up for a rancher friend who broke his leg in a fall.  We loaded Roger into our car and went for a ride just so he could get out of the house.

We visited several neighboring ranches so Roger could show off his new cast (which was not a positive topic of conversation for him, but the neighbors razzed him with great enjoyment).

At what we refer to as private ranch # 2, a pair of Long-eared Owls are "nesting" near an old barn with, surprise a Barn Owl.  The owls are been in close proximity for three or four years now; they appear leave each other alone.

We observed our second Barn Owl of the day at private ranch # 4.  Our second pair of Eastern Screech-Owls was at private ranch # 5.

Not a bad afternoon in howling winds!

After dark Bryan and I walked around Roger's Ranch and found two of his resident Eastern Screech-Owls!

Friday, February 8, 2013

DePoorter Lake, Sedgwick County

February 8, 2013

Rebecca Kosten;

Sorry I cannot go into greater detail, transcribing phone messages.

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann visited DePoorter Lake, Sedgwick County today.  The place was busy with birds.

A flock of five Eastern Bluebirds was at the west end.

Two Harris's Sparrows fluttered about along the S. Platte River.  There was also a Field Sparrow more toward the southern end of the park.

A Brown Thrasher was around the old dump.  A male Northern Bobwhite was in the same area!

They relocated several Eastern Screech Owls at dusk at the Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop.

Northeastern Colorado

February 3-7, 2013

Rebecca Kosten;

A friend of Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann was hurt in a severe accident on his ranch.  Richard and Bryan have taken over the ranch chores until the friend recovers.  They do manage to get in a little birding now and then.  This weekend's snowstorm may put a damper on ranch chores.

February 3, 2013

Late last night Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann went looking for Northern Saw-whet Owls in the Castlewood Canyon State Park, Douglas County area.

They heard two Saw whet Owls along the western side of the park.  None was found in the subdivision of homes northwest of the park.

Early in the morning, they drove to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, Logan County.  A report of another American Woodcock sighting spurred the trip.  The Woodcock, which has been seen twice in the past week on a private ranch, was not relocated.

On the trip northeast, they stopped at Boyd Ponds Wildlife Area, Morgan County.  A search for the Stub-tailed Wren reported twice in the past two weeks was not successful.

They walked the South Platte River through the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area in search of any additional American Woodcocks.  None was found.

Their Wildlife Area list included: two Common Redpolls, three Northern Cardinals, five Red-bellied Woodpeckers and four Eastern Screech-Owls (dusk into dark).

February 4, 2013

Another search for the American Woodcock near Jumbo Reservoir, Logan/Sedgwick Counties was unsuccessful.  A hike between Jumbo Reservoir and Little Jumbo Reservoir found two Long-eared Owls and a Hermit Thrush.

A first year Thayer's Gull was at the southeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was lurking around the windbreak at the Red Lion Wildlife Area, Logan County.

They visited Ovid Woods, Sedgwick County.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was at the north end of the woods. A Brown Thrasher was near the bridge at the southern woods.  A White-throated Sparrow was in the brush along the S. Platte River near the Ovid Sewage Ponds.

Another Red-bellied Woodpecker was at Julesburg Wildlife Area, 0.2 miles east of the parking lot.

Yet another Red-bellied Woodpecker was at Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area, Sedgwick County.  A nice flock of seven Eastern Bluebirds added some color to the landscape.

At dusk, they watched a Short-eared Owl flying over the field south of Jumbo Reservoir, Sedgwick County.

February 5, 2013

Stevens and Ehlmann walked the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, Logan at dusk.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Sharp-tailed Grouse were found.  They did see a Short-eared Owl flying along the northern end of the field, northwest of Sedgwick County Roads 89 and 46. 

Sharp-tailed Grouse have not been reported in northeast Colorado since 5/16/2006, 10/21/2001 and 1/7/1995.

February 6, 2013

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann took time out from ranch chores to bird just a bit.

Still looking for a wandering American Woodcock along the S. Platte River, they searched at Pony Express Wildlife Area, Sedgwick County.  Again, there was no success.  Highlights were a Stub-tailed Wren (most likely Winter Wren, however it did not call) and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

February 7, 2013

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann birded around Julesburg, Sedgwick County today.

A male Northern Cardinal was in the yard across from the Julesburg Elementary School, corner of West 5th and Spruce Streets.

Three Eastern Screech-Owls were relocated at the Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop.  No uncommon doves today.  This includes the site of the Common Ground-Doves of 11/12/2011.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

South Platte River Birding, Adams County

February 2, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I walked sections of the South Platte River (Adams County) on this fine winter day.  Winds were much milder than yesterday at 8-10 mph, gusts only to 14 mph.  Temperatures must have been close to 60 degrees.

They dropped me off at the Water Treatment Plant at the S. Platte & York (south of I270), then drove to Highway 224 and the Platte River.  We walked toward each other and met south of I76.

Eventually we all observed a male Rusty Blackbird near the footbridge north of the I76 Highway Bridge.  Another two males and a female were along the south shore of Engineer Lake (east of the footbridge).

Some one emailed (directly or a forwarded email to me) about whether any Brewer's Blackbirds were being found along the S. Platte.  At approximately halfway between the I76 and I270 Highway Bridges, we found a flock of 8 Brewer's Blackbirds along the Platte River.  Eventually they flew to the eastern fence of Barrington Reservoir # 5 and then over to the west side of the Reservoir.

They also found a Wilson's Snipe below the footbridge south of I270.  I found a Yellow-rumped Warbler between the Platte River and Engineer Lake.

When I reached Highway 224, I drove around and picked them up at the Water Treatment Plant.  Then Bryan and I walked south from Colorado Blvd and 88th Avenue (South Platte Birding Area) to the green/white tower approximately 0.5 miles south of the parking area.  A male and two female Barrow's Goldeneyes were just south of the tower.  East Gravel Lake and West Gravel Lakes were not scoped today.

Our birding day ended first with a 20 minute search for the Eastern Towhee along 160th Avenue and then a drive farther east in search of Snowy Owls.  Neither of those birds was found.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Searchful White-tailed Ptarmigan Search!

February 1, 2013

Richard Stevens:

This morning Michael Berg and I went to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek).  It was on the news at 3:00 am that the pass was now open (after three days of closure).  Winds were 20+ mph, which is quite slow for Loveland Pass.  Many times anemometer readings are 35+ mph with gusts into the 50s.  On some trips last year, winds reached well into the 60+ mph.

With recent snowstorms and blowing snow, the untracked snow-covered ground was quite picturesque to scan.  Fresh Ptarmigan tracks helped in finding our target bird today!  Fortunately, we did not have to strap on our snowshoes and tramp through the fresh new snow.

Being the first people up on the Pass this morning proved to be quite instrumental.  We encountered 2 pairs of White-tailed Ptarmigan.  The first pair was less than 20 yards below the western side of the Summit (just across from the eastern parking area).  The second pair was east of highway 6, directly across from the first pullover on the west side of the highway.

Birders who contact me are told that weekdays are better for Ptarmigan searches than weekends.  Many young skiers and snowboarders use the pass to avoid the ski lift ticket prices at nearby ski areas.  Human traffic can be quite high at times.  This definitely does not aid in a Ptarmigan search.

In the afternoon I went to look for the female Eastern Towhee reported northeast of Barr Lake State Park (Adams County).  Glenn Walbek found it yesterday only a few dozens of yards from where one was reported on 1/4.  Winds measured at 25 mph,  gusts to 34 mph.  One gust registered at 41 mph. 

There was little hope that a bird who likes to stay on the ground would expose herself to such winds.  I walked from the railroad tracks to the first house on the south side of 160th avenue and back at least three times.  No towhee found, I did run into a flock of 4-6 White-crowned Sparrows, 2 House Finches and a Brown Creeper.

I drove 160th avenue and surrounding roads for an hour near sunset.  No Snowy Owl was found either.

Colorado provided another beautiful sunset tonight.  I hope a few birders took the time away from birding to look at it!  We always wonder how many people bother glancing at Colorado's fantastic winter sunsets.

Another Trip Into the Mountains

January 31, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Michael Berg and I headed to the mountains today.  Temperatures never reached 40 degrees; winds were 8-10 mph, gusts to 25 mph.  Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) was not open for the third consecutive day.

After searching for Mountain Species around Silverthorne, we turned toward Kremmling.  Thirty eight Barrow’s Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit County) as we passed by.

Several hundred Common Redpolls were found in Kremmling (most at Gore Street and Eagle Street).  At least two possible Hoary Redpolls were found at the Gore Street site!  Only two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were found anywhere in town.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers and White-winged Crossbills were missed at several stops on Rabbit Ears Pass.  Winds were 14 mph, gusts to 26 mph.

Several Common Redpolls were found in Steamboat Springs (Hilltop Parkway) while searching for Bohemian Waxwings.  Unfortunately, no Bohemian Waxwings were encountered.

A lone Sharp-tailed Grouse was also added to our trip list before we headed to the Colorado State Forest (Jackson County).  About 60 Rosy Finches (no Blacks) were coming to the Colorado State Forest Visitor’s Center feeders.  The White-throated Sparrow did not appear.

Winds were surprisingly milder (6-8 mph) at Cameron Pass (Jackson).  Two Boreal Owls were heard just west of the Summit (without the aid of any recordings).  Regrettably, neither was observed.

No additional Boreal Owls were found at the entrance to the Crags Campgrounds or the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer County).

Stops at four of the Campgrounds/Picnic Areas along Highway 14 (on the way to Fort Collins) were not successful in locating any Northern Pygmy-Owls.