Friday, May 31, 2013

A Long Bike Ride Around Eastern Denver

May 30, 2013

I started an hour before sunrise to take a 40-50 mile bike ride to Cherry Creek Reservoir, Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Barr Lake.  It turned out to be a miscalculation on distance.  My final trek was 72.6 miles.  At the start, winds were only 6 mph, temperature was 44 °F.  By 11:00 am, temperatures were 60 °F; however, winds had increased to 22+ mph, gusts to 31 mph.

My plan was to arrive at the Prairie Loop mudflats, Cherry Creek Reservoir by 7:00 am to look for the Least Tern reported yesterday.  Another miscalculation, I arrived at about 7:20 am.  It took another hour to reach the mudflats because of "distractions".

The willow patch along Parker Road, just north of the eastern entrance to the Park was quite birdy.  A Wilson's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and several Common Yellowthroats were all singing.

At the eastern sand spit inside the Park, a Whimbrel walked the distant mudflats (halfway between the sand spit and the bird observation platform).  No Least Tern was here.

Finally arriving at the Prairie Loop mudflats, no Least Tern was around.  An interesting Gull occupied the next 45 minutes or so.  It was far enough away to make size estimation difficult.  It was a non-adult bird (black on tail tip).  A black spot behind the eye indicated a young Bonaparte's Gull. 

However, two field marks were strange.  The Gull had a dark blackish top of head and nape (more like was expected by a first winter Little Gull).  It also appeared to have a bold dark carpal bar and many white feathers above it (Little Gull like).

I really did not believe it was a Little Gull because possible size and length of legs (longer than expected on a Little Gull) indicated a Bonaparte's Gull.

Eventually it started to walk closer.  I pulled out my scope but because I was biking, I only carried a foot long tripod.  This only allowed looks limited looks through the cattails between the bird and the scope.

After 45 minutes or so, the Gull was close enough that I could see it was a Bonaparte's Gulls molting from first winter to 1st summer.  What I thought was a bold dark carpal bar was the wider dark flight feathers.  The wide white feathers were the molting flight feathers expected on an older Bonaparte's Gull.

I walked my bike along the path that runs from the Prairie Loop to the Mountain Loop (too muddy to ride the trail). 

As I passed a rather thicker area, I was thinking about a Long-eared Owl I had found several years ago.  There right in front of me, a Long-eared Owl was looking at me!

Nine Western Wood-pewees were counted between the Prairie Loop and the Lake Loop.  Another six were seen between the Lake Loop and the Mountain Loop, with another five around the Lake Loop.

An Olive-sided Flycatcher was a surprise between the Prairie Loop and Lake Loop.

A walk around the thick area at the Mountain Loop added another surprise.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from one of the taller cottonwoods.  If he had not called, I would not ever found him.

Before leaving the Park, I biked down to the southwestern sand spit.  No Least Tern there either, only a dozen American White Pelicans and a few Ring-billed Gulls stood around.

Several dozen Western Grebes swam close to the dam.  A Clark's Grebe was among them.  A Rock Wren called from the rocks above.

It was time to bike back toward home.  The strong winds and expended time changed my plans; I skipped Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Barr Lake and rode home by way of the eastern side (outside) the Arsenal.

Five Burrowing Owls were encountered along Buckley Road (between 56th and 88th avenues).  Three inside the Arsenal (Adams County) and two outside (Denver County).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Final Leg of the Eastern Plains Bird Trip

May 29, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Finally home after an interesting seven days on the Colorado Eastern Plains.  Spring migration is not over, however perhaps waning.  Weather on the Plains has been interesting.  Sunny skies at times while we also experienced high winds, hail and even observed a funnel cloud!

Birding has been superb!  We found a few quite interesting birds (see previous posts).  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird photo will probably make July's "Colorado Field Notes" cover (June's cover is already set with a fine photo by Dick Vogel of a Gray Flycatcher).

Between clear weather patterns, we had time to help Roger Danka who broke his leg while doing chores on his ranch.  Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons and I pitched in, took over some of those chores.  Our conclusion: ranching is not for any of us; it is difficult work (ranchers have my respect).

About an hour before sunrise, Roger's resident Eastern Screech-Owl called and woke me up.  The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird came to Roger's feeders just after sunrise!  Photos are fair but not great.

Before we left the northeast corner of the state, we took an hour and searched one last time for an Eastern Wood-Pewee in Julesburg (Sedgwick County).  Perhaps the 20+ mph winds, gusts to 39 mph seen this week blew the little bird, who knows where?

We did not find it or the Northern Cardinal that wanders the town.  The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak first encountered on Monday was relocated.  He was farther north today (north of West 5th Street, west of Spruce Street).

Our two-car caravan turned south.  Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) was skipped as time constraints required a rapid trip today.  Massive dark clouds loomed off to the west of Highway 385.  The bulk of our birding needed to be done before late afternoon.

We stopped at quite a few birding locations in Holyoke (Phillips).  The Fishing Pond, Sewage Ponds and Civic Center offered little in bird sightings.

The City Park on the other hand was quite birdy.  We came across a few gems, which included an adult male Blackburnian Warbler, two Townsend's Warblers and a ragged looking male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

The highlight of the day came at the Holyoke Cemetery.  An Empidonax Flycatcher was singing.  It sounded like and looked much like an Alder Flycatcher!

As we turned west toward Haxtun the weather started to change.  Winds were steady at 25 mph with gusts to 42 mph.  The only positive (if there was one) was that it was not raining, hailing or producing tornados. 

Haxtun City Park appeared to be a refuge for a number of birds.  Here we found a Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart and Townsend's Warbler among dozens of birds.  A Lazuli Bunting was also seen.

Our trek led south to Yuma (nothing at the Cemetery).  Here our caravan broke up, Jacob and Ray headed to Wray, while Bryan and I went west to Akron (Washington) and the infamous Golf Course.  Unfortunately, we found no uncommon birds at the place, which seemed to attract fantastical birds this spring.

Heading back south to Anton just to see if there were anything of interest (there was not), then we turned west toward Denver.  We timed our journey to arrive at the Last Chance Rest area (Washington) in the late afternoon, which seemed to be the time when the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher appeared. 

Unfortunately, it did not show up for us.  High winds blew through Last Chance and we found no uncommon birds to add to our trip list.

It will be (was) great to sleep in my own bed tonight!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Continued Birding In Sedgwick County

May 28, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

The CoBus group did a little birding between weather fronts today.

They once again searched Julesburg for the Eastern Wood-Pewee reported a few days ago.  Again, their search came up empty.  The Northern Cardinal northwest of 5th Street and Spruce Street was relocated behind the homes.  The Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the Julesburg Elementary School was not relocated.

Their birding today was centered around Jumbo Reservoir and Red Lion Wildlife Area in Logan County.  While watching a White-rumped Sandpiper at Wildlife Area they noticed an Upland Sandpiper walking in the field 60+ yards to the west.

Walking the riparian area at Little Jumbo Reservoir added to their day list:
Bell's Vireo
Black-throated Green Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Barn Owl
Eastern White-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Hairy Woodpecker
Pine Siskins

The northern side of Jumbo Reservoir added a colorful Blue-headed Vireo.  Four White-rumped Sandpipers and two Red-necked Phalaropes were seen from the south side of Jumbo.  The Campgrounds had no uncommon birds.

In the late afternoon, they searched unsuccessfully for the Eastern Meadowlark found yesterday along Sedgwick County Road 32.5.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird was not seen for the second day on the Danka Ranch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Day On the Colorado Northeastern Plains

May 27, 2013

Amy Davenport: transcript of telephone call:

The CoBus group now down to four (Richard Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons) continued to bird in Sedgwick County.

The weather was nice in the morning with sunny skies and calm winds.  They had hail in the afternoon with high winds.

The group walked around Julesburg for about two hours in the morning.  Yesterday's Eastern Wood-Pewee reported by Steve Mlodinow was not relocated.

They did find a male Northern Cardinal at the northeast corner of East 5th Street and South Spruce Street.  While a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was seen at the northwest corner.  Both locations are near the Julesburg Elementary School.

An Eastern Meadowlark was found on private land (permission required) along CR 32.5.

Roger and Judy Danka put on a fantastic barbecue for Memorial Day!  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird seen on Saturday and Sunday did not show up today.

After the great barbecue, the weather cleared in the afternoon.  The group went over to DePoorter Lake to see if any birds had blown in with the high winds.  They were not disappointed.   A male Magnolia Warbler was seen along the eastern side of the park.

Rebecca Kosten, Sue Ehlmann, Katie Zotti and Paul Zimmerman returned to Denver early in the morning.  Fog hung over I76.  They detoured south to Last Chance and then west to Denver.  The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was not relocated.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Northeastern Plains, Sedgwick County Today

May 26, 2013

Amy Davenport: transcript of telephone call:

The CoBus group, eight strong, continued wandering around northeastern Colorado, mostly in Sedgwick County today.  Temperatures were in the high 80s; winds 5+ mph, picked up in the afternoon.

Richard Stevens reported, "It was not as birdy as yesterday".  The slighting waning full moon and southerly winds may have assisted many birds in continuing their northerly migration".

Their Sedgwick County day count included:

++Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area:
Upland Sandpiper, Red-bellied Woodpecker

++Julesburg Wildlife Area:
probable male Eastern Towhee
male Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow (2)

++Pond Express Wildlife Area
Hooded Warbler
Red-bellied Woodpecker

++Sand Draw Wildlife Area
Field Sparrow (2)

Northeastern Plains, Long Day At Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area in Logan County

May 25, 2013

Amy Davenport: transcript of telephone call:

Rebecca Kosten and Sue Ehlmann went to join the rest of the CoBus group in northeastern Colorado.  Along the way, they searched unsuccessfully for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reported near Last Chance Rest Stop.  They did find a male American Redstart and several Least Flycatchers.

Meanwhile Richard Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons, Katie Zotti and Peggy Zimmerman enjoyed a great birding day at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, Logan County.  Winds were down from 20+ mph to almost calm for most of the day.  Temperatures reached the middle 80s.

Richard "Birds were everywhere.  The woods were filled with bird songs"!

They used a car hopping technique where Richard and Bryan dropped off at CR 95, walked to the western end of the Wildlife Area while the rest of the group drove to Area East 7, dropped off the car and continued to the east end of the Wildlife Area.  Richard and Bryan eventually walked to the car and picked up the rest of the group.  Any uncommon birds were marked GPS and all returned later to relocate the rare birds!

There extensive bird list for the day:
Bell's Vireos (11+)
Northern Cardinals (over a dozen)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (over a dozen)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (several)
Black-billed Cuckoo (1 heard)
Field Sparrow (2)
Harris's Sparrow (1)
Baltimore Orioles (many)
Eastern Towhee (probable female, several hybrids)
Spotted Towhee (several)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Nashville Warbler
American Redstart (2)
Virginia's Warbler (1)
Alder Flycatcher (probable)
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Western Wood-pewee
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-headed Woodpecker (several)
Long-eared Owl (1)
Eastern Screech-Owl (2+ heard after sunset)
Eastern Meadowlark (north of Platte River)
Broad-winged Hawk (north of Platte River)
Ring-necked Pheasant (several)

After dark, they heard several Eastern Screech-Owls at a private ranch in Sedgwick County.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Northeastern Colorado Trip Continued

May 24, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann continued their northeastern Colorado trip today.  Winds were steady at 20 mph with gusts to 28 mph.  Temperatures reached the middle 80s.

Before sunrise, they heard an Eastern Screech Owl on the north side of Jumbo Reservoir.  It is on private land so getting looks at the pair can be difficult.

Returning past Red Lion Wildlife Area, Logan County, they saw an Upland Sandpiper on a fence post along highway 138.

Their morning was spent on a private ranch in Sedgwick County.  This ranch was one of Dan Bridges favorite birding spots.  When he retired, Dan passed on access to Richard!

American Woodcocks have been found along the South Platte River that passes through the ranch.  Note: four times between 2004 and 2012; last11/20/2012.

They were not lucky today on American Woodcocks.  However, they found some interesting birds.

They ranked their highlight as a Louisiana Waterthrush that spent the day circling a ranch pond.  Richard and Bryan watched the waterthrush circle the pond about every hour.

Other interesting birds in the ranch's riparian area included a Barn Owl, Black and white Warbler and Hooded Warbler.  A flyover Purple Martin might have been heading toward Jumbo Reservoir?

An Empidonax Flycatcher looked quite a bit like an Alder Flycatcher.  They were quite certain, but not positive of the ID.  The bird never made a sound.

In the afternoon, they drove over to Ovid.  A Hooded Warbler was found along Lodgepole Creek at the northern woods.  They discovered a Brown Thrasher and Red-bellied Woodpecker in the southern woods.

Dozens of sparrows flew around the brush around the Ovid Sewage Ponds and South Platte River.  A Harris's Sparrow being the most uncommon, although not all that uncommon for the extreme eastern plains.

No Short eared Owls appeared at dusk around the Sedgwick Draw area.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was at the Sedgwick Cemetery.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Day Birding Around Sterling

May 23, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Today, Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann birded around Sterling, Logan County in winds measuring 21+ mph.  They did not expect much, the birding world surprised them!

The morning was spent at North Sterling Reservoir, Logan County.  At the picnic area, they found a Scarlet Tanager, Gray-cheeked Thrush, American Redstart, several Least Flycatchers, two Baltimore Orioles and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Most stayed deep in the wooded area and out of the wind.

A Barn Owl was found when they walked the south side of the reservoir.

In the afternoon, they visited Riverside Cemetery.  A colorful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler and Veery was their reward for enduring the high winds.

A stop at Columbine Park found a Hammond's Flycatcher, which seemed out of place.  Two Mississippi Kites circled overhead.  They have nested in this park in past years and perhaps will again.

A return to Overland Trail Park to relocate yesterday's Mourning Warbler and Purple Martins was not successful.  They were probably blown to Kansas.

Yesterday's vireos had moved on also.  The two male Baltimore Orioles were still around.  New birds included a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the eastern end of the woods.  A Green Heron walked along the river.

No owls were found after sunset at Overland Park or Pioneer Park.

Crow Valley Campgrounds to Sterling, Colorado

May 22, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

After camping overnight at Pennock Pass (and seeing three Flammulated Owls), Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann headed east toward northeastern Colorado.

It was windy when they arrived at Crow Valley Campground, Weld County.  In spite of the wind, they found some interesting birds.  These included a Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery, Cassin's Vireo and Plumbeous Vireo. 

In addition, less exciting birds included Common Poorwill, Western Tanager, Swainson's Thrushes, a Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher and House Wrens.

They did not relocate the Black-throated Gray Warbler reported from several days prior to their visit.

Continuing east, they spent several hours at Overland Trail Park in Sterling, Logan County.  Both Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Black-billed Cuckoos have nested in this park but not for several years.

They found neither cuckoo but did find some interesting birds.  These included a Mourning Warbler hidden in the thickets along the South Platte River, a singing male Baltimore Oriole, a Red-eyed Vireo and rare Philadelphia Vireo!

When they scoped down the South Platte River from Highway 6, two Purple Martins were seen hawking insects along with five species of swallows.

With only two hours of daylight remaining, they went to the west side of Sterling and Pioneer Park.  An American Redstart flew about the main trail.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to their recordings.

Flammulated Owl Search on Pennock Pass

May 21, 2013 (afternoon)

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard and Bryan went to various birding locations around Steamboat Springs, Routt County.  Lake Catamount was slow.  No Waxwings were found along the Yampa River.  Buffalo Pass Road was closed due to snow and mud.

Late in the afternoon, they drove to Prairie Stove Road and Pennock Pass Road, Larimer County.

They eventually hiked into the forest along Pennock Pass Road and found three Flammulated Owls at three locations.

After camping overnight, they walked back out in the morning.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Birding in Routf County

May 21, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann parked near the second cattle guard up Routt County 80 Route about 30 minutes before sunrise.  The male Dusky Grouse appeared about 15 minute later and displayed.  No females came out.

They found nine male Sharp-tailed Grouse at the 80 Route Leks shortly after sunrise.  The birds never displayed but watched in all directions for females; none appeared.

The gate was locked at the entrance to California Park so a search for White-winged Crossbills was called off.

The plan is to wander around Steamboat Springs and Buffalo Pass, then search for Flammulated Owls up Pennock Pass at dusk.

Weld County Birding Ending at Cameron Pass, Jackson County

May 20, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann searched for birds at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area this morning.  It rained during their two-hour stay.

The best bird found was a male Mourning Warbler.  It flittered about the windbreak on the western side of the southern ponds.  Northern ponds are closed to human activity until July 15.

A wet Spotted Towhee and a few Robins were also recorded.

They then went north toward Crow Valley north of Briggsdale, CO.  A few interesting birds were found in Weld County.

A Whimbrel was south of County Road 48 at Lower Latham Reservoir.  Two White-rumped Sandpipers walked the shore at Loloff Reservoir.  Nothing uncommon was seen at the County 59 Ponds.

They could not relocate the interesting birds, Winter Wren and Black-throated Gray Warbler reported yesterday at Crow Valley Campground.  However, a Cassin's Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Baltimore Oriole and Red-eyed Vireo were found.

Two Mountain Plover walked around their nesting grounds on the Pawnee National Grasslands.

Norma's Grove located east of CR 100 and 57 added a Gray-cheeked Thrush to their trip list.

At dusk, they watched ten+ Greater Sage-Grouse display and dance around their Lek along Jackson County Road 26!

Well after sunset, they found Boreal Owls near Cameron Pass in Jackson County.  Two were heard west of Cameron Pass.  Another was heard south of the Crags Campgrounds.

Location of owls without disturbance is most important.  They did not use spotlights to see the owls.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fallout at the Weld County Barbecue!

May 19, 2013

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I attended a friend's barbecue on a private ranch in Weld County.  Presently, his ranch has nesting Mountain Plovers and Long-eared Owls.

The windbreak surrounding his ranch house was a hoarded wealth of birds today!  It was quite fortunate that the barbecue was held on this beautiful Sunday.  In the morning, winds were mild and temperatures reached to the middle 70s.  Storm clouds blew in by late afternoon; temperatures dropped in the 50s and winds increased to 21+ mph.

The fallout of birds rivaled those at any of the major Colorado birding locations.  Several hours were spent trying to cover the area and numerous birds fluttering around the windbreak. 

The treasure of birds included:
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male, possible female)
Black-and-white Warbler (2)
Black-throated Gray Warbler (male)
Cassin's Vireo (2)
Tennessee Warbler (female)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (male)
American Redstart (1st year male)
Blue Grosbeak (3 males)
Lazuli Bunting (2 males)
Bullock's Orioles (8+)
House Wrens (11)
Western Kingbird (1)
Wilson's Phalarope (2 on water pond for cattle)

A colony of Burrowing Owls (8) is not far from his ranch.

Passing through Prospect Valley, we counted dozens of Eurasian Collared-Doves.  Are not they everywhere now.

The ranch is not all that far from Banner Lakes Wildlife Area.   Bryan and I will have to check that out tomorrow (well later today as I am writing this at 2:30 am).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Search for Pygmy Owls and Return to Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

May 18, 2013

At first light, I was standing at the parking area for Reynolds Park (Jefferson County).  Neither of my target birds (Northern Pygmy-Owl and Common Poorwill) was making a sound. 

Later, I walked the Narrow Gauge Trail at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) with the same results.

Having found American Three-toed Woodpeckers many times at both Reynolds Park and Pine Valley Ranch Park, I found no reason to hike the steep trails today.  I am sure that the opportunity and task will come again soon.

A text message stated that a Bobolink had been found at Prospect Park, Wheat Ridge Greenbelt.  Since I could not remember if it was a new Jefferson County bird for my list, I headed back toward Denver and the Park.

As I crossed the Prospect Park footbridge, a flock of 61 Yellow-rumped Warblers caught my attention.  One bird was dropping his tail quite often.  It turned out to be a Palm Warbler.

A lone Plumbeous Vireo worked the trees along the south side of Clear Creek, west of the footbridge.

As I turned onto the Tree Bridge Trail, a Northern Cardinal was heard singing.  Unfortunately, he was deep in the woods south of the trail (between the two wooden footbridges).

Continuing west, I finally reached the area southeast of West Lake where the Bobolink was reported earlier in the day.  Regrettably, it was not found. 

A male Blue Grosbeak between Bass Lake and Clear Creek was a small consolation for missing the Jefferson County Bobolink.

Circling back to the east, yesterday's Rose-breasted Grosbeak was not relocated.

Since my trek was 25 miles from home, I took the opportunity to visit a friend up the hill from the Tree Bridge Trail.  He put me onto an Eastern Screech-Owl!  In recent years, photographers had bothered the owls along this riparian strip.  There Locations will be unadvertised.

This stretch of Wheat Ridge Greenbelt was once a birding gem of Colorado.  The drought, which has lasted for many years now (6+), has taken its toll on the area.  While some vegetation has returned, the area is still quite dry (as well as short on birds).

Barr Lake and Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

May 17, 2013

While I enjoyed the many "grouse trips" this spring, some alone birding time was greatly appreciated today!

I circled the 8.7 mile trail around Barr Lake State Park (Adams County).  For a change, my trek started at the boat ramp area and continued clockwise around the lake.

The first highlight was a calling Gray-cheeked Thrush along the Pioneer Trail.  I was searching for the nesting Great Horned Owls when it sang for about 20 seconds.  While I might not have identified the thrush from its song, it was quite cooperative.  It stood on a fallen log for a good two minutes and allowed great looks.  I thought that they only sang when on territory?  Guess he forgot to read the field guides.

Many House Wrens, a few Western Kingbirds, an Eastern Kingbird and a Western Wood-pewee were scattered along the next four miles.

At mile 3.0, I found the male Townsend's Warbler reported yesterday by Jacob Washburn.  However, the Black-and-white Warbler and possible Blackburnian Warbler were not found.

Two Yellow-headed Blackbirds were around the cattails at mile 4.5.

Little else was found.  The canal below the dam (mile 6.0 to 7.2) was quiet.  Not even a Virginia Rail could be found.

Receiving a text message about a Northern Cardinal at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Jefferson), I headed that way.

After about two hours, the Northern Cardinal was heard singing west of where the Tree Bridge Trail goes uphill to the subdivision to the south.

Heading back to my car, I ran into Terry Michaels and decided to try and relocated the Cardinal (usually a nightmare, trying to relocate any bird all ready found).  Fortunately, today, it worked out fine.  The Northern Cardinal was still singing when we returned to the hillside.

A Short Two Day Grouse Trip

May 15-16, 2013

May 15

Paul Hudson and I went on a mini-Grouse Trip.  Rain poured in Denver all the way to Silverthorne and then continued as we headed north through Kremmling to Rabbit Ears Pass, then east toward Walden.  As we approached the Jackson County Road Leks, the rain stopped.  A large clearing/hole in the rain clouds floated over the lek.

Our timing was off and we arrived a good hour before sunset.  On most of my 200+ visits over the years (only three exceptions), the Greater Sage-Grouse do not come out of the sage until after sunset.

Paul and walked the county roads and did a little exploring.  The air was filled with singing Vesper Sparrows and a few Brewer's Sparrows.  Northern Flickers called as did a male Downy Woodpecker.  Horned Larks added their tinkling high pitched songs.

The lek area is surrounded by distant mountains on all four sides.  Gray clouds hung over the mountains, however the sun piercing through the few clouds overhead, lit up the nearby green grasses, fields of sage and mountainsides.  Quite an enjoyable sight that I often wonder how few people are fortunate to experience.

As predicted, the Greater Sage-Grouse did not exit the sage (where they are well hidden) until shortly after sunset.  Eventually, fourteen males crossed the road and walked to the lek.  They put on quite a display with their communal dancing. 

No females appeared to show.  From the many "kuk kuk kuk" and "popping sounds" we believed there to be more than fourteen birds.  It had gotten too dark to see them all.

May 16, 2013

An hour before sunrise, Paul and I drove up the 80 Route Road.

Again as we waited for sunrise, the many songs of Vesper Sparrows, Brewer's Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, and Horned Larks were filling the air.  While the distance, the Sandhill Crane call traveled far across the valley.  We did finally see one or two.

In my experience, Sharp-tailed Grouse come late to their "leks".  Most times, I do not see them until well after sunrise.  The reverse is true in the evening when they seldom come to the "leks" until it is too dark to see them (similar to the Gunnison Sage-Grouse).

Sharp-tailed Grouse "leks" are not as well defined as the Greater Sage-Grouse.  Instead of preforming a communal dance in an open clearing, they run like mice through the sage.  Every now and then, they will stop and lift up their heads or stick their tails in the air and shake them like a rattlesnake!

This morning skies were partly cloudy; winds were calm.  We could hear "forever".  At sunrise, the sun lit up the greening fields of wild grasses and sage.  The hills lit up, quite a contrast with the blue sky and white clouds.  A beautiful sight in itself, even if no grouse show up.

About 30 minutes after sunrise, fourteen male Sharp-tailed Grouse were observed in sage taller than themselves.  Every now and then, they would stick their heads up, some stretching as long as possible to see over the sage.

They appeared to have every direction covered as they stood and sat in a loose circle (about 15 feet in diameter).  Each looking in a different direction.

Unfortunately no females appeared.  I postulated that this may have been why the Sharp-tailed Grouse never displayed.  Off in the far distance, we could hear additional birds that might have been displaying (at least they were cackling and cooing).  Unfortunately, they were too far away to see.

Paul had to return to Denver and we had only a little time for brief stops.  The feeders at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center had only Cassin's Finches and a couple of Mountain Chickadees.

We drove to Whale Rock up Rist Canyon (Larimer) to look for Northern Pygmy-Owls.  None were found (or really expected).  A walk about half a mile down the rock from Whale Rock found six+ Plumbeous Vireos and five+ Warbling Vireos.

A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks and many Steller's Jays rounded out our day list.

Two Day Point Counts on the Eastern Plains

May 13 and 14, 2013

May 13

Jerry Petrosky and I went on a two day trip to conduct point counts on the eastern plains.  Weather was quite mixed, quite hot at times and others cool temperatures.  We saw sunny skies, rain, and wind at times.

Our first stop was Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington County).  The small riparian area was quiet.  A Gray-cheeked Thrush first found yesterday by Steve Mlodinow was the highlight of the stop.

We watched for the previously reported Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (along highway 36), however, never encountered it.

A detour down to Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson) was quite interesting.  One male Baltimore Oriole flew around below the dam.  A Tennessee Warbler and Cassin's Vireo were observed along the eastern riparian area.

As our trek continued east, we drove through the town of Siebert.  Highlights here included a Broad-winged Hawk along the western side of town and a male Northern Pygmy-Owl near 4th street and Nebraska Avenue.

A few Great-tailed Grackles flew around the park in Burlington (I70 and Highway 385, Kit Carson).

The rest of our day was spent around Bonny Reservoir (Yuma).

When we stopped at the corner of Yuma County Road 3 and Highway 385, Jerry heard an interesting meadowlark.  We recognized the song of an Eastern Meadowlark.  It took another 30 minutes for us to get good looks and identify it as an Eastern (yellow limited to throat area and definitely not the malar area).

A Northern Cardinal was found at the Foster's Grove Campgrounds as well as eight Wild Turkeys!

We searched for uncommon sparrows at Hopper Ponds (a good place to look in the past).  None was found, but a Gray-cheeked Thrush was a good consolation!

A Black-and-white Warbler was found along the south side road (gated road between CR 2 and old wagon wheel picnic area).  We searched for Long-eared Owls along the tree-lined road.

The highlight was a singing Prairie Warbler.  We stopped at the bend in CR 2 (where it goes from east to south).  Not expecting any success, Prairie Warblers have been found several times (5/6/2003; 9/3/2003; 5/23/2008; 5/20/2000; 6/1/1997; & 5/18/1994) before in this area (as well as other uncommon warblers).  A male Prairie Warbler was about 30 yards of the bend (at a 45-degree angle off road).

In spite of the thin leaf cover, the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds area was quite birdy.  A male Blue Grosbeak flew around the old boat ramp area.

A first year Summer Tanager was in the evergreen trees (first thought was another Northern Cardinal; however, it came out and allowed good looks).

The Hale Ponds area was also birdy.  We found a Hooded Warbler along the Republican River, just west of Kansas.  A Veery was a surprise (quite far from the mountains) at the north end of the ponds.  Red-bellied Woodpeckers numbered four, House Wrens seven, and Eastern Bluebirds eleven.

While listening for Common Poorwills at dusk (none appeared), we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl call from somewhere north of the Ponds.

May 14

After a few hours sleep, Jerry and I hiked the Republican River from CR LL.5 to Hale Ponds and Kansas.  Then we walked from Highway 385 to Foster's Grove and Wagon Wheel Picnic Area.  Note: the technique was one we have used several times.  One of us is dropped off while the other drives farther down the road.  The first birder walks to the car and then drives to pick up the second birder.  It is a great system to cover more ground!

The exercise added seven Eastern Screech-Owls to our trip list!  Locations included Northeast of Hale Ponds, East of CR LLLL.5, East of Highway 385, West of Foster's Grove and Wagon Wheel!

The morning was a fantastic one.  Winds did not pick up until almost noon.  Skies were mostly clear.

We relocated the Prairie Warbler first found yesterday, could not find the Eastern Meadowlark.

I needed to get back to Denver today.  We skipped many birding places around Burlington and headed toward the Lincoln County Wildlife Areas.  A reported Rufous-crowned Sparrow would be a first county sighting for both of us.

Cheyenne Wells (Cheyenne County) was a bust.  A drive around Kit Carson (Cheyenne) found a Yellow-throated Vireo southwest of Main and West of 2nd Street (another traditional birdy location).

We had to skip Karvel Wildlife Area (Lincoln), no time but stopped at Hugo Wildlife Area and Kinney Lake Wildlife Area.

Hugo Wildlife Area was "hopping" with birds. Highlights included a Worm-eating Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Orange-crowned Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  We missed the Hooded Warbler reported just two days earlier.

Kinney Lake was good to us also.  We found a Nashville Warbler and unidentified "empidonax" flycatcher (probably a Least Flycatcher but we had no size comparison).  A Mountain Plover was found along the entrance road!  Regrettably, we did not relocate the Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Our last stop was at the Kiowa Museum (Elbert County).  A flock of birds had caught our attention when we stopped to purchase something to drink.

A flock of a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers, two Orange-crowned Warblers and a Black-capped Chickadee was accompanied by an American Redstart.

After dropping Jerry at his car, I picked up Rebecca Kosten.  We passed through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on our way to dinner.  Of course, I had to stop and see if the Glossy Ibis and White-faced Ibis were still at the Cottonwood Creek wetlands (they were not found there or at the Prairie Loop mudflats, which were greatly reduced to rising water levels.

A possible loon (turned out to be a Double-crested Cormorant) required a drive to the swim beach area.  No loon, however I did find a Townsend's Warbler between the Smoky Hill Group Picnic pavilion and the lake.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Day Around Weld County

May 12, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jerry Petrosky and I birded in Weld County today.  The major flock of migrating birds has not reached this far north yet.

We walked around Crow Valley Campgrounds for about 2.5 hours.  One of the three Gray-cheeked Thrushes reported yesterday was relocated.  We also relocated the Tennessee Warbler reported yesterday by Joe Roller.  New birds for the area included a Black-and-white Warbler and Cassin's Vireo.

A drive along the CR 96 auto tour found half a dozen McCown's Longspurs and one Chestnut-collared Longspur (about 1.2 miles west of CR 77).  No Lark Buntings were found and longspurs appear to be migrating later than average dates.

We did relocate a Mountain Plover at a traditional nesting site!  Unless we find a Mountain Plover off a public road where access to the field is limited, we are not going to reveal nesting sites.

Lower Latham Reservoir was slow.  The same was found at Beebe Draw Ponds.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds were new county birds for 2013 for both of us.

The County Road 59 Ponds did not add uncommon birds to our day list.

Several Red-necked Phalaropes swam around the CR 46/CR 37 Pond.  We walked down the road and found quite a few sparrows (Brewer's, one Clay-colored, White-crowned and Song).

Our birding day ended at the southern ponds of Banner Lakes Wildlife Area.  No uncommon birds were found.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fantastic Birding Day Around Denver

May 11, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jerry Petrosky and I savored a fantastic day of birding around Denver.  Our day began by relocated the adult Glossy Ibis at the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands, Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The (a) second bird was not among the 73+ White-faced Ibis.

Yesterday's Marbled Godwits were also not around.  We checked the nearby Prairie Loop mudflats for the godwits; without success.  Only a couple of Killdeer walked the mudflats that are shrinking rapidly due to recent rains and snow melt.

Jerry and I stopped at Denver City Park (Denver).  Neither the Greater Scaup nor Greater White-fronted Goose reported earlier in the morning was found.  Dozens of Snowy Egrets were at Ferril Lake.  A few additional walked around Duck Lake.  The Bonaparte's Gulls and Franklin's Gulls that had been around for several weeks, appeared to have left the area.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) was uneventful.  We did run into a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers accompanied by a Blackpoll Warbler at the south end of Lake Ladora.  The Greater Scaup that had been on Lake Ladora was not around today.

We enjoyed our trip to Barr Lake (Adams).  To cover more territory, I dropped Jerry off at the old stone house and then drove to the boat ramp.  While I walked to the Visitor's Center, Jerry continued to the car and picked me up.

Jerry reported a Green-tailed Towhee, several House Wrens and a male Bullock's Oriole around the stone house.  He found a Black-and-white Warbler along the canal below the dam (at mile 6.6).

Meanwhile I watched the nesting Great Horned Owls at the Pioneer Trail.  Continued south and found several House Wrens, three Bullock's Orioles and a Spotted Towhee.

The highlight was west of the Visitor's Center Footbridge where a Gray-cheeked Thrush stayed in the open for a good 15 minutes.  Fortunately, I was able to keep an eye on the bird until Jerry came along.

Quite a few Burrowing Owls were out this evening along the DIA Owl Loop.  We counted over a dozen at four locations.  Unluckily, no Short-eared Owls flew around tonight.  Seven Northern Harriers hunted over the fields north of DIA.

A Trip Through Douglas and Arapahoe Counties

May 10, 2013

Richard Stevens:

We finally returned to Denver around noon and instead of resting, went out for supplies.  Of course, birding side tracked us and produced some interesting sightings.

We drove down to Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) by way of Highway 83 to Lake Gulch Road and then north along Castlewood Canyon Road back to Franktown.

Two male Bobolink were found on the Winkler Ranch south of Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas).  While we scoped the ranch's hillsides for Bobolink, a male Wild Turkey gobbled to the west of the entrance.  A female came out of the woods and was the likely focus of his attention.

Eventually, another three males and a female were observed between Winkler Ranch and the State Park.

Both Mountain and Western Bluebirds were observed around the many bluebird boxes along Castlewood Canyon Road.  Unfortunately, we did not find the Eastern Bluebirds.

We stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) to see if the Black-chinned Hummingbird(s) had returned (none was found).

As I drove by the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands Pond, several godwits flew to the north end of the pond.  Rebecca and I got out our scopes and circled the wet field (flooded over the cement bike trail).  The Marbled Godwit count was 31.

We noticed many White-faced Ibis feeding in the sparse woods north of the flooded field and walked over for closer inspection.  That was a good idea as I noticed the blue skin around the bill of an adult Glossy Ibis!  Rebecca found what we thought might be a second Glossy Ibis.  Regrettably, we did not have as good a look at the second bird.

A Week In Jackson County

May 3 to 10, 2013

Richard Stevens:

We decided to get away from computers, telephones and daylong birding for a week.  The weather offered quite a mix in Jackson County this week.  We saw rain, much snow and even a little sunshine.  Winds varied from calm to 40+ mph (during one snowstorm/blizzard).

Several nights when the weather cooperated, we snow shoed for several miles into the Colorado State Forest.  Our success in locating Boreal Owls was higher than expectations.

Various daytime excursions produced some interesting bird sightings also!

In total, we recorded GPS Waypoints on nine Boreal Owls!  If Flammulated Owls are back in Colorado, we could not find any.

Pennock Pass (Larimer) was still closed due to drifting snow and muddy roads.  The one night we planned to attempt a six mile hike/snowshoe it snowed and we turned around.

On the night of May 4, our caravan of Owling partners grew to four vehicles.  Fortunately, I was able to locate four Boreal Owls on Cameron Pass that night.  We even welcomed good looks at one of them!

The Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center was slow birding on the four occasions that we passed by during daylight.  The Rosy Finch count had a high of two Brown-capped Rosy Finches.  The snowstorms did not aid in bringing them to the feeders this week.

Jackson County Road 26 was checked for Greater Sage-Grouse three times.  On the morning of 5/4, we watched 12+ males and 2 females visit the lek.

On 5/5, we passed by Walden Reservoir and found a Whimbrel and two Red-necked Phalaropes at the northern end.  The day before (5/4), we had found two Bonaparte's Gulls, eleven Marbled Godwits and half a dozen Willets.

During a snowshoe trip the night of 5/6, we heard two Boreal Owls up Ruby Jewell Road (our target was Flammulated Owl this night). 

The snow stopped around 4:00 am and I snow shoed early (5/7) to the Crags Campgrounds and heard another Boreal Owl just south of the camping loop.

Later the night of 5/7 into 5/8, we returned to Cameron Pass and found another pair of Boreal Owl farther west than the previous sightings/hearings.

A trip to Walden during the week did not find any Rosy Finches or Common Redpolls.  The trek to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge also was uneventful.  At least two Rough-legged Hawks and a pair of Golden Eagles continued there.

Northern Saw-whet Owls has returned to my friend's ranch outside of Loveland (Larimer) 5/10.

A Morning in Jefferson County

May 2, 2013

Richard Stevens:

The Miller brothers (Bob & Jan) and I headed southwest to Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County).  They were not able to find an American Three-toed Woodpecker yesterday during the snowstorm.

Skies were clear today; temperatures were in the 50s.  It took less than 20 minutes to locate a Three-toed Woodpecker up the hill south of Pine Lake.  The distinctive drumming carried quite well in the windless morning.  Their drumming sounds like the flicking of a door stop spring in that it tails off after a loud start!

No Northern Pygmy-Owls were found while we checked Buck Gulch Trail to Strawberry Jack Trail and the Narrow Gauge Trail west to the closed boundary sign.

Our next target bird was a Williamson's Sapsucker.  A male came in rather quickly after I briefly (15 seconds) played a Williamson's Sapsucker recording.

A flock of six Red Crossbills (4 males & 2 females) added a bonus to our morning.  We also found all three species of common Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees and even two Black-capped Chickadees.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birding Weld County In a Snowstorm

May 1, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I ventured out into the snowstorm to see what birds may have stopped their migration.

Our first stop was Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County).  We relocated the Tennessee Warbler and found a Blackpoll Warbler in the west side windbreak (southern ponds, northern ponds are closed until July 15).  We did scope pond # 5, north side and saw a Broad-winged Hawk at the northwest corner of the parking area.

We continued east to visit a friend's ranch.  Along Highway 52, east of Prospect Valley (Weld County) we found several flocks of sparrows and longspurs.  Vesper Sparrows appeared to be everywhere (at least 600+ were counted).

Longspurs included at least 51 McCown's Longspurs, four Chestnut-collared Longspurs and one very late Lapland Longspur.

The Mountain Plover nesting on my friend's ranch had a buddy (now two!).

The windbreak around his ranch house had many warblers, unfortunately no uncommon ones.  They included two Orange-crowned, a male Wilson's, two Yellow Warblers and sixty one Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Vireos were represented by one Warbling Vireo!

Other birds in the trees were a couple of Western Tanagers, a Brown Thrasher, two Spotted Towhees, two House Wrens and many White-crowned Sparrows.  Other sparrows included Brewer's, one Clay-colored, a couple of Lark, Song and a Lincoln's Sparrow.

The highlight was a nesting pair of Long-eared Owls.  We hope to keep track of their nesting and look forward to successful breeding (again, they had one fledgling last year, before I knew of the location).

Burrowing Owls have returned to just south of I76 (along 75.5 road).

Snow continued to fall until sunset.  We decided to not stay around and look for Short-eared Owls.

NOTE: Bob and Jan Miller tried for American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) in the snowstorm.  They did not have any success (sorry, that was expected).

Grouse Trip, Day 6

April 30, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: cell phone transcript and personal account;

About an hour before sunrise, Richard Stevens, Bob & Jan Miller drove Yuma County Roads.  Greater Prairie-Chickens were found along County Roads FF and EE.  These newly "discovered" leks offered closer views of the Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Finally, they returned to the old Yuma County Road 45 Lek about 1.5 hours after sunrise.  At least six Greater Prairie-Chickens were still displaying.  The birds here are hundreds of yards from CR 45.

Their route to the Pawnee National Grasslands passed by Jumbo Reservoir, Logan/Sedgwick Counties.  A quick survey found a Thayer's Gull, five Bonaparte's Gulls, Franklin's Gulls and two Willets.

A brief stop at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area in Logan County did not find any Bell's Vireos; none was expected yet.  A Northern Cardinal and Red-bellied Woodpecker were near Tamarack Pond.

McCown's Longspurs were found along Weld County Road 96.  Mountain Plovers were found at two "traditional nesting fields".  A Chestnut-collared Longspur was seen displaying above the field southeast of Highway 85 and Weld County Road 114.

Snowstorms were predicted for the next day (and it did snow) so they decided to rush to Loveland Pass, Clear Creek County and end the day searching for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

They were surprised to find the weather on Loveland Pass quite good.  Winds were less than 10 mph, normally 20+ mph and roads were dry.

In less than twenty minutes, they found a pair of Ptarmigan below the trail going up the western side of the pass!

Grouse Trip, Day 5

April 29, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: cell phone transcript and personal account;

Before sunrise, Stevens and the Millers parked at the eastern Elkhart, Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek.  Only one Lesser Prairie-Chicken appeared and stayed briefly.

They then walked from the oil tank closest to J Road south toward the windmill.  Two additional Lesser Prairie-Chickens were seen.  Sixteen+ Burrowing Owls were around the prairie dog town about a half mile from the oil tank.

Thinking on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek: As written before, maybe due to disturbance or just abandonment of the prairie-chickens, they believe this lek has become a satellite lek; the major lek is not on public land or at least does not have public access.  This lek may go the way of the Campo Lek in Colorado and be shutdown to the public?

The group returned to Colorado by way of Baca County Road G.  Along the way, they found half a dozen Burrowing Owls, Sage Thrashers and an Eastern Screech-Owl at its traditional riparian area.

A walk around the closed entrance to the Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek found many sparrows including Cassin's Sparrows!  Others included Brewer's, Clay-colored, Lark, Song and Chipping Sparrows.

Their next stop was Cottonwood Canyon in Baca County.  They considered two Mississippi Kites as the highlight bird of the stop.  Other birds found included seven Eastern Phoebes, two Rufous-crowned Sparrows, one Lewis's Woodpecker, Canyon Towhees, Bewick's Wrens, Rock Wrens, Canyon Wrens and a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

They looked around for the possible Arizona Woodpecker reported earlier in the week, without success.  The Winter Wren was also not relocated.

No Mountain Plovers and only one Burrowing Owl were found at Pasture G, Baca County.  A traditional spot for both those birds and migrating Long-billed Curlews, however, not today.

Two Buttes Reservoir was not birdy.  They did find a Tennessee Warbler, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher and Barn Owl.

They kept their eyes open for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers along highway 387/285.  Late April and early May are good times to find one migrating along the route.

Lamar Community College in Prowers County was a gold mine of birds.  While most were reported by others yesterday and early in the day, Richard, Bob & Jan split up and covered the area well.

Final tally included Northern Parula, Blue-winged Warbler, Carolina Wren, a pair of Northern Cardinals, Broad-winged Hawk, Wilson's Warbler, Yellow Warbler and Brown Thrasher.

Their day was not over, but ended at Hale Ponds, Yuma County.  At dusk, they got a Common Poorwill to respond to a recording.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker drummed along Yuma County Road 4.

After dark, two Eastern Screech-Owls were relocated near previously recorded GPS waypoints!