Sunday, May 19, 2013

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.

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