Sunday, September 15, 2013

Birding In the Rain Weld County to Morgan County

September 13, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jeff Poulin and I headed north to Crow Valley Campground (Weld) and Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) in search of some target birds.  The weather was overcast with some sprinkles of rain at times.  After yesterday's statewide thunderstorms, I thought we would run into soupy roads in the Pawnee National Grasslands.  Unfortunately, the roads dried out enough for us (with the exception where we had to turn around once in Adams County).

The conditions were superb for birding.  Regrettably, Crow Valley Campground was quite slow.  Few birds moved about the area except the northwest corner.  There we found dozens of birds with the highlight being a Cassin's Vireo. 

Other birds included Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwings, dozens of American Robins, Wilson's Warblers, Townsend's Solitaires, Western Bluebirds and several Plumbeous Vireos.

Misses included Long-eared Owls not found in the southwest corner or the Briggsdale Cemetery or the Washington Work Station.  We also looked unsuccessfully at the Briggsdale High School where one was reported a few days earlier.

Longspurs were also target birds; however, we could not find any along Weld County Road 96 to CR 69 back to highway 14.  Jeff found a great bird; an Upland Sandpiper was along the south side of CR 96 at 0.8 miles west of CR 77.

Sparrows were plentiful along the route.  Hundreds of Vesper Sparrows, dozens of Brewer's Sparrows, a few Lark Sparrows, and one Song Sparrow were found.  A dozen Lark Buntings were only immature males or females.

We also missed longspurs along Weld County Road 105 (turns into Morgan County Road 4) on the trip to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

Unluckily, none of the previously reported Mountain Plovers were at the northwest corner of Jackson Reservoir (actually the Jackson Reservoir Wildlife Area).  We could see hundreds of shorebirds along the west side of the reservoir.  The recent rains made trekking through the mud to reach the west side impossible, so we drove around to the northwestern Campgrounds.

From the Campgrounds, we trudged through wet grass and sand for closer inspection of the western side.  The highlight for me was definitely a juvenile Ruddy Turnstone.

Other uncommon shorebirds included Pectoral Sandpipers, Marbled Godwits, Buff-breasted Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Plover.  Many common shorebirds were represented in good numbers (Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Baird's Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, and Wilson's Phalaropes).

Eventually our time was short and we headed back to Denver by way of the DIA Owl Loop.  No Burrowing Owls were found at the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue.  One reason may have been the two Ferruginous Hawks standing between the prairie dog mounds.

A Prairie Falcon, several Red-tailed Hawks and half a dozen Swainson's Hawks were also in the area.

Another highlight was 60+ Black Terns flying over the flooded field across the road (east) from the prairie dog town.

Our last highlight of the trip was a lone Burrowing Owl west of Tower Road at 0.5 miles north of 88th avenue.

Jeff and I split up and as I continued to dinner in Aurora, I passed the Arapahoe County Administration Building (Arapahoe County) at Alameda Street and Alameda Avenue.  A lone bird perched on a street sign caught my attention.  It was an Eastern Phoebe!

A nice surprise and a good ending to my birding day!

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