Thursday, November 28, 2013


November 28, 2013

Ten of us went out looking for Greater Prairie-Chickens in Logan County after an afternoon Barbecue.  Too much food and great friends made for a grand day in spite of finding no Prairie Chickens.

Our day ended under a colorful sunset and watching a Short-eared Owl fly back and forth across the field in Southern Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.  This area is about 4.5 miles north of Logan County Roads 46 and 89. (or 1.1 miles south of I76 and 2.2 miles west of Logan County Road 93).

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Trips: Northeastern Colorado and Colorado Mountains

November 27, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Bryan Ehlmann and Richard Stevens split up today.  Richard had to return to Denver for a White-tailed Ptarmigan trip up Guanella Pass in Clear Creek County.  Bryan led a group of three birders around Logan/Sedgwick Counties.

Bryan's group of four enjoyed a warmish day at Jumbo Reservoir and Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.

They reported from Jumbo Reservoir: Mew Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Thayer's Gulls, Common Loon and Pacific Loon.

Later they found a Field Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Screech-Owl and Short-eared Owl at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.  They sad miss was any Greater Prairie-Chickens.

Richard's group of two plus himself found two White-tailed Ptarmigan below the huge reddish rocks on the hill southeast of the parking lot at Guanella Pass, Clear Creek County.

Later they relocated a Northern Pygmy-Owl along the Narrow Gauge Trail at Pine Valley Ranch Park, Jefferson County.  They missed any American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trip Up Interstate 76, Morgan to Logan/Washington Counties

November 26, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann made a short trip to Northeastern Colorado.  As often the case, they decided to stay overnight.

Their first stop was Jackson Reservoir in Morgan County.  Their bird count included several Long eared Owls, a Great Horned Owl, an adult and possible 2nd year Lesser Black-backed Gulls, two Thayer's Gulls, a Say's Phoebe, many Yellow-rumped Warblers, many American Robins and an Orange-crowned Warbler.

While checking out the ponds at nearby Andrick Wildlife Area they found a White-throated Sparrow among 6-10 White-crowned Sparrows.

Prewitt Reservoir, which stretches out over Logan and Washington Counties, was their next stop.

They were very excited to find a Winter Wren east of the ranger's home, below the dam.

A Common Loon and Lesser Black-backed Gull were seen while they scoped the reservoir from the dam.

An Eastern Screech Owl was heard at the inlet canal area.  It has been around all year.  No warblers were found.

While waiting for Short eared Owls to come out at Messex Wildlife Area in Washington County, they found a Red-bellied Woodpecker and another White-throated Sparrow.

Aurora Reservoir and Nearby Elbert County

November 25, 2013

Richard Stevens

Bryan Ehlmann and I attempted to recreate the superb birding day that Steve Mlodinow had at Aurora Reservoir yesterday.  We found many of the same birds; however, the numbers were far less today.

We eventually found the immature Glaucous Gull (huge white, easy to see), two Lesser Black-backed Gulls (dark mantles easy to pick out), three or four Thayer's Gulls, and one Long-tailed Duck.

We circled the 8.6 miles early in the morning and returned after lunch for another try.  The gulls fly over to DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) throughout the day.  Our Gull numbers may have been higher; however, we only counted the gulls observed/counted at the same time (not both trips).

Afterwards we drove east and south into Elbert County to scope several locations where Short-eared Owls have been spotted in the past. Regrettably, no Short-eared Owls were found.

We did have a nice variety of raptors, which included Red-tailed Hawks (four subspecies), Rough-legged Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks (a light and dark morph), American Kestrel (pair) and a Prairie Falcon.

A stop at a friend's ranch did find a Long eared Owl in Elbert County.

Trip to Centennial Park and Back

November 24, 2013

Richard Stevens

While out doing chores, I found myself at Centennial Park in Englewood (Arapahoe County).  More or less, 37 miles from home, a slight detour :-)

The Prothonotary Warbler showed up at the "berry bushes" about 10 minutes after my arrival.  A dozen birders were able to see it before it flew north. 

I happened to relocate the bright yellow bird in the drab yellows and browns when walking to my car.  I was able to watch it for 10 or 15 minutes as it walked along the small creek north of the blue gazebo (berry bushes area).  The warbler walked/hopped along the creek and entered many of the little cubby holes (caves/openings/etc) along the creek bank.

He searched for insects and occasionally found a spider or bug.  We only see one or two Prothonotary Warblers in Colorado each year.  I have to assume that this is the Prothonotary Warbler's typical foraging behavior (until I have time to research it further).  It was quite interesting to watch.  Result, the berries are not his only source of energy.

I cut through the Colorado State Mental Institute on my way home.  Hundreds of geese walked their grounds.  At least three Snow Geese and a Ross's Goose were among the many White-cheeked Geese.  Mostly of the White-cheeked Geese appeared to be Cackling Geese.

No uncommon waterfowl were at nearby Fort Logan National Cemetery (only White-cheeked Geese and Buffleheads).

While driving through Cherry Creek State Park earlier (Arapahoe) I did relocate several Bonaparte's Gulls and one of the Common Loons. With too many chores, I only had a few minutes to scope Barr Lake (Adams County) on my way home.  Nothing uncommon was found. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Birding East of Denver

November 23, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I birded Adams and Weld Counties today.  Temperatures stayed in the low 40s, winds were around 8+ mph.

At sunrise, we drove around the Adams County Reservoirs along the South Platte River.  We hoped that with the many Long-tailed Duck sightings, there might be one along the Platte River Reservoirs; none was found.

We quickly walked to the green/white tower area and found a male Barrow's Goldeneye (loosely associated with Common Goldeneyes).  No uncommon ducks were on the West Gravel Lakes (as we hiked back to our car).

A drive around the York Street/East 144th avenue area did not find the possible Red-shouldered Hawk reported yesterday by Bruce Neuman (to be fair, not much time was spent searching).

Then we headed to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) to see if last weekend's Eastern Towhee was still around (in spite of the mid week snowstorm). 

Many hunters had the northern ponds reserved.  We walked down to the pond 6-7 windbreak to look for Long-eared Owls (found one).  Two hunters were putting out decoys on Pond 5 and since they had just started, we asked if we could quickly walk the Russian Olive Tree windbreak along the southern end of the pond.  They were happy and generous to allow us to do so.  Unfortunately, the Eastern Towhee (or any towhee or bird for that matter) moved about the windbreak.

Since we had made the long drive, we walked the Russian Olive Tree windbreak along Ponds 3 and 4 (south side of highway 52).  Waterfowl are not dumb.  While the northern ponds were mostly frozen, they also had no ducks.  Pond 4 was ice and hunter free and had 100+ ducks.

Again no towhees or robins (there had been many Robins last weekend).  A small bird moved about under the clump of Russian Olive Trees at the southeast corner of Pond 4.  As we circled the small "grove" a Long-eared Owl called several times (we would have missed it if not for the call).  The small bird turned out to be a Song Sparrow.

With a couple of hours of daylight remaining, we decided to drive back to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  Harris's Sparrows have been reported at more than three locations this month.  We hoped that the Harris's Sparrows that wintered under the Contact Station feeders had returned.  None was found.

One hundred and fifty plus gulls on Lake Ladora all turned out to be Ring-billed Gulls.  Ninety+ percent of the waterfowl on Lower Derby Lake were American Coots (a few Western Grebes, Mallards and Gadwalls were the remainder).

Sunset is now around 4:38 pm and the arsenal is open until 6:00 pm.  We stayed around and searched for Long-eared Owls; without success.

Short Owling Trip Into the Mountains

November 20-22, 2013

Richard Stevens:

November 20, 2013

Jack Sheridan (distant relative of General Sheridan), Marty Wright and I headed up to the mountains for a few days of owling and White-winged Crossbill searching.

A stop along the eastern side of Chambers Lake found a male American Three-toed Woodpecker.  We tramped partially along the Zimmerman Lake Trail without finding any crossbills (White-winged or Red).

No Rosy Finches appeared at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

After dark, we heard a Boreal Owl just west of Cameron Pass.  No Boreal Owls were found up Ruby Jewell Road and we backtracked to highway 14.  Then we "hiked" down to the Crags Campgrounds.  A cooperative Boreal Owl allowed us nice views!

November 21, 2013

At first light, Jack Sheridan, Marty Wright and I planned to drive Jackson County Road 26 in search of a Greater Sage-Grouse.  Fortune was kind to us.  As we drove west off of highway 14, a Greater Sage-Grouse was walking along the east side of County Road 26 (only about 200 yards off hwy 14).

We continued into Steamboat Springs (Routt) and searched several fields were Sharp-tailed Grouse are sometimes reported.  None was found today.

On the trip back over Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand), we  did not find any White-winged Crossbills.  We heard the drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker (along the road to the maintenance shed), however never did see the bird.

We checked the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders twice during the day; no Rosy Finches came by.  A Pine Grosbeak pair, Mountain Chickadees and Pine Siskins did show.

November 22, 2013

After retiring early last night, our day started about two hours before sunrise.  Fog and snow covered roads made our trip quite treacherous.  We skipped highway 125, which would have passed Windy Gap Reservoir and took highway 40 to Kremmling (Grand County).

A dozen or so Rosy Finches (no Blacks) flew around this small North Park town.  Unfortunately, no Common Redpolls appear to be with them yet this winter.

At a friend's home in Summit County, we found 110 Rosy Finches (three species, only 2 Black) and 2 Common Redpolls!

Our next stop was Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County).  Again, someone in our group carried good luck.  A White-tailed Ptarmigan was observed walking the hillside on the west side of Highway 6 (across from the second pullover, east of hwy 6, south of Loveland Pass). 

I am always grateful when the Ptarmigan search is successful (especially when it was less than 30 minutes old)!

After dropping my birding partners off at their motel, I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) to search for the Long-tailed Duck reported earlier by Glenn Walbek.  A scope was needed, but I did eventually find the Long-tailed Duck near a raft of American Coots (in the southeastern corner of the reservoir).

Two Bonaparte's Gulls flew over while I was scoping the lake.  Eventually three Common Loons caught my attention.  They were examined for quite awhile; none was a Yellow-billed Loon.

Many Western Grebes and Ring-billed Gulls swam near the center of the lake.  A couple of California Gulls and at least two Herring Gulls were also identified.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area to Red Rocks Park

November 19, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Early this morning Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County).  We knew the Wildlife Area was closed (open Saturday to Monday); however, we thought that scoping the Russian Olive Tree windbreak below the northern parking area from Highway 52, might find the Eastern Towhee (seen on Sunday & Monday).

While a Townsend's Solitaire and many Robins were seen, the Eastern Towhee was not (no Spotted Towhees either).

After dropping Bryan off at home, I continued west to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  The Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared within 10 minutes of my arrival.

Next, I stopped and looked for the slate colored Fox Sparrow reported along the entrance road.  Directions: the willows and bushes under the rocky cliffs just west of the last house on the north side of the entrance road (as one drives in from Jefferson County Road 93).

The area was quite birdy with many Mountain Chickadees, White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos.  The Fox Sparrow was not there.

I noticed many birds coming to the feeders at the back of the house (above).  House Sparrows, House Finches, Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos, Western Scrub-Jays and American Robins visited off and on.

A large sparrow that appeared to have a brown and reddish body and grayish head popped up just once.  By the time I set up my scope, I only got a two-second look before this sparrow dropped down onto the deck below the feeders.  It never reappeared.  The sparrow may have been the slate colored Fox Sparrow, however, I could not record that I observed it.

No Short-eared Owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) as I drove home.

Guanella Pass and Jefferson County Mountain Parks

November 18, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Cam Dewitt, Stanford Collier and I started up Guanella Pass just below sunrise.  Before we reached the top, four White-tailed Ptarmigan were spotted under the evergreens on the east side of the road.  They were under the first taller evergreens south of the parking area.

Winds were 23 mph, gusts to 34 mph.  Skies were partly sunny with temperatures in the low 40s.  My fortune in finding the Ptarmigan is usually reduced by the stretch of the wind. 

However, I have been up here and recorded 62 mph winds.  That trip both of us were blown off our feet at least once and no Ptarmigan were found.  Twenty-three mph winds are pleasant for this area!

On the trip back to Denver, we stopped near the metal gate at Duck Lake.  A drumming woodpecker turned out to be a male American Three-toed Woodpecker.

A hike around Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) did not find any Northern Pygmy-Owls.  An immature Northern Goshawk was a consolation sighting.

Northern Pygmy-Owls were also missed along Songbird and Oxen Draw Trails at Reynolds Park.

After an early dinner at Morrison Inn (great Mexican food), we drove to White Ranch Open Space and Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  Again, no Northern Pygmy-Owls could be found.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

From Barr Lake (Adams County) to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County)

November 17, 2013

Richard Stevens:

This morning Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Barr Lake (Adams County).  Unfortunately, we could not relocate yesterday’s Blackpoll Warbler found below the dam.  We again circled the reservoir (8.9 miles).  The highlight was a Common Loon on the reservoir and a Spotted Towhee near the Visitor’s Center footbridge (no Eastern Towhees, boo).

We did relocate yesterday’s Barn Owl.  He (rather small bird, white breasted) was in the thickets/cottonwoods off mile 7.2.

The temperatures may have reached the mid 50s; winds were pretty close to 10 mph all day.

I heard about the Eastern Towhee at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) and gave it a try.  Unfortunately I did not know if it was on the north or south side of hwy 52 which splits the Wildlife Area in two.  The Eastern Towhee was not found by me.

I spent about an hour searching the Russian Olive windbreak below the northern parking area.  No towhee, but I did see a Townsend’s Solitaire, White-crowned Sparrow and many American Robins.

The south side Russian Olive windbreak did not hide an Eastern Towhee that I could see (during another hour of searching). However I finally found a few birds.  A chip was heard about halfway down Pond # 4.  With all the uncommon warblers around I was hoping for  a rare one; it turned out to be an Orange-crowned Warbler.  Several Blue Jays, Townsend’s Solitaires and Dark-eyed Juncos filled the air with song.

Finally I gave the northern windbreak another hour of searching; without success.

While missing the Eastern Towhee, I was able to find three Long-eared Owls (two in locations not recorded before by me).

The trip to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area was a superb ending to my birding day.  No sounds but the wind, a couple of Blue Jays and a few songbird calls.

As I wrote yesterday on the CoBus trip Blog, be sure to know the rules and locations of hunters that check in.  In regard to the rules, I have heard of one birder getting a ticket and another birder a warning.  Today hunters were at Ponds 10, 1 & 2. When near Pond 2, I turned around to not disturb the hunter.

Additional birding, 3000+ White-cheeked Geese were on the flooded field north of Tower Road and 96th Avenue (Red Phalarope location).  Four Snow Geese and one Ross’s Goose was among them (no Greater White-fronted Geese however).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birding Adams & Weld Counties

November 16, 2013

Richard Stevens:

This morning, Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to circle Barr Lake (about 8.9 miles around the trail).  The Weather was pleasant, however much colder and windier than the past few days.

A late migrating Hermit Thrush was below the trail, just northeast of the Pioneer trailhead (mile 8.1).  The highlight of the walk was a Blackpoll Warbler in fall plumage below the dam. 

On the way back to our car, we relocated the Barn Owl in the thick trees off mile 7.2.

No uncommon birds were found while we scoped the reservoir from the now closed boat ramp.

In the afternoon, we drove to a friend's ranch in Weld County.  His resident Long-eared Owls were easy to spot in the evergreen windbreak surrounding his house.

Our birding day ended at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  We added another Long-eared Owl in the windbreak west of Ponds 6-8. 

Many American Robins and Dark-eyed Juncos fluttered about the same windbreak. 

If visiting be sure to check what days some of the hunting areas are reserved.

Continued Southeast to South Central Trip

November 12-15, 2013

Richard Stevens:

November 12, 2013

At first light, we checked for owls and Harris's Sparrows at Mike Higbee Wildlife Area (Prowers County).  While neither was found, a pair of Rusty Blackbirds walking along the Fort Bent Canal was a superb consolation prize.

A quick stop at Lamar Community College added only one Northern Cardinal to our trip list.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was flying around as we drove through Willow Creek Park.  Fairmount Cemetery was void of birds (do not know why, perhaps a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk had flown through)?

Our group continued south to visit a friend's ranch in Furnish Canyon (he has reported a Vermilion Flycatcher for several days).

A quick detour to Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca County) found a Barn Owl and Common Yellowthroat below the dam (carefully watch access).

A Surf Scoter was with many common waterfowl on the lake itself.

We arrived at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) with several hours of daylight left.  One of the resident Rufous-crowned Sparrows perched on the rocky hillside at 1.4 miles southeast of Baca County Road 5 & Carrizo Creek.

Several Canyon Towhees were not far from the same spot.  A lone Lewis's Woodpecker hung on one of the old cottonwood snags as we continued toward Carrizo Creek.

After sunset, we managed to conjure up one of the resident Western Screech-Owls (near Carrizo Creek)!  Carrizo Creek Picnic Area was very quiet.

November 13, 2013

We arrived at my friend's ranch only to find that the Vermilion Flycatcher has not been seen in two days.

It was another beautiful fall day in Colorado and we celebrated with a hike at Picture Canyon (Baca).  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow popped up on the short rocky hillside just south of the parking area.

Nothing moved about the cliffs with Indian pictographs.  We then hiked south and west to North Canyon.  Along the way, a Curve-billed Thrasher was observed on the cliffs near the old stone cabin.

Unfortunately, only a few birds were around the spring at North Canyon.  Vermilion Flycatchers have been reported here at least three times in the last 20 years.  A Northern Mockingbird was probably not migrating, but a resident bird.

Our trek passed through Cottonwood Canyon and stopped again at Carrizo Creek and Baca County Road 5.  This area once had many Bewick's Wrens around the evergreen trees.  I can only remember seeing one in 2013 (on my nine trips through the area).

We also hiked the draw south of the old stone house (we found a Tufted Titmouse here on 11/2/1996).  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker, nine Cedar Waxwings, a Bewick's Wren and Dark-eyed Juncos were found.

A dusk we arrived at a friend's ranch in Las Animas and joined 30+ ranchers for dinner.  Afterwards we set up our "owl listening stations" and walked around his expansive ranch.  While we did not find a Northern Saw-whet Owl on our own (four Great Horned Owls were found), Jerry put a spotlight on one hanging around one of the "listening stations".  In my experience, Northern Saw-whet Owls seldom call in fall; however, they are attracted to recordings.

November 14, 2013

At first light, we returned to the Northern Saw-whet Owl spot found last night.  Unfortunately, the owl did not stick around.

I received a call about six Tundra Swans at Trinidad State Park (Las Animas County) and we continued in that direction.

The Tundra Swans were not found, however, we did see a Surf Scoter, Pacific Loon and 1 or 2 Common Loons.  Several Northern Shrikes, a Say's Phoebe and Canyon Towhee were encountered on the drive around the reservoir.

We stopped at Lathrop State Park (Huerfano) on our way to do some owling in Custer County after dark.  Lathrop State Park had few birds of interest (a couple of Mountain Bluebirds and a Vesper Sparrow).

The drive up Greenhorn Road was quite productive.  One Lewis's Woodpecker and two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were run across when we stopped at several of the previous GPS waypoint spots from previous years.

Our "Owl Listening Stations" were set up along the South Creek Trail, Ophir Creek Campgrounds and Davenport Campgrounds.  We eventually located two Northern Saw-whet Owls (continuing our quest to indicate where they winter in Colorado; future "Colorado Field Notes" articles).

November 15, 2013

Our plan today was to go up Slumgullion Pass and search for Boreal Owls at the Campgrounds (Hinsdale County).  These plans were later abandoned when we heard that it was snowing in Lake City (possible 6-12 inches to 5 feet expected).

Instead, we stopped off at DeWeese Reservoir (Custer County).  A White-winged Scoter and Common Loon swan around the reservoir.  A hike below the dam and along Grape Creek found a wren that sounded like a Winter Wren.  The call was brief and we never found the bird (left as one that got away).

With a trip to Lake City out and snow predicted for much of the mountains and possibly Denver, we decided to owl in Fremont County and head home afterwards.

We drove up Phantom Canyon and planned the return trip toward highway 50 after dark.  No Spotted Owls made a sound this night.

On the way into Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont County), we set up our three "Owl Listening Stations" and continued to the end of the road.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl was hit with a spotlight as we scanned the riparian area around the parking area!

One of our "Owl Listening Stations" (see "Colorado Field Notes") was effective.  We found one of the tiny Northern Saw-whet Owls in the Juniper trees near Oro Juno (one of my favorite locations to search for them).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Southern Trip, Otero, Crowley & Bent/Kiowa Counties

November 11, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann and Jerry Petrosky left Denver about 2:00 am.  They arrived at Rocky Ford Wildlife Area in Otero County about an hour and a half before sunrise.  Their efforts paid off as a Western Screech-Owl was found.

They spent several hours at Blue Lake in Bent and Kiowa Counties.  At first they only found a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Thayer's Gull and Pectoral Sandpiper.  After another two hours a Jaeger was seen flying over the eastern end.  This is most likely the Parasitic Jaeger reported last week.

No Barn Owls could be found north of Blue Lake and they worked their way back toward Rocky Ford.  Lake Henry and Lake Meredith are closed.  They scoped Ordway Reservoir from Highway 71, found no uncommon birds.

Nearby after sunset, they found both an Eastern Screech-Owl and Western Screech-Owl on the same ranch in Crowley County!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jefferson and Park County Birding

November 10, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, two California birders and I started our day at sunrise at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County).  It was too cold to start looking for American Three-toed Woodpeckers wandering around so we walked the Narrow Gauge Trail.

American Dippers appear to have moved on (down to lower elevations for the winter).  The highlight was a Northern Pygmy-Owl watching us near the closed gate at the west end of the trail.

Birds really did not start moving around until well after the 6:39 am sunrise.  We noticed more movement around 10:00 am (on our way down the mountain).  It was a chilling hike up the Buck Gulch Trail to the Strawberry Jack Trail on to Parkview Trail.

The sun just started to warm up the hillside when we reached the Parkview Trail and continued south on Strawberry Jack.  We heard drumming to east of the Strawberry Jack Trail about 200 yards south of Parkview Trail.  We dropped downhill (east) and found an adult female American Three-toed Woodpecker (the only one encountered all morning).

No additional Northern Pygmy-Owls or Three-toed Woodpecker was run across as we continued to the rocky hillside farther south (a productive location of owls on past trips).

Our morning list included three species of nuthatches, a few Mountain Bluebirds, a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos and half a dozen Pine Siskins.

Already on Highway 285, we decided to continue to Park County and the trio of reservoirs there.

Antero Reservoir had few birds (mostly ice covered).

Spinney Mountain Reservoir had only one Surf Scoter and not much else.

Eleven Mile Reservoir had the most birds including three Surf Scoters.

Misses: no loons, swans or additional uncommon ducks.

On the way back to Denver, we searched Bear Creek Lake Park (Jefferson) for the Surf Scoter and Rusty Blackbird reported earlier in the week; without success.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow again did not make an appearance below the Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) platform feeders during an hour wait late in the afternoon.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Trip Into the Mountains West of Denver

November 9, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Saturday was another pleasant fall day in Colorado.  The highs in Denver were around the middle 60s; winds were 10+ mph.

Four of us headed into the mountains today; target birds were White-tailed Ptarmigan and Rosy Finches.

We found all three species of Rosy Finches in Summit County (only one Black).  Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays, three species of nuthatches, Mountain & Black-capped Chickadees, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and one very late Band-tailed Pigeon.

We scoped Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) from the eastern and western side of the Summit without finding any Ptarmigan.  Having not wanting to hike the steep mountain on the west side of Loveland Pass, we decided to first drive down the pass first and scope the hills.

Fortunately, we found a pair of Ptarmigan below the trees east of Highway 6 (while we were parked at the first large pullover on the west side of hwy 6).

We drove through Keystone Village searching unsuccessfully for Evening Grosbeaks.  None was found in Georgetown either.  Two male Red Crossbills were at the Georgetown City Park.

A stop for an hour did not turn up the Golden-crowned Sparrow at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).

Boulder Bay-breasted Warbler to Lower Latham Reservoir, Weld County

November 8, 2013

Richard Stevens:

It was a fantastic day in Colorado for November.  Temperatures reached the middle 60s.  While others reported high winds in Boulder, when Rebecca and I were there, winds were less than 5 mph.

The Bay-breasted Warbler was quite cooperative.  It gleaned insects from a Pine Tree near the building at 3005 Center Green Drive in Boulder (just northwest of the Foothills Parkway and Valmont Road.

After watching the warbler for an hour, we headed back toward home by way of Valmont Road and highway 7.  We stopped for 30 minutes at the Teller Lake # 5 parking area.  No sparrows were there at all.  A walk to the lake found only one Song Sparrow along the path.  The Golden-crowned Sparrow sometimes is with a flock of White-crowned Sparrows around the fallen trees north of the path.  We did not find it today.

Hundreds of waterfowl were on Teller Lake # 5.  Unfortunately, no uncommon ducks were found.  There were plenty of Redheads, American Coots, Mallards, Gadwalls, Pied-billed Grebes, Green-winged Teal, and a few others.

Prince Lakes 1 and 2 had no gulls at all.  Finally, we passed Lowell Ponds, which had no ice cover or gulls.

Our birding day ended with an unsuccessful search for the Black-legged Kittiwake at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld).  No Short-eared Owls appeared during a brilliant and colorful sunset.

DIA Owl Loop and Aurora Reservoir

November 7, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) 30 minutes before sunrise.  A Short-eared Owl flew around the field at the corner of 96th Avenue (where 96th avenue turns north after coming from Tower Road).

To stretch our legs after yesterday's long drive, we hiked the 8.7 miles around Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The Common Loon was in the most southeastern cove. 

We never found the previously reported Surf Scoter among hundreds of waterfowl.  The usual characters were represented including Canvasbacks, Redheads, Western Grebes and the more common ducks.

Continued Northeastern Colorado Trip

November 4-6, 2013

Richard Stevens:

November 4

Today, Bryan Ehlmann and I searched unsuccessfully for the Varied Thrush reported yesterday by Mlodinow at Ovid (Sedgwick County).  We walked Lodgepole Creek twice from the Ovid High School to the railroad tracks.

A pair of Rusty Blackbirds walked along the creek south of the high school, north of highway 138.

A Brown Thrasher was encountered near the cross bridge south of highway 138.  Misses included the resident Northern Cardinals.  A male Purple Finch is still coming to feeders at a friend's house (she prefers to remain unnamed).

Inspection of the field and S. Platte River at the Ovid Sewage Pond area found a White-throated Sparrow today.  Misses included the resident Harris's Sparrow(s).

The highlight of the day was an American Woodcock along the S. Platte River (private ranch near Red Lions Wildlife Area).

The weedy field at DePoorter Lake only added another White-throated Sparrow to our day list.  A Northern Bobwhite called from the old dump area.

While checking the Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop for uncommon doves (Inca Doves found in the past) we ran upon a Field Sparrow and not much else.

Eastern Screech-Owls called on Roger Danka's ranch at dusk.

November 5

We called Rebecca, Sue and Jerry Petrosky last night and drove back to the private ranch near Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan County) first thing in the morning.  The American Woodcock had moved down river from yesterday's sighting, but was still on private property (a site/private ranch access that I had "inherited" from Colorado master birder Dan Bridges).

Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) had more ducks and geese than a few days ago, but less gulls.  We did relocate the Lesser Black-backed Gull and several Bonaparte's Gulls.  Geese included Greater White-fronted Geese and Ross's Geese.

The Greater Scaup, Surf Scoter and Black-bellied Plover from two days ago could not be found. Nor were the four Red-necked Grebes reported by Nick Moore on 11/3.

We continued to Sterling where we planned to spend the night and visited several birding locations.

North Sterling Reservoir (Logan) added another Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bonaparte's Gull to our day list.  Jerry heard a Snow Bunting; however regrettably none of us was able to put a binocular on the bird.

Pioneer Park had few passerines, no warblers or vireos.  The resident Eastern Screech-Owls were not cooperative today; we did not see them.

Overland Park and Museum was equally void of birds.

Two Barn Swallows and a Tree Swallow were somewhat surprising as they flew up and down the South Platte River at Highway 138.

Our birding day ended back at Sterling Reservoir where we waited for Short-eared Owls to appear.  None did tonight.

November 6

Our two car caravan continued west today.  Crow Valley Campground (Weld) was quiet.  No Common Redpolls, owls and other uncommon birds moved about.

We found Lapland Longspurs on the road toward the 122 Ponds.  While no uncommon waterfowl were found.

We searched for Long-eared and Short-eared Owls at Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer); however, daytime is not the most favorable time for such a search.  We have found them in the windbreak along Larimer County Road 3 in past years.

A Common Loon and Bonaparte's Gull were found at Douglas Reservoir (Larimer) and then we turned south.

It took awhile, but eventually we found the Brant at Houts Reservoir.  Several Bonaparte's Gulls were also here.

The Little Gull at Terry Lake (Boulder) was not found.  Perhaps it was back at McIntosh Lake; we did not check it out (and probably should have).

As a consolation, the Golden-crowned Sparrow was relocated at Teller Lake # 5.  It was with 6-8 White-crowned Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows in the weedy field north of the path heading toward Teller Lake # 5.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Logan/Sedgwick Counties

November 3, 2013

Rebecca Kosten: transcript of telephone call:

Richard Stevens and Bryan Ehlmann went searching for the Vermilion Flycatcher reported on 11/2 at Red Lion Wildlife Area by Coyle, Logan County.  They were not able to find it.

A flock of gulls flying over the northeast corner of Jumbo Reservoir included a Mew Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Bonaparte's Gulls, Sedgwick County.  The gulls were last seen flying toward Little Jumbo Reservoir.  A Black-bellied Plover walked the private shore south of the eastern Campgrounds, Sedgwick County.

On the reservoir, they found a Greater Scaup and Surf Scoter, Logan/Sedgwick Counties.

Late in the afternoon, they drove Logan County Road 93 without finding any Greater Prairie-Chickens.  The last hour of daylight, they walked the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, north of Sedgwick County Roads 86 & 46.  A Short-eared Owl was seen flying below the hill toward I76.

After dark, an Eastern Screech-Owl called back near Eastern Sections 6-7, north of Highway 76.

White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass; Checking Some Birding Locations Around Denver

November 2, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Steve Boreanoz and I watched sunrise at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County) this morning.  A beautiful sunrise peeked through the fog.  Temperature was 12 degrees; however, fortunately winds were calm.

We enjoyed good fortune this morning.  Steve only had a couple of hours to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan before having to head to DIA Airport.  We scoped the eastern side of Loveland Pass without success.

Then we made the mile trek up the western side (as temps reached 20 degrees).  As luck would have it, we only had to hike about 0.8 miles up the steep hillside.  Two Ptarmigan were walking in the bowl on the south side of the trail.  I have found Ptarmigan in this bowl a dozen times over the last decade.  (This bowl is reached when the steep incline somewhat levels off for a brief stretch.  The shallow bowl is to the south; the north side of the trail is a 600-foot drop-off).

After dropping Steve at the airport, I picked up Rebecca Kosten and we went to inspect a few bird sightings and locations.  The afternoon was another fantastic Colorado fall day.  We do not know how many are left in 2013 and enjoyed today much!

Bob Canter called with a questionable grebe at Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area (Adams County).  The only grebe we found turned out to be a Western Grebe molting to basic plumage.  The dull yellow green bill, dark bodied, some hint of black below the eye indicated a Western Grebe.  We would expect a yellow to bright yellow bill, lightish bodied, eye in white on a Clark's Grebe.

We continued south and stopped at Harriman Lake Park (Jefferson) where Baines had reported a scoter from 10/26 to 10/31.  Jerry Petrosky had searched for the scoter yesterday, without success (but reported high winds and waves hindering his search).

Conditions for us were temperatures in the high 60s and calm winds.  We scoped the lake many times until I felt we had looked at every (almost) duck at least three times.  The possible scoter with orange bill and knob was not found.

The many female Lesser Scaups, Redheads and Ring-necked Ducks made the search time consuming.  Added to the many species of female ducks was the fact that many of them kept diving for food.  It seemed like they only surfaced for 3-4 seconds before diving again.

We had to leave without a sighting of the mystery scoter.  I did wonder if anyone had ever conducted a study of how much time each species of duck stays under the water?  Perhaps not, but it might be an interesting study.

One of my loose "rules" the 30 second rule involves if a duck or loon stays under water for more than 30 seconds, it is most likely a Long-tailed Duck (not scaups, Redheads, Ring-necked) or a loon (not a cormorant).  I think it helps to put focus on a possible identification.

Our final stop of the day was Chatfield State Park (it was somewhat on the way home).  We scoped the lake from the top of the dam (my favorite spot).  We found one Red-necked Grebe, the Pacific Loon, one Common Loon and a Bonaparte's Gull.  The second Red-necked Grebe and the Pomarine Jaeger (which I understand has not been found for several days) were not relocated. 

Birding Around Denver

November 1, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I stopped at several birding spots around Denver today.  Winds were calm; temperatures were fantastic in the high 50s.

It took only a few minutes to pick out the Black Scoter and Surf Scoter on Ferril Lake at Denver City Park (Denver County).

We watched the feeders at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) for about an hour and a half.  Unfortunately, the Golden-crowned Sparrow did not appear.

Only gulls, mostly Ring-billed, were on Lake Ladora at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  Many ducks were on Lower Derby Lake.  Although the numbers were far less than when we found the Black Scoter & Surf Scoter last Sunday (10/27).  The Swamp Sparrow could not be found at Lake Ladora or Marys Lake.

We scoped Barr Lake (Adams) from the boat ramp.  Many Western Grebes, American Coots and a few Pied-billed Grebes were observed.  No loons or jaegers were encountered.

At the feeders behind the Visitor's Center, fourteen White-crowned Sparrows (only 2 adults) were joined by a White-throated Sparrow.  They were last seen moving west down the canal.

We stopped by the flooded field along Tower Road, north of 96th avenue (although not hearing about a Red Phalarope sighting for several days).  We found no Red Phalarope.  The American Avocet count was up to three.  Six Killdeer wandered the shoreline.

No owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop at sunset.

Birding Around Pueblo, Abandoned Owling Trip

October 31, 2013

Richard Stevens:

When Bryan Ehlmann, Alex B and I reached Pueblo winds were 10-12 mph, gusts to 22+ mph.  Last night we had searched for owls (specifically Northern Saw-whet Owls) in 14+ mph winds.  When it started snowing, we abandoned the idea.

In spite of the high winds, our Pueblo Reservoir count included the Laughing Gull, Bonaparte's Gulls and Common Loon.  Regrettable misses included the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pacific Loon.

A Black Phoebe was found west of the Valco Ponds parking area.

Our plans to go owling in southern Pueblo County were deserted when we decided the winds were not going to die down tonight.  None of us looked forward to another night of howling winds and no owls.