Sunday, November 3, 2013

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. 

No comments: