Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pleasant Winter Day at Aurora Reservoir and Rocky Mountain Arsenal

January 29, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed the mild winter day with a trip to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  Winds were calm and temperatures reached into the 50s.

When I arrived at the east end of the dam at 1:20 pm, many gulls were less than 20 feet below.  The gulls in this group included the Iceland Gull, an adult & 1st cycle Thayer's Gulls, a 1st cycle Mew Gull, Herring Gulls, California Gull & Ring-billed Gulls.  Hopefully photos of the Iceland Gull will come out well?

Farther out (quite far south) on another ice shelf, I saw a Glaucous Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

At the western end of the dam, the many gulls included the Slaty-backed Gull and another Thayer's Gull.

Several Common Goldeneyes, American Coots and a Common Merganser swam around the open water. 

When I returned to the eastern end of the dam, the Iceland Gull was still there (farther south of dam, 20 yards or so). 

Most gulls took off for DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) around 3:00 pm.

Next, I drove over to Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) and stayed until 5:55 pm (they closed at 6:00 pm). 

All of Lake Ladora and most of Lower Derby Lake were ice covered.  A few Hooded Mergansers and Common Mergansers, American Coots and several Common Goldeneyes were in a small opening of water at Lower Derby.

About 20 minutes before sunset (5:16 pm), I scoped the eastern hills looking unsuccessfully for Short-eared Owls. 

On the way between Lake Ladora and Governor's Row, a Great Horned Owl was observed on one of the telephone poles around the Contact Station.

With limited time, I spent 15 minutes at the Governor's Row area.  Hundreds of Black-billed Magpies swarmed the area.  Recordings of Long-eared Owls and Barn Owls were played.  I did hear (only) one Long-eared Owl. 

What a pleasant winter evening and a great way to end this fantastic day.  Hundreds of White tailed Deer roamed the hills east of Lake Ladora.  Dozens of Mule Deer were to the southwest of Ladora.  The only sounds were the "rek rek rek rek" of the Black-billed Magpies (and one briefly crying Long-eared Owl).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Poor Visibility at Aurora Reservoir

January 27, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I had to get out a bird a little bit in spite the snowfall.  When I arrived at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County), visibility was limited by snow and fog.

Most gulls were on the ice edge that was quite far from the dam.  I had to hike about 3/4 mile to the northwest end of the dam to get any look at the gulls.

I could pick out a Glaucous Gull among 100s of Ring-billed Gulls.  No Black backed Gulls were out there.  Thayer's Gulls and Iceland Gulls would have required a much better view to identify.

A Northern Harrier flew across the road as I drove through the DIA Owl Loop.  Again, visibility was limited.  Roads were starting to get a coating of ice.

Another Unsuccessful Search for the Weld County Snowy Owl; Consolation prizes at Barr Lake State Park

Email sent by Bryan Ehlmann to listserve "cobirders" on 1/26/2014

Hello Birders,

Richard Stevens and I after not finding the Riverside Reservoir Snowy Owl for the second day in a row went looking for the Barr Lake Rusty Blackbirds.

While we did not find them below the dam, we did see a Winter Wren and two Long eared Owls at separate locations.

Ferruginous, Rough legged, and Red tailed Hawks were along the DIA Owl loop.

Winds were steady at 24 mph, gusts to 32 mph. We saw little hope in finding a Short eared Owl.

Good Birding!

Directions to birding spots on CoBus website:

Bryan Ehlmann, President, Colorado Birding Society
Denver, CO
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
Read "cobirders" at:

Search for the Highlands Ranch Pine Warbler

January 25, 2014

Richard Stevens:

After hunting of the Snowy Owl early Saturday (1/25) morning, I went to  Highlands Ranch, Jefferson County.  I stood scoping the backyard from 3:30 pm to 5:15 pm.  The previously reported Pine Warbler never made an appearance.

It was a superb winter's day with calm winds and temperatures close to 60 degrees.  The experience was quite enjoyable.  Fourteen Black-capped Chickadees were seen at one time.  Several times, Black-capped Chickadees were on a suet ball just four feet from my head.  They are such an interesting bird to watch!

Many House Finches visited the various feeders.  A Northern Flicker came by several times.  Of course had a pair of Eurasian Collared-Dove that appear just about everywhere in Colorado now.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk flew into a nearby Ponderosa Pine (could be Scotch Pine) on two occasions.  This may have kept bird numbers down?  Perhaps the Pine Warbler stayed away for the same reason?

Note to those wanting to search for the bird: directions on the Colorado Birding Society's website:

Instead of standing in the backyard, park 0.1 mile south of East Blackhawk Circle and  South Prairie Falcon Creek Drive.  Walk west on the Big Dry Creek Trail for a hundred yards and watch feeders from there.

Hunt for a Snowy Owl in Weld County

Email sent to listserve "cobirders" on 1/26/2014 by Jerry Petrosky

What ungodly noise is that?
I wake up to see devilish red numbers piercing my eyes, 5:00
The phone call was from Bryan, am I going to make our rendezvous?

Yesterday (Saturday), Richard Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann and I went on an adventure.
A search for the Loch Ness Monster?
Big foot, although I heard it was shot last week?
A Snowy Owl in Colorado?

A Snowy Owl it was.
It was pitch black in the cloudy night at 4:30 am.
Not even a glimpse of the sliver of waning moon was seen.
The tires rattled along the cracks in the highway.

Hey guys, doesn't this demon heat up more in the backseat?
Later gravel crunching under the tires filled the air.

We stopped at a riparian area near Riverside Reservoir,
A heavy fog barely visible.

A Great Horned Owl called in the cottonwoods.
ho, hoo, hoo hoododo hoooo...
ho, hoo, hoo hoododo hoooo...

Who, who's awake, me too...

Red-tailed Hawk screeched
Guess we disturbed him also.

Soon the sky brighten slightly in the east.
The frost covered grasses barely seen swaying in the wind.

Many white clumps of snow remaining from recent storms looked like a Snowy Owl.
As it got lighter, we stopped many times to scope the rolling hills.
Steady winds shook our tripods.
Hundreds of snow clumps, no Snowy Owl.

Hundreds of light brown birds, now and then flashing yellow, Horned Larks!
Now and then the yell, darker brown bird with whitish tail, Lapland Longspur.
Not as loud, guys, lack of sleep has put my senses on edge.

We drove up and down the county road for hours.
In and out of the car, still no Snowy Owl.

Finally we ran out of roads and decided to head for home.

5:20 am now, my warm bed beckons.
My wife keeping it toasty.

Sorry guys, go on without me, may you find the Snowy Owl.

Instead of going on the internet and sending this email,
Who would read it, all should be asleep.
Later and good night!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sedgwick County Birding

January 24, 2014

Richard Stevens:

We hit several birding locations in Sedgwick County today.  Winds were down to 14 mph, gusts to 17 mph; temperatures were in the middle 50s.

A male Northern Cardinal was singing in Julesburg Wildlife Area (as we stood on the County Road 29 Bridge).

Ovid Sewage Ponds area had many sparrows.  A Harris's Sparrow & White-throated Sparrow were picked out of four dozen+ White-crowned Sparrows.

While we did not see it today, a young male Purple Finch is coming to feeders in Ovid.  Now and then, it will be seen in the northern Ovid Woods.  A Brown Thrasher has been wintering in the southern Ovid Woods.

Once back in Denver, I checked out Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) late in the afternoon.  Most of the gulls were in the center of the reservoir (I did not have my scope).  A dark Gull looked like an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Snowy Day In Northeastern Colorado

January 23, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Most of northeastern Colorado was hit with an inch or so of snow.  It made for a slow birding day.

I took my friend with his leg still in a cast (cannot drive) around to visit his neighbors.  While Roger visited, I checked out the windbreaks.  Long-eared Owls are doing well in northeastern Colorado.  My count at three locations: 2-2-8.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Less Wind? In Northeastern Colorado

January 22, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Winds had "died down" relative to the last few days.  Anemometer readings steady at 16 mph, gusts to 23 mph, however, temperatures were 20 degrees cooler today (high around 39 degrees).

Roger Danka and took a drive around Phillips County to get him out of the house.  His broken leg is taking a long time to heal.

We stopped at Sand Draw Wildlife Area.  A few White-crowned Sparrows flew around the southwestern windbreak.  No Harris's Sparrows this trip, the highlight was a Barn Owl in the northwestern section of the windbreak.

While driving by several rather dry cattail marshes in the county (no Eastern Meadowlarks) Lapland Longspurs were found mixed in with flocks of Horned Larks.  Most were near County Roads 61 & 26 and 59 & 30.

I walked part of the S. Platte River at the Pony Express Wildlife Area (Roger limped around the car).  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker worked the cottonwoods (stripped of much of the understory by this summers floods).

At dusk, we sat along the eastern side of the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County).  I walked about a mile west into the property.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

The Eastern Screech-Owl called at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) about an hour after civil twilight.

Another Windy Day In Northeastern Colorado

January 21, 2014

Richard Stevens:

It was an interesting day in Northeastern Colorado.  Winds were steady at 36 mph with gusts to 41 mph.  Holding binoculars steady to see anything half a football field away was quite a chore.

We walked the southern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County) at daybreak.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens came into view.  Nothing was flying around in the high winds; we missed Short-eared Owls. 

The wind made for a short day; we did stop at Julesburg Wayside Rest Stop where in previous years Eastern Towhees and Common Ground-doves have been reported in past years.  Neither was found today.  A brilliant red male Northern Cardinal brighten up the cottonwoods along the South Platte River.

From there, we headed for shelter from the winds and helped our friend with chores.  A day or two of ranch work is fine, would not want to do it all the time.

Windy Day in Northeastern Colorado

January 20, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Up in northeastern Colorado to help a wounded (broke leg) friend with chores, Anemometer readings were steady at 21 mph, gusts to 34 mph.

A quick drive to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick Counties) in the morning had found a Lesser Black-backed Gull and Thayer's Gull along the southeastern edge.  When they flew up into the wind, they hovered one place.

Watching White-cheeked Geese and White Geese try and fly north was interesting.  It took much effort for them to fly to the fields north of the reservoir to eat.

One of the resident Eastern Screech-Owls called without any incitation. 

Two Eastern Screech-Owls called on Roger Danka's ranch at dusk.  Many sparrows visited his feeders (although none was uncommon-Fox Sparrow or Harris's Sparrow).

Heading Northeast

January 19, 2014

Richard Stevens:

We headed to northeastern Colorado to visit a friend's ranch.  Winds indicated things to come.  Anemometer readings were 12+ mph, gusts to 21 mph.  The winds brought warm temperatures, however they are not always beneficial to birding success.

We found Long-eared Owls and one of the resident Eastern Screech-Owls at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

The previously reported Winter Wren and Rusty Blackbirds could not be found at Boyd Ponds.  Feeders around Log Lane Village were empty of seeds and birds.

We drove the western section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) and found no birds.  Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were observed from the highway 55 bridge over the South Platte River.

At dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl called from the eastern sections (6-7E).

Owling and Snowshoeing in Park County

January 16-18, 2014

Richard Stevens:

January 16

Bryan and I set off for a couple of days of owling and winter camping in the mountains west of Denver.  Eventually we planned to camp out on Guanella Pass and hoped for weaker winds than the attempt last week.

On the trip up, we found a Northern Pygmy-Owl along highway 67 (Douglas County).  This perhaps was the same owl found a few days earlier by Glenn Walbek and company.

We camped at Handcart Campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road (Park County).  The first three Campgrounds west of Grant are good places to search for Northern Saw-whet Owls (probably in spring through late fall is better time).

We set up our three "owl listening stations" (none of which caught any sounds).  We did hear a Great Horned Owl calling after civil twilight.

January 17

Today Bryan and I made the long hike from the Guanella Pass trailhead toward the top of the pass (Park County).  There are shorter routes to the top of Mt. Bierstadt.  However, our goal was searching for wintering owls and not a summit. 

Therefore, we chose to snowshoe the Scott Gomer Pack Trail from 5 miles south of the summit (through the forest).  This offers an 8 mile trail around Geneva Mountain that ends at the Guanella Pass parking area.

While we did not expect any Northern Saw-whet Owls, a Northern Pygmy-Owl or perhaps a Boreal Owl was a possibility (slim).

The morning was bright with sunshine and winds 18 mph (weak for this part of Colorado).  Warmer temperatures offered low 40 degrees during the day and double digit temperatures at night.  In preparation, we carry Mt Everest type mountain gear and avalanche beacons (although from experience, I know that this route offers little danger of avalanches).

Our biggest concern is keeping equipment (owl listening stations and cameras) from any low temperature damage.  We made the trek without any alarming incident.

Highlights were several flocks of Red Crossbills (unfortunately, no White-winged Crossbills), six Pine Grosbeaks, several flocks of Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees and a male American Three-toed Woodpecker.

We set up camp, using one of the restrooms as a windbreak.  Winds measured 18 mph, gusts to 31 mph (last week winds blew off the 66 mph range of my anemometer.

January 18

We again woke up to sunny skies and winds less than 20 mph.  As we circled back around Geneva Mountain, a flock of 31 White-tailed Ptarmigan was found above us on the south-southeast side of Geneva Mountain!

I had to look it up; my high count for White-tailed Ptarmigan here was 74 birds in 2001 and 66 birds in 2006.

We enjoyed the snowshoe trip back to our jeep (mostly downhill).  Again, Red Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks and a lone male American Three-toed Woodpecker kept our interest.

No owls were found during the last two days.

Our plan to go owling once back at Grand (Highway 285) was aborted when high winds with much snow was predicted in the afternoon (this did happen, 40+ mph winds and almost a foot of snow fell late afternoon into the next day).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Drive Around Adams County

January 15, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I drove around Adams County in the afternoon.  Winds were 12+ mph, gusts to 27 mph.  High temperature was 53; it felt quite cold.

A quick stop at the Sprat-Platte Lakes area was not "quick".  It took longer than expected to relocate the White-winged Scoter.  Much of the ice cover has melted and the scoter and many ducks were far from the western shore.

Two Bald Eagles stood on the ice at the far eastern shore.  All three male mergansers were found.  The male Red-breasted Merganser was quite colorful.

Later we drove north of DIA and searched unsuccessfully for Lapland Longspurs (some were reported yesterday near Haynesmount Road and 120th avenue). 

We saw two Ferruginous Hawks, a pair of American Kestrels, seven Red-tailed Hawks, two Rough-legged Hawks, five Northern Harriers and one Prairie Falcon (missed Short-eared Owls).

Another fantastic Colorado winter sunset lit up the sky with "flames".

Sunset at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

January 14, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Winds were relatively mild this afternoon (8 mph, gusts to 12 mph).  High temperature was only 43 degrees (still better than most of the US is seeing).

Rebecca Kosten and I went for a drive and chose Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  We expected few birds but went to see the Bison.  Today 48 Bison were 10 yards from 72nd avenue.

Birds were few as expected.  No Bald Eagles and only one Red-tailed Hawk were east of Lake Ladora (along E. 64th Avenue).

The highlight was a Long-eared Owl in the fir trees behind the Contact Station.  After sitting and watching the bison along 72nd avenue (under one of Colorado's spectacular sunsets), we returned to the Governor's Row area.  One Long-eared Owl called from the New Mexico Locust trees.

A Superb "Gull Day" at Aurora Reservoir

January 13, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I was at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) today from 2:04 pm to 4:40 pm.  While I was parked at the east end of the dam, eventually I walked to the western side and sat for two hours at the dam where the steps turn into rough, non stepped concrete.  Winds were 16 mph above the dam, but quite calm at the lowest step just above the water.  The hundreds of gulls were quite close and ignored me.  Over 350 photos were taken which need to be examined.

Probably the worse time to arrive would have been 60 minutes before sunset (4:58pm).  75+ percent of the gulls took off and flew toward DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site).  I did not stay until dark (around 5:30 pm) to see if they returned).

Gulls I am sure of included:

Slaty backed Gull.  sat in one position for 1.5 hours, and then took off toward DADS.  I wanted to get a look at the wingtips in flight.  They looked quite good for a Slaty backed Gull.

Iceland Gull: at least one 2nd cycle.  A possible second was mostly hidden by other gulls.  When they took off, I was more interested in the Slaty backed Gull.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: two adults, one first cycle

Glaucous Gull: four 1st cycle

Thayer's Gull: at least one adult, two first year

Many Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gull, two+ California Gulls

When I initially popped up over the dam (from the parking area), a Ross's Goose was among 2000+ White-cheeked Geese.  They flew northeast to feed somewhere.

Picking Up A Few 2014 Yearbirds in Boulder County

January 12, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed north to Boulder County to be up some first year (2014) birds.  Winds were terrible today (increased as the day continued, at times 26 mph, gusts to 38 mph).

The Golden-crowned Sparrow was in the windbreak around the parking area for Teller Lake # 5.  The Swamp Sparrow reported by Ted Floyd south along the trail was not relocated.

We scoped Valmont Reservoir from Legion Park (off Arapahoe Road).  The Tundra Swan was still there (since 12/8).  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull flew by and headed north.

We searched for the Swamp Sparrow at Walden Ponds (Cottonwood Marsh area) without success.

No longspurs or the Snow Bunting could be found along Lookout Road (west or east of 95th avenue).

Our trek continued north.  No uncommon gulls were found at Carter Lake or Lake Loveland (Larimer County).  Winds continued to get worse and we abandoned foothills lakes and decided to end our birding day at Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer).

No one has reported Short-eared Owls there this winter; we thought to check that area out.  A Great Horned Owl was found south of Larimer County Road 64. 

A Long-eared Owl was found in one of the windbreaks.  We stood at the CR 3 parking area at dusk and observed a Short-eared Owl flying over the windbreak west of CR 3.

Afternoon Drive Around Adams County

January 11, 2014

Richard Stevens:

In the afternoon I found time to drive over to the Sprat-Platte Lake area.  The previously reported White-winged Scoter was on the gravel pond northeast of 100th avenue and McKay Road.  I scoped the lakes to the south and west; nothing uncommon was observed.

At dusk a drive along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) did not find any Short-eared Owls.

Snowshoeing Around Guanella Pass

January 9-10, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I wanted to test some camping equipment and decided on Guanella Pass.  Winds for the next two days were 14+ mph, gusts 30+ mph (except the Summit).

A Northern Pygmy-Owl was found at one of the Campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road (Park County, location to remain unnamed).

Eventually we abandoned our vehicle for snowshoes and continued to the summit.  We are quite familiar with the area and road and were comfortable continuing the trip into dark.  Winds continued and snow starting falling.  As stated on previous trips, we always carry avalanche beacons in winter.  There are few places of avalanche danger along the southern route to the Guanella Pass summit (previous knowledge is recommended).

The next morning we woke to fresh snow, winds 50+ mph and partly sunny skies.  ("Woke": if we fell asleep, the high winds made it sound like we were camped next to the running freight train).  Chance was good to us; a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan was found on the hillside southeast of the upper parking area.

At times anemometer readings went off the chart (only measures to 66 mph).  Holding binoculars steady was quite a chore.  When we observed a storm front moving in from the west, the plan to stay another night (including hiking down to Guanella pass Campgrounds) was abandoned.

We made a rapid pace to get the heck out of there.  It was snowing quite heavy by the time we reached highway 285.  Our plans to continue owling in Park and Douglas Counties were also deserted and we steered for home.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Slow Day Along the DIA Owl Loop

January 8, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Another cold, partly sunny winter day, the high temperature did not reach 45 degrees; winds were measured at 8 mph, gusts to 15 mph.  After spending most of the day catching up on paperwork, Rebecca and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).  A Snow Bunting or Snowy Owl would have been a great find.

Our biggest surprise was the lack of birds.  In past years, we would see hundreds, even thousands of Horned Larks flying back and forth across the road.  Today we ran into one flock of 20-25 Horned Larks along Trussville Road.  I hope that the Horned Larks are wintering somewhere else (and not deeply decreased in numbers across the US).

The highlight was a Golden Eagle near the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue.

Three Rough-legged Hawks, two Red-tailed Hawks, a pair of American Kestrels were the total of raptors.  No Short-eared Owls appeared tonight.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dark-eyed Juncos and Their Eyesight

I have long wondered if Dark-eyed Juncos can see better than other small passerines.  We have a spotlight that shines over our back deck and throw out seed each night so that birds have food at sunrise.

At 4:00 am on two recent mornings, I noticed a flock of 60+ Dark-eyed Juncos eating seeds for about 30 minutes on the lit porch.  The next morning, I kept the porch light off.  The Dark-eyed Juncos did not come to eat until about 6:30 am when civil twilight reflecting off the snow made it visible enough for me to watch them (for them to see?).

The next morning with porch light on, they returned at 4:11 am gobbled up the seed.

House Sparrows and House Finches do not come by until almost sunrise or well after on most mornings.

So do Dark-eyed Juncos have better eyesight?  They do live in darker habitats/woods and kick around for food under evergreen trees blocking sunlight.  Have they adapted for this?  It is worth doing some research when time permits.

Unsuccessful Search for Owls

January 6, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I went searching for owls in Douglas County today.  It was another cold winter day as the high was not much more than 32 degrees.  Winds were calm most of the day.

We drove around Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson) and found the wintering Brant in the western Campgrounds.  A quick stop at South Platte Park Reservoir (Arapahoe) found the three Long-tailed Ducks swimming quite far from the shore.

Another detour to Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) added the Golden-crowned Sparrow to Bryan's year list.  The White-throated Sparrow unfortunately did not appear.

Next, we walked around Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) and searched for American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls.  Neither was found.

Then we headed to Cheesman Reservoir (Douglas).  Regrettably, no owls or woodpeckers were found.  The snow-covered roads were not the greatest to drive.  We ended our trip at highway 67 and Rampart Range Road.  Again, the resident American Three-toed Woodpecker(s) and owls were missed.

Football games, food and a Long-eared Owl

January 5, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca and I skipped a trip to Aurora Reservoir today.  Overnight snow made roads quite slippery.  Instead, we chose roads less traveled by the many cars rushing/sliding around the city and drove to a friend's home in the country near Prospect Valley (Weld County).

A friendly bribe of food and we watched the playoff games (my favorite bribes-food or a bird field guide, although once a Plant Field Guide worked just fine).

At halftime, Jim and I trudged through several inches of snow and put a scope on one of the pair of Long-eared Owls that have found the windbreak around his ranch a suitable home.

My two football teams both lost and I was glad I am not a betting man.

Return to Aurora Reservoir

January 4, 2014

After a snowy morning with single digit temperatures, I returned to Aurora Reservoir hoping for a photo of the "Slaty-backed Gull".

Fog hung over the reservoir this afternoon reducing visibility to not much more than 100 yards.  The gulls along the swim beach were much easier to see.  A Glaucous Gull, several Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 3+ Thayer's Gulls were the easier gulls to Identify.

The adult Slaty-backed Gull did not show up this afternoon.  Two interesting but difficult to ID gulls were in the mixed with dozens of Ring-billed Gulls and few Herring Gulls and one California Gull.

A possible Glaucous-winged Gull hunkered down among the hundreds of gulls. Another strange looking Gull was "called" a possible 1st cycle Slaty-backed Gull by Nick Komar.

I digiscoped the line of gulls for future inspection and headed to Quincy Reservoir as the gulls all took off around sunset and flew west.  I was hoping to discover where they spent the night.  It was not Quincy Reservoir; the only birds there were White-cheeked Geese and American Coots.

It was too dark to check nearby Cherry Creek Reservoir; perhaps that is where they roost for the night?

White-tailed Ptarmigan; Love and Hate Them

January 3, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I joined Chris Summers and we headed to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County).  A quick stop at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) found the wintering Golden-crowned Sparrow.  The previously reported White-throated Sparrow did not appear for us.

Today may have been the longest and most strenuous White-tailed Ptarmigan search which I was ever involved.  Not finding any Ptarmigan from highway 6, we put on snowshoes and made several treks.

Eventually we would walk the eastern side of Loveland Pass down to the first pullover on the west side of the road (a steep traverse of about a mile in deep snow).  Then we zigzagged back 1.6 miles on the east and west sides of the highway back to the top of the pass (again missing any of the elusive white birds on the white snow).

A hike about 0.5 miles up the western trail along the continental divide also was unsuccessful (this trail is quite steep and starting at 11,990 feet).  It is quite a trek for anyone and especially flatlander Chris and tired old me. 

The break for a late lunch was welcomed for both of us.  With an hour before sunset, we again set up the western trail.  According to my GPS, we pulled ourselves 0.755 miles up the trail before I spotted a pair of Ptarmigan perhaps 12 feet south of the trail.

(Shouts of exhausted joy!).  The trip back to our car was arduous in spite of joyfully being mostly downhill.

Our depleted legs made the decision not to hike several miles around Montezuma for owls an easy choice.

Search for a possible Slaty-backed Gull

Janury 2, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I made it out to Aurora Reservoir this morning.  Nothing uncommon was at the swim beach area so I walked the dam.  Several Snow Geese, a Ross's Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose were below.  Most of the gulls were too far away to identify (looking into the sun).

A return to the swim beach cove did not find any uncommon birds.  A Black Scoter way off near the distant shoreline caught my attention.  Then I went to lunch.  After lunch, a return to the swim beach was productive.

This time the gulls there included a Great Black-backed Gull, three Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Thayer's Gulls. 

I moved to the picnic area north of the swim beach.  While searching for the Black Scoter I noticed the Gull being reported as an adult Slaty-backed Gull swimming in cove that was not visible while I was standing farther south.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years Day, Start of a New Bird List!

January 1, 2014

Richard Stevens:

A brand new year and new year bird list, always a great reason to get up early and bird throughout the day!

I drove over to Cameron Pass (Jackson County) just before midnight.  At 12:02 am, my first bird of 2014 was a Boreal Owl sighting.  A quick look with my spotlight and I will not put them through that until next year.  Hearing them is always a pleasure; it is not necessary to see them each trip.

We returned to Denver after seeing 30+ Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center and another 800+ at a friend's nearby ranch!  Traffic after the holidays is ridiculous along I70 and we rushed back well before noon.

On the trip home, we took a detour to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).  Unfortunately, a two hour search did not turn up the Brant that has been around for several weeks.  Later I heard that is was found at Campgrounds D (an area that I had searched at least three times).

Nearby South Platte Park Reservoir was generous.  It only took five minutes to find the three Long-tailed Ducks (in Arapahoe County, swimming toward Jefferson County).  All three appeared in my scope at one time.

Down the road, seven male and a couple of female Greater Scaups were on Eaglerock Lake (another five minute stop)!

I had to make one last stop on the way home.  A quick hike down the South Platte River bike trail at 88th avenue and Colorado and I found the pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes just south of the green/white tower.

No Short-eared Owls were found this evening as we drove through the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).  Surely, we will see them on a future trip.  It was a great start to our 2014 Year List!

A Peaceful Few Days in the Mountains

December 27-31, 2013

Richard Stevens:

We more or less took a break from birding and enjoyed a few days in the mountains.  Weather provided a few snow flurries and daytime temperatures in the 40s.

I walked around Cameron Pass (Jackson County) on several occasions and found (heard) Boreal Owls on 12/26 and one at the Crags Campgrounds on the night of 12/27.

Rosy Finches came to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders early in the mornings of 12/27, 12/28 and 12/29.  When we stopped later in the day, they had seemed to have disappeared.

I relocated an American Three-toed Woodpecker across from the Visitor's Center on 12/29.  However, it could not be relocated on 12/30 and 1/1.

A drive along the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge did not find any meandering Gyrfalcons.  A few Rough-legged Hawks and a pair of Golden Eagles provided raptor sightings.

Another pair of Golden Eagles was found along the drive to Delaney Butte Lakes and Lake John Wildlife Areas.  Our hope to find a wandering Snow Bunting was not fulfilled.  Neither was a sighting of a Greater Sage-Grouse successful.

Mostly we enjoyed the white landscape and lack of the crowds back in Denver.  There is not much to do in Walden; we like that much.  Breakfast at the Moose Restaurant is always enjoyable!