Thursday, February 19, 2015

Once Again Back in Adams County

February 18, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures were warmer than yesterday; they reached the high 40s.  Anemometer readings were 10 mph.  I relished an exceptional day in Adams County, that in spite of not encountering any Short-eared Owls around the DIA Owl Loop at sunset.

I finally found the previously reported uncommon gulls at Barr Lake.  My search included scoping Barr Lake from the west end of the banding station, from the east end of the dam, from the dam below the Old Stone House, and then walking to mile 5.4.

Gulls included the Mew Gull that hid well in the thousands of gulls swimming around the lake.  The Glaucous Gull with its larger size was "easy" to find.  Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, two Thayer's Gulls, and at least one California Gull were among many Ring-billed Gulls and a dozen Herring Gulls.

Only a few White-crowned Sparrows were found around the feeders behind the Visitor's Center.  One Barn Owl was north of the banding station.  Two Great Horned Owls called near the Pioneer Trail.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Drive Around Eastern Arapahoe County

February 17, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached the low 30s today.  Winds were 12+ mph, gusts to 18 mph.  Rumors of winds in the 30+ mph range in the foothills changed our plans to go owling in Gilpin and Boulder Counties.

Instead, I drove to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) and walked the eastern side from the scuba area (mile 6.0 to mile 4.0).  About 300 gulls were at the scuba area.  Mostly Ring-billed Gulls with several Herring Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull stood on the ice there.

Another patch of ice at mile 4.0 offered a resting spot for another 400 gulls.  Again, mostly Ring-billed Gulls stood here.  Uncommon gulls included a Glaucous Gull and the Herring Gull X hybrid? that I have seen on several previous trips.

The last hour of daylight was spent driving again around Eastern Arapahoe County.  A fifth Great Horned Owl's nest was added to the four found on Friday the 13th!

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Snowy Afternoon in Adams County

February 16, 2015

Richard Stevens:

After finishing chores on this snowy winter day, I drove around Adams County for a bit.

The pair of Bald Eagles that unsuccessfully tried to breed last year near 120th avenue and Hwy 470 has been around their nest today and for the past week or so.

Approximately 60 Great-tailed Grackles were around the goat farm along Buckley Road at approximately 0.8 miles found of 120th Avenue.

Hundreds of gulls fly around the bay east of the Pioneer Trail at Barr Lake.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull was among many Ring-billed Gulls.  Hundreds also flew below the southern end of the dam.  Again, most were Ring-billed; a couple of Herring Gulls were also there.  I could not find one to call a Mew Gull.  Thousands also flew around the center of the lake, too far away to identify.

Then I drove the DIA Owl Loop.  Final rapture count was eleven Red-tailed Hawks, seven Northern Harriers (five were males), three Ferruginous Hawks, one non-adult Bald Eagle and one Prairie Falcon.

After not finding any Short-eared Owls at various locations around the loop, I sat at the hill 3.0 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue (0.2 miles south of the infamous prairie dog village).  I had decided to stay until it was too dark to see birds.

The field to the east had most of the above rapture count: six Red-tailed Hawks, five Northern Harriers, the Bald Eagle and Prairie Falcon.  The Prairie Falcon was most interesting to watch as it soared back and forth across the valley.

By 5:40 pm, all of the raptors had departed for their nightly roosts.  Finally, at 5:56 pm, a Short-eared Owl flew down the "valley" with its distinctive "moth like" flight pattern.  By 6:01 pm, snow returned and I cautiously returned home on ice roads covered with snow.

Horned Larks were quite prevalent in the snowfields today.  At least five hundred flew back and forth across the road.  Regrettably, no Snow Buntings were observed among them.

Parker to the DIA Owl Loop

February 15, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove south to Parker.  No Barrow's Goldeneyes were on Twenty Mile Pond today.  Waterfowl included Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, Gadwalls and Redheads.

Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) had only two Ring-billed Gulls during our visit.  Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) was equally short of gulls with three or four Ring-billed Gulls.

The drive around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) was uneventful.

South Platte Birding Area

February 14, 2015

Richard Stevens:

We wandered around Adams County.  Temperatures reached the low 70s; winds steady at 12+ mph.

Four of us walked the South Platte River Birding Area from 88th avenue to 74th avenue and back.  A male Barrow's Goldeneye was on the southern West Gravel Lake.  A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was at the south end of East Gravel Lake.

The previously reported Greater Scaup on Cooley Gravel Pond, north of 88th avenue, were not there today.

After dropping my friends off, I drove over to Barr Lake.  To avoid the setting sun, I scoped the Lake from mile 5.5.  Quite a few gulls were close to shore from this side.  I picked out a Lesser Black-backed Gull and at least one Thayer's Gull (rounded head, short bill, pink legs when it flew). 

Thousands of additional gulls were in the middle of the lake, too far away to pick out a Mew Gull.  No large whitish gulls were observed.

A drive around the DIA Owl Loop at sunset did not find any Short-eared Owls.  The usual mix of raptors was encountered, but too far away for photos.

Raptors: Ferruginous Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, one Rough-legged Hawk and two American Kestrels.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Exploring Eastern Arapahoe County

February 13, 2015

Richard Stevens:

After visiting a friend and relative in nearby hospitals, I drove to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  Temperatures reached the middle 60s; winds were mild.  Only a couple of Ring-billed Gulls stood on the remaining ice at Aurora Reservoir.

Instead of driving the DIA Owl Loop, I decided to explore eastern Arapahoe County (including visiting another friend).  Eventually I found four Great Horned Owls on nests.  At my friend's ranch, we relocated two Long-eared Owls.  At a nearby ranch, we found an Eastern Screech-Owl (perhaps nesting in an old cottonwood). 

At dusk, I watched a Short-eared Owl fly over a cattail marsh along Kiowa Creek. 

Will have to return to watch results of the nesting and possible nesting owls!

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Good Day of Mountain Birding

February 12, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Lenny Tyler, Linn Henderson and I headed into the mountains today.  It was another great Colorado winter day.

Winds at Loveland Pass were "normal"; anemometer readings 26 mph, gusts to 32 mph.  We eventually found two White-tailed Ptarmigan below the western side of the Summit.  The Ptarmigan could not be seen from the top of the trail.  We had to walk to the south and scope back below the hill when the trail turned west (not the first time I have found them at this spot).

After finding Rosy Finches in Summit County and six Barrow's Goldeneyes at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant, we detoured to Pine Valley Ranch Park and Reynolds Park (Jefferson County).

An American Three-toed Woodpecker was found near the intersection of the Buck Gulch and Strawberry Jack Trails.  Next, we headed to Reynolds Park.  One Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard; however, we were not able to see it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Brief Trip in Denver and Adams Counties

February 11, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures were cooler today after last nights snow storm.  Highs only reached the high 40s; winds were mild.

In the afternoon while doing chores, I stopped by Garland Park (Denver County).  The two Greater White-fronted Geese reported yesterday by Joe Roller were at the northeast corner of the pond in the park.  See photos on the Colorado Birding Society's website:

Later I stopped by Barr Lake (Adams).  Most of the thousands of gulls were too far out in the lake to identify; no uncommon gulls were counted.  I walked from the boat ramp to the Pioneer Trail and found two Great Horned Owls and a Barn Owl.

A splendid sunset was over the DIA Owl Loop; unfortunately, no Short-eared Owls were seen.  Raptors included: two Red-tailed Hawks, two Ferruginous Hawks, one American Kestrel and a Rough-legged Hawk.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Aurora Reservoir to DIA Owl Loop

February 10, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Returning from visiting friends in Aurora, I stopped by Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  Winds were 8+ mph; temperatures reached the high 50s today.

About 300 gulls stood on the ice off the western fisherman's parking area.  Aurora Reservoir is unusual.  It is the last reservoir/lake to freeze (Cherry Creek Reservoir & Chatfield Reservoir froze a month earlier); however, it is the only one mostly ice covered (Cherry Creek & Chatfield are mostly open).

I watched the gulls for an hour before most took off north toward DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site).  Quickly I was able to pick out two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A large dark Gull stood out as being larger than the Herring Gulls standing next to it.  The dark breast and flanks and checkered back indicated a 1st winter Great Black-backed Gull. 

At least one Thayer's Gull stood among them (pink legs, rounded head).

No Short-eared Owls appeared at sunset around the DIA Owl Loop.  Raptors included: 5 Northern Harriers, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Ferruginous Hawks and a Prairie Falcon.

A Drive Home, No Birds To Report

February 9, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Returning from visiting relatives and friends in Aurora Regional Medical Center, I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams County).  Few gulls flew around the northwestern end of the dam.  Nothing uncommon was found.  Thousands of gulls flew around the lake; again, I could not pick out any uncommon gulls.

No Short-eared Owls appeared around the DIA Owl Loop.

Fantastic Winter Day in Colorado, Birding Along the Foothills

February 8, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed this fantastic Colorado winter day while birding along the foothills.  Winds were 12+ mph; temperatures reached 70 degrees!

We parked at South Platte Park at C470 and the South Platte River (Arapahoe County).  Ten Greater Scaup swam on Eaglewatch Lake (just north of the parking area).

Winds were almost calm along the Platte River as we walked the lower basin area below Chatfield Reservoir dam.  We hiked up the creek that flows into the Platte River (just south of C470).

This was my third attempt at looking for the red form of Fox Sparrow that has been reported since at least 1/13.  Thanks much to Alec Hopping for sending a map of previous sightings.  Fortunately (but not successfully) I had been searching in the correct area on past attempts.

This time when I reached the broken fence near the eastern border of the State Park, the Fox Sparrow jumped up from the tall grasses and "posed" on a rabbit brush.  We were able to get a five or six minute look before it dropped back down.

To experiment, I played an eastern Fox Sparrow recording.  The Fox Sparrow jumped up and sang for about 10 seconds before disappearing into the thicker bushes underneath the two tall cottonwoods along the fence line (and south of the creek).

South Platte Park Reservoir appeared to be ice-free as we drove out of the Park.  We did not stop to scope for gulls.

Our next stop was Denver West Office Complex (Jefferson).  Winds were back to 14+ mph.  We circled building three and four and heard several White-breasted Nuthatches calling.  A Red-breasted Nuthatch and two Black-capped Chickadees were in a loose flock, which also included the Pine Warbler.  Unfortunately, the Pine Warbler stayed high in the pines.  The flock fluttered about the trees above the statue of three kids next to a picnic table.

A drive around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) at dusk did not find any Short-eared Owls this evening.

A Few Days In Jackson County

February 5-7, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Thursday, 2/5
Rebecca Kosten and I stayed in Jackson County for a few days of rest and escape from the traffic of Denver.  The weather for the most part was nice, but mixed.  Every afternoon there was a brief snow shower.  Saturday night it snowed quite a bit.

Each morning we stopped by the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center and watched Rosy Finches.  Numbers were never greater than 40 birds and no Black Rosy Finches were among the mix of Gray-crowned and Brown-capped.

Thursday Night, we heard a Boreal Owl west of Cameron Pass.

Friday, 2/6
We rose early on Friday morning and drove Jackson County Road 26 to check on the Greater Sage-Grouse leks.  No birds came this morning.  We did find a Greater Scaup cross CR 26, just below the steep hill north of the entrance to the old Coalmont Lek.

After seeing about 30 Rosy Finches (no Black) at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders, we walked across the road.  The distinct drumming of a male American Three-toed Woodpecker could be heard.  Finding the bird was another matter.

Later, we visited a friend's ranch. She has had between 100-400 Rosy Finches come to her feeders each day this winter.  At most, she has counted only two Black Rosy Finches (we never found any during our visit).

Two Boreal Owls were heard after dark (both on private property).

Saturday, 2/7

No Greater Sage-Grouse appeared while we sat at the Jackson County Road 26 Lek.  Quite a few footprints were in the snow, no sight of birds.

Again, Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, then we drove into Steamboat Springs.

A stop at the friend's home, added Sharp-tailed Grouse to our trip list!

We wandered around Routt County without finding any Waxwings (Cedar or Bohemian).

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found along the road to the Maintenance Shed on Rabbit Ears Pass (one of my favorite locations to find them).  A flock of 20 Red Crossbills did not include any White-winged Crossbills this trip.  Rabbit Ears Pass appears to be a good place to find them on occasion.

Again, no Greater Sage-Grouse visited the CR 26 leks at dusk.  We again heard just west of Cameron Pass.  Another was heard near Michigan Creek Road and Ruby Jewell Road.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Parker to the DIA Owl Loop

February 4, 2015

Richard Stevens:

While doing chores, I drove to Parker (Douglas County).  A pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes was swimming around Twenty Mile Pond (found yesterday by Terry Ryan).

Returning to Denver by the "back way" through Parker, I stopped at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  Only a few gulls were far off shore.  They all appeared to be Ring-billed Gulls.

Barr Lake (Adams) was more interesting.  Tens of thousands of gulls flew around the lake.  I picked out at least two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A few Herring Gulls, the rest being Ring-billed, there was no sign of a Glaucous Gull today.  At least 14 Bald Eagles stood on the ice/snow covered lake.

Just before sunset, I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).  About 15 minutes after sunset, I found a Short-eared Owl at the eastern end of 88th avenue (off Tower Road).

Raptors included: 6 American Kestrels, 4 Red-tailed Hawks and 9 Northern Harriers (before sunset).

Two Days of Owling In Douglas County

February 2-3, 2015

Richard Stevens:

February 2

Bryan Ehlmann and I started a short trip to the southern Front Range with a stop at the Denver West Office Complex.  The Pine Warbler was south of building four.  We hoped for a better photo than past trips; however, the Warbler stayed high in the evergreens.  We only saw brief looks of the jittery bird.

It took about 10 minutes before the Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared behind the Red Rocks Park Trading Post.

Our next stop was Highway 67 and Rampart Range Road.  It took some searching, finally the male American Three-toed Woodpecker that frequents the woods just east of the intersection was observed.

From sunset (5:22 pm) to 2:00 am, we searched for owls.  We also put out our "owl listening stations" (see "Colorado Field Notes" for description of them).

Eventually, we found three Northern Pygmy-Owls and two Northern Saw-whet Owls.  (Later, running the software on our "owl listening stations" recordings added two additional Northern Pygmy-Owls and another Northern Saw-whet Owl!

February 3

Our second goal was to try out some camping equipment owned by a friend of mine who owns a sporting goods store.  We thought our trip was planned to utilize a window of nice weather this week.  However, at around 2:00 am, it started to snow.  Moreover, it snowed and snowed!

We set up camp along Guanella Pass Road north of Grant.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl called briefly in response to a recording played just before we retired for a few hours of sleep.

We woke up to half a foot or more of new snow.  This changed our plans to drive up to Guanella Pass (for White-tailed Ptarmigan search); we returned to Denver.

After dropping Bryan off, I drove through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) and found the same situation as Jerry Petrosky also found.  Not one Gull was observed on the ice/snow covered lake.

No owls could be found when I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snowy Afternoon in Arapahoe County

February 1, 2015

Richard Stevens:

After the snowstorm, I had to get out of the house for a few hours.  Aurora received about 4.5 inches of snow last night; warm temperatures the last few days melted most of the snow on the roads.

I met Bill Cryder and we walked down to the south side of Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  A group of 300 gulls hunkered down on the ice/snow covered lake (near mile 3.0).  We picked out the Glaucous Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Thayer's Gull.

An adult Bald Eagle flew over the flock several times, scattering the Gull.  They tended to return to the same spot.

No Short-eared Owls were found when I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams) on the way home.

Arapahoe & Douglas County Trip

January 31, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I drove over to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) this morning.  Temperatures were colder than yesterday (low 50s); winds were mild.

Most of the gulls were on the ice covered lake at mile 3.0.  We picked out the Glaucous Gull and at least one Lesser Black-backed Gull.

We continued south to Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas).  No bluebirds were found along Castlewood Canyon Road south of the State Park.

We relocated a Northern Saw-whet Owl back in the State Park.

Only Ring-billed Gulls were later found at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).

Driving Around Adams County

January 30, 2015

Richard Stevens:

After returning from our Eastern Colorado trip, I dropped Bryan off and decided to drive around Adams County.

At 4:30 pm, the Glaucous Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were on the ice quite close to the boat ramp at Barr Lake.  A second Lesser Black-backed Gull was 40-50 yards farther away.

I drove around the DIA Owl Loop and stopped at the prairie dog town along Quency Street (3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue).  The Western Meadowlarks sang while I scoped the fields east and then west of Quency.  A Short-eared Owl stood on a fence post to the northwest of Quency.  The post was behind the newer gas construction at the north end of the prairie dog town.

Once at the bend of Quency and 96th avenue, I again stopped to scope the fields.  Besides the highlight of listening to Western Meadowlarks singing, two Short-eared Owls were seen off to the southeast.  They were apparently performing a mating flight!  The location was along the DIA fence line, between the three thin towers with flashing lights and the shorter tower to the east.

Also observed earlier during my drive, seven Northern Harriers, two Red-tailed Hawks, one Rough-legged Hawk and one Ferruginous Hawk.  Most were quite far from the roads and not offering photo opportunities.

It was a superb ending to my birding day!

Trip to Eastern Colorado

January 29-30, 2015

Richard Stevens:

January 27

On our way to Northeastern Colorado, Bryan Ehlmann and I stopped at Banner Lake Wildlife Area (Weld County).  We walked around the Wildlife Area for several hours, eventually finding four Long-eared Owls.  Not much else was flying around today.

Our next stop, Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) six Long-eared Owls and an Eastern Screech-Owl were added to our trip list.

Fort Morgan Ponds (Morgan) has hosted American Woodcocks several times in the past.  Regrettably, none was found today.  A White-throated Sparrow flew around with a flock of 10-12 White-crowned Sparrows.

Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan) did not provide a Winter Wren sighting today.  We did see three Red-bellied Woodpeckers and the resident Eastern Screech-Owl.

Our birding day ended at Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington).  Eastern Screech-Owls responded to our recordings (below the dam and at the inlet canal area).

January 28

Another great winter day in Colorado.  Bryan and I walked Ovid Woods (Sedgwick County) and relocated a Red-bellied Woodpecker (northern end) and Northern Cardinal (southern end).  A Purple Finch continues to visit feeders in Ovid!

Later we walked over to the Ovid Sewage Ponds and relocated two White-throated Sparrows found a few weeks earlier.  The previously reported Harris's Sparrows could not be found.

At private ranches in Sedgwick County, we added three Long-eared Owls, five Long-eared Owls, a Harris's Sparrow (visiting a feeder) and five Eastern Screech-Owls.

No Short-eared Owls appeared at Sedgwick Draw this evening.

January 29

It was another superb winter day in Colorado.  Bryan and I walked around Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) in the morning.

We found five Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Northern Cardinal (western section), and Eastern Screech-Owl (eastern section).  Misses included any uncommon sparrows, the Eastern Towhee found last month, and Eastern Bluebirds also found last month.

Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick) provided the highlight of the day.  A Winter Wren was heard and observed below Logan County Road 95.  Two Long-eared Owls were in the windbreak between Jumbo Reservoir & Red Lion Wildlife Area.

At sunset we watched a Short-eared Owl fly over the field below CR 2, south end of Julesburg Wildlife Area.  Later, an Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recordings played at the north end.

January 30
Bryan and I heard an Eastern Screech-Owl before sunrise at Hale Ponds.  Later we found two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and five Eastern Bluebirds between Hale Ponds and the Kansas border.

Bryan and I found two Eastern Screech-Owls along the Republican River (trickle) east of Highway 385.  Two Long-eared Owls were hidden well at the Foster's Grove windbreak (guess not quite well enough)!  A male Northern Cardinal stood out in the drab brown and yellow winter landscape.  Ten Wild Turkeys walked the clear west of the old Campgrounds.