Monday, March 30, 2015

A Last Trip to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area

March 30, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Another fantastic day in Colorado.  Temperatures reached the high 60s; winds were mild (less than 6 mph).

Peter Pereira and searched for owls at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Adams County).  Eventually we found two Long-eared Owls (western windbreak, ponds 5 through 8).  Unfortunately, we did not find the previously reported three Barn Owls.

Before Peter showed up, I walked the windbreak west of Ponds 4 to 3.  Several Blue Jays called from the thick trees.  A Cooper's Hawk was south of Pond 3.

A Golden-crowned Sparrow was with a flock of four to six White-crowned Sparrows under the trees at the mid point of Pond 3.

On the way home, we drove the DIA Owl Loop.  Ten Burrowing Owls were scattered over three locations.  The Short-eared Owl that was observed the last two days along third Creek, east of Quency Street was not out today.  This location is sometimes described as 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th Avenue.

NOTE: Tomorrow (3/31) is last open day for Banner Lakes Wildlife Area north of Hwy 52 until July 16.

Four Owl Day in Adams County

March 29, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Soon I will be driving another 2400 miles on a Grouse Tour (in seven days).  I chose Barr Lake (Adams) to stretch my legs and get them really for the long drives.

Weather was superb, in the middle 70s with winds 5 mph.  Started in the afternoon, it turned out to be quite interesting with a four owl afternoon (four species).

The Barn Owl was back in the owl box near the Barr Lake banding station.  An Osprey stood on the nesting platform near the Pioneer Trail.  Great Horned Owls were sitting in nests (see map at Barr Lake Visitor's Center).

No uncommon sparrows were found around the Niedrach Boardwalk Trail.  Two rather late migrating American Tree Sparrows were in the taller bushes in the center of the loop.

My target bird(s) were swallows.  None was found anywhere along my trek. Still no swallows, flycatchers, orioles, warblers, are around.

Then I decided to drive the DIA Owl Loop.  Twelve Burrowing Owls were observed scattered over three locations.  Two of the locations are: Trussville Street and 114th avenue and the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th Avenue.  The third location will be left hidden as the owls were quite close to a road.

Yesterday's Short-eared Owl was again along third Creek, east of Quency Street. It was closer today, hidden quite well in the first tree east of Quency Street.

A Rewarding Drive Around the DIA Owl Loop

March 28, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Email sent to "cobirders" listserve:

Hello cobirders,

Another March day in Colorado, although it is getting too hot at near 80 degrees.  Winds 12+ mph.

While doing chores I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).  Two Burrowing Owls still at 114th and Trussville although they have moved farther from the road (good for them).  Another four Burrowing Owls are at the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of 96th avenue and Tower Road.  This area is at 3rd Creek and road (Quency or Cargo, differs upon which map you are reading).

Bill Hutchinson pointed out a Short-eared Owl perched in a tree along 3rd Creek and east side of Quency at 2:00 pm.  Probably be there until sunset.

That is all the time I had.

Continued Good Birding!

Jefferson County Dusky Grouse and Williamson's Sapsuckers

March 27, 2015

Richard Stevens:

I took a chance that the long drive to Lookout Mountain Nature Center would be worthwhile.  When I arrived, several birders were watching one of the two Dusky Grouse at the southern end of the parking area.  She stayed somewhat hidden in an evergreen tree.

A walk around the Boettcher Museum added a male Williamson's Sapsucker to my day list.

Genesee Mountain Park also Jefferson County was nearby.  I hiked from the group picnic area parking area to the top of the park/mountain (an easy 0.8 mile walk).

A male Williamson's Sapsucker flew to his favorite drumming pole on the west side of the group picnic building.  Another male flew around the snags near the flagpole at the top of the mountain.  I played a Williamson's Sapsucker recording and a female Williamson's Sapsucker flew down from the north.  On the trip back to my car, a second female Williamson's Sapsucker was observed working the trees south of the road at the group picnic area!

Another drive along the DIA Owl Loop found two pairs of Burrowing Owls (Trussville & 114th and Third Creek and Quency Street).  No Short-eared Owls or swallows appeared this afternoon.

Repeat of Yesterday's DIA Owl Loop

March 26, 2015

Richard Stevens:

The weather cleared up after yesterday's snowstorm.  A drive along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) found four Burrowing Owls, one pair each at two locations.

A walk around the Niedrach Trail at Barr Lake (Adams) found few birds.  Great Horned Owls are sitting on two nests (map at Visitor's Center).

DIA Owl Loop After a Snowstorm

March 25, 2015

Richard Stevens:

After the snow stopped, I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County).  A second (possible female) Burrowing Owl joined the possible male that has been around for several weeks at Trussville Street and 114th avenue.  Photos on the Colorado Birding Society's website at:

A walk around Barr Lake found few land birds.  Most gulls and waterfowl were too far away to identify any uncommon birds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Owling Around Arapahoe, Douglas & Adams Counties On a Spring Day

March 24, 2015

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed this superb spring day with some fantabulous birding.  Temperatures reached 66 degrees; winds were calm early.  After 2:00 pm, temperatures dropped and winds rose to 14 mph.

My second trip to Plum Creek Delta in Chatfield State Park (Jefferson/Douglas County) was successful.  Thanks to Peter Pereira, I found the three Rusty Blackbirds walking along the sand shore east of the marina sand spit area.  They were just west of the east end of the sandy shore.

I walked over to the Plum Creek Delta footbridge and continued upstream/south along the Creek.  The Winter Wren was heard calling from the west side of Plum Creek (in Douglas County).

Several stops were made between Chatfield Reservoir and the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County). 

Before the day was over, I was able to find three Eastern Screech-Owls in three locations.

At Barr Lake (Adams), I walked the Niedrach Trail Loop.  Several Song Sparrows were in the center of the loop.  One sparrow kept my attention for a good 30 minutes.  I finally grabbed a long enough look to identify it as a Lincoln's Sparrow.

My birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop.  Two Burrowing Owls stood together on a prairie dog mound at 114th avenue and Trussville Street. 

I hoped to relocate the two Burrowing Owls previously found at the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue.  Unfortunately, someone is now running cattle there.  Only a few prairie dogs and no Burrowing Owls were out.  It remains to be seen if the cattle will influence Burrowing Owl nesting here this summer.

Regrettably, no Short-eared Owls were found at sunset as I drove Gun Club Road, Queensburg Street and Trussville.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Short Drive Around Adams County

March 23, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) this morning.  Burrowing Owls are back, however not yet in great numbers.

Barr Lake State Park did not add any surprises.  Orioles, flycatchers, uncommon sparrows have yet to arrive.

Stuck during chores the rest of the day.

Park County Owling Update

March 21-22, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I conducted owl counts in Park County over two nights.  We put out our "owl listening stations" (see "Colorado Field Notes" for details).  The plan is to put out final counts and locations on maps in April's "Colorado Field Notes".

Examples of "Colorado Field Notes" can be seen at:

We did find multiple Northern Pygmy-Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls.  No Flammulated Owls yet, it was quite early to find them in Colorado.  Snow covered roads limited access to drive to higher elevations where Boreal Owls are found.  While we have found Spotted Owls to the south in Fremont County, it has been several years since one was found north of Fremont County.

Search for Chatfield Reservoir Rusty Blackbirds

March 20, 2015

Richard Stevens:

The weather turned colder with light snow showers today.  Rebecca and I drove down to Chatfield Reservoir to search for the Rusty Blackbirds reported by Alec Hopping at Plum Creek Delta on 3/17.  They were not found.

Plum Creek Delta, once one of the best birding locations in Colorado, is being flooded.  Beavers have destroyed 20 percent+ of the trees.  Their dams are assisting the Corp of Engineers plans and efforts to flood the area in order to store additional water at Chatfield Reservoir.

No Burrowing Owls at the prairie dog town and no Sagebrush Sparrows were found.  Historically, Sagebrush Sparrow(s) show up at Chatfield State Park (sand spit or Plum Creek Delta area) after a spring snowstorm.

Nothing uncommon was observed at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) when we drove through the area on our way home.

A Drive Around Adams County

March 19, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed this fantastic Colorado winter day with a drive around Adams County.  Temperatures reached into the 70s; winds were less than 6 mph.

We missed the Eastern Bluebirds reported by Candice Johnson at Rocky Mountain Arsenal on 3/17.  At least one pair of Greater Scaup remains on Lower Derby Lake.

A drive around the DIA Owl Loop found two Burrowing Owls at the infamous prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue.

At dusk, a Short-eared Owl was observed flying across the field east of Gun Club Road, south of 114th avenue.  We were parked south of 96th avenue, scoping the fields.

Denver County Eastern Screech-Owl Count

March 17-18, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jerry Petrosky, Terry Michaels and I conducted our "not too annual" Denver County Eastern Screech-Owl count over the next two days.  In past years, we had up to ten participants including four females.  Security issues concerning walking around areas of Denver after dark resulted in asking fewer birders to join us.

Weather-wise it was cold with temperatures in the 30s; winds were calm.

Eastern Screech-Owl Count and location may be added to April's "Colorado Field Notes". 

Five Eastern Screech-Owls were found/heard on Tuesday night.  Seven additional were found on Wednesday night.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Walking Around Bluff Lake Nature Area, Denver County

March 16, 2015

Richard Stevens:

What a beautiful almost spring day in Colorado.  Temperature reached 81 degrees for a new record.  Winds on the flatlands were 15-25 mph.  I chose to walk Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver County) as it lies in a deep bowl below the windy flatlands.

Nothing uncommon was expected or found.  A few American Robins, Northern Flickers, a Belted Kingfisher, and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks were the total bird count.  I was able to stretch my legs during two circles around the property.

I stopped at the end of the boardwalk and played recordings of Virginia Rail and Sora.  Neither was successful today.  The lake does have water and is surrounded by cattails.  In a few weeks, I would expect both Virginia Rails and Sora to arrive. 

In the past, both have closely approached the boardwalk.

Highlight was seeing a pair of Coyotes on the north side of Sand Creek.  I looked again and there were four.  Another look and there were six.

I did photograph a turtle, which to me appeared to be a box turtle (however, id is beyond my interests).

Genesee Mountain Park and Rocky Mountain Arsenal

March 15, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Another Nice "Winter" Day in Colorado.  Temperatures reached 60s, winds were Mild.

Rebecca Kosten had a target bird, Williamson's Sapsucker in mind and drove to Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson County).  After the short hike to the top of the park/mountain, we ran across a male Williamson's Sapsucker along the road (at about 30 yards below the flagpole).

On the way home, we drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  At least one pair of Greater Scaup continues on Lower Derby Lake.

No owl activity was observed along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

Trip Around Adams County

March 14, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Needed to walk around on this beautiful "winter" day after we drove 2160 miles around Colorado the past two weeks.  I chose the South Platte River at McKay Avenue.  I photographed the Dunlin last Saturday (see "photo library" link on Colorado Birding Society's website); however, decided to search for it again.  I walked along the S. Platte River from McKay Avenue (parking only for a couple of cars) to 100th avenue and back.  The shore was scoped several times without finding the Dunlin.  As far as I know, the Dunlin was last reported on Wednesday, 3/11.

Only a few White-cheeked Geese and dozens of Northern Shovelers were observed on the Platte River.  Sparrows between the River and the pond 300 yards east of McKay included three dozen White-crowned Sparrows, five Song Sparrows and one Lincoln's Sparrow.

Later I drove the DIA Owl Loop without finding any Owls, Burrowing or Short eared.

Second Half of First Grouse Trip 2015

March 9-13, 2015

Richard Stevens:

March 9

Bryan Ehlmann and I continued our first "grouse trip" of 2015 today.  Weather improved greatly with temperatures in the 50s and winds less than 8 mph.

We departed Denver about 4:00 am and arrive at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek thirty minutes before sunrise.  Eventually three Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed dancing, jumping and booming on the lek.

Later another Greater Prairie-Chicken was observed on a fence post near the entrance to the Kitzmueller Lek.

Birding east of Wray (Yuma) was quite good today.  At Stalker Lake, a male Northern Cardinal flew around the trees at the west end of the property.  A White-throated Sparrow was in the brush between there and the southwest end of the picnic area.

A Barn Owl and Red-bellied Woodpecker were found in the windbreak along the road into the Wray Fishing Unit.  Two White-throated Sparrows were in the brush along the road going east of the entrance road (across Yuma County Road FF).

Rainbow Park was quiet.  We stopped at two friend's homes and found a pair of Northern Cardinals at one and two male Northern Cardinals at the other.

Then we turned south.  A detour to Beecher Island (Yuma) added another Northern Cardinal and a Red-bellied Woodpecker to our day list.  It was still quite early in the season; no flycatchers, warblers, vireos, etc were around.

At dusk, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl north of Hale Ponds.

March 10

Bryan and I returned to Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) about 2 hours before sunrise.  A walk along the Republican River found four Eastern Screech-Owls between Highway 385 and Foster's Grove Campgrounds.

A "flock" ten Wild Turkeys walked one of the clearings just west of the Campgrounds.  A male Northern Cardinal added color to the drab winter landscape.

Two Long-eared Owls were well hidden in the windbreak east of the Campgrounds (I guess not that well hidden since we found them).

Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were along the gated road running along the southern side of the old Bonny Reservoir.  We hiked to the fenced area with many trees; however found no additional Long-eared Owls.

A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found in the evergreens east of the Dam.  Six Eastern Bluebirds fluttered about below the dam and just west of Yuma County Road LL.5.

Hale Ponds kept our interest with sightings of four Red-bellied Woodpeckers, another seven Eastern Bluebirds, a Marsh Wren (unfortunately not a Winter Wren) and a Spotted Towhee.

A Harris's Sparrow was encountered in the brush along Yuma County Road 4, just east of the entrance road to the last house before the road enters Kansas.

At dusk, we relocated two Eastern Screech-Owls.

Neither of us was tired and we drove to Lamar (Prowers County).

March 11

We had a nice sighting this morning at Lamar Community College (Prowers).  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was observed in the southern section of the woods behind/east of the School.  A pair of Northern Cardinals was also in the area.

While a Red-bellied Woodpecker was found flying from cottonwood to cottonwood in the northern woods.

Below the Two Buttes Reservoir dam, we missed the Rusty Blackbird that has been reported several times.  A Barn Owl and Ladder-backed Woodpecker were consolation sightings.  Several Wild Turkeys were at the eastern edge of the property.

We stopped at the entrance to the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek and walked the road heading north.  A Cassin's Sparrow sighting about 75 yards up the road beat the earliest sighting by five days (3/16/2002, two locations & 3/17/2012 south of CR G, the old Lek Road).  It was only the ninth March Cassin's Sparrow sighting in the past twenty years.

On the way back to Highway 287/385, a Burrowing Owl was observed along Baca County Road G, east of CR 36.  A real surprise was a Short-eared Owl out in the middle of the day along CR M, west of CR 23.  A Greater Roadrunner ran across CR M, just west of CR 7.

Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) is always an interesting place to visit.  We found Chihuahuan Ravens flying overhead, Canyon Towhees fluttering about the brush, Wild Turkeys walking along the road.  It proved too early for Eastern Phoebes, Lark Sparrows, Kingbirds, etc.

We found two of my once nemesis bird.  Two Rufous-crowned Sparrows flew around the rocky hillside at 1.7 miles east of the Campgrounds (primitive site at CR M & Carrizo Creek).

After dusk, two Western Screech-Owls were found around the primitive Campgrounds!

Then we headed to Elkhart, Kansas.

March 12

A trip to Elkhart, Kansas was considered a waste of time since Lesser Prairie-Chickens appeared to abandon the two leks last year.  Bryan and I had to check it out.

We arrived at the eastern lek about an hour before sunrise.  No Lesser Prairie-Chickens were observed on the lek.  Several Lesser Prairie-Chickens were heard booming to the north of the lek. 

Eventually while we checked on a prairie dog town/Burrowing Owl site, we found a Lesser Prairie-Chicken about 200 yards west and then south of the lek.  A lone Burrowing Owl was also here. 

We headed back to Colorado and would not recommend a visit/detour to the lek unless sightings are reported in the spring.  Since someone (government?) trapped Lesser Prairie-Chickens on the eastern lek two springs ago, I believe the birds have abandoned the primary lek.  A primary lek may exist in the area (as stated we could hear Lesser Prairie-Chicken calling).  The eastern publicized lek may now be a secondary lek and infrequently visited?

Bryan and returned to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) by way of Picture Canyon.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was found about 30 yards south of the parking area.  We walked down to the hieroglyphics without seeing another bird other than American Kestrels and Western Meadowlarks.

Then we continued to the Oklahoma border, turned west to the springs where Vermilion Flycatchers have nested in the past; none today.  A Northern Mockingbird was seen around the springs (they may also nest in the area).

Back at Cottonwood Canyon, we walked the draw south of the "Campgrounds" without finding a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  A hike down the draw south of the old stone building (1/2 mile or so west of the Campgrounds) was more productive.

Here we found a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker about 50 yards south of CR 7.  A better sighting was an adult Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  What was he (it was a male) doing here?  He seemed quite out of place.

Several detours were taken off Highway 285/387 on the trip back to Lamar.  A White-throated Sparrow was found at Burchfield Wildlife Area (Baca).  Only White-crowned Sparrows were found a Turk's Pond (Baca).

Ferruginous Hawks appeared often along our drive today.  Our count was seven before the day was over.  Common Ravens were encountered several times.  We saw our first Swainson's Hawk of 2015 just east of Walsh.  Later we would find another east of Holly.

The brush around the Holly Rest area had many White-crowned Sparrows; no uncommon sparrows were found.

Our birding day ended with a walk around at Mike Higbee Wildlife Area (Prowers).  Again, no uncommon sparrows were encountered.

March 13

Bryan and I began the final day of our "grouse trip".  Lake Hasty (Bent) was quiet.  No rails were found along Bent County Road JJ (far north side of John Martin Reservoir).

A quick detour to Blue Lake (Bent/Kiowa) found little to add to our bird trip list.  We did not find the Rusty Blackbirds reported along the outlet canal.

The Swamp Sparrow reported by Steve Mlodinow at the Las Animas Fishing Unit On 3/5 was still there.

Lake Cheraw (Otero) has no shorebirds.  The Greater Scaup (Nick Moore, 3/5) were still on Lake Henry.  No Burrowing Owls were around yet.

We cut over to highway 71 and headed north to Interstate 70.  A couple of Great-tailed Grackles were found at the south end of Limon (Lincoln County).

The I70 Rest Stop at Byers (Arapahoe) is now closed.  No birds appeared to be around.  Possibly one could still walk around the area.

Another Dunlin Search and Adams County

March 8, 2015

Richard Stevens:

I returned to the South Platte River at McKay Street today.  The South Platte was higher than yesterday; several of the "sandbars" were now under water.  I walked the south side of the River from McKay to 104th Street and back.  Sparrows between the River and the Pond to the south (300 yards east of McKay) included 165 White-crowned Sparrows, 14 Song Sparrows and my first Lincoln's Sparrow of 2015.

I scoped the northern shore of the Platte River carefully.  On the return trip, the Dunlin was found!  An outlet for the lake to the north is a hundred yards east of McKay.  Twenty feet east of this overflow outlet is a small white branch about four feet long lying horizontal.  The Dunlin was on a flat rock five feet east of this branch. 

Unfortunately, my cell phone battery died and I was not able to call anyone.  The time was 5:17 pm.  My arrival had been planned for 4:00 pm as it appeared the most previous sightings were at 4:30 pm (yesterday's time, 5:30 pm today, as we started daylight savings time.

Several photos were put on the Colorado Birding Society's website "favorite photos" link.

Afterwards I drove over to the DIA Owl Loop.  The Burrowing Owl was not out/around when I arrived.  Several birders were going to continue to search.  I was hosting a party on my ranch tonight and could not stay to see if any Short-eared Owls would appear.  Last party I hosted I never showed up.  Rebecca strongly suggested that I make this one for sure :-)

What a fantastic winter day it is.  Temperatures in the high 50s and little wind!

I forgot to mention yesterday, the Iceland Gull at McKay Lakes was not the same one I photographed at Aurora Reservoir on 2/28/2015.  The McKay bird was darker.

Search for Adams County Dunlin & Trip to Arapahoe County

March 7, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I arrived back in Denver this morning about 6:00 am from a week long grouse trip, details later. 

Bryan headed to bed and I headed over to McKay and 100th avenue (Adams County) to search for the previously reported Dunlin.  Several birders had looked before me today; however, I spent an hour scoping the lakes and river shore.  It was not found as far as I know.  After lunch, I returned a searched another 45 minutes; without success.  Earlier the Iceland Gull was on the northern East McKay Lake; after lunch, it had moved to the southern Lake.

My plan was to stop briefly at Aurora Reservoir and then look for Short-eared Owls in the southeastern corner of Arapahoe County.  When I arrived at Aurora Reservoir, 4:30 PM (Arapahoe County), two Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the ice at the scuba beach area.  Thayer's Gulls stood out next to the taller Herring Gulls.  I counted two for sure, but thought there were additional Thayer's Gulls wandering among the many Ring-billed, California and Herring Gulls. 

Gulls continued to fly in from DADS Landfill (from the Northwest).  While trying to get an accurate count of the Thayer's Gulls (at least three now) a Glaucous Gull dropped in.  It stood above the nearby Herring Gulls! 

Two Greater Scaup swam just off shore of the east side of the large parking area northeast of the swim beach.

I ran out of daylight and had to skip my southeastern Arapahoe County Short-eared Owl search until another evening.

First Grouse Trip 2015

March 2-6, 2015

Richard Stevens:

March 2

Bryan Ehlmann and I started a "grouse trip" today.  Forecasts were for snowstorms along the Front Range.  We hoped the storms would miss the mountains.  As it turned out, we escaped the inclement weather (heard on the radio that the Front Range did not).

About three hours before sunrise, a Boreal Owl was heard as we stood at the northwest corner of the pullover at the Cameron Pass Summit (Jackson County).  Another Boreal Owl was calling approximately 0.5 miles to the west!

We sat in our cold jeep along Jackson County Road 26b about 30 minutes before sunrise.  Perhaps 15 minutes after sunrise two Greater Sage-Grouse crossed CR 26b (from south to north).  They walked around the Grouse Lek; however, they did not perform their mating dance/displays.

We stopped at several locations along Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand/Routt Counties) in search of crossbills.  A small flock of Red Crossbills (no White-winged) flew around the evergreen trees just north of the road to the CDOT maintenance sheds.

A female American Three-toed Woodpecker flew across the maintenance shed road and worked the evergreen trees north of the road.  She was first observed on one of the telephone poles on the south side of the road.

Next, we examined the 80 Route Road where there are many grouse leks.  The road was not drivable because of several snow drifts.  The weather was so nice (temperatures in the 40s; winds were less than 6 mph).  We decided to walk the 2.7 miles to the Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands.

BTW, the J.D. State Trust Lands are no longer?  If anyone knows why/how they were sold and to whom, please let me know (leave comment on Blog).

We started north from the second cattle guard (where a Dusky Grouse has displayed for the last half dozen years, but not this afternoon).  About 45 minutes before sunset, we observed two Greater Sage-Grouse perched in the trees to the west.  They were approximately in the area of one of the Greater Sage-Grouse Leks found along Route 80.

Our trek continued and we arrived at the Sharp-tailed Grouse on the "old" Jimmy Dunn STL about 20 minutes before sunset.  Our wait was not long before several Sharp-tailed Grouse started to run around/display on their lek.  It was a great "coup" for our strenuous hike through snow drifts and muddy road.

We turned around shortly before sunset and made the long trek back to our car.

March 3

Bryan and I planned our arrival at the 20 Road Leks (Routt) for around sunrise.  Experience has shown to me that Sharp-tailed Grouse usually do not come to their leks in the morning until sunrise.  This was the case this morning.

Minutes after sunrise, we heard and then observed three Sharp-tailed Grouse running around the top of one of two hills west of Routt County Road 27, near the green pipe gate given in directions to the 20 Road Sharp-tailed Grouse Leks.  I have never determined/learned why the Leks are called 20 Road Leks when they are along County Road 27?

After watching these Sharp-tailed Grouse, we returned to Steamboat Springs and visited a friend's home.  Six Sharp-tailed Grouse wandered around her yard!

We leisurely walked the Yampa River trail in search of Waxwings (preferably Bohemian Waxwings) without finding any.  None was found in town or around Catamount Reservoir

Road closures did not allow us to get anywhere up Buffalo Pass Road and we headed for Craig (Moffat County).

Half a dozen Barrow's Goldeneyes were observed swimming in the Yampa River when we stopped along Highway 13.

We had plenty of time and decided to detour to the Oxbow State Trust Land.  It was too early in the season for Sagebrush Sparrows; however, we thought to search anyway.  Several Sagebrush Sparrows have already been reported far to the south.

No Sagebrush Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows or Pinyon Jays were encountered (not expected).  We turned around and drove north to Moffat County Road 3.

The weather started to go downhill (sleet and then graupel).  I just learned the term "graupel" last spring.  Graupel is distinct from hail, small hail and ice pellets.  It is defined by the World Meteorological Organization as snow pellets encapsulated by ice!

We were greeted at the Timberlake Leks by a downpour of graupel.  Through our scopes, five Greater Sage-Grouse were observed unshaken by the falling pellets.  They were dancing around performing their ritual mating dance!

March 4

After resting in Craig and getting a late start, Bryan and I continued south down Highway 13.  The late morning air and wind had dried the highway.  Perch Pond was mostly ice/snow/graupel covered; no birds were on it.

A pair of Great-tailed Grackles was around the Rifle Rest Stop (Garfield County).

About two hours were spent at Cameo (Coal Canyon) before a Chukar was heard calling.  He was somewhere on the tall hillside southwest of the parking area at the second pipe gate.  Bryan eventually pointed it out!

We then headed to the Grand Mesa (Mesa County) and arrived about three hours before sunset.  On the drive up, we stopped near the first forest sign on the north side of Highway 65 (well past the town of Mesa). 

A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found here on one of my grouse trips last year.  We were not disappointed.  A Saw-whet responded shortly after I played a recording.  He was on the south side of Hwy 65.

A walk around the Powderhorn Ski Area found an American Three-toed Woodpecker in the grove of trees at the southeast end of the upper parking area.  No Northern Pygmy-Owls responded to our recording and we headed to the Grand Mesa Visitor's Center.

Few birds flew around the Visitor's Center parking area.  Well after dark, we stopped at seven of the pullovers (back north toward Powderhorn).  We found Boreal Owls at two of the stops.

Back at Powderhorn, a Northern Pygmy-Owl called when we played a recording as we walked the semi-circle road just inside/west of the entrance.

March 5

We took advantage of another late morning start by getting a few hours of sleep.  Both of us have driven the Colorado National Monument Road on many occasions.  It was too early in the year for sparrows and the southern/eastern entrance was skipped.

We drove to the Campgrounds from the northern/western entrance of the Colorado National Monument.  Sometimes Rosy Finches are found on the rocks near the tunnel, unfortunately not today.

A small flock of Pinyon Jays was at the southwest corner of the Campgrounds.  We found our obligatory one Juniper Titmouse and departed.  A detour to the subdivision at the southern entrance found many Gambel's Quail running around.

A Western Screech-Owl was found in the Connected Lakes State Park and our trek turned south.

The Confluence Park (Delta County) Western Screech-Owl was not found (we had not heard about the Delta County Fairgrounds Western Screech-Owl).  No Barrow's Goldeneyes were along the river or in the park.

Fruitgrower's Reservoir was checked for shorebirds; none was found.  A Lewis's Woodpecker was found below the dam and west of Evelyn Horn's home (their usual location in her tall cottonwoods).

Another Lewis's Woodpecker was in the trees at the south end of the Eckert Post Office (same bird as last year?).

We arrived at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) about two hours before sunset.  The south rim road is closed at the Visitor's Center.  No Rosy Finches were found around the Visitor's Center this trip; however, a pair of Pine Grosbeaks and several Clark's Nutcrackers entertained us.

Thirty minutes before sunset and after driving the Campgrounds, we parked at the junction of roads just inside the entrance to the park.  Eventually a Dusky Grouse appeared and walked down the road.

No Northern Pygmy-Owls responded to recording played at the Visitor's Center or along the drive back to the eastern entrance to the Park.

March 6

An hour before sunrise, Bryan and I sat in a very cold jeep at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.  Once it was light enough to see, two Gunnison Sage-Grouse were observed on the lek.  We had parked far to the south of the lek, first to not disturb the birds and second so that we could leave before the birds departed. 

The general rules state to park at the Lek Parking area an hour before sunrise and birders must stay until the last bird leaves the lek.  On several trips last year, we planned our arrival for just before sunrise and stopped a good half mile from the lek.  We scoped and counted birds and then left.  Both Bryan and I have seen the Gunnison Sage-Grouse many times and do not need closer views.

As we continued east, we stopped at the Highway 50 Rest Area near the Monarch Ski Area.  Two male American Three-toed Woodpeckers were observed drumming on the pines (one each on the north and south sides of Hwy 50).

A flock of four Gray-crowned Rosy Finches flying around the building on the south side of Hwy 50 was a nice bonus sighting.

Once at the west side of Canon City (Fremont), we stopped at Tunnel Drive.  Two Rufous-crowned Sparrows popped up from the rocky hillside (after only a ten minute search).  A quick stop at the Arkansas Riverwalk added the resident Western Screech-Owl to our trip list!

We circled south and east to Florence and stopped at a spot where Rich Miller had found Rusty Blackbirds the day before (thanks to GPS).  Two Rusty Blackbirds were quickly found.  No Tundra Swans were found a Holcim Marsh.

A drive down the Swallows Road (west side of Pueblo West, Pueblo County) added a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers and a Scaled Quail to our list!

We were not able to find the Greater Roadrunners at the end of the road.  Both a Northern Shrike and Loggerhead Shrike were nice consolation prizes!

Daylight ran out before we could check out Pueblo Reservoir.

I have been skipping over the weather reports.  For the most part, we were quite fortunate and missed the snowstorms that hit the Front Range and eastern Colorado.

Forecasts for snowstorms across the state in the next couple of days, forced us to go back to Denver instead of continuing our grouse trip.

We stopped several times on the trip back to Denver and searched for owls.  Colorado Springs (El Paso) and Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) were quite tonight.  Winds were quite strong and not positive for owl sightings.

Monday, March 2, 2015

First Day of March, Birding In Douglas County

March 1, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Early this morning, I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) in search of owls.  The early Burrowing Owl was sticking his head out of a prairie dog mound at Trussville Street and 114th avenue (see photo in March's "Colorado Field Notes").  No Short-eared Owls flew about this cold morning.

I continued to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) where hundreds of gulls stood on the ice at the southwest corner of the lake.  Some"good" gulls were among the many Ring-billed Gulls.

These included an adult Mew Gull, a very white Iceland Gull, two adult and one juvenile Thayer's Gulls and at least three Lesser Black-backed Gulls (two adult, one 1st cycle).

Later, Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to the Douglas County foothills in the afternoon.  Temperatures were in the low 30s; winds mild.

Our first stop was the McCabe Meadows Park Pond (best access from the Salisbury Equestrian Center).  The pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes first reported yesterday by Tim Ryan was still there.

We then drove through Sedalia to Rampart Range Road and Highway 67.  A flock of five Cedar Waxwings and a Townsend's Solitaire were at the Sedalia Cemetery (Douglas County).

We relocated the American Three-toed Woodpecker along Hwy 67, just east of Rampart Range Road.  Later a Northern Pygmy-Owl was relocated along Rampart Range Road, south of Hwy 67.

The Northern Pygmy-Owls farther down Highway 67 and along Sugar Creek Road were not found this night.

Cornucopia of gulls, Aurora Reservoir, Arapahoe County 2/28

February 28, 2015

email to cobirders listserve:

Hello cobirders;

This afternoon (2/28), I scoped gulls at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) for three hours.  First, I took 523 photos of the tens of hundreds of gulls at the southwest corner.  It will take a day or two to examine all those photos.  Not all photos will be great; however, they are quite adequate to identify the birds.

Gulls identified in the three hours included:

Lesser Black-backed Gull (at least three, could have been six)
Thayer's Gulls (at least three)
Iceland Gull (1)
California Gulls (dozens)
Herring Gulls (dozens)
Ring-billed Gulls (hundreds)
Mew Gull (1)

I stayed from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm when the sun disappeared behind clouds.

It was a great afternoon to study various ages.  Four or five gulls were quite interesting and not yet Identified.

3/1; 2:00 am; Bryan and I just returned from owling in White Ranch and Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Jefferson County).  We found two Northern Pygmy-Owls on this rather cold night (9 degrees). 

While the night was cold, winds were calm.  One could hear a pin drop (not common this time of winter in this area where winds are usually 15+ mph).  One each Northern Pygmy-Owl at White Ranch and Golden Gate Canyon State Park (both Jefferson County).

Continued Good Birding!

Directions to birding spots on CoBus website:

Richard Stevens; Director, Colorado Birding Society
Denver, Colorado
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
Read "cobirders" at:

DIA Owl Loop and Adams County

February 27, 2015

email to cobirders listserve:

Hello birders,

Rich Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann and I looked again for the Burrowing Owl at Trussville and 114th.  It wasn't found.  Richard photographed a Snow Bunting with hundreds of Horned Larks and at least two Lapland Longspurs along Quency Street, sometimes called Cargo Street.  The flock flew back and forth across the road at the top of the hill south of the prairie dog town, 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue.  The birds landed on the fence and the cut sunflower field to the west of the road.

We found a Short eared Owl along 112th, east of Queensburg Street.  I believe 112th, may have been lower number.  It is the road to the Aviation Offices along the east side of the airport, south of the Frontier maintenance building.  SEOWs have been seen here before.  We also tried Gun Club Road which is west of the northern runways.

Good Birding!

Jerry Petrosky; Colorado Birding Society
Denver, CO
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
cobirders-subscribe AT
Read "cobirders" at: 

Birding Adams and Weld County After Another Snowstorm

February 26, 2015

email sent to cobirders listserve:

Hello birders,

Rich Stevens, Bryan Ehlmann and I searched for the Burrowing Owl that has been reported several times near Trussville Road and 114th avenue.  I missed it for the second time; they missed it for the fourth time?

Many gulls flew around Barr Lake, but we did not find any rare gulls.  One of the Barn Owls was north of the banding station.

One Long eared Owl was relocated at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area.  the Gray Catbird was missed in a second attempt.

Good Birding!

Jerry Petrosky; Colorado Birding Society
Denver, CO
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
cobirders-subscribe AT
Read "cobirders" at:

Birding Up Interstate 76

February 25, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I took advantage of the break between snowstorms and birded up Interstate 76.  Temperatures were in the 20s; however, winds less than 10 mph.

We found three Long-eared Owls at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (along the western windbreak of Ponds 7 to 8; Weld County).

We did not find the previously reported Glaucous Gull or any uncommon gulls.  Four Long-eared Owls and a pair of Great Horned Owls were the consolation.

We returned to Denver before the snowstorm hit.

Greater Sage-Grouse On Their Lek

February 23-24, 2015

Richard Stevens:

February 23

Rebecca Kosten and I drove up to Jackson County for a short visit.  Our main target birds were Greater Sage-Grouse (were they on their lek yet?).

About 40 Rosy Finches (no Black) came to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders.  We could not find the American Three-toed Woodpecker that has been north of the Visitor's Center and Highway 14 for several years.

After dark, we heard a Boreal Owl about 0.2 miles west of Cameron Pass.  After midnight, we heard a Boreal Owl at the Crags Campgrounds (2/24).

February 24

We sat at the Greater Sage-Grouse lek off Jackson County Road 26b before sunrise.  Two Greater Sage-Grouse did come out of the sagebrush and walk around the lek.  However, they did not display.

Whether is was the cold, too early in the season or lack of females "to show off for", we did not determine.  More birds should arrive in a few days or so.

About fifty Rosy Finches were at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center feeders when we passed by.  Today the male American Three-toed Woodpecker could be heard drumming north of the Visitor's Center and Highway 14 (it was not seen).

Once back in Denver, I drove over to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) while out doing chores.  Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Thayer's Gulls were on the ice shelf at the southwest corner of the lake.  Most of the lake was ice free.

No Birding Today, More Snow

February 22, 2015

Richard Stevens:

No birding, snowstorm kept us inside and warm.

A Short Trip to Rocky Mountain Arsenal & Denver City Park Before Another Snowstorm

February 21, 2015

Richard Stevens:

While out doing chores Rebbecca and I drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  An Harris's Spaorrow was with 34 American Tree Sparrows outside of the entrance.  The flock was around the parking area south of the main road, across from the parking area for the only restroom along that road.  They spent much time under the three evergreen trees, also flew up to small trees at the other end of the parking area  when a car would come by.

Forty one Double crested Cormorants are now around the nests at Duck Lake in Denver City Park, Denver County.  We found none four days ago.

It started to snow rapidly and we headed for home.  Streets were snow covered and icy by late afternoon.  Roads were too dangerous to drive the DIA Owl Loop.

Search for Birds After the Snowstorm

February 20, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I slowly drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams County) which had received much snow yesterday.  We could not find the Burrowing Owl reported yesterday.

Afterwards we drove around Adams County.  A Greater Scaup was found on the Gravel Pit at Brighton Road & 120th Avenue.

Two Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the South Platte near the green/white water tower (south of 88th avenue, South Platte Birding Area).

Nothing uncommon was found at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).

We ended our birding day at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County).  Two Long-eared Owls were in the windbreak west of Ponds 7 & 8.  A Great Horned Owl called from somewhere around Pond 13.

Owling In Jefferson County

Email sent to cobirders listserve:

February 19, 2015

Hello cobirders, 

Three of us searched for Saw-whet Owls at Reynolds Park this morning.  Bryan Ehlmann found a Northern Pygmy Owl up the Oxen Draw Trail.  Rich Stevens found a female Three toed Woodpecker east of the Oxen Draw Trail about 40 yards north of the Eagle's View Trail.  A Dusky Grouse was 20 yards west of the intersection of the two trails.  No Saw whets found.

We found another Three toed Woodpecker at the Strawberry Jack switchbacks at Pine Valley Ranch.  No Owls were found.

Directions to birding spots on CoBus website:

Terry Michaels, President, Colorado Birding Society
Denver, CO
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
Read "cobirders" at: