Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eastern Plains Trip

May 20-22, 2015

Richard Stevens:

May 20-23, 2015

Bryan Ehlmann and I made a short three day trip to explore the eastern plains for migrating birds.  As had been the case for a couple of weeks now, birding was done between brief rainstorms.

May 20

Our trip started out quite well when we stopped at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County). 

We walked around the dam area to the southeastern end and eventually found a Hooded Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher and two Dusky Flycatchers, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.  A male Chestnut-sided Warbler at the northeastern corner was definitely the highlight.

A stop at Fairview Cemetery in Burlington (Kit Carson) was a great choice.  A Gray-cheeked Thrush was discovered in the thicker bushes.

We arrived at Bonny Reservoir/Hale Ponds in late afternoon.  A couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers flew around the cottonwoods as we set up camp.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called about 20 minutes after sunset.

We walked around Hale Ponds near the end of Civil Twilight with Whip-poor-wills in mind.  None was found; however, a Common Poorwill responded to our recordings.

May 21

Our long day started about an hour before sunrise.  Eventually we walked from highway 385 to the Kansas border and back.  We took our time and enjoyed the pleasant day of bird songs and sightings.  According to our GPS, with zig zags and all, we hiked 29.4 miles in total.  We both agreed it was a great day!  Bryan may be the only birder I know that would have done such a one day trek with me!  Thanks much buddy!

Bonny Reservoir is no longer a reservoir.  The area is now called the South Republican Wildlife Area. Colorado gave most of Bonny's water to Kansas (lost lawsuit).  Our trek took us along the southern side of the Republican River to Kansas and then back along the northern side. 

Highlights in the order we found them along our fifteen hour "walk" follow.  Later we found that a big miss for the day was a Bell's Vireo found by unseen birder Van Remsen.

Three Eastern Screech-Owls responded to recordings before sunrise (hwy 385 to Hopper Ponds).

Flocks of sparrows we encountered along Yuma County Road 2.  We checked the thin row of trees where Bell's Vireos had been recorded in past years; without success.  Hopper Ponds also had many sparrows.  A Great Crested Flycatcher was the only uncommon bird.

Our first highlight of the day was a male Prairie Warbler.  He was 30 yards into the woods northeast of where CR 2 turns from east to south.  A Blackpoll Warbler was another 30 yards or so toward the Republican River.

Several Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a male Baltimore Oriole were found from there to the old Wagon Wheel picnic area.  One or two Long-eared Owls were also in the area.

An Eastern Phoebe hawked insects at the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds.  Our fourth Eastern Screech-Owl of the morning was here also.

No Northern Saw-whet Owls were found between the Bonny Dam and Hale.  At Hale (referred to as Hale Crossing by some birders) we added another Great Crested Flycatcher and Broad-winged Hawk to our day list.  We checked the tall Cottonwoods northeast of Hale for Cuckoos (both Yellow billed & Black-billed have nested here in past years).

The best bird at Hale Ponds was an calling Alder Flycatcher (highlight of our day).  Between Hale and Kansas we also encountered a calling Yellow-billed Cuckoo (would have been missed if he had not called), Mourning Warbler (willows along Republican River), Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush (also in the willows), Magnolia Warbler & American Redstart (Cottonwoods just west of Kansas), Olive-sided Flycatcher,  male Baltimore Oriole, three Red-bellied Woodpeckers, seven Eastern Bluebirds, many flycatchers and wood-pewees.

Once back at the Bonny Reservoir dam, we hiked the north side of the Republican.  A Barn Owl was in the cottonwoods as we dropped down from the north end of the dam.

Two additional Long-eared Owls were in the windbreak east of the old Foster's Grove Campgrounds.  The Campgrounds themselves had many birds including two Northern Cardinals, an Eastern Phoebe, two Baltimore Orioles, and quite surprising, a Lewis's Woodpecker.

A flock of twenty Wild Turkey wandered just west of Foster's Grove.  Our third Great Crested Flycatcher called from the tall cottonwoods between F.G. and hwy 385.

Too many birds to mention, it was quite an enjoyable trek.  Both of us were exhausted when we reached our jeep.  We had no problem falling to sleep.

May 22

I wrote up to an Eastern Screech-Owl called at 4:30 am (Hale Ponds).  At dawn, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called northwest of the western Hale Pond (not same area as yesterday's cuckoo).

Our tired legs convinced us to return to Denver by way of I70 and not follow our original plans to head north to Wray.  Predicted thunderstorms had much to do with this decision.

The area is now called the South Republican Wildlife Area.

A two hour stop at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson) found a Hooded Warbler, Northern Waterthrush (5/20), Great Crested Flycatcher (5/20), Least Flycatcher (5/20), Dusky Flycatcher (5/20) and a Nashville Warbler.

After dropping Bryan at home, I decided to stretch my legs at Barr Lake (Adams County).  My hike was cut short at one hour when it rained again.

Before the rain, I walked from the Visitor's Center footbridge to the banding station and back to the west side of the Niedrach Trail.  A Northern Waterthrush was under the logs just north of the fixed scope, north of the footbridge (mile 9.0 or 0.0).  A Red-eyed Vireo wandered around at mile 8.8.

The real surprise was a Gray-cheeked Thrush under the row of cottonwoods at the southeast corner of the Niedrach boardwalk loop.  Many birds, although no uncommon, were at the Loop: Yellow-rumped Warblers, Warbling Vireos (2), Bullock's Orioles (4), Red-winged Blackbirds.

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