Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Return to Elbert County and Cherry Creek Reservoir

May 19, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann had an unremarkable day in eastern and southeastern Elbert County.  It was when we passed through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) when our day became quite exciting.

Hundreds of sparrows were fluttering about the Lake Loop.  A pair of Mallards swimming up and down the paved path (Lake Loop road to eastern side of the reservoir) was quite amusing.  Overnight rains turned much of the park into water soaked wetlands.

As we walked the eastern side of the Lake Loop, a loose flock of birds at the southeast corner caught our eyes.  Five Yellow Warblers, two Western Tanagers and a vireo worked the tall cottonwoods along the drainage.  The yellow spectacles, bright yellow throat and white belly belonged to a Yellow-throated Vireo!

It has been years since water has flowed in the small willow lined drainage.  Four Black-capped Chickadees, a Lazuli Bunting, three additional Yellow Warblers and two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers popped up from the thick willows 10-20 yards north of Lakeview Drive (the main road through the Park).

Every 10 yards or so farther south, dozens additional birds emerged from the willows.  A Blackpoll Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow flew up to the last thin cottonwood just north of Lakeview Drive.

So many birds came out of the willows; we could not stop continuing south across the road.  From Lakeview Road to Bellevue Avenue (perhaps 0.6 miles hike) we observed dozens of Western Kingbirds, one Cassin's Kingbird, a dozen Western Wood-pewees, another seven Western Tanagers, two Clay-colored Sparrows, seven Brewer's Sparrows, and another four Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

The uncommon birds encountered made the uphill hike quite memorable.  In order of appearance:

Shortly after crossing Lakeview, a little gray bird jumped from the stream to the willows.  A Bell's Vireo preened and dried off and allowed us over two minutes viewing!  The distinct two wingbars, white eyebrow and broken eye ring, long gray tail separated it from Blue-gray Gnatcatchers with black tails and Gray Flycatcher with complete eye ring, no eyebrow.

About 15 yards south, at first glance we thought another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  The gray bird lacked the black tail, white outer tail feathers of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, only had one distinct wing bar and a complete white eye ring.  It was a Gray Flycatcher.

Continuing south another 20 yards, several White-crowned Sparrows popped up.  A Northern Waterthrush followed them to the lower branches of a cottonwood tree.

As we continued south, where there is a large break in the thick willows, sparse cottonwood area of the riparian area to Russian olive trees and cattails, we thought a male Bobolink had flown up and dropped back into the taller wet grasses.  We dismissed it with only a few seconds look and continued along the eastern side of the Russian olive trees.

A Plumbeous Vireo, eight Yellow-rumped Warblers, three Yellow Warblers, a Spotted Towhee, Brown Thrasher, and Warbling Vireo were found before reaching Bellevue Avenue.

Our hike continued back north along the west side of the drainage.  When we reached the large break again, a male Bobolink popped out of the grasses and perched on a miner's candle plant.

The only "new" bird observed on the hike back to our car was a Tennessee Warbler moving about with six to eight Yellow-rumped Warblers in one of the taller cottonwoods just south of Lakeview.

Several birds were left as "unidentified".  Two "empidonax" flycatchers were neither a Dusky Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, nor Cordilleran Flycatcher.  Beyond that, we could not decide.

One Wood-Pewee looked quite different from the others.  Eleven Wood-Pewees had darkish bills and dull wingbars.  One Wood-Pewee had quite thick white wingbars and conspicuous orangish bill; an Eastern Wood-Pewee?  It never made a sound in the 10 minutes we watch it.

No comments: