Monday, September 28, 2015

Eastern Plains After a Storm

September 26-28, 2015

Richard Stevens:

September 23

A storm was predicted for the eastern plains tonight, Bryan and I took off for Yuma County.

A stop at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County) lasted three hours.  Hundreds of sparrows fluttered about.  Four Grasshopper Sparrows and two Savannah Sparrows were observed.  None of the rare "ammodramus sparrows" was in the bunch.

Two vireos were in one tree along the south side of the reservoir.  Good contrast was seen between the more common Cassin's Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo!  September 2012 "Colorado Field Notes" has a great article on separating the "solitary vireo" complex.

A Tennessee Warbler was found below the dam on the north side of the reservoir.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard, too deep in the woods for a glimpse.

Palmer Park in Burlington (Kit Carson) was slow, Fairview Cemetery not so much.  Another pair of vireos turned out to be a Blue-headed Vireo & Cassin's Vireo!

It was late in the day for passerine bird searches.  After an early dinner, we did drive to Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) for some owling.  We arrived at Hale Ponds around sunset and played a Common Poorwill (and Whip-poor-will) recordings.  A Common Poorwill answered rather quickly, Although we would have preferred the Whip-poor-will, it was a nice find.

Thirty minutes after sunset, an Eastern Screech-Owl called from north of the Ponds.  A Great Horned Owl called along Yuma County Road 4 (near the Kansas Border).

By now, winds were howling and rain started.  We detoured to Foster's Grove and found a Long-eared Owl (he responded to our recording)!

September 24

Last night's thunderstorm stopped sometime after 2:00 am.  Winds were calm most of the morning and did not pick up until after 1:00 pm.  The day would turn out to be one of the best birding days ever, definitely the best in 2015.

We started by walking from the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds west to Highway 385, then CR 3 back to Foster's Grove Campgrounds and then to the dam.  Our 11.4 mile trek took us most of the morning and afternoon.

Best sightings along the way included:
At the Wagon Wheel Campgrounds: Eastern Phoebe, Nashville Warbler & Black-and-white Warbler.

At the Wagon Wheel picnic area: Eastern Towhee (bird of the day, almost), Long-eared Owl (enclosed area), Blue-headed Vireo (enclosed area) and Plumbeous Vireo (just west of picnic area)

Along Southern gated road: Baltimore Oriole

Hopper Ponds: Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrow

Foster's Grove: first year male Baltimore Oriole, Wild Turkey (9)

Later in the afternoon at Hale Ponds: Magnolia Warbler (along Republican River about 30 yards west of Kansas border), three Red-bellied Woodpeckers

We drove to visit a friend's ranch where a first year Prairie Warbler and another Magnolia Warbler were in the willows around his pond.

The day was not over; when we drove back to Hale Ponds, we stopped at the famous pipit hill.  A Sprague's Pipit walked the ridge northwest of CR 4 & CR LL.5!

September 25

As superb as yesterday's birding was, today's was not.  Hot temperatures, winds 13 mph, gusts to 22 mph hampered our birding.

We debated on heading south into southern Kit Carson and Cheyenne Counties, instead visited Walk-In-Areas in northern Kit Carson and southern Yuma Counties.  (Perhaps missing a chance to see the Sedge Wren at the Sand Creek Massacre Site).

No uncommon sparrows or other birds were encountered on the Walk-In-Areas.  A few Grasshopper Sparrows were at Kit Carson County Walk-In-Area U & 59.

A possible Sprague's Pipit was at Walk-In-Area CR AA & 54.  The bird flew up several times; however, it did not allow good looks.

An American Redstart and Red-bellied Woodpecker were found at Sandy Bluffs State Trust Lands along the Arikaree River.

At Walk-In-Area, CR 18 & DD, we had another "near miss".   A rather buffy faced, highly streaked breast and flanks, flat headed, short tailed sparrow popped up three times from the grasses.  It may have been a Baird's Sparrow.  Although, it could have been a Grasshopper Sparrow that we did not give us good looks.  It hurt to leave the sparrow unidentified.

Farther north, a couple of nice birds were found at Beecher Island.  A Great Crested Flycatcher was in the cottonwoods along the entrance road.  A Blue-headed Vireo worked the willows along Arikaree River.

We ended our birding day along the Yuma County Road PP &45 loop looking for Greater Prairie-Chickens and Short-eared Owls; neither was found.

September 26

Bryan and I returned to Denver by way of Washington County.  Temperatures reached the high 80s; winds were 13 mph, gusts to 18 mph.  It was not ideal birding conditions to say the least.

We stopped at fifteen Walk-In-Areas within ten miles of Highway 34.  Most of them are grass fields this year.

No uncommon sparrows or Sprague's Pipits were found.  At Walk-In-Area CR SS & CR 44 along Surveyor Creek, two Grasshopper Sparrows and a Savannah Sparrow were found.  They would be the highlight of our day.

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