Tuesday, August 30, 2016

East-Central Colorado Plains

August 22-26, 2016

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I returned to the Eastern Plains to look for fall migration.  Temperatures ranged from the high 80s to the low 90s; winds varied from 5 mph to 15 mph on some days.

For the most part, we felt the fall migration had not yet reached the east central area of Colorado.  As it turned out, we missed the beginning by just a couple of days.

August 22

Our first stop of the day was Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County).  We scoped the northern side below the dam, walked the southern riparian end and then the eastern prairie area.

A Great Crested Flycatcher called briefly from below the dam.  Plenty of House Wrens had not yet started their southern movement.

An American Redstart and a few Yellow-rumped Warblers were the only warblers found at the southern end.  More House Wrens fluttered noisily about.  Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches went about their summer chores.

The highlight was a buffy faced sparrow that popped out of the high grasses on the eastern side of the reservoir.  We expected a Grasshopper Sparrow until our third look.

The buffy faced sparrow had a dark lateral throat stripe and a buffy colored nape!  It then turned around and showed us its dark neck spot and necklace of dark streaks extending across its breast.  It definitely was an adult Baird's Sparrow!

Not finding any uncommon birds at Parmer Park or Fairview Cemetery in Burlington (Kit Carson), we continued north to Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).

The Wildlife Area was quite birdy.  Highlights included a Great Crested Flycatcher along CR 3, a Northern Cardinal at Foster's Grove Campgrounds, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a Baltimore Oriole along the southern side.

A flock of six Eastern Bluebirds flew around the Hale area.

We drove into Kansas to say Hi to a friend and stayed for dinner.  Then returning to Colorado at dusk we played a Common Poorwill recording at Hale Ponds and received a nice response from the same!

A Whip-poor-will would have been nicer; however, a Common Poorwill is not so bad a sighting.

An Eastern Screech-Owl called from north of the Hale Ponds.  We then drove back to Highway 385 and walked the Republican River (trickle of a stream).  Eventually three Eastern Screech-Owls were encountered!

August 23

We woke up to the Eastern Screech-Owl calling north of the Hale Ponds campsite.  We walked my several mile loop at Hale Ponds that I do most times during a Hale Pond visit. 

Two Yellow-billed Cuckoos were along the Republican River, north side of Hale Ponds.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker count rose to six birds.  Eastern Bluebird count beat that with seven.

Our only stop was the riparian area where CR 2 first turns from east to south (from Hwy 385).  This area always seems to be birdy and has yielded several Prairie Warblers and a Greater Roadrunner in the past ten years.

Our highlight of the day was here.  A Pine Warbler gave us fits before being correctly identified.

Continuing north to Wray (Yuma), we walked Stalker Pond and the adjoining Wray Fishing Unit for several hours.  Two Mississippi Kites circled over Stalker Pond.  Our third Great Crested Flycatcher in the past two days, two Baltimore Orioles and a pair of Northern Cardinals, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker were also found.

A small "empidonax flycatcher" at Wray Fishing Unit turned out to be a Least Flycatcher.  A Baltimore Oriole flew around the ranger's home.  Two White-throated Sparrows were in the section east of Yuma County Road FF.

No uncommon sparrows or Eastern Screech-Owls were found at nearby Sandsage Wildlife Area.

We ended our birding day with a drive around Yuma County 45.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls appeared for us this evening.

August 24

At first light, we again drove the Yuma County Road 45 loop with the same results.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls were found.

Most of our birding day was spent in Phillips County after stops at two friend's homes in Wray.  Bird count in Wray was four male and two female Northern Cardinals, with no surprises.

Our target birds included uncommon sparrows (any "ammodramus" sparrow would have been nice, a Sharp tailed sparrow even better).  A Grasshopper Sparrow was the only one found.

I have never found a Sharp-tailed Sparrow in Phillips County; however have locations of the two that were found by the famous Dan Bridges.  Unfortunately, they did not yield one for us today.

Frenchman Creek Wildlife Area is a good place to search for sparrows.  Plenty of wild high grasses on a dry prairie.  Some years when the pond has water, Le Conte's Sparrows stop.  The only uncommon sparrow found there today was a Field Sparrow.  Not to say that seeing Vesper, Song and White-crowned Sparrows is a waste of time.

Holyoke Cemetery, City Park and Fishing Pond were quiet today.  A few Western Kingbirds and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds at the Fishing Pond were just about all we found.

Sand Draw Wildlife Area was a more interesting birding spot today.  A Bell's Vireo popped out of the willows at the southwest corner.  An Indigo Bunting was not far from there.

Two Field Sparrows were along the eastern fence.  No Barn Owls in the western windbreak today, however an Eastern Screech-Owl appeared as startled as we were to see him.

Our birding day ended with an Eastern Screech-Owl calling at Roger Danka's ranch in Sedgwick County as we stuffed ourselves with barbecued chicken (whoops, that's a bird, but tasty).

August 25

Now in Sedgwick County, Terry and I spent most of the morning checking on two of the sites that I have found my only two Sharp tailed Sparrow sightings.  Now they are called Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows.  None was around today.

Hikes around two marshy areas where I have found Eastern Meadowlarks also came up without a sighting.

In the afternoon, Roger accompanied us to several of his friend's ranches.  Two Long-eared Owls (private ranch #2) and a Dickcissel (private ranch #4) were the highlights.

We could not find a Sprague's Pipit nor expected one.  After more barbecue chicken (cold but still tasty),   Terry and I headed to Prewitt Reservoir and camped for the night.

An Eastern Screech-Owl called from the Logan County end of Prewitt Reservoir.

August 26

Today turned out to be quite a busy birding day.

Terry and I enjoyed a superb morning at Prewitt Reservoir (Washington County section).  Eventually we ran into the Western Gull, one of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Marbled Godwit, 12 Pectoral Sandpipers, 6 Semipalmated Plovers, 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos (below dam and eastern inlet), another Eastern Screech-Owl (inlet area), a Tennessee Warbler (below dam) and numerous common birds.

We stopped briefly at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) on the return drive to Denver.  A Red-eyed Vireo and Tennessee Warbler were in the windbreak between Ponds 4 & 3.  A Long-eared Owl was between Ponds 7 & 8.

The Semipalmated Plover reported a few days earlier was not found at nearby Ireland Reservoir #5.  A Common Tern and five Forster's Terns circled the lake many times during our hour stop.

After dropping Terry off, I went over to Barr Lake to stretch my legs after the many miles of driving.  A Nashville Warbler fluttered about the cottonwoods at mile 8.8.

Misses: the previously reported Caspian Tern, Ovenbird, Townsend's Warbler and Least Flycatcher.  A dozen Western Wood-pewees were on the banding station peninsula. 

I was too tired to check the Niedrach Boardwalk mudflats.  Unfortunate, as a White-rumped Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush were reported today.

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