Friday, November 25, 2016

A Fall Day at Aurora Reservoir

November 25, 2016

Richard Stevens:

I had planned to return to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas Counties) to search again for the Snow Bunting.  On the drive over, a text message stated that the Snow Bunting had flown off and not been seen for a couple of hours. 

NOTE: later I met two birders who had seen the Snow Bunting later in the day; it had returned.  Just as well, the 49 mile drive through Denver traffic is never a fun way to spend my day.

I detoured east and enjoyed this beautiful fall day at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  Winds were mild at the southern end, later 12+ mph at the northern end.  Temperatures reached the low 60s.

When I scoped the lake from the bench at mile 2.5 (required a 1.2 mile hike from southern entrance) the only birds were American Coots.  Later four Bonaparte's Gulls flew past.

I walked to the southern end of Lone Tree Cove (mile 3.0) and found the Black Scoter.  In my mind, I thought that the other scoters had abandoned her as nothing else was around for 20 minutes.

Out of nowhere?  a Surf Scoter joined the Black Scoter.  The pair stayed rather close together for the next 20 minutes.  Then two additional Surf Scoters appeared.  Perhaps they swam close to shore where they could not be seen?

No additional scoters appeared in the next 20 minutes.  I waited for the last pair to appear; they did not.  Back at the bench (2.5 mile), two Common Loons were 10 yards off shore.  A third Common Loon was swimming along the shore at mile 4.0.

Many birders with scopes stood on the dam at the north end of the reservoir.  It took about 40 minutes to walk, drive and walk to the dam.  The birders were gone.  Winds here were 12 mph with gusts to 18 mph.  It was difficult to see anything in the high waves.  I thought two Surf Scoters were in the scuba diving cove (mile 5.5), however was not sure.

I then drove to the western side and walked the 0.3 miles up to the western side of the dam.  By the time I got there, the hundreds/thousands of gulls that had spent much of the afternoon standing on the dam had been chased into the water.

From 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm, I scoped the many gulls.  Hundreds of gulls continued to arrive from the direction of the disposal site to the northwest.  The number of gulls must have tripled or quadrupled in those 45 minutes.

While the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Glaucous Gull reported earlier in the day did not materialize, I was able to pick out a Thayer's Gull and Mew Gull.  When the wind died down just before sunset, I was able to find the Red-necked Grebe.

My final stop was the swim beach area to see if gulls had landed there.  The beach was empty.  However, the two White-winged Scoters were swimming southeast of the swim beach!  A Greater Scaup was not far from them.

When I departed, dozens/hundreds of gulls were still flying in from the garbage dump.  Perhaps mornings are a better time to find the Glaucous and Lesser Black-backed Gulls before they fly to the dump for the day?

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