Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cherry Creek Reservoir & First Creek Trail

April 30, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Picked my mom up for breakfast and we stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on the way to the restaurant.  The wild plum bushes near the upper parking area for the Cherry Creek Reservoir northeastern boat ramp still had some snow on them.

Temperatures were around 42 degrees; winds were 9 mph with gusts to 14 mph.  The Northern Parula did not appear during our 30-minute stay.

Few of yesterday's birds were found today.  The dozens of American Pipits have disappeared.  The Bonaparte's Gulls, Franklin's Gull and terns were a no show also.

We returned to watching the wild plum bushes for another 20 minutes before giving up and going to a late breakfast.

After breakfast we gave the wild plum bushes a third watch.  This time, I left mom to watch for the Northern Parula and I walked to the Pelican Point sand spit. 

The many shorebirds at the point included eight Willets, two American Avocets and a Stilt Sandpiper.  The Northern Parula did not appear; perhaps it has moved on to warmer places?

I scoped the swim beach before leaving.  Another five Willets wandered up and down the beach.

In the afternoon, Rebecca and I headed to the First Creek Trail (Denver).  A birding group had reported 50 species including Barn Owls and a Northern Mockingbird in five hours this morning.

We usually do not count total species; however today we tried to top the 50 bird species in our two hour hike.  On the hike outward, we were stuck on 29 species along the First Creek Trail.  On the return trip, two Chipping Sparrows flew by and ended our total at 30. 

However, we did not count the four species of birds seen on a detour along Buckley Road (Burrowing Owls, Great Horned Owl, Prairie Falcon and Grasshopper Sparrow).  First Creek Trail highlights included a Virginia Rail and Hermit Thrush.

Thirty species was not bad considering that anemometer readings were now 14-15 mph with gusts to 27 mph.  Misses included: Barn Owl, Northern Mockingbird & the Western Wood-pewee reported a few days ago.

We picked a restaurant for dinner so as to past Cherry Creek Reservoir.  We arrived at 6:29 pm and at 6:31 pm the Northern Parula popped out of the bushes!  He would return deep in the bushes, however briefly come out of cover on three occasions in the next ten minutes.

As we left the park, the two Bonaparte's Gulls and adult Franklin's Gull were observed standing on the poles lining the southwest marina.

Cherry Creek & Chatfield Reservoirs In a Snowstorm

April 29, 2017

Richard Stevens:

A spring snowstorm finally hit the Front Range.  It started snowing late Friday and persisted through nearly all of Saturday.  Temperatures today only attained 29 degrees.  Winds were strong at times; anemometer readings were 13-14 mph with gusts to 26 mph.

As luck would have it, temperatures have been warm recently and any snow landing on the warm roads melted.  Streets were just wet, easily drivable.

I motored over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) to see if the Northern Parula made it through the night.  The wild plum near the upper parking area for the northeastern Cherry Creek Reservoir boat ramp was covered with snow.

The Northern Parula did not come out during the hour I watched.  In fact, no birds emerged from the bushes.

Fog hung over the lake and visibility was low.  I walked down the Pelican Point shore to the sand spit.  The only shorebirds were two American Avocets.  Robins were the majority bird.  The juvenile Bonaparte's Gull "hung out' on the point with a small group of Ring-billed Gulls.

The adult Bonaparte's Gull and adult Franklin's Gull again wandered the beach below the West Shades Picnic Area.  No terns were found.

Note: yesterday I took photos of the three medium sized terns flying around the southwest marina.  Examining them today, I found one Common Tern and two Forster's Terns.  I find separating the two can be difficult; photographing them for later examination is highly beneficial.

Then I proceeded to Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).  Most front range Sagebrush Sparrow sightings are just after a snowstorm; I hoped was one was blown in last night.

When I arrived, half a foot or more snow covered the park.  No Sagebrush Sparrows were found.  In the past, I have found them when just a dusting of snow covered the marina sand spit.  The snow was too deep for any sparrows to walk around today.

I scoped the South Platte River from Kingfisher Bridge.  One Eastern Phoebe and one Least Flycatcher were 30 yards or so upstream from the bridge.  The phoebe was in Jefferson County, the Least Flycatcher in Douglas County.

Nothing uncommon could be seen from the west side of Marston Reservoir (Denver).  I gave up on birding and went to dinner.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cherry Creek Reservoir, Arapahoe County

April 28, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca & I drove the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver) about an hour before sunrise.  We were treated to a Short-eared Owl flying along Gun Club Road just before the emblazoned sunrise.

After dropping Rebecca off, I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) to see if the Northern Parula and stayed around.  He was fluttering about the wild plum gleaning unnamed bugs off the flowers.

My plan was to drive the eastern Arapahoe County Roads in search of migrants.  While picking up an unhealthy although tasty breakfast at Burger King, I received a text message about a Red-necked Phalarope and Eastern Phoebe at Cherry Creek Reservoir.   Besides, the gravel roads turn to mush when it rains.

Directions were vague, something about the fishing trail to the Wetland Preserve.  Unfortunately, this could refer to four or five trails.  I decided to walk the shore at Pelican Point (location of the Northern Parula).

Thirty two Yellow Warblers, mixed sexes and races flew around the cottonwoods that lined the shore.  Several House Wrens noisily called from the underbrush.  A lone Chipping Sparrow popped out of the bushes several times to get a drink of water.

I scoped the southeastern end of the lake from the sand spit.  No Red-necked Phalarope was found.  It was not a surprise; trying to pick out a skinny bird just a little bigger than a House Sparrow on the waves is a difficult task.

Many swallows mostly Barn but also Tree, Cliff, Violet-green and Barn hawked bugs low off the lake.  I was reminded that while insects are bugs, not all bugs are insects.  I think that is correct?  Anyway, the swallows were catching little bugs.

The predicted rain and snowstorm was slowly rolling in from the west.  I decided to skip driving the gravel Arapahoe County Roads and spent the afternoon at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Three additional "fishing" trails were walked down to the lake.  No Eastern Phoebe was found.  Winds picked up and waves grew higher.  The Red-necked Phalarope was not found either.

A flock of fifty or so Chipping Sparrows was found at the bird platform area of the Prairie Loop.  I captured some nice photos of a Snowy Egret standing on a fallen log where Cottonwood Creek crosses the now fallen down Prairie Loop footbridge. 

A Marsh Wren responded nicely to a recording.  He allowed nice looks but disappeared before I could boot up my camera.  I walked Cottonwood Creek south to the main road (Lake View Road) in search of the Swamp Sparrow I had found back on April 1st; without success.

Few birds were swimming on the Lake.  Numbers appear to be way down from past springs.  A few American Coots and American White Pelicans were just off the Lake Loop.

A shorebird walked the shore at the West Shades Picnic area.  It was too small to identify from the parking area and I walked down to the beach.  A lone Baird's Sandpiper walked among half a dozen gulls.

An adult Franklin's Gull in breeding plumage and two Bonaparte's Gulls in basic plumage were picking food off the sandy shore.

While trying to photograph the gulls a midsized "Gull" flew past.  I thought the dark headed bird was another Franklin's Gull until I noticed the orange bill.  It was an adult Caspian Tern.

When I reached to southwest marina, two smaller terns were flying overhead.  I sat on a bench and took dozens photos of the flying terns.  Distinguishing between Common and Forster's Terns is a little tricky.

The adult terns did appear to be "quite frosty".  Their silvery primaries did contrast with the rest of the upperparts.  I call them Forster's Terns.  Later the photos confirmed my suspicions.

Driving around to the northern side of the reservoir, I detoured to the ranger's office.  A lone male hummingbird flew between the office and the homes to the east.  It was a male Black-chinned Hummingbird!   Whether it was the same one that has returned for seven years, could not be determined.  Still nice to see one in the Park.

No shorebirds were on the swim beach today.  Few birds were seen off the dam tower parking area.  About thirty-six Western Grebes were not too far off shore.  Some with heads in their backs were trying to rest on the rising waves.

A drive around the Campgrounds did not add any birds to my list today.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cherry Creek Reservoir & the DIA Owl Loop

April 27, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures were only reached 52 degrees in the afternoon.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 20 mph.

In the afternoon, we stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  To our surprise, the Northern Parula was fluttering about the wild plum near the upper parking area for the northeastern boat ramp.

Several White-crowned Sparrows and Black-capped Chickadees were also gleaning bugs off the bushes.

Several of us started for Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) to search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers.  Pouring rain changed our plans.  I returned to Cherry Creek Reservoir and captured a few photographs of the Northern Parula.  The rain started to arrive.

see Colorado Birding Society's website photo library:

Four Willets and fourteen American Avocets wandered down the swim beach.  Two Bonaparte's Gulls flew below the dam.

Burrowing Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop on the trip home.  They continue at Trussville Road & 114th avenue & W. Cargo Road & Third Creek.

No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Successful Grouse Trip

April 21-27, 2017

Richard Stevens:

The four of us enjoyed a fantastic grouse trip.  Weather was a mixture of sun, wind, rain and snow, as is typical for Colorado springtime.  Fortunately, we missed most of the inclement weather with a well chosen route.  Our trip was cut one day short because of an incoming snowstorm.

April 21

Our troop arrived early in the morning and we set out for the eastern plains.  Rain and snow was predicted for the mountains that guided our route.

We missed the Carolina Wren in Burlington (Kit Carson) and the one at Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  Bonny Reservoir did yield a Long-eared Owl, eleven Wild Turkeys, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Eastern Phoebe.

Our car was parked along Yuma County Road 45 a half hour before sunset.  Eventually five Greater Prairie-Chickens flew to the lek.  Their cackling display is hilarious entertaining!

A quick detour back at Bonny Reservoir added an Eastern Screech-Owl to our trip list.  The owl was north of the eastern Hale Pond.

April 22

We spent the night in Burlington and headed to Lamar by way of the eastern county roads.  No Mountain Plover was found in the rolling wild grass fields.  (I have gps waypoints of previously nesting areas).

Lamar Community College (Prowers) was slow.  If the Carolina Wren that wintered there is still around, we could not find it.  A male Northern Cardinal and Red-bellied Woodpecker were the highlights.

Fairmount Cemetery was also slow.  Not even the resident Great Horned Owl could be found.

Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) twenty miles south of Lamar on the other hand was quite birdy.  The highlight was a red form of Fox Sparrow in its fresh bright plumage!

An Eastern Phoebe, Wild Turkeys and Brown Thrasher (perhaps early), Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Turkey Vulture were also found.  Misses included the resident Barn Owls and Greater Roadrunner.

We stretched our legs at one of my favorite sparrow fields.  The gravel road leading north from the entrance to the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek is an excellent location to find Cassin's Sparrows.  Many nest along the Lek Road, some leak over to the north side of Baca CR G.

Today we found two Cassin's Sparrows, two Vesper Sparrows, a Brewer's Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow and many White-crowned Sparrows.

An hour before sunset, our car was parked near a Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek on private land.  Only three Lesser Prairie-Chickens visit this location.  However, Lesser Prairie-Chickens are difficult to find anywhere in Colorado; we were quite happy with the few.

Our camp was set up in Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) at the informal Campgrounds along Carrizo Creek.  Two Western Screech-Owls called early in the night!

April 23

In the morning, we explored Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  Two Eastern Phoebes have already returned to their nesting site.  Rufous-crowned Sparrows were found along the rocky hillside 1.7 miles east of our campsite.

On the drive over, we encountered resident birds, Chihuahuan Ravens, Canyon Towhees, Greater Roadrunner and Wild Turkeys.  The resident Barn Owl could not be found.  No warblers or vireos have arrived yet.

One of my favorite spots to bird is the draw about half a mile west of the Campgrounds.  Today we found a Long-eared Owl (called) and Ash-throated Flycatcher.

It was time to move on; we stopped at two gps waypoints where Hepatic Tanagers have nested in past years.  It is early to expect them; however, we looked anyway.

Our next stop was quite far as we drove to the San Luis Hills and John James Canyon (Conejos).  This isolated area provides amble space for some interesting birds.  We hiked about a mile up the canyon and found along the way: two Sagebrush Sparrows, a Black-throated Gray Warbler (early in the season), Black-throated Sparrow (about average arrival time) and two Sage Thrashers.

Four Pinyon Jays flew by on the trek back to our vehicle.

We hoped for a Short-eared Owl to appear, none did.  A stop to listen for Boreal Owls on Wolf Creek Pass did not find any. 

It was a long day of driving as we spent the night in Cortez (Montezuma).

April 24

Usually grouse trips do not find many if any passerines (especially warblers or vireos).  The trips are early in the season and besides there is little time for searching.

However, we had heard about the Lucy's Warbler sightings in Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma) and made it a target bird for our trip.

Yellow Jacket Canyon did not disappoint.  Eventually all had good looks at two Lucy's Warblers.  They can be quite elusive, usually feeding high in the trees.

Other birds recorded included a Black-throated Gray Warbler, Gray Flycatcher (first of the season for me), Chukar (strange location), Canyon Towhee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gambel's Quail (more likely Chicken-like Bird) and Ash-throated Flycatcher.

Misses: Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Virginia's Warblers.

Our route had us heading north to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  One stop was made along the way.  It was a good one.  A Grace's Warbler fluttered about Haviland Lake (La Plata).  A pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers was also seen.

We arrived at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park an hour before dark.  Unfortunately, the south rim road is still closed at the Visitor's Center.  We drove back and forth to the entrance and eventually observed a male Dusky Grouse come out of the thickets just east of the Campgrounds.  He looked around, however did not display and returned five minutes later into the brush.

Later a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to a recording played at the Campgrounds!

April 25

Early in the morning, we sat at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek (Gunnison).  Only five Gunnison Sage-Grouse came to the lek this morning.

Later we made a detour to Crested Butte. The drive around town found 40+ Rosy Finches (three species) along Hunter Hill Road (previously reported site).

We headed toward Delta (Delta) with a quick detour up Escalante Canyon.  Two Black Phoebes were found along the creek and not far from Pinnacle Rock.  A pair has nested in the area since at least 2005.

On the drive back to Delta, would not you know it?  Two Chukar were observed crossing the road just east of the old goat farm.  Nice to see them, however, I spent many a day and dozens of hours looking for them in the canyon.  Figures I would find them when not looking for them (picked up Chukar at Yellow Jacket yesterday).

Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were relocated along Meyers Road near Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).  No shorebirds were found at the reservoir.  One Sandhill Crane was added to our trip list.

We then drove the Grand Mesa from the southern (Delta County) end.  Eventually we found three Boreal Owls along the pullovers.  All three were in Mesa County.

We briefly stopped at the Powderhorn Ski Area.  The resident Northern Pygmy-Owl was not found this evening.  We did find a Northern Saw-whet Owl farther north.  It has been loyal to this particular nesting location since I found it six years ago.

April 26

A decision was made to skip a day of birding around Grand Junction (Mesa).  Fortunately we had already found our target birds in the area (one exception, Sagebrush Sparrow).  A pending snowstorm forced us to continue to Craig. 

It was a good decision; we missed the storm by just one day.

Thirty minutes before sunrise we sat near the 2nd cattle guard up the 80 Route road.  The male Dusky Grouse that has guarded the area for many years was quite punctual.  Shortly after sunrise he appeared a displayed.  Having little success, he walked back down the road and disappeared in the willows.

The air was filled with bird sounds.  This included Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Sage-Grouse.  We scoped the fields to the north and observed both species.  It is always a treat to see the three species down the same road and especially from the same spot!

They were too far away for photos; we hoped for closer views later.  We rapidly headed to the Twenty Road Leks south of Hayden.  Three Sharp-tailed Grouse were on their lek and quite close to the road.  My companions took some nice photos.

Heading back north after the grouse show, several dozen Sandhill Cranes were found along the road to the airport.

We continued west to Oxbow State Trust Lands (Moffat).  The area is closed in Spring; however, most of the target birds can be seen through a scope.  Our target bird were found: two Sagebrush Sparrows, three Sage Thrashers and a Black-throated Sparrow.  Four Pinyon Jays flew by during our stay.  A Loggerhead Shrike hunted from the fence not far from the parking area.

Turning back east with a planned stop at the Greater Sage-Grouse Lek in Jackson County, we stopped for lunch in Steamboat Springs.  A drive around town did not locate any of the Bohemian Waxwings reported last month.

A stop at the maintenance road on Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand County) found a flock of fourteen Red Crossbills.  No White-winged Crossbills were among them, as sometimes happens.

The resident female American Three-toed Woodpecker flew to the single pine tree north of the road.  Shortly after, she returned to the pine tree forest lining the south side of the road.

Thirty seven Greater Sage-Grouse about 2/3 males visited the Jackson County Road 26b Lek this evening.  A few photos were taken.  Traditionally the grouse show up after it is too dark for photos; mornings offer better opportunities for that.

Three Boreal Owls were heard along highway 14, west of Cameron Pass.  It helps to know where their territories are located!

April 27

We spent a short night in Fort Collins and headed to the Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) an hour before sunrise.  The day was to be short, two of my birding friends had to catch flights out of Denver in the afternoon. 

We did not have to walk into the field at Highway 85 and CR 114.  While we stood at the parking area, two Chestnut-collared Longspurs were observed performing their mating flight.

We drove then Weld County Road 134 and found six Sharp-tailed Grouse between CR 111 & CR 115.  The question of whether they are "countable" birds in still up in the air.  The birds are reintroduced Sharp-tailed Grouse of the Plains subspecies.  In my opinion, they will soon be countable because of the changes in the     ABA rules.

Dropping down south to CR 100 and CR 390, two Mountain Plovers and Burrowing Owls were relocated before we reached CR 89.

On the way back to Denver, we took the time to detour over to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).  A Long-eared Owl was found in least than ten minutes and we rushed to DIA airport.

Brad and I dropped our friends off and decided to try for American Three-toed Woodpeckers at Reynolds Park.  We stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir on the way and quickly observed the Northern Parula.  Then the rains came.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Barr Lake and Westerly Creek Park

April 20, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 63 degrees today.  Winds were 9-10 mph with gusts to 23 mph (late afternoon).  Rain started around 3:30 pm.

I also did not find the reported Red-shouldered Hawk at Barr Lake (Adams County).  I walked from the boat ramp to a mile west of the Visitor's Center footbridge.

A minor migration of birds had occurred since my visit on Monday, 4/18.  Hundreds of sparrows fluttered about along the edges of the riparian area.  My sparrow count was represented by Savannah (2), Brewer's (2), Clay-colored (1), Lincoln's (2), White-crowned (dozens) and Song (at least 4).

The pair of Osprey was again on the nesting platform at mile 8.6.  Barn Owls continued along the trek.  A Swainson's Hawk and Northern Harrier were my only hawks.

My choice to drive down to the State Capitol on business was not a good one.  The traffic was a mess due to the 4-20 mess.

On the trip home, I stopped at Westerly Creek Park (Denver).  My migrants were around this afternoon.  Added to my Park list were one Chipping Sparrow, one Green-tailed Towhee, one Spotted Towhee, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a dozen American Goldfinches, two Brewer's Sparrows and a Lincoln's Sparrow.  All of these birds visited the water at the retention pond east of 23rd Street.

Half a dozen White-crowned Sparrows walked underneath the flowering tree south of the retention pond.  The Harris's Sparrow was not found.  However, my stay was only a little over an hour and centered on the retention pond and bushy area to the south.  The Harris's Sparrow may still be around.

Three Burrowing Owls were again staying around the prairie dog town at West Cargo Road and Third Creek.  When it started to rain, I decided to leave and not stay around until sunset to look for Short-eared Owls.

Search of a Short-billed Dowitcher, Arapahoe & Elbert Counties

April 19, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 70 degrees in spite of being colder than yesterday.  Winds were measured at 7-8 mph; gusts were 24 mph.

I started out this morning to attempt to relocate the possible Short-billed Dowitcher reported yesterday in Elbert County.

The Black Swan was still on the 10th hole lake at Blackstone Country Club (Arapahoe County). 

Two private properties, which will remain unnamed, were inspected for birds.  Two Vesper Sparrows were found at one, a Long-eared Owl and Brown Thrasher at the other.

My only Grasshopper Sparrow of the day was at last year's "Dickcissel location" along Arapahoe County Road 129 just north of Orchard Road.

One Burrowing Owl and one Sage Thrasher were encountered at nondescript locations.

The rest of the morning was uneventful.  No Dowitchers were at the location thought to be yesterday's Short-billed Dowitcher site.

Only White-crowned Sparrows were found on the return trip to Denver.  No Burrowing Owls were located at 2016 sites.  No Kingbirds or Northern Mockingbirds had returned to 2016 sites.  Any shorebirds including Long-billed Curlews were found.  Not one longspur crossed my path.

Search For A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

April 18, 2017

Richard Stevens:

After I had been up all night, Rebecca Kosten and I drove to Barr Lake (Adams County) to search for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reported yesterday.  The flycatcher was not found during out two hour search.  We carefully scoped the front of the riparian area south to the private ranch outside the Park.

I walked from the boat ramp (mile 7.8) to the Visitor's Center (mile 9.0).  Highlight was a Nashville Warbler near mile 8.4.  Credit for finding the bird goes to a person that stopped me and asked what kind of bird was in the bushes.  I am sorry not to have asked his name.

House Wrens are back in full force; the count was at least ten.  No flycatchers, vireos or additional warblers were encountered.

We also drove the roads along the eastern and northern side of Barr Lake hoping the flycatcher had flown there.  Several Great-tailed Grackles and a male Yellow-headed Blackbird were on the cattails north side of Barr Lake, west of E. 144th Avenue.

By mid morning, I was exhausted and went to get some sleep.

Owling Trip to Teller & Fremont Counties

April 14-17, 2017

Terry Michaels and I went on a rare weekend birding trip (usually too many people wandering around).  We went owling in Fremont and Teller Counties.

I have written before about the about of equipment I carry.  Back in 1992, the equipment consisted of only a pair of $50 binoculars.  In later years, I found myself carrying GPS (locator), IPOD (play recordings), blue tooth speaker (amplify recordings), anemometer (wind speed & temperature), digital recorder (record sightings), digital camera (photograph sightings) and too expensive binoculars. 

Recently "owl listening stations" and spot light were taken on grouse and owling trips.

This trip we also added NVG7-3P     Night Vision goggles and radio transmitter/receiver (to locate tagged birds).

Because of the sensitivity of owl's habitat and nesting their locations will remain unnamed.  We have gained much expertise in locating owls and enjoyed these last few days.

Big misses were Flammulated Owls.  Perhaps they are not back in Colorado yet?  Usually they return to the mountains before snow covered roads allow access.  We drove several areas and even snow shoed where access was possible.


April 14:
No Flammulated Owls found in Teller County.   Two Northern Pygmy-Owls and a Northern Saw-whet Owl (caught on our "owl listening stations") north of Woodland Park.

April 15 & 16
The Western Screech-Owl was relocated along the Arkansas Riverwalk (Fremont County).  A Black Phoebe & Eastern Phoebe were at Florence River Park (Fremont).

After dark, our "receiver" picked up a possible Spotted Owl.  Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were found at the mouth of Phantom Canyon.

April 16
We also found two Northern Saw-whet Owls and a Northern Pygmy-Owl up Red Canyon Road (Fremont).  Our return to Phantom Canyon found the Spotted Owl.  Two Northern Saw-whet Owls at different locations than yesterday also were picked up by our "owl listening stations".

April 17
A hike around Mueller State Park (Teller) added two Williamson's Sapsuckers and an American Three-toed Woodpecker to our trip list.

After dark, a trek up the Crags Road to the Campgrounds found two Northern Pygmy-Owls and a great surprise.  A Boreal Owl was calling unprovoked north of the Campgrounds.

A brief stop at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont) on the way home added one last Northern Pygmy-Owl to our trip list.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Drive Around Eastern Arapahoe County

April 17, 2017

Rebecca Kosten:Ehlmann:Amy Davenport

Sue Ehlmann, Amy Davenport and I followed a new route from Parker today.  We passed by Blackstone Country Club and took some photos of the Black Swan.

Then we drove east on County Line Road to County Road 129.  Along the way, we saw a Burrowing Owl just east of Antelope Drive and a male Lark Bunting just west of CR 129.  Both birds were north of County Line Road and therefore in Arapahoe County.  Two Vesper Sparrows were south of the road in Elbert County.

We turned north on Arapahoe CR 129 and drove to CR 30 which is also called Quincy Avenue.  A female Lark Bunting was near East Geddes Avenue.

A Loggerhead Shrike was photographed at CR 129 and East Orchard Road.  This area is the curve in CR 129 where Dickcissels were found last summer.  It is a little too early for them yet this spring.

About 0.1 miles south of CR 30, a Grasshopper Sparrow, maybe two was on the fence on the east side of CR 129.

Once we turned west on CR 30, two Prairie Falcons were seen on the telephone poles.  Farther west an adult Ferruginous Hawk also used a telephone pole.

At South Watkins Road (CR 97), we turned north.  A Red-tailed Hawk was near this intersection.  At East Yale Avenue, we picked up the eastern end of the Jewell-Yale Loop and continued westward.

At the northwest bend in Yale Avenue, (some maps call the road Smith Road here), we continued north to East Jewell Avenue.  A Bald Eagle was perched in one of the tall cottonwoods along Creek.

At Jewell our birding ended and we drove west back to Denver.  Along our way, we stopped numerous times and scoped the fields for Long-billed Curlews and Longspurs.  Neither was found.  Another Loggerhead Shrike was along Yale Avenue at 0.3 miles south of Jewell Avenue.

We expect the route to offer many birds in the weeks to come.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Drive Through Rocky Mountain Arsenal

April 16, 2017

Rebecca Kosten:

Sue Ehlmann, Amy Davenport and I in the late afternoon drove the Wildlife Drive at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Adams County.

The afternoon was mostly uneventful.  We did see an Eastern Phoebe leaving a potential nesting area going out to catch some food.

Three Say's Phoebes were found in the riparian areas.  A highlight was a Long-billed Curlew just inside the Wildlife Drive.  The Long-billed Curlew was walking in the short green grassy field east of the road and just north of mile 3.

A Marsh Wren came out of the cattails near the bridge just north of the Long-billed Curlew field.  As it sang, a Ranger drove by and cued us that it was not legal to get out of our vehicle.

The drive was marked by the absent of any large raptors.  Two Burrowing Owls were at mile 7.  Another Burrowing Owl was at the corner of Havana Street and 88th Avenue.

Our Western Meadowlark count was only six during the eight-mile drive.  Few ducks swam on Lake Ladora and Lower Derby Lake.

Later we saw three Burrowing Owls at W. Cargo Road at Third Creek.  The area is well outside of the Arsenal.  No Short-eared Owls were found and seem scarce this spring.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Drive Around Adams County

April 13, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 76 degrees today.  It was windy, anemometer readings were 24 mph with gusts to 31 mph.

I drove the roads east of the Denver International Airport searching for longspurs.  Eventually a Chestnut-collared Longspur was found along North Imboden Road and two McCown's Longspurs East 72nd Avenue.  In both cases, the longspurs were loosely associated with flocks of Horned Larks.

To stretch my legs I hiked Umpire Street between 96th Avenue and 104th Avenue.  It is a little early in spring; however, I scoped the trees where Box Elder Creek crosses 96th & 104th avenues. 

Not much was around today; historically Red-headed Woodpeckers, various empidonax flycatchers and other interesting birds will show up in the riparian areas along the Creek.

No Short-eared Owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop this evening.  Two Burrowing Owls stood on prairie dog mounds at West Cargo Road and Third Creek.

Trip to Weld County

April 12, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed the beautiful spring day with a drive around Pawnee National Grasslands and area (Weld County).  Temperatures reached 80 degrees today.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 26 mph.

A couple of Mountain Bluebirds were around the Washington Work Center north of Crow Valley Campgrounds.  Two Chipping Sparrows fluttered about also.

A Chestnut-collared Longspur was relocated at Murphy's Pasture, not much else was there.  Another Chestnut-collared Longspur was seen along CR 96 near the gate just west of the gravel road heading to Murphy's Pasture.

We drove up the gravel road from the gate and walked around for an hour.  One Mountain Plover was eventually found quite a ways south of CR 96.

Another Mountain Plover was found in a traditional nesting site.  The location will remain unnamed because of nesting behavior.

As we drove north, we passed Norma's Grove (CR 100 east of CR 57).  As expected, nothing uncommon has arrived yet.  If in the area, it is a good spot to find spring migrants.

A Loggerhead Shrike was along CR 108, west of CR 51.  We walked in the field southeast of Highway 85 and CR 114.  A permit maybe required to enter this field (we do have such permit).  Traditionally, Chestnut-collared Longspurs nest here.  Eventually one male Chestnut-collared Longspur was found.

My technique is to walk toward the windmill to the southeast, then return directly north back to CR 114.  Today the Chestnut-collared Longspur was 2/3 the way to the windmill.

We hiked west on the gravel road about a mile north of the USDA Central Plains Experimental Range Office along CR 37.  The trail heads to Owl Creek.  In the past Short-eared Owls have been observed along the Creek.  Today we only found a pair of Great Horned Owls (north of where the trail intersects with the Creek).

Afterwards we continued back to Wellington Wildlife Area.  After obtaining permission (access rules confusing), we walked along the windbreak.  One Long-eared Owl was found.

We waited/stayed until dusk.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Birding Around Denver & Adams Counties

Richard Stevens:

Temperature reached 68 degrees.  Winds were measured at 9-10 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

I went searching for the Northern Mockingbird at Westerly Creek Park this morning.  It was not found; however, the Harris's Sparrow was again around the retention area east of 23rd and Beeler.

A drive through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) found the Eastern Phoebe and two Burrowing Owls (Wildlife Drive).

I again missed the Barn Owl(s) reported along the First Creek Trail (Denver).

Walk at Cherry Creek Reservoir

April 10, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 63 degrees in Aurora today.  Winds were 12 mph with gusts to 29 mph.

After riding in a car last week for 2160 miles, I needed a long walk today.  I chose Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and walked from the Cottonwood Creek wetlands restroom parking area to the Mountain Loop and back.

Target bird, the Eastern Bluebirds reported a few days ago were not found.  No Western Kingbirds or American Tree Sparrows were found either.

Highlights came during the walk from the Prairie Loop parking area along Cottonwood Creek back to the wetlands pond.

First a Swamp Sparrow was found twenty feet south of the cottonwood tree with the nest in it (south of the paved path with now closed sign, footbridge has been washed out for months).

Continuing south, a Stub-tailed Wren popped out of the brush.  The location was halfway between the end of the strip of willows south of above paved path and the footbridge along the cement bike path.  It was just south of the skinny 10 foot tree.

I first played a Pacific Wren recording and received no response.  Then I waited five minutes and played a Winter Wren recording.  The Winter Wren popped out of the willows from the third time.

The many swallows flying over the Cottonwood Creek Pond and toward the Bellvue Wetlands Pond include two Northern Rough-winged, two Cliff, twenty four Barn, twelve Tree and at least one Violet-green.

No American Tree Sparrows were found today; two Chipping Sparrows were observed around the Lake Loop.

After the long walk, I drove to the eastern boat ramp upper parking area to rest.  There was motion under the bushes southeast of the restroom as I stopped the car. 

When I observed the Fox Sparrow days ago, the same thing occurred.  Motion was spotted and after an hour, the Fox Sparrow emerged from under the bushes.  After about 10 minutes, a male Ring-necked Pheasant came out.  No Fox Sparrow was appeared during my hour stay.

Another Grouse Trip

April 5-9, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Tom Jenkins, Marcus Meyerotto and I made the grouse tour in a clockwise direction.  Heading west would have forced us to deal with snowstorms.

April 5

Temperatures eventually reached 64 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts later in the day at 14 mph.

At first light, we sat at the Yuma County Road 45 Greater Prairie-Chicken lek.  Only five males and no females were observed this morning.

The highlight of the day was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Wray Community Hospital.  At least one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been recorded here in 3/31/2015 and 4/3/2014 (10/2/2012 & 10/15/2015 also).

An Eastern Phoebe was fluttering about at nearby Wray City Park.  Another Eastern Phoebe was relocated at Wray Fishing Unit.  While a male Northern Cardinal was to the south at Stalker Pond.

A stop at Beecher Island as we drove south added a Field Sparrow and yet another Eastern Phoebe to our day list.

Our birding day ended at dusk while we listened to an Eastern Screech-Owl call at Hale Ponds.

April 6

Temperatures reached 65 degrees today.  Winds were 9-11 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

Lamar Community College (Prowers) added another Northern Cardinal and a Red-bellied Woodpecker to our trip list.

A detour to Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) found an uncommon Bonaparte's Gull flying below the dam. However, it is the third year in a row for a Bonaparte's Gull sighting. 

Yet another Eastern Phoebe was found.  We missed the resident Barn Owl today; however, a Brown Thrasher was found singing below the dam.  No warblers or vireos have shown up yet.

We stretched our legs with a walk around the field north of the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek.  Tom relocated a Cassin's Sparrow that I first found on 3/24.

Just before sunset, we parking at a friend's ranch and watched two Lesser Prairie-Chickens do their mating thing!

While driving west on Baca County Road M near CR 32, a Short-eared Owl was caught in our headlights.

Our birding day ended at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  Two Western Screech-Owls were heard and seen!

April 7

Temperatures only reached 51 degrees in the Gunnison Valley today.  Winds were mild at 3 mph with a few gusts to 12 mph.

We drove Gunnison Road 887 just before sunrise and found two Gunnison Sage-Grouse just north of the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.

A day was "saved" when we relocated a male Dusky Grouse displaying well after sunrise (mid morning) at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose County).  A slate colored Fox Sparrow, several White-throated Swifts and two Spotted Towhees were an added bonus.

One Lewis's Woodpecker was relocated along Meyers Road near Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).

A drive up Escalante Canyon (Delta) relocated a Black Phoebe and found several Pinyon Jays.  No Chukars could be relocated during a two hour drive up and down the canyon.

We retired early, a welcomed rest from the long recent drives.

April 8

Temperatures reached 66 degrees.  Winds were stronger today at 8 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

Our birding day started at the Colorado National Monument (Mesa County).  Two Black-throated Sparrows were found just outside the eastern entrance.  A drive around the subdivision near the entrance found a dozen Gambel's Quail.

We decided to skip driving through the Monument, however did hike the Devil's Kitchen trail just inside the eastern entrance.  We hoped a Black-chinned Sparrow had returned; none was found.  Eight Pinyon Jays flew over the rocky cliffs.

From Fruita we drove up Mesa County Road 4.  Several Sagebrush Sparrows were relocated (about seven miles up the road after its southern terminal at S Road. 

If the "resident" Long-eared Owls have returned to nest again, we were not able to find them.

We stopped at the second pipe gate up Coal Canyon.  Fortune shined, a Chukar was heard as soon as we stepped out of our vehicle.  However, it took another 30 minutes actually to see the bird.

Half a dozen Pinyon Jays flew over the hill to our north, Black-throated Sparrows and Rock Wrens called nearby.

Then we drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found close to where I had found it last year.  We continued to the Visitor's Center.

A Dusky Grouse crossed highway 65 to the west in Delta County.

Few birds moved around the Visitor's Center parking area.  However, a great bonus, a Northern Goshawk made a brief appearance!

At dark, we backtracked to I70 and stopped at the many pullovers along highway 65.  Eventually two Boreal Owls were heard south of the Spruce Grove Campgrounds.  One of which allows us nice views of this elusive bird!

Misses: Northern Pygmy-Owl could be found around the Powderhorn Ski Area this night.

April 9

Temperature today in Steamboat Springs was 56 degrees.  Winds were calm, 1 mph with a few gusts at 9 mph.

Sharp-tailed Grouse seldom visit their leks before sunrise so I decided to checkout the 80 Route Leks (Routt County) first.   We parked at the second cattle guard up 80 Route about an hour before sunrise.

The "resident" male Dusky Grouse emerged from the leaf-less willows, looked around and walked back.  Greater Sage-Grouse could be heard booming in the distance.  We managed to get a scope on two!

We hurried to the Twenty Road Leks south of Hayden.  Five Sharp-tailed Grouse were still performing their mating rituals at 9:00 am!

The Trumpeter Swan was no longer on Stagecoach Recreational Area Lake; one Common Loon was however.

We drove around Steamboat Springs in search of Bohemian Waxwings; none was found.

A stop at the Rabbit Ears Pass maintenance shed road did not find any Crossbills.  The female American Three-toed Woodpecker did fly to a telephone pole on the south side of the road.  Later she ended up in the pines just north of the road.

No Rosy Finches or Common Redpolls could be found in Kremmling (Grand).  We detoured over to Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) and observed twenty Barrow's Goldeneyes swimming around.  A few Common Goldeneyes were also on the lake.

We returned to Denver by way of Granby and Highway 40 to avoid the traffic along I70 (between Silverthorne and Georgetown).

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Return to Cherry Creek Reservoir

April 4, 2017

Richard Stevens:

In the afternoon, we drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) and parked near the east boat ramp upper parking area restroom.  The car was used as a bird blind. 

The Fox Sparrow came out of the thick bushes near the parking area within ten minutes of our arrival. He worked his away out of the green grass east of the bushes and walked the wet dirt trail.

Unfortunately, ten minutes later a person parked next to us and let his dog out.  The dog sniffed the same area that the Fox Sparrow was searching for food.  The Fox Sparrow then went back deep into the bushes.

Nothing else uncommon was found.  American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants were the majority birds on the lake.  Two Say's Phoebes were hawking bugs at the Lake Loop.

One Day Trip to the Mountains

April 3, 2017

Richard Stevens:

We ran into inclement weather most of the day.  Our trip started at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek).  It took over two hours to find a White-tailed Ptarmigan.  The bird was up the hill west of Hwy 9.  We had parked at the first pullover on the east side of hwy 9 and south of the Loveland Pass Summit.

A visit to a friend's home in Summit County added the usual mountain species including three species of Rosy Finches.

We missed the American Three-toed Woodpecker up Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand) and turned eastward.  A Rough-legged Hawk was observed along highway 14.

At sunset, we watched several dozen Greater Sage-Grouse at the Jackson County Road 26 lek.  They were displaying during a snowstorm.

After dark, we searched for Boreal Owls either side of Cameron Pass.  Snow was falling rapidly.  Winds were 26 mph with gusts to 42 mph.  It was impossible to hear any of the sound-calling owls.

Our search continued through the early hours.  The wind and snow did not stop.  Weather reports indicated that the snow was not going to let up and we made the decision to return to Denver.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

An Hour At Cherry Creek Reservoir

April 2, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Stayed home most of Sunday preparing for another grouse trip.  Rebecca and I drove to dinner near Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  We were not going to stay as long as I did yesterday.

The sun shone brightly when we arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir at 6:15 pm.  Clouds were rolling in from the west; we only had 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight left.

When we exited our SUV at the east boat ramp upper parking area, I though I heard a Fox Sparrow calling from the willows downhill.  Brushed it off as bad hearing, we circled the bushes southeast of the restroom (yesterday's location).

Sunday, many people walked up and down the path where I photographed the Fox Sparrow yesterday.  There never was a five minute lull in the foot traffic.

Finding no sparrow from 6:15 pm to 6:35 pm, we were about to leave.  A familiar bird song was coming from the hillside to the north. 

Just to make sure it was a Sage Thrasher we heard I climbed up the hill.  Not only one but two Sage Thrashers were singing from the tops of Rabbit Brush.

While trying to get a photo of either Sage Thrasher, a sparrow runs below and between two Rabbit Brushes.  I managed to get a witness photograph the Sagebrush Sparrow and Sage Thrasher!  The three birds stayed in the small area of Rabbit Brush as we left.

Perhaps it was a Sagebrush Sparrow that I observing flying around the model airplane field last Friday? 

Back at the bushes near the restroom, I circled it one last time before leaving.  The Fox Sparrow was perched on the east side of the small "grove".  Eventually he did fly down to the willows at a forty five degree angle southeast of said "grove" Perhaps I did hear him earlier?  Got a couple of witness shots, nothing was as good as yesterdays (posted on Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library).

Westerly Park & Cherry Creek State Park Sparrows

April 1, 2017

Richard Stevens:

It was a great first day of April.  Plans to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass had to be canceled when the pass was closed due to last night's snowstorm.

Instead, I drove around Denver and Aurora.  Temperature only reached 39 degrees today.  Winds were 4 mph with gusts to 8 mph.  Rain of various speeds fell most of the afternoon.

I detoured to Westerly Creek Park (Denver County) in spite of the Harris's Sparrow not having been reported since 3/19.  First, I checked the open space and park near 25th street & Beeler.

The Harris's Sparrow was not found; however, a Swamp Sparrow popped up from the cattails just south of the retention area east of Beeler. 

Two American Tree Sparrows were 50 yards to the south.  It is getting late for them.  Every spring it appears that once they start to migrate it is difficult finding them anywhere in the state.

I continued south to the retention area east of 2365 Beeler Street.  A flock of twenty-two White-crowned Sparrows flew from the bushy grove just south of the wet area and wandered along the ground. 

Another bird that stayed under the bushes was difficult to see.  Eventually it did emerge; it was the Harris's Sparrow.

My next stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe), the target the Fox Sparrow reported yesterday.  I circled the bushes southeast of the restroom at the boat ramp upper parking area.  Finding no sparrows, I continued down to Pelican Point.

Unfortunately, no shorebirds were along the shore.  Three Say's Phoebes and half a dozen robins wandered along the shore.  While walking to the swim beach, many robins and another nine Say's Phoebes were observed grabbing bugs.

When I returned to the bushes next to the restroom, I noticed movement from a sparrow like bird.  In the next 2 hours and 10 minutes, I would get a sense of movement.  However, the bird never allowed much of a view; I could not even determine its colors.

The drizzle was quite fast in the next 2 hours that I stood watching the bushes.  Finally, the Fox Sparrow popped out and looked around from one of the branches!

I exited the park by way of the Lake Loop and Prairie Loop.  A lone Rusty Blackbird walked the shore at the west side of the Lake Loop.

Besides American White Pelicans, many Horned Grebe swam around the lake this afternoon.  No uncommon gulls were found.  Two Barn Swallows hawked bugs over the lake.

One Burrowing Owl was out at West Cargo Road & Third Creek when the rain stopped along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

I visit the DIA Owl Loop almost everyday that I am in town; do not seem to have the same problems with police and rent-a-cops as others are having.  About every other trip, I have been seeing three or four kids with AK 7s shooting along the north side of Third Creek.  Someone should do something about them.

Photos of the Fox Sparrow and Harris's Sparrow have been put on the Colorado Birding Society's photo library: