Monday, May 29, 2017

Hike In Rocky Mountain Arsenal

May 28, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and I walked the Rod and Gun Club trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  Finally, we had a day without rain.  Tempertures reached 73 degrees; winds were 5-6 mph.

The four mile hike provided some interesting birds.  The highlights were a Tennessee Warbler near the final trailhead, a Red-eyed Vireo near the bird blind and an American Redstart fluttering about the cottonwoods north of the blind.

Other birds included Lark, Song, White-crowned, Chipping & one Brewer's Sparrow, Western & Eastern Kingbirds, Bullock's Orioles, Western Wood-pewees and a flyover Prairie Falcon.

A detour to Havana Ponds added another mile to the hike but few birds.  There was plenty of water but no shorebirds.

We drove the new wildlife drive and found two Burrowing Owls.  I was looking for Swamp Sparrows at the cattail field at the bridge and heard a Virginia Rail.  Unfortunately, the ranger came by and pointed out that we were not supposed to get out of the vehicle.  Now I know.

Later we drove through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  More people than we have seen this year were scattered around the Park.  That did not encourage us to stay.

A drive through the model airplane loop found an adult male Great-tailed Grackle feeding a young bird.  Scoping the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands did not find the previously reported Green Heron.

We stopped for a short walk along the First Creek Trail and missed finding the resident Barn Owls for about the ninth trip.

Burrowing Owls continue along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver).

Birding In Denver and Adams Counties

May 27, 2017

Richard Stevens:

At sunrise, I entered the Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver) to search for the Worm-eating Warbler reported yesterday.  By the way, as I guessed, the gate was not open as stated at sunrise.  Instead, I parked on the west side of the Park and walked in through the open fence.

My plan was to do just that as the Worm-eating Warbler had been reported in the southwest corner of the property.  In addition, my broken toe was not keen on making a long hike.

I watched over the southwest corner of the lake/park for about half an hour.  No warblers were observed or heard.  Plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds were singing and Mourning Doves flying around.  Many Red-necked Phalaropes are presently reported around Colorado; none was on Bluff Lake.

Walking up the west side of the lake, I hoped the warbler had wandered north during the night.  However, it was never found.  A pair of Yellow Warblers flew around catching bugs in the cottonwoods (just west of the western bench high up on the hill).

Having made it that far, I decided to continue around the lake.  My toe did not start to complain until more or less half way around (and too late).

A Northern Waterthrush was heard below the northern trail where the only willow is hanging over the trail.  It took a good twenty minutes before I obtained respectable looks at the skulking bird. 

A thrush in the same area also gave me fits.  First glances indicated that it was not a Swainson's Thrush.  It took another twenty minutes or so to see enough of the bird to rule out a Gray-cheeked Thrush; it was a Hermit Thrush.

A Warbling Vireo moved about the cottonwoods on the eastern side of the lake.  A Lincoln's Sparrow and several Common Yellowthroats popped in and out of the willows.

A Western Wood-pewee hawked insects back at the southern side of the lake and the small retention pond.  I briefly thought the song of a Worm-eating Warbler was heard in the woods north of the retention pond.  However, I would not record or report that it was there.

If anyone came and looked for the warbler later, I heard no report that is was found.

My walking was done for the day; I was glad to get back at my car! 

In the afternoon, a drive east of DIA Airport did not add any interesting birds to my day list.  I did search for returning flycatchers and Red-headed Woodpeckers at last year's sites along Box Elder Creek at 96th & 104th avenues.

Birding Douglas County

May 26, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten and headed south to Douglas County late in the morning.  Afternoon rains accompanied by small golf ball sized hail did not enhance our birding.

We stopped at the Parker Water Treatment Plant where two White-rumped Sandpipers were reported yesterday only to find that the area is not open to the public.  A special bird trip had found the shorebirds.

A stop at Salisbury Equestrian Park did not find the previously reported Cassin's Kingbird.  We sat until the rain stopped and walked from the ball field parking area to the pond.  No shorebirds were around today.  A male MacGillivray's Warbler flying along the shore was a nice consolation.

We inspected the riparian area east of the ball fields and found a young male American Redstart high in the trees.  A Swainson's Thrush stayed close to the ground.

Our next stop was Castlewood Canyon State Park (also Douglas County).  No Ovenbirds were found today along the Creek side Trail.  An empidonax flycatcher was below the broken dam.  It did not call; it was not the Least Flycatcher we found days ago.

Three male and a female Bobolink were in the meadow south of the Winkler Ranch entrance.  Both Mountain and Western Bluebirds were inspecting bluebird boxes.

A Cordilleran Flycatcher and several Spotted Towhees were on the hillside west of the Ranch.  Three Wild Turkeys wander across Castlewood Canyon Road just north of the Ranch entrance. 

We listened for Northern Saw-whet Owls after sunset; none was heard.  A Common Poorwill did call making a nice ending to our birding afternoon.

Owling Trip

May 22-25, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I went back out for some additional owling.  Along the way, we hoped to add some uncommon birds to our county lists.  Owling outlooks were up in the air; rain was predicted for most afternoons.

In my experience, thunderstorms cause owls to be quiet even after the rain and thunder stop for the afternoon.  Fortunately, storms did not arrive every night.

May 22

We started south and stopped at Fountain Creek Regional Park (El Paso).  Several birders had zeroed in on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  After several nice looks, we continued south.

Clear Spring Ranch (El Paso) was quiet.  None of the eight Northern Waterthrushes that had been banded this spring could be found.  A Red-headed Woodpecker was our consolation.

The Grace's Warbler at Cheyenne Mountain Park (El Paso) was singing when we arrived at the gps waypoint.  So far, our luck was quite good.

A detour to Green Mountain Falls (Teller) added two Band-tailed Pigeons to our trip list.  The yards just north of the falls are one of the better locations to find them in late spring.

A great bonus surprised us.  A storm rolling in from the west brought low clouds.  A lone Black Swift flew below the clouds and over the falls.

Rain was quite heavy when we arrived in Woodland Park (Teller).  Owling appeared to be nonexistent this evening and we retired early.

May 23

Getting up about two hours before sunrise, we headed north to Manitou Experimental Forest.  In the past, Flammulated and Northern Pygmy-Owls have been found around the Campgrounds.  Regrettably, none was there this morning.

We enjoyed better success at the Experimental Forest.  Two Flammulated Owls responded to our recordings.  After sunrise, we returned to the Campgrounds to pick up the "owl listening stations" that were planted.  Note: the stations did not pick out any owls this morning.

To escape another thunderstorm rolling in from the west, we continued up Rampart Range Road to Highway 67.  A two hour hike around the intersection found a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers. 

A Red-eyed Vireo just east of the intersection was a surprise. I made a note to investigate if there is a possibility that they nest in the area.

Note: No Red-eyed Vireo nesting records are shown for southern Jefferson & Douglas Counties in the "Colorado Bird Breeding Atlas" 1998.  Northern Custer County to the south and southwestern El Paso County to the southeast have confirmed records, as do northern Jefferson & Douglas Counties.  Accessibility and studies in the southern areas are perhaps quite limited.

After sunset, we found a Northern Pygmy-Owl southeast of the Hwy 67/Rampart Range Road intersection (Douglas).   Two additional Northern Pygmy-Owls were picked up by two of our three "owl listening stations" that were placed along Hwy 67.

May 24

Our plan today was to make a series of stops along Hwy 67 to look for nesting records.  Then after sunset, set up "owl listening stations" and continue owling along the South Platte River.

Late in the afternoon and again after a rain shower we found three Northern Pygmy-Owls (Sugar Creek & Hwy 67) and two Northern Saw-whet Owls (one each Sugar Creek & Hwy 67).  Flammulated Owls should have been in the area; none was found.

May 25

Getting a few hours sleep after dawn, our birding day started late.  Our daylight birding centered around Cheesman Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).

Eventually three American Three-toed Woodpeckers, a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers, and another Red-eyed Vireo were found in Jefferson County.  One Three-toed Woodpecker and an Olive-sided Flycatcher were found in Douglas County.

Another Three-toed Woodpecker was found along Stony Pass Road near Wigwam Campgrounds.  In past years both Lewis's Woodpeckers and Red-headed Woodpeckers have also been found in the area however not today.

We left the rest of Stony Pass Road and Goose Pass Road for another time and drove north up Deckers Road (Hwy 97).  Instead, we detoured over to Pine Valley Ranch Park set up several "owl listening stations" and walked Buffalo Creek.

Northern Pygmy-Owls were found along Buffalo Creek and at the lower parking lot for Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).

Two hours before sunrise, we parked at the larger parking area for Reynolds Park (Jefferson).  Two Northern Pygmy-Owls were eventually found while we hiked Foxton Road.  One Northern Saw-whet Owl briefly responded to our recordings.  Just before sunrise, a Common Poorwill called from the northern side of Foxton Road.

After a couple of hours of sleep, we hiked the six mile loop at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).  Western Bluebirds, Western Wood-pewees, a couple of empidonax flycatchers and Common Yellowthroats have returned to the park.

We set up our "owl listening stations" around Wellington Lake.  We then hiked back down CR 560.  A Northern Goshawk was a nice surprise about 1/4 mile south of the Lake.

Later we explored both Green Mountain and Meadows Campgrounds.  One Dusky Grouse was at Green Mountain.  No owls were detected. 

After midnight, our final owl of the trip was a Flammulated Owl encountered along CR 560.  They have nested in the area for the past six years since I found the spot (most likely many years before).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Return to Weld & Adams Counties

May 21, 2017

Rebecca and I went to visit a friend's ranch in Weld County this morning.  Mountain Plovers have nested in the past.  Today we could only find one plover.  A pair of Long-eared Owls is nesting in the windbreak 60 yards from the ranch house.

On the drive home, we stopped at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  No owls were found; however, we did relocate the Gray-cheeked Thrush and Chestnut-sided Warbler that Terry Michaels and I found yesterday.

In the afternoon, I drove over to Barr Lake (Adams).  My hike was from the Visitor's Center footbridge to the western end of the Niedrach boardwalk, back to the footbridge and continued to mile 8.0, not far from the boat ramp.

None of the birds reported earlier in the day were relocated.  The bird population today was much different from my visit two days ago.  Western Kingbird numbers were significantly lower, as were Western Wood-pewee numbers.

A few interesting birds were encountered.  A male Black-headed Grosbeak was in the cottonwoods at mile 8.85.  A Blackpoll Warbler popped out of the thickets while I watched the grosbeak.

They were the only uncommon sightings recorded to mile 8.0.  On the return trek, I was thinking that all the thrushes found Friday had moved on.  Then a Veery scurried out of the underbrush at mile 8.05.

One Yellow-rumped Warbler and just a couple of Yellow Warblers were the only warblers found today.  Winds picked up around 5:00 pm; fifteen minutes later the skies opened up.  A downpour ensued and I was 1/2 mile from my SUV.

After the rain stopped, I walked from the old stone house (mile 6.0) to the southern end of the dam.  Two Yellow Warblers were the only birds found.  One of the Long-eared Owls was found in the trees along the eastern canal.

Weld County to Lakewood, Jefferson County

May 20, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached the middle 60s today.  Winds were less than 6 mph.

Terry Michaels and I headed to Weld County.  A quick stop at Barr Lake relocated the Gray-cheeked Thrush at mile 8.05 and one of the Barn Owls.

We spent an hour at a friend's ranch in Weld County looking for Mountain Plover.  One was found a week ago; we still did not find a mate or evidence of nesting.

A hike down the southern side of Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) from Ponds four to one was successful.  A Chestnut-sided Warbler fluttered around a Russian Olive Tree.  Farther south a Gray-cheeked Thrush was walking under an evergreen tree.  A Long-eared Owl was again in the western windbreak.

After dropping Terry off, I decided to jump in the traffic and drive to the western side of Denver and Main Reservoir.  It took an hour; finally, the Hooded Warbler was heard briefly singing along the south side of the reservoir.  It stayed low to the ground and in the grove of trees and bushes 50 yards west of the stream & grouse west of the parking area.

I photographed a Red-eyed Vireo at the western side of the same grove.  Several times, it flew to the little cottonwood just to the west.

Many Yellow Warblers, Western Wood-pewees and a Warbling Vireo were also around.

Then I rushed to a Colorado Birding Society meeting where I had tonight's presentation.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stretching My Legs at Barr Lake

May 19, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Again, to stretch my legs after many miles in a car, I walked around Barr Lake (Adams) late in the afternoon.  Few birds were found although Western Kingbirds, Western Wood-pewees, Bullock's Orioles have returned.

The highlight was a Northern Waterthrush off the western end of the Niedrach Boardwalk Trail.

No uncommon warblers or Baltimore Oriole (my target bird) were found.

Southeastern Trip for Migrants

May 16-17, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I headed southeast to explore Colorado's spring migration and do some owling.  A snowstorm hit Colorado in the middle of our trip, delaying our projected return.

May 16
Our trek started eastward along I70 and then turned south.  We again searched for the Lesser Nighthawk (possible first Kit Carson County record) at Flagler Reservoir; without success.  Far lesser consolation sightings included a Northern Waterthrush and Black-headed Grosbeak.  We missed the Eastern Towhee reported May 19, perhaps not yet around today.

We also missed the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Painted Bunting reported a few days earlier at Kit Carson (Cheyenne).  Only a Black-and-white Warbler could be found by us (near school and site of Painted Bunting 5/12).

In the Arriba area (Lincoln), we relocated a Mountain Plover along County Road 3F, west of CR 43.

Our target bird for the day was the Black-throated Sparrow at Setchfield Wildlife Area (first Bent County record to be).

We spent the night camping at the Picture Canyon parking area (Baca)

May 17
A hike down Picture Canyon and North Canyon found the two Painted Buntings, an Eastern Phoebe, two Northern Mockingbirds and two Rufous-crowned Sparrows.  The Vermilion Flycatcher that was reported to us four days ago in North Canyon was not found.  Greater Roadrunners were seen at the entrance to Picture Canyon on our way out.

Nothing uncommon could be found at the Upland Bird Management Area (Baca).

Cassin's and Western Kingbirds have returned to Cottonwood Canyon and Furnish Canyon (Baca).  Inclement weather cut our birding short today.

May 18
We did manage to find the male Vermilion Flycatcher in Furnish Canyon (Baca) today.  Other sightings in Furnish Canyon included a Gray Flycatcher and more surprising a Great Crested Flycatcher.  Owling after dark included two Western Screech-Owls and two Northern Saw-whet Owls. 

May 19
We were up early and added two Northern Saw-whet Owls and three Western Screech-Owls (captured on our "owl listening stations") at a private ranch in Las Animas County.  Another pair of Eastern Phoebes and eight Cassin's Kingbirds were also around.  The highlight was definitely a male Hepatic Tanager inspecting a ponderosa pine tree.

A Day at Castlewood Canyon

May 15, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached the high 70s today.  By afternoon, winds were 16-17 mph with gusts to 23 mph.

I arrived at Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County) around 5:00 am and left at 4:00 pm.  The day of hiking was quite enjoyable.

No Northern Saw-whet Owls were found today.  I eventually hiked the Homestead Trail and Creek Bottom Trail to the broken Dam.  From there I turned east and hiked the Inner Canyon Trail to the Canyon View Nature Trail to Hwy 83.

On the return trip, I walked to the northern end of the Rimrock Trail but had to return the same route.  There was no way down to Cherry Creek from the Rimrock Trail.  I had never been on this trail before.  It was interesting but not worth a birding hike.

I returned to Homestead site by way of Castlewood Canyon Road.  Mostly took this route to explore additional habitats.

Highlights were an Ovenbird and Least Flycatcher along the Creek Bottom Trail.

My bird list was 68 species (usually I do not count total species; perhaps I will do so in the future):

Canada Goose, Wood Duck - pair, Mallard - pair, Double-crested Cormorant - (flyover), Bald Eagle - (flyover), Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull , Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove , Common Nighthawk - 1, Black-chinned Hummingbird - (male), Broad-tailed Hummingbird - (male), Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Least Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Scrub-Jay, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Canyon Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ovenbird, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brewer's Blackbird, Common Grackle, Bullock's Oriole, Pine Grosbeak, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Afterwards I drove down to the Winkler Ranch and found Mountain Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys and two male Bobolink.  A Grasshopper Sparrow stopped on a fence post while I was trying to listen for Dickcissel.

Misses: any owls, uncommon warblers such as Prairie Warbler (summered in June 2008).

At 4:30, I parked at Hwy 86 and Castlewood Canyon Road and walked under the hwy 86 bridge.  I turned around at the large cottonwood grove about 1/2 miles north of the bridge.

Nothing uncommon was encountered.  The Great Horned Owl nest was empty.  Was she successful in raising a family or just abandoned the nest, do not know?

On the way back to my car, I observed an Eastern Phoebe in the dark barked cottonwood just south of the hwy 86 bridge.

Walk Along the Barr Lake Trail

May 14, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I hiked at Barr Lake (Adams) to stretch my legs after a long drive this morning.  My broken toe only allowed a walk from mile 0.0 (9.0 Visitor's Center footbridge) to the west end of the Niedrach boardwalk trail, and east to mile 8.6 (Osprey platform nest).

Many common summering birds are back: Say's Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren - (dozens), Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler - (dozen), Yellow-rumped Warbler - (many dozens), MacGillivray's Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole

Misses: no uncommon warblers, although a Northern Waterthrush at the western end of the Niedrach trail was the highlight of the walk; no Baltimore Orioles (usually see one every year in the second half of day, perhaps too early to today).

Last Grouse Trip

May 8-14, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Mike and Linda Stephenson joined my last grouse tour of spring, 2017.  It was their honeymoon.  Quite a way to celebrate, many days of little sleep and hours on the road.  Sporadic weather hit Colorado during the week.  For the most part, we were fortunate to miss major snowstorms and thunderstorms.

May 8
Our first stop was Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan.  It took several hours before one was found.  One Ptarmigan was finally found under the evergreen trees east of Hwy 9 (while we parked at the first pullover south of the summit).

A stop at a friend's home in Silverthorne (Summit) added Rosy Finches (no Black) to our day.  Many mountain species were also there: White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Clark's Nutcrackers and Common Ravens.

The "eastern" route was taken to the Grouse Leks in Jackson County.  A stop at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) found ten Barrow's Goldeneye among a dozen Common Goldeneyes.  A few California Gulls, American White Pelicans and waterfowl that are more common were also seen.  Misses: the Fox Sparrow reported a few days later was not found.

We stopped at the entrance road to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge self-driving tour (Jackson).  Scoping the sagebrush covered hills added a Sage Thrasher to our trip list.

Our birding day ended at the Jackson County Road 26b Lek.  Eventually forty nine Greater Sage-Grouse emerged from the sagebrush and visited the lek.  We all were entertained by their ritual mating dances.

May 9
An hour before sunrise we drove to the 80 Route Leks (Routt).  The male Dusky Grouse did not disappoint.  Just before sunrise, we emerged from the bushes at the 2nd cattle guard and displayed.  Regrettably, no female appeared and he disappeared back into the brush.

Several Greater Sage-Grouse were observed on the hillside farther up north.  Eight Sharp-tailed Grouse scurried around their lek near the old Jimmy Dunn Gulch State Trust Lands.

Then we rushed over to the 20 Road Leks.  Three Sharp-tailed Grouse were displaying across from the old metal gate (see directions on Colorado Birding Society's website:

After breakfast, we headed to the Oxbow State Trust Lands (Moffat).  The lands are closed during grouse nesting season; however, our target birds could be found by scoping from the parking area.  Sage Thrashers sang quite close to us.  Two Sagebrush Sparrows were found within 20 yards of the parking area.  A Black-throated Sparrow popped up on a bush and sang for a bit.

Fortune shined and we saw one Chukar across from the 2nd pipe gate (and parking area) at Coal Canyon.  Half a dozen Black-throated Sparrows, two Pinyon Jays, three calling Rock Wrens and an unidentified flycatcher were added to our trip list.

Then we drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa).  We relocated the Northern Saw-whet Owl that has nested in the same territory for three years now.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl called from the south side of the Powderhorn Ski Area entrance.  Eventually three Boreal Owls were encountered when we drove south to the Visitor's Center.

May 10
We decided to not drive the length of the Colorado National Monument but only visit the southern (eastern) end (Mesa).  Half a dozen Gambel's Quail were running around the subdivision just outside of the entrance. 

We walked down the Devil's Kitchen trail located just inside the entrance.  No Black-chinned Sparrows were found or reported this year.  Our interesting birds included two Black-throated Gray Warblers, three Black-throated Sparrows, a Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, six Pinyon Jays and an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  It was a good stop!

Our next drive was more interesting!  A drive up Brewster's Ridge added a Sagebrush Sparrow, Sage Thrasher and Long-eared Owl.  The highlight of the day was a male Scott's Oriole.  We believed it to be the first reported in 2017.

We ended our birding day with a drive up the Uncompahgre Plateau (Mesa).  Our target bird was a Flammulated Owl.  It was early in the season and the road was not in tiptop shape.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found in one of the nesting boxes shown to me about four years ago.  Not far from there, we heard a Flammulated Owl.  The owl ended a superb day of birding!

After dark, we made the long drive to Cortez.  This time of year, we did not miss much in the way of birding.

May 11
Our birding day started at Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma).  The two hour hike was well worth the effort.  Two Lucy's Warblers, our main target bird, were easily found.  One sang quite nicely.  A male Summer Tanager was a surprise; however, they have been found here in the past.  Other sightings include a Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrows.

On the way back to Durango, a detour to Wildcat Canyon (La Plata) found two Acorn Woodpeckers.  A walk around the Huck Finn Pond in Durango found our Lewis's Woodpecker for the trip!

Our great success so far, made a detour to John James Canyon (Conejos) for Sagebrush Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows and Black-throated Gray Warblers unnecessary.  Instead, we headed back north.  A stop at Haviland Lake Wildlife Area (La Plata) was productive.  A Grace's Warbler fluttered about the parking area.  A pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers also flew by.

About two hours before sunset, we arrived at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  White-throated Swifts flew around below the Visitor's Center.  A pair of Pine Grosbeaks perched in a tree at the northwest corner of the building.  Spotted Towhees, one Slate-colored Fox Sparrow and one Green-tailed Towhee were nice additions to our day.

With time to spare, we hiked to the western overlook.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl called briefly; unfortunately, it could not be found.

Two male Dusky Grouse appeared along the South Rim Road just before sunset.  They confidently walked along the side of the road, just east of the speed limit sign east of the western parking area.  One of them was lucky when a female emerged from the thickets!

May 12
An hour before sunrise we drove to the Waunita Hot Springs lek.  Only one Gunnison Sage-Grouse made an appearance.  One is better than none; the season must be winding down?

We stopped at the Monarch Pass Summit Pullover (Chaffee) on our trek east.  Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers drummed on the pines.  No females were seen.  Four Gray-crowned Rosy Finches flew briefly around the bunker.

Buena Vista was skipped (Pinyon Jay and Lewis's Woodpecker sites) and we continued to Canon City (Fremont).  A quick drive down the Swallows Road (Pueblo West) found a Curve-billed Thrasher and two Scaled Quail.

We had to detour to Mineral Palace Park (Pueblo).  Fortunately, the Yellow-throated Warbler was singing as we stopped!  Beautiful bird, we did not have much time to spend looking at it (only five minutes).

At La Junta, we turned south and headed to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  A Mountain Plover and Long-billed Curlew were observed along County Road 10 between CR R & CR U.  After dark, we found a Western Screech-Owl in Cottonwood Canyon.

May 13
An hour before sunrise, we watched two Lesser Prairie-Chickens at a lek on the Comanche National Grasslands (Baca). Later we walked up the gravel road running north from the Campo Lek off CR G.  It is a great "sparrow" road in spring.  The sparrow count included two Cassin's, one Clay-colored, two Brewer's, more than a dozen Vesper, many White-crowned and one Song.

Our return to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) found three Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a Black-and-white Warbler, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, two Eastern Phoebes and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 

A stop at Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) added a Barn Owl and Yellow-throated Vireo to our trip list.

Lamar Community College (Prowers) added a Red-bellied Woodpecker & two Northern Cardinals.

Venturing into Lincoln County, a Mountain Plover was relocated along County Road 3F, west of CR 43.  A Chestnut-collared Longspur and several McCown's Longspurs were not far away from the Plover spot.

Great-tailed Grackles and Common Grackles were found in Burlington (Kit Carson) behind the Day's Inn.

An hour before sunset we drove in Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area by way of CR 3.  Eight Wild Turkeys and an Eastern Phoebe were seen before reaching Foster's Grove Campgrounds.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to a recording played between the Campgrounds and Hwy 385!

May 14
Linda was getting tired as all of us were.  We watched three Greater Prairie-Chickens at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek and decided to head back to Denver.  I believe we had found almost all of our target birds.

Two Eastern Bluebirds fluttered about Stalker Ponds (Yuma).  A male Baltimore Oriole was at the Wray Fishing Unit. No Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was around the Wray Hospital today.

A quick stop at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson) found an Olive-sided Flycatcher. We could not find the Lesser Nighthawk reported yesterday.  It will turn out to be a first Kit Carson County record.  Lesser Nighthawks have been recorded farther north in Yuma County.

That stop ended my last Grouse Trip of 2017!  Great friends and good birds!

Afternoon Visit to Cherry Creek State Park

May 7, 2017

Richard Stevens:

In the afternoon, Rebecca and I drove through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe County).  A male Black-chinned Hummingbird had returned to the hillside and neighborhood east of the ranger's office.

One of the Long-eared Owls continues in the thickets along the Shooting Range entrance.  A Great Horned Owl called somewhere to the south.  A dusk, we observed a Short-eared Owl flying over the cattail fields west of Cherry Creek, both sides of Lake View Road.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Driving Eastern Arapahoe Roads

May 6, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures soared to a record 86 degrees today.  Winds were 18-20 mph with gusts to 31 mph.  In the afternoon thunderstorms rapidly blew in from the west.  Just as quickly, they disappeared.

I drove the eastern Arapahoe County roads to see what goodies may have been blown into the County.  Nothing uncommon was found.  I checked many of the spots that had interesting birds last year.

I stopped at Coal Creek Regional Park (Arapahoe) where Chris Goulart reported a Northern Waterthrush this morning.  I did not find the warbler in a two hour search.  I met a nice guy who volunteers to watch over the property.  He was recruited to keep an eye out for uncommon birds.

A dozen or so Lark Buntings flew around CR 161 between CR 30 & CR 42.

One Cassin's Kingbird was among the eleven Western Kingbirds found today.  It was in the grove of trees east of Arapahoe County Road 161 and CR 42.  Four Western Kingbirds were also in the area.

No birds flew around the small grove of trees about a mile east of the same intersection.  Last summer a pair of Northern Mockingbirds nested there.

No birds were found in the riparian area lining West Bijou Creek crosses CR 42.  A Burrowing Owl returned to the prairie dog town along CR 30 about half a mile east of CR 149.

A drive down CR 129 to Orchard and back found one Loggerhead Shrike in the area where Dickcissels spent last summer.

Along the drive two Grasshopper Sparrows, three Lark Sparrows, two Brewer's Sparrows and two Song Sparrows were encountered.

A Grasshopper Sparrow was the only bird of note along the Jewell-Yale Loop.

At 6:00 pm, Rebecca and I stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on our way to dinner.  We sat for an hour at the upper parking area for the northeastern boat ramp.  The Northern Parula did not appear.

NOTE: I would ask: did anyone see the Northern Parula after two female birders played tapes for quite awhile attract the bird?

A quite loud speedboat zipped back and forth below the hill.  We were entertained when first, the engine died several times and then the boat sank!  We watched the two guys with beers in hand sink with the boat and then swim toward shore where another boat picked them up.

Birding Weld, Adams & Denver Counties

May 5, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 76 degrees under partly cloudy skies.  Winds were 7-8 mph with an occasional gust to 11 mph.

Terry Michaels and I birded Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) in the morning.  Public access to the northern lakes is closed until July 16.  We walked the eastern side of the southern lakes then birded the western windbreak on the trip back.

American Robins were the majority bird.  One Spotted Towhee, a few Dark-eyed Juncos and a dozen White-crowned Sparrows fluttered about the eastern trail.

On the return trip, we relocated the Palm Warbler found by Jacob Washburn and Ray Simmons on Wednesday.  A Barn Owl gave us a brief look.

Later in the afternoon, I drove to Barr Lake (Adams) on my own.  No uncommon birds were encountered.  Several first of the season birds for me at Barr Lake were found. 

The only warbler of the hike from the Visitor's Center footbridge (mile 0.0/9.0) to the boat ramp (mile 7.8) was a female Yellow-rumped Warbler at mile 8.6.  A Spotted Towhee and Hermit Thrush were in the same area.

A young male Bullock's Oriole was a little farther east.  Just east of him a male Western Tanager appeared.  A Swainson's Thrush was found east of the banding station.

An Osprey lay on the platform nest while a second bird perched in a nearby tree.  On the return walk I added a MacGillivray's Warbler, male Yellow Warbler, Barn Owl White-crowned Sparrows, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Brewer's Blackbirds.

From the Visitor's Center footbridge to 0.5 miles westward a Say's Phoebe, Green-tailed Towhee and female Black-headed Grosbeak were observed.

The birding day ended with a drive around the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver); no Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Burrowing Owls were found: two at W. Cargo Road & Third Creek, two along Gun Club Road about a mile south of 112th avenue and two at Trussville Road & 114th avenue.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cherry Creek Reservoir to Aurora Reservoir to Eastern Arapahoe County

May 4, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I dropped by Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) early in the morning.  Shortly thereafter, the Northern Parula popped out of the wild plum bushes near the northeastern boat ramp upper parking area.

I walked down to Pelican Point to see what shorebirds remained.  The count was zero.

On the walk down an interesting sparrow was observed walking along the cattails.  In total, it was viewed for four to six minutes.  It also for a brief twenty seconds hopped up to a willow.

My first thought was a Clay-colored Sparrow in the shadows.  It was quickly ruled out because the bird had thick stripes on breast and flanks on a background of buffy color.

The bird had a well-defined facial pattern.  When it entered direct sunlight, I could see a buffy face with grayish lores but not cheeks and small bill.  My thoughts turned to a possible Sharp tailed Sparrow except the bird lacked a gray cheek and the stripes were well defined.

Grasshopper Sparrow was ruled out again because of the strong stripes on the breast and flanks and the buffy eye line and moustachial stripes.  It lacked a gray eye line.

When the Le Conte's Sparrow turned, I observed the white edged tertials (not seen on Sharp-tailed, Grasshopper or Baird's.  The facial pattern did not come close to a Baird's Sparrow.

I knew I was in trouble when it was labeled a Le Conte's Sparrow.  I enjoy finding uncommon birds; however, this one was quite out of range.  However, it is not the first Arapahoe County Le Conte's Sparrow (South Platte Park, 11/17/1999).  There has also been an Adams County record (East Gravel Lakes, 12/21/2005).  No Boulder or Weld County records.

Hundreds of gulls stood on the poles lining the southwest marina.  The Lesser Black-backed Gull reported yesterday was not among them.  .  I could only pick out one Bonaparte's Gull. 

I called Terry Michaels and we searched for 1.5 hours without relocating the sparrow.  We could not figure a way to get the bird to emerge from the cattails.

On my way home, I stopped Aurora Reservoir for several hours.  The four White-winged Scoters were south of the scuba cove.  The Common Loon and Greater Scaup found on Tuesday were not relocated.

I detoured home by way of the Eastern Arapahoe County gravel roads.  Nothing uncommon was found.  I did see one Grasshopper Sparrow (CR 129).

Barbecue at Home, Quick Trip to Richmil Ranch

May 3, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I kept my promise to my feet not to put them in shoes today.  We had a nice relaxing barbecue on the porch in the evening!  Well not quite about the hiking boots.

Rebecca and I drove east to Richmil Ranch Open Space in the afternoon.  To be fair, I wore sandals, no shoes.

We wandered around and made it to the Windmill.  A Red-headed Woodpecker was in the cottonwoods southwest of the Windmill.  That was the highlight although we did see Cassin's Kingbirds, Western Kingbirds, an "empidonax" flycatcher and Northern Mockingbird.

Water levels in Bijou Creek and the Windmill pond were quite low.

A Bald Eagle flew over during our barbecue, a nice yard bird!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Birding Denver/Aurora Today

May 2, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I enjoyed a day of birding around Denver/Aurora.  Temperatures briefly reached 52 degrees.  Winds and weather varied from partly sunny to rain. 

A stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) early in the morning found the Northern Parula.  He emerged from the Wild Plum bushes around 8:30 am.

A walk down to the Pelican Point sand spit found two Willets, a Solitary Sandpiper and a Baird's Sandpiper.

My next stop was Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area (Adams).  I spent an hour or so circling the Wildlife Area.  The Black-bellied Plover reported yesterday was not found.  The Wildlife Area has great potential with many ponds and Clear Creek running through the middle of it.  I do not know why more birders do not visit the Wildlife Area.

Continuing west along Clear Creek, I stopped at Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Jefferson).  The highlight was a Broad-winged Hawk. 

The plan was to continue southwest to Harriman Reservoir Park (Jefferson) & Bear Creek Lake Park (Jefferson).  Traffic was rather bad and I nixed that idea and stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  Nothing uncommon was found behind the trading post.

Turning east and trying to get out of traffic, my last stop of the day was Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  It was pouring down rain when upon arrival.  I scoped the lake for an hour from the swim beach pavilion. 

Two White-winged Scoters were quite far off to the northeast.  Later I found them again when I walked the northern dam.  Pairs of Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup were closer to the mouth Senac Cove.

Four Spotted Sandpipers and two Bonaparte's Gulls were at the swim beach.

When the rain stopped, I drove around to the scuba area and walk back west to the end of the dam.  Five additional Spotted Sandpipers were observed walking the downside of the dam.

A flock of nineteen Sanderlings flew to the northwest corner of the dam.  It is the most I have seen at one time!  Two Willets were also at that corner.

As I walked back to my car, I was thinking that the Common Loon reported yesterday was not seen.  Just then, a bird in the southeast corner of the scuba cove stretched its wings; it was the Common Loon.

The rest of the afternoon was spent stopping along Quincy Road and later CR 97 and scoping the State Trust Lands for Long-billed Curlew; none was found.

After dusk, I scoped the farm at Picadilly Road and Jewell (Arapahoe).  No Barn Owls or Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.  The resident Eastern Screech-Owl(s) did not respond to my recordings.

Long Day In Clear Creek & Park County

May 1, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons and I left on a fantastic adventure this morning.  We enjoyed a break in the weather and visited Guanella Pass (Clear Creek County) between snowstorms (yesterday and tomorrow).  Skies were partly cloudy at the Summit.  Temperatures in the low 40s; winds were 26 mph with gusts to 51 mph.  Fortunately, winds were slower once we returned below tree line.

Note: roads are treacherous, recent snow made a 4-wheel jeep a must for us to get close enough for a long hike to the top.

It was a four+ mile round trip to the Summit of Guanella Pass (Clear Creek) (by way of Grant).  The trek was well worthwhile when we observed thirty one White-tailed Ptarmigan below the east side of Rosalie Peak.

Afterwards we went to the Campgrounds and scoped the area with binoculars.  One American Three-toed Woodpecker, two pairs of Pine Grosbeaks and a flock of eight Red Crossbills were found.

Another American Three-toed Woodpecker was later found in the pines along Guanella Pass Road, just south of the turnoff to Duck Lake.

After dropping down off the pass we set up several of our "owl listening stations" at the campgrounds along the Pass Road.  This is a great time of year to find owls as they are calling in search of mates.

We then hiked toward Handcart and Heil Valley Campgrounds.  Another American Three-toed Woodpecker was encountered along Park County Road 60.  No owls were found here; we had better fortune back on Guanella Pass Road (Park CR 62)

Eventually we found three Northern Saw-whet Owls (two at Whiteside Campgrounds and one just north of Grant) and two Northern Pygmy-Owls (Geneva Park & Burning Bear Campgrounds).

Our target was a Flammulated Owl; none was found.  They are most likely back in Colorado.  Regrettably, most roads leading to their territories are closed due to snow.

We detoured to Kenosha Pass (Park), however, did not find any owls.  Flammulated Owls have been found in the area; however usually several miles from highway 285.  Access was snow covered.

Our final stop of the long day/evening/night was Reynolds Park (Jefferson).  We heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl south of the parking area.  Later found a Northern Pygmy-Owl along Songbird Trail.