Sunday, November 19, 2017

Birding the South Platte Corridor in Northeastern Colorado

November 16-18, 2017

Richard Stevens:

An northeastern Colorado trip was planned before I hear about a couple of rare birds being observed at Jumbo Reservoir.  It was a great trip.  As a second thought, I decided to visit as many of the Wildlife Areas along the South Platte corridor in Logan, Washington and Morgan Counties.

November 16

I arrived at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick Counties) around Noon.  Temperature was a pleasant 64 degrees.  Winds were brisk at 9-10 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

I scoped the reservoir trying to use trees for shelter from the wind.  A White-winged Scoter swam in the middle of the lake.  A Common Loon swam below the dam in the Logan County section.  Later another Common Loon was found in the Sedgwick County section.

Many gulls flew around the outlet canal at the north end.  All were Ring-billed Gulls.  A large number of gulls also flew around the cove west of the northern Campgrounds.  Two Iceland Gulls accompanied many Ring-billed Gulls, one California Gull and one strange Gull left unidentified however noted field marks.

Note: Iceland Gulls once quite rare in Colorado are not anymore since lumped with Thayer's Gulls.  The two "Iceland Gulls" found today were Thayer's Gull subspecies.

Over 50,000 Snow Geese/Ross's Geese swam in the middle of the lake.  Many "common" ducks and White-cheeked Geese were also out there.

After circling the reservoir twice without finding the Black-legged Kittiwake and Mew Gulls I headed toward Sterling. 

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was found along Hwy 138 at Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan).

A stop at Duck Creek Wildlife Area (Logan) found my second Red-bellied Woodpecker of the day!

My birding daylight hours ended at Sterling Reservoir (Logan).  At least sixteen Bonaparte's Gulls were on the lake below the Campgrounds overlook.  A female Barrow's Goldeneye swam south below the dam.

An adult Bald Eagle and Great Horned Owl were perched in the cottonwoods at the picnic area.  At dusk, a Short-eared Owl was observed flying north of the Campgrounds.

My plans to continue to Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) were changed.  Already 180 miles from home, I decided to return to Jumbo Reservoir for another Black-legged Kittiwake search tomorrow.

On the return trip, I stopped at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) around 9:00 pm.  The night was clear and winds calm.  It was quite enjoyable to walk from Hwy 55 to Area west 2 and back.  Later from Area east 5 to 8 and back.

Listening to the night sounds was interesting.  Eventually I located two Eastern Screech-Owls.

November 17

I camped at the eastern Campgrounds at Jumbo Reservoir.  The "racket" from the many Snow Geese made it difficult to fall asleep.  I had to leave my tent and find quiet in my car!

Thirty minutes before sunrise I parked my car at the outlet canal along the north side of Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  Many Ring-billed Gulls and one Iceland Gull flew over the water catching shad.  One of the Common Loons swam only 10 yards offshore.

I decided to wait three hours for the Black-legged Kittiwake to appear.  At 2 hours and 45 minutes, sure enough the Black-legged Kittiwake joined the ever-changing number of gulls catching fish at the outlet canal. 

After about 15 minutes, the Black-legged Kittiwake caught a fish.  Unfortunately, for the birder who had just parked behind me, a dozen Ring-billed Gulls chased the Black-legged Kittiwake.  It was last seen flying toward the Campgrounds to the east and trying to save its breakfast from the horde of Ring-billed Gulls.

I circled the lake one additional time without getting out my scope to search for the White-winged Scoter or other waterfowl in the distance.  Then I drove toward Sterling.

On the way, I drove through Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  Many hunters roamed the Wildlife Area and I only stopped at the old ranger's office/maintenance building near Tamarack Pond area. 

A Northern Cardinal was behind the building.  While a Field Sparrow fluttered about the thistles along the main road.

Another quick stop for breakfast and I continued east stopping at many Wildlife Areas: Atwood, Bravo and Knudson in Logan County; Messex in Washington County, Brush, Cottonwood, Elliott and Jean Tool in Morgan County.

A Golden Eagle overlooked the South Platte River at Knudson Wildlife Area.  See December 2017 "Colorado Field Notes" for additional details and my target birds at the various habitats provided by the Wildlife Area.

Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan) is one of my favorite "smaller" Wildlife Areas.  It offers parking areas both north and south of the South Platte River.

Today I found another Red-bellied Woodpecker from the southern parking area.  The highlight of the day was a Winter Wren around the cattail pond near the northern parking area.

My birding day ended at Prewitt Reservoir Wildlife Area (Logan/Washington).  Many gulls flew around the lake, most too distant to identify.  No uncommon waterfowl were observed.

Yet another Red-bellied Woodpecker was found.  This time below the dam.  No uncommon shorebirds were found along the inlet canal.  After sunset, I located Eastern Screech-Owls at the inlet area and the western "camping area".

It was a nice ending to a birding day where temperatures reached 62 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts at times 25 mph (one measured 35 mph).

November 18

It was cooler today with temperatures only reaching 46 degrees.  Winds were strong at 14 mph with gusts to 28 mph (one gust measured 42 mph).  At least we missed the rain and snow that dropped on Denver.

Finding birds among the waves on Prewitt Reservoir was difficult to improbable.  Landbirds were no easier to find.  It appeared they preferred to stay hidden in the high grasses and bushes.

A few Greater White-fronted Geese, two Bonaparte's Gulls, one Herring Gull and one Iceland Gull were the meager highlights.  A White-throated Sparrow was along the middle entrance road (the one to the ranger's home).

I was able to find one Long-eared Owl hidden in the thickets north of Pelican Campgrounds at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).  A White-throated Sparrow and Harris's Sparrow were encountered in the thick brush south of the wooden gate along the shore at Pelican Campgrounds.

At least two Bonaparte's Gulls were blown by as I tried to scope the lake in the high winds.  High waves made finding much on the lake quite difficult.  One loon popped up and down on the waves.  It appeared to be a Common Loon.

Hunting on nearby Andrick Wildlife Area made access impossible.  I walked along the cattails at CR 4; nothing uncommon jumped out into the wind.

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