Sunday, December 30, 2018

Morrison, Red Rocks Park & Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 30, 2018

Richard Stevens:

It was a warm day before the cold front hits tomorrow.  High temperature was 53 degrees.  Tomorrow's forecast is for a high of 22 degrees with possible snow.  Winds today were 12-13 mph with gusts to 16 mph.  Winds definitely picked up after 3:00 pm.

Dave King and I spend over three hours searching for the Morrison Golden-crowned Sparrow (Jefferson County).  We missed it yesterday, even though others had reported it again.  We checked over the five GPS waypoints provided.  Unfortunately, it was not found.

The consolation was a 5-second look at the red Fox Sparrow behind Red Rocks Park Visitor's Center.  Regrettably, it did not return in the 45 minutes thereafter.

After Red Rocks Park, we split up.  A friend was making her fifth attempt at finding the Rusty Blackbirds at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  

She had been searching for a while when I arrived.  Thirty seconds later, I pointed out the female Rusty Blackbird to her! 

The female was walking among the cattails in the western stream that flows into the swim beach pond (located northwest of swim beach).  Later the male made a brief appearance and then flew to the cottonwoods on the south side of the pond.

We then drove to the Lake Loop on the south side of the lake.  Afternoon light is better at the Lake Loop for scoping the reservoir.  

Again only three slivers of open water were in the ice-covered Lake.  The two male (adult & 1st winter) Long-tailed Ducks were again on the most northern open water hole.

Then we searched briefly and unsuccessfully for Long-eared Owls before I departed for home.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Search for Morrison Golden-crowned Sparrow & Stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 29, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Warmed up today, high temperature was 39 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 10 mph.

Dave King and I spent more than two hours trying to find the Golden-crowned Sparrow recently reported in Morrison (Jefferson County).  Provided GPS waypoints have the sparrow wandering quite a distance.  Could there be more than on Golden-crowned Sparrow in the area?

Eventually we tired of our lack of success and abandoned the task.

In the afternoon, patience paid off when I hiked around Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

I searched the western and eastern drainages that flow into the swim beach pond.  The Rusty Blackbirds were not there or at the pond.  After checking the swim beach for blackbirds, I returned to the Pond.  

The sun warmed up a bit as I sat and watched Starlings and Black-billed Magpies.  The Magpies stopped for a drink and the Starlings for a quick bath.

When I was about to leave, the female Rusty Blackbird emerged from the cattails at the western drainage into the pond.  She walked the north side of the pond searching for food.  Perhaps thirty seconds later, the male Rusty Blackbird came out and followed her.

Light from the setting sun was better from the Lake Loop on the south side of the Reservoir.  I could see only three slivers of open water in the ice-covered Lake.

The closest patch had many Common Mergansers, a dozen Common Goldeneyes and a few Lesser Scaup.  The next open space to the north contained mostly Common Mergansers and a couple of Common Goldeneyes.

While the most northern open area had only a few Common Mergansers and four Common Goldeneyes.

While deciding whether to drive to Aurora Reservoir (9 miles to the east), I scoped the three areas again.  This time I picked out the white face of a diving male Long-tailed Duck.  After waiting a minute or so, both Long-tailed Ducks surfaced!

Later Rebecca and I went to dinner in downtown Denver.  Afterwards we enjoyed the colored lights at the Zoo.  The number (hundreds) of other people there was amazing.

Afterwards, we walked around outside of the southwest end of the zoo.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to my recordings!  Another Eastern Screech-Owl was heard at a friend's Park Hill home!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Even Colder Day at Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 28, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Quite a cold day, high temperature was of 22 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 8 mph.  COLD

I ventured into the cold for less than 30 minutes at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  

A rapid walk around the Cherry Creek Reservoir swim beach pond found the pair of Rusty Blackbirds up the western drainage.  They walked in and out of the cattails 20 yards south of the main road.

Then I hurried back to my warm car.  I did not attempt to scope the Lake for the Long-tailed Ducks, etc.

Thirty minutes before sunset I sat in my car parked at 88th avenue, east of the C470 Bridge.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Cold Hike Around Aurora Reservoir

December 27, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 45 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph; however, gusts at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) were 14 mph.

The temperature may have been 45 degrees, however, exposed to 14 mph winds at Aurora Reservoir where there is little cover made for a quite cold day.

I decided to hike the 8.7-mile bike path around the Reservoir.  I entered from the south gate and walked counterclockwise around the Lake.

Thousands of gulls swam in the middle of the reservoir.  Only one Iceland Gull and one Lesser Black-backed Gull were found.

Thousands of White-cheeked Geese also were on the Lake.  Eventually two Snow Geese, one Ross's Geese and two Blue Geese (snow) were found.

Five American Tree Sparrows near mile 4.5 were the only passerines encountered.  

It was a long hike for such a minuscule bird list.

At sunset, I parked at West Cargo Road and Third Creek (Adams).  No Short-eared Owls showed up this evening.

Larimer County Gulls

December 26, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 43 degrees.  Winds measured only 3-4 degrees.

Terry Michaels and I drove up and down Horsetooth Mountain Reservoir an hour before sunrise.  Finally, we observed the Black-legged Kittiwake flying back and forth over the southern end of the Lake.

Afterwards we headed to the Larimer County Landfill (Larimer).  Regrettably, many of the previously reported uncommon gulls were not around.  A first winter Glaucous Gull was the best find.

We then tried many of the adjacent reservoirs, lakes and State Park.  No uncommon gulls were found.

Our final stop was Warren Lake (suggested by a local birder that we ran into).  A Lesser Black-backed Gull, Iceland Gulls, another or same Glaucous Gull and another black backed Gull were observed here.

If this mystery black backed Gull was the same bird reported as a Slaty-backed Gull, we could not confirm it.  It appeared to be similar in size to a nearby Lesser Black-backed Gull.

While leg color was wrong for a Lesser Black-backed Gull, other field marks did not fit a Slaty-backed Gull.  These field marks included size and head shape.

After dark, we went owling along CR 38E (south end of Horsetooth Reservoir), Masonville and CR 27.  Unfortunately, no owls were heard or seen this night.  

Our "owl listening stations" did not pick up any owl sounds either.

Christmas Day 2018

December 25, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature on Christmas Day was only 22 degrees.  Winds were 4-5 mph with gusts only reaching 8 mph.

While traveling to visit friends and a relative near Cherry Creek Reservoir, Rebecca and I briefly stopped at the State Park.

The two Long-tailed Ducks swam near a group of Common Goldeneyes in the middle of the lake.  The two Rusty Blackbirds were again up the drainage between the main road and the swim beach pond.

Later we found a Burger King open on a day when most businesses were closed. 

Afterwards we walked around Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver County) the hour before sunset.  The Harris's Sparrow was again loosely associated with a flock of six or so White-crowned Sparrows.

Sixteenth CoBus Pawnee National Grasslands Christmas Count

December 24, 2018

Richard Stevens:

It was a pleasant 47 degrees this afternoon.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts reaching 17 mph.

The sixteenth CoBus Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) Christmas Count took place today.  Six birders and six feeder watchers participated.

Shortly after sunrise, we found two Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along Weld County Road 138, just east of CR 117.  While this subspecies is the "plains" Sharp-tailed Grouse it is not considered a separate species from the "mountain" subspecies.

Crow Valley Campgrounds the heart of the Christmas Count had few birds.  No owls, Common Redpolls, or other uncommon birds were found.

Lapland Longspurs were found at two locations.  One possible McCown's Longspur was also reported; however, identification is still being considered.

Highlight was a Snow Bunting along Owl Creek, north of the Experimental Range Office.  Terry Michaels and I also found a Short-eared Owl flying south down Owl Creek.  It was flying toward the Office.

No other uncommon birds were found.  One feeder watcher had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in his pine trees.  After the count was over, we drove over to his ranch and relocated the little bird deep in a pine tree.  It almost looked like a birds nest.

Full Christmas Count List will be posted in a future issue of "Colorado Field Notes".

Fifteenth CoBus Sterling Christmas Count

December 23, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 48 degrees today.  Winds were 4-5 mph with gusts to 10 mph.

Today we conducted the fifteen CoBus Sterling Christmas Count.  Four birders and five feeder watchers were involved.

North Sterling Reservoir offered some interesting birds.  These included a Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Harris's Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow.

Unfortunately no Snow Buntings and Common Redpolls were found.

Birders watching their feeders added two Harris's Sparrows, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal and Common Redpoll.

Total count will be in a future "Colorado Field Notes".

Eighteenth CoBus Bonny Reservoir Christmas Count

December 22, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures dropped with a high temperature only reached 25 degrees.  Winds were 12-13 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

The eighteenth CoBus Bonny Reservoir Christmas Count was held today.  We try to conduct it the day after the Audubon Christmas Count for comparison.

Six birders and six feeder watchers enjoyed a birding day in spite of the cold temperatures.

We managed to relocate a dozen of thirty-nine Greater Prairie-Chickens reported yesterday along Yuma CR CLL.5.  The Greater Prairie-Chickens reported along CR 3 were not.

Before sunrise, four Eastern Screech-Owls were found along the Republican River east of Highway 385.  Another two were found at Hale Ponds.

Additional owls added to the Count included:

Barn Owls: east of Foster Grove and along CR 4.

A Long-eared Owl at Hale Ponds and two at Bonny Reservoir (closed road south of the Republican River).

A Northern Saw-whet Owl on a private ranch north of Bonny Reservoir.

At dusk we observed a Short-eared Owl flying around south of Bonny Reservoir.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found: three off Yuma CR 2 and two at Hale Ponds.

Eastern Bluebirds: four at Hale Ponds and one at Foster Grove.

Two Rusty Blackbirds were along the Republican River east of Hale Ponds.  A Harris's Sparrow was along CR 4, east of Hale Ponds.

Our only Northern Cardinal of the day was at the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds.

Private lands added two Red Crossbills, a Purple Finch, a Common Redpoll, six Pine Siskins and four White-throated Sparrows.

Fifteenth CoBus Wray Christmas Count

December 21, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 40 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph most of the day.

The fifteenth CoBus Wray Christmas Count was conducted today.  Four birders and eight feeder watchers were involved.

Most of the interesting birds were reported by people watching their feeders.  

Terry Michaels, Jacob Washburn and I found a Northern Cardinal at Stalker Pond.

Best bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working the Pines along the Wray Fishing Unit entrance road.  White-throated Sparrows were found along the entrance road and later the gravel road east of Yuma County Road FF.  This road runs along the north side of Chief Creek.

Summary of Christmas Count will be posted in a future "Colorado Field Notes" issue.

Some of the highlights included: seven Northern Cardinals (five locations), red Fox Sparrow, three White-throated Sparrows, Purple Finch, six Pine Siskins and four Red Crossbills.

Fifteenth CoBus Tamarack Ranch Christmas Count

December 20, 2018   

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 45 degrees today.  Winds were 8-15 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

The fifteenth CoBus Christmas Count at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) was held today.  The count circle extends to Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan) and Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).

Six birders and five feeder watchers participated.  The Count will be summarized in a future "Colorado Field Notes".

Terry Michaels and I counted at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area proper.  It was a pleasant winter day.  Unfortunately, birds were scarce.

We did find two Eastern Screech-Owls before sunrise.  

The highlight of the day would be an American Woodcock on private land along the South Platte River.  The news spread by radios and everyone was able to get a look at the bird!

Then Terry and I walked the 6.5 miles from Hwy 55 (CR 81) to CR 93.

Eventually five Red-bellied Woodpeckers were observed.  One in western sections, two from the hwy 55 bridge and two in eastern sections.

Two Field Sparrows were found in the windbreak at section 7 East.  A Northern Cardinal was around the old Tamarack Pond area.

The few additional interesting birds included two Golden Eagles, six Lapland Longspurs and an unidentified wren.  Terry and I disagreed on size and tail length and the wren was left a mystery find "wren species".

I will leave the count total to others.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Another Trip to Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 19, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 48 degrees.  Winds at 15-16 mph with gusts to 22 mph made for a cold afternoon.

I managed to get over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) for an hour.  The two Rusty Blackbirds were back walking around the north end of the pond northwest of the swim beach.

From the Lake Loop, I found the two Long-tailed Ducks and a Red-breasted Merganser.  The Long-tails were among Common Goldeneye just as Davie suggested.  The male Red-breasted Merganser was in the huge group of Common Goldeneyes.

Two Bald Eagles stood on the ice edge.

Denver West Office Complex

December 18, 2018

Richard Stevens:

It was a great warm winter day with a high of 56 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 12 mph.

I walked around the Denver West Office Complex just below the Front Range Mountains.  One female Downy Woodpecker was the only non-goose bird found during the first hour.

Starting at buildings 5 & 6, I circled the middle buildings and then the southern buildings.  In past years, many of the uncommon birds seemed to favor the ponds and Austrian Pines around buildings 5 &6.

After about two hours, I reached the northern buildings 15, 16, & 17.  Finally, a flock of birds flew around the southeast corner of building 15.  This flock included two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, two Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Pine Siskin.  No warblers were found anywhere.

On my second trip around the three buildings, another flock of birds included two additional Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

After hour 3, I passed between buildings 6 & 7 (directly south of building 15) on the walk back to my car.  Another flock of birds found around the parking area between 6 & 7 included two additional Ruby-crowned Kinglets, two Mountain Chickadees, and a Palm Warbler.

My birding day ended with an owling trip to Wheat Ridge Greenbelt (Prospect Park, Jefferson County) and the nearby neighborhood.  One Eastern Screech-Owl was encountered.

Clear Creek County Christmas Count

December 17, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Weather was nice and most of us were staying in Silverthorne.  We decided to conduct the fourteenth Georgetown Christmas Count (Clear Creek County) today.

Terry Michaels and I volunteered for the Guanella Pass section.  It involved another strenuous snowshoe trip.

We would find eleven White-tailed Ptarmigan along the Rosalie Trail after the long climb to Guanella Pass.

Other birds found included two American Three-toed Woodpeckers, six Pine Grosbeaks, two dozen Pine Siskins, White-throated Sparrows and a Prairie Falcon.

We lingered after sunset in 20-degree temperatures to do some owling.  Unfortunately, none was found this night.

We collapsed when returning to our motel rooms back in Silverthorne.

I will let others report full details of the two Christmas Counts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Summit County Christmas Count

December 16, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached 32 degrees in Silverthorne.  It was warmer than the higher elevations we birded in the day.  Winds were 23-24 mph; some gusts were measured at 31 mph.

The CoBus seventh Summit County Christmas Count was conducted today.  Terry Michaels and my assignment was snow shoeing to A.M. Bailey Bird Sanctuary and above.  

Our goal was to add White-tailed Ptarmigan to the Christmas Count for the first time.  The trek took up most of our day (daylight).

An American Three-toed Woodpecker was observed drumming on a Pine Tree about 1/2 mile north of the trailhead.

After reaching the Bird Sanctuary, the strenuous part of our day started.  Terry and I started up the Ptarmigan trail (the ridge north of the sanctuary).  Fortunately, we did not go more than a mile before Terry spotted two Ptarmigan along the ridge.

Back down at the Sanctuary, we played various owl recordings.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded with a brief contact call.

No additional owls were run across on the return trip to our jeep.

After sunset, Terry, Jacob and I snow shoed around the Montezuma area.  A Boreal Owl was heard up the Saint John's trail.  No Flammulated Owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls or additional Northern Pygmy-Owls were heard this night.

Big Owl Day

December 15, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 68 degrees in Canon City today.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 11 mph (during daylight).  It was calm after sunset.

Terry and I had a project to encounter as many owls as possible today.  I would one up him by stopping by Barr Lake (Adams) and finding a Long-eared Owl.  

Then I picked up Terry shortly after 12:30 am.  We relocated the Eastern Screech-Owl at Ketring Park (Arapahoe).

Next Terry Michaels and I joined the Aurora Reservoir Christmas Count for a short time before sunrise (Arapahoe County).

We scoped Senac Creek from the hill northwest of the parking area.  A Short-eared Owl hunted along the Creek and just below the DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) landfill.  The exact location was 1/4 north of the northern boundary of the Natural Area.

After sunrise, we hiked the first half mile of both the Northern & Southern Pronghorn Natural Area trails.  Eventually we found a Swamp Sparrow in the cattails along the Southern trail.  Location was where Senac Creek turns from south to west.

We departed the Christmas Count, picked up Ron Harris, Bob Scott and Jackie Kelly, then headed to Fremont County.

A detour to Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont) did not find the previously reported Tundra Swan.  However, Bewick's Wren, Juniper Titmouse, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Pinyon Jays and a Great Horned Owl were added to our day list.

The Western Screech-Owl was relocated at the Arkansas Riverwalk.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was relocated at Tunnel Drive.  Then we headed into the mountains.

Eventually without giving away locations, we encountered two Northern Saw-whet Owls at Oro Juno.  Our target bird, a Spotted Owl was heard and observed farther into the mountains.

On the trip back to Denver, we detoured again, this time to Beaver Creek Wildlife Area.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl returned a contact call in response to our recordings.

It was an eight Owl day!

Search for Gyrfalcon and Pink-footed Goose

December 14, 2018

Richard Stevens:

The temperature warmed up quite nicely to 52 degrees in the afternoon.  Winds were calm most of the day.

Terry Michaels, Dave King and I commenced our birding day more or less after midnight.  We set up our "owl listening stations" around/south of Bobcat Ridge Natural Area (Larimer).  Eventually we caught glimpses of two Northern Saw-whet Owls!  It adjudicated the question of whether they are still in Northern Colorado.

An hour before sunrise we passed by the Larimer County Landfill (Larimer).  We had planned to visit some of the reservoirs around Fort Collins and come back when the landfill opened.

That was not necessary.  The previously reported Gyrfalcon was rested on one of the tall poles along Trilby Road, west of Taft Road.  Once again, we planned to return when the light had improved.  That plan was altered when we received a text that the Gyrfalcon had flown.

In the meantime, we relocated the three Tundra Swans at Boyd Lake State Park (Larimer).  At least one Iceland Gull and one Lesser Black-backed Gull were still at the State Park.

Our next target birds were the Pink-footed Goose and Brant at Firestone Recreation Area (Milavec Reservoir).  Both were easy to spot although among hundreds of White-cheeked Geese.  

Photos of the geese are in the Photo Library on the Colorado Birding Society's website: (recent favorite photos link) 

I might add that Dave relocated the Long-tailed Duck while Terry and I were photographing geese.

Luna Reservoir was the next stop.  It was 90 percent ice covered, had few gulls and waterfowl.  One Iceland Gull (Thayer's subspecies) was among several dozen Ring-billed Gulls and one California Gull.

Horse Creek Reservoir (Weld) is quite far from a public road.  No gulls were found while we scoped the lake.

Prospect Reservoir (Weld) turned out more newsworthy.  We drove down the un-maintained gravel road along the west side of the Reservoir.  An adult Glaucous Gull was among several hundred gulls on the west shore.

While scoping the lake, we found a Swamp Sparrow in the weeds near the fence line west of the Lake.

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) added another Swamp Sparrow (cattails at Pond 5) and a Long-eared Owl to our day list.

Our birding day ended at a nearby private ranch.  A Short-eared Owl flew over the prairie dog village just north of my friend's ranch.

While barbecuing, we walked around the windbreak and relocated two Long-eared Owls.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Loveland Pass, Silverthorne & Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 13, 2018

Richard Stevens:

It was yet another fantastic winter day in Colorado.  Once out of the mountains temperatures reached 42 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

Ohio birders Ron Harris, Bob Scott and I headed into the mountains this morning.  Two White-tailed Ptarmigan were slowly walking below the western side of the Loveland Pass summit (Clear Creek County).

We visited a friend's yard in Silverthorne (Summit) with great success.  Our trip list added three species of Rosy Finches, Clark's Nutcrackers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Evening Grosbeaks and two male Pine Grosbeaks.

A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was found at the Echo Lake Campgrounds (Clear Creek).

I passed through Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on my way home.  The Rusty Blackbirds were not found around the swim beach pond or the northwestern or northeastern drainages.

I walked to the southern point at the swim beach, still no Rusty Blackbirds.  As I passed the Pond on the way back to Dixon Grove, the male and female Rusty Blackbirds walked along the north side of the pond.

Light was good at the north end of the Lake Loop.  The two male Long-tailed Ducks were much farther off than yesterday.  The receding ice cover allowed the waterfowl to wander more.

Six Robins, two Song Sparrows and three American Tree Sparrows fluttered about the willows at the Point.

Again, no Short-eared Owls appeared at dusk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 12, 2018

Richard Stevens:

It was another superb winter day in Colorado.   Temperatures reached 57 degrees.  Winds were strong all day.  Anomometer readings varied from 10-12 mph with gusts to 20 mph.

While visiting a relative and friend, both in rehab near Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County), I made a brief detour to the Lake.

My thought was that the small open water areas at Cherry Creek Reservoir might draw waterfowl to the near shore.

This proved to be the case.  The two Long-tailed Ducks were approximately 30 yards off the northern end of the Lake Loop.  They appear to both be males in different plumage.  I put a photo on the "recent witness photos" link on the Colorado Birding Society's website:

An Iceland Gull was on the ice just behind (north) of the Long-tailed Ducks.

As I walked down to the northern point, a sparrow emerged from the willows near the shore.  At the time, I shrugged it off as a Song Sparrow or maybe American Tree Sparrow.

Later on, the sparrow walked out of the willows twice.  It had rather weak streaks unlike a Song Sparrow.  A strong black mustache eliminated an American Tree Sparrow.  It was a Swamp Sparrow.

What is up with all the Swamp Sparrows found this season along the Front Range?  There seems to be a higher number than I can remember in past years.

A search for the Rusty Blackbirds that have spent a month around the pond northwest of the swim beach was unsuccessful.

No Short-eared Owls appeared over the cattail fields east of the shooting range this evening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Weld and Arapahoe County

December 11, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature reached 59 degrees in the afternoon.  Winds were 27-28 mph with gusts 35 mph in Weld County.  At 3:00 pm, winds were calm at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).

Terry Michaels and I began our birding day at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  The lakes are now ice covered.  We could not find any Swamp Sparrows in the cattails surrounding the northern lakes.  One Long-eared Owl was a nice consolation.

Our plan was to head to Aurora Reservoir when we heard about the Pink-footed Goose 23 miles to the northwest.

We just had to look for the cars near Idaho Creek Wetlands.  Plenty of birders were searching for the goose.  It definite is a Pink-footed Goose.  Unfortunately, the sighting will probably go the way of the three Colorado Bar-headed Geese sightings.  Origin of the bird cannot be determined making calling it a "record" difficult.

In the afternoon, Terry and I hiked the 0.8 mile Southern trail at Pronghorn Nature Area.  We examined both sides of the long cattail marshes at Hayman Gulch.  Senac Creek borders the eastern side of the property.  While not many birds are around now, the newly opened Nature Area has potential in spring and fall migrations.

Thousands of geese flew from nearby Aurora Reservoir to the flat area above the hillside east of Senac Creek.  

We did not have our scopes; however, I could see the prairie dog village where Burrowing Owls were found in the summer of 2002.  This "village" is quite far away from the east side of the Aurora Reservoir dam.  From the Pronghorn South trail, the distance is less than half!  We put it on our list of places to check next spring and summer.

Just before sunset, we walked around East Jewell Avenue and Powhaton Road.  No Eastern Screech-Owls, Barn Owls or Short-eared Owl was found this evening.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bluff Lake Nature Area & Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 10, 2018

Richard Stevens:

A high of 57 degrees was recorded in Denver today.  Winds at Cherry Creek Reservoir measured only 2-3 mph.  What a fantastic winter day!  The eastern coast saw 1-3 feet of snow from New York south to the Carolinas.

It was a nice day with temperatures reaching 50 degrees.  After concluding business in downtown Denver, I stopped at Bluff Lake Nature Area (Denver County).  The Harris's Sparrow was again with half a dozen White-crowned Sparrows.  They were running among the rabbit brush at the eastern side of the area behind the nature building.

Too nice to go home, I detoured over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The pair of Rusty Blackbirds and the Brown Thrasher were walking the wet areas among the cattails just south of the main road.  This is the northwestern drainage into the pond northwest of the swim beach.  The northeastern drainage and pond itself were completely ice covered.

I noticed another birder leaving the pond and caught up to her.  We returned to the drainage where the Rusty Blackbirds allowed long looks and the Brown Thrasher flew briefly out of the cattails.

While watching them and dozens of Robins, a Virginia Rail ran across one of the most northern wet areas.

I parked at the shooting range road and watched the cattails to the east.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Aurora Reservoir & Pronghorn Nature Area

December 9, 2018

High temperature was 43 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 12 mph.  Sitting at Aurora Reservoir and watching the White-cheeked Geese was quite pleasant from the covered picnic area!

Yesterday on my trip to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe), it was noted that most of the lake was ice covered.  Today, I figured that perhaps that many of the Cherry Creek Reservoir waterfowl might have moved to Aurora Reservoir.  Aurora Reservoir usually becomes ice covered much later than Cherry Creek Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoirs.

The lake was mostly ice-free.  It was not the case that Cherry Creek Reservoir waterfowl had moved to Aurora Reservoir.  First, I walked in from the south entrance.  Senac and Lone tree Coves had no uncommon birds.

I circled (drove) around to the northern entrance and scoped the lake from the upper swim beach parking area.  While tens of thousands of geese and hundreds of gulls were around, few other waterfowl were included.

I did see half a dozen Ross's Geese, a few more Snow Geese (one Blue), only one Western Grebe and one Eared Grebe.  One Lesser Black-backed Gull and one Iceland Gull (Thayer's) were picked out of the many gulls swimming in the lake.

It was too nice a day to go home; instead, I drove 0.3 miles east to Pronghorn Natural Area.  The sign stated open dawn to dusk which I interpreted to mean it does not close at sunset.  Important because I decided to stay until well after sunset.

Time (daylight) only allowed for the 1.2 mile hike on the North trail.  Along the way, I stopped many times along the cattails.  Finally, I found a Swamp Sparrow in the cattails 15 yards southwest of the northern bat box.  The wooden pole with a green top may not be a bat box; it is a strange one if so.

Just before sunset, I stood on the hill on the west side of Senac Creek and scoped the hills to the north (and below DADS trash dump).  My cold hands and feet were rewarded with the sight of a Short-eared Owl flying along Senac Creek (about 1/4 north of the northern boundary of the Natural Area).

Beware, the ice on Senac Creek does not support a human as my wet and cold feet will attest.

Four mule deer watched my hike from their high post on the hills to the east.  Strangest sight:  A few cottonwoods are scattered along Senac Creek.  As I walked by one cottonwood, a guy fell out of a tree.  Quite startling considering I thought I was alone, not seeing anyone else.  The guy was geo-caching and trying to hide a marker in a knothole 12 feet up the tree.

Beautiful day and great birding hike!

Cherry Creek Reservoir

December 8, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 48 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph.  I measured gusts to 12 mph at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

We returned from a successful Eastern Colorado bird trip late last night.  To my friends who know the quest, we did find our target bird after four days!  Sensitive species we will have to keep the location undisclosed.

Today, while visiting a friend and relative at the Life Care Center of Aurora, I stuck out to check if the Rusty Blackbirds were still at nearby Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).

I was surprised that most of the lake was ice covered.  The small pond northwest of the swim beach was also mostly frozen.  

The Rusty Blackbirds were not around the pond.  While looking for them I got quite a surprise.  A female Black-and-white Warbler flew down for a drink of water.  She eventually flew back to the cottonwoods along the north side of the pond.

Later I walked up the drainage at the northeast corner of the pond.  A few Robins, a couple of Northern Flickers and the pair of Rusty Blackbirds hunted for food along the shallow stream.

With no scope along, I could not identify the birds in the small open water space far off in the center of the lake.

On the way home, I stopped by the Tollgate Creek Trail Reservoir at the bend in Yale Avenue between Buckley and Tower Roads.  Thousands of White-cheeked Geese stood on the ice and swam in the 20 percent of open water.

The Greater White-fronted Goose was not picked out and probably not around.  A beautiful blue Snow Goose offered some nice photos!

Search for Le Conte's Sparrows

December 3 to 7, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I left on a quest to find Le Conte's Sparrows.  I am always leery of a trip to search for a particular and uncommon bird.  Perhaps with little chance of success, we set out to check most of the Colorado birding spots where Le Conte's Sparrows have been found in the past.

December 3

High temperature in Fort Lyon today was 42 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 12 mph.

Terry and I spent most of the day around the Fort Lyons Wildlife Easement and western end of John Martin Reservoir (Bent County).

While we did not find any Le Conte's Sparrows, two Swamp Sparrows were uncovered at the Fort Lyons Wildlife Area at the west end of John Martin Reservoir.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull was observed flying over the middle of John Martin Reservoir.

While looking for the resident Greater Roadrunners at Lake Hasty, a Harris's Sparrow was spotted at the Campgrounds.

After dark, a Great Horned Owl called from the Campgrounds.  No screech owls responded to recordings when we walked the east and southeast sides of Lake Hasty and John Martin Reservoir.

December 4

It was a degree warmer today at 43 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 17 mph.

Le Conte's Sparrows can be quite secretive.  The west side of John Martin Reservoir is the number one location of past sightings.  Therefore, Terry and I returned for another half day search.

Again, no Le Conte's Sparrows, our bird list today included a Barn Owl at the Fort Lyons Wildlife Easement and two Swamp Sparrows at the Fort Lyons Wildlife Area.

Today we also checked the Wildlife Area southwest of Lyons.  A Virginia Rail and White-throated Sparrow were the only interesting birds recorded.

December 5

Temperature reached 46 degrees in Burlington.  Winds were 10-11 mph with gusts to 16 mph.

Terry and I heard an Eastern Screech-Owl calling at Hale Ponds an hour before sunrise.  After sunrise, we made a two mile loop and found two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds (almost at the Kansas State line).

Later we found fourteen Wild Turkeys and a Northern Cardinal at Foster Grove Campgrounds (north side of Bonny Reservoir).

Two areas of cattail fields between Bonny Reservoir and Wray did not produce any Le Conte's Sparrow sightings.  Beecher Island was a bust also.

At sunset, we encountered two Greater Prairie-Chickens on private land south of Yuma (Yuma County).  

December 6

Not much wind today in Wray, but temperature only reached 26 degrees.  A few gusts reached 5 mph in the afternoon.

Again two cattail fields east of Wray came up empty for Le Conte's Sparrows.

The Wray Fishing Unit did not have Le Conte's Sparrows but did cough up two White-throated Sparrows.

We hiked the fields west of Stalker Pond, found no sparrows but did see a male Northern Cardinal in the Russian Olive trees along the Pond.

An hour before sunset we drove Yuma County Roads 45 and CR PP.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens were run into this evening.  We did see a Short-eared Owl along CR 45 just before the turn to CR PP.

December 7

It was another cold day with a high of 26 degrees.  Winds were 9-10 mph in the morning but were calm in the afternoon.  

A brief hike around DePoorter Lake (Sedgwick) found two Harris's Sparrows and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was relocated at Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).

Then next five hours we spent hiking between Little Jumbo Reservoir (Red Lion Wildlife Area) and Jumbo Reservoir.

Finally, success, a Le Conte's Sparrow popped up from the tall weeds!  We tried to coax a second bird up; however, that did not happen.  Because of the sensitivity of the species, the exact location will remain undisclosed.

A second highlight was a Common Redpoll flying about with a small flock of American Goldfinches.

We ended our birding day and trip at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was observed from the Hwy 55 Bridge at the Wildlife Area.

We walked down to area 7 east in search of owls.  Two Field Sparrows fluttered around the 7 East windbreak.  After sunset, we heard two Eastern Screech-Owls as we walked back to our car.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Successful Return to South Park (Arapahoe County)

December 1, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached 42 degrees today.  Winds of 13-14 mph quickly melted last night's snow (1-2 inches).  

I returned to the South Park (Arapahoe County) area this afternoon.  A stop at South Platte Park again found the Harris's Sparrow in the bushes at the southwest corner of the nature center!

I walked the South Park II area at 2:00 pm.  Starting at today's sighting's location South Curtice Street & Curtice Circle I expanded to neighboring streets.  The area has a bundle of pine trees to examine.

At 3:45 pm, I returned to the "bowl" at South Park (West Long Drive & West Long Place).  Shortly after, a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers flew in from the southeast.  The Pine Warbler and Palm Warbler were with this flock.

Ten minutes later, two birders showed up and we reexamined the flock that was now in the pines next to the swimming pool.  There had to be at least sixteen Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Unfortunately, the Pine Warbler was not relocated by the time the flock flew back to the southeast.

The three of us agreed that it was highly likely that there were two Palm Warblers with the flock.

Later I scoped McLellan Reservoir.  The two Tundra Swans found late yesterday afternoon were not there today.

I put photos of one of the Palm Warblers, the Harris's Sparrow and the Trumpeter Swan photographed yesterday at the Plum Creek Wetlands at Titan Road on the Colorado Birding Society's website "photo library"  "recent favorite photos" link 

Regrettably, my Pine Warbler photo is of poor witness photo quality.

Birding the Southwest Metro Area

November 30, 2018

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 34 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 12 mph.  My birding centered around southwestern metro area today.

Fortune today with songbirds pitiful, I had better time finding waterfowl.  Of course, they do not move around as much.

My first stop was South Platte Park Reservoir (Arapahoe/Jefferson); target bird was the Purple Finch.  It was not found around the southwest corner of the reservoir nor in the surrounding neighborhoods during an hour search.

Next, I walked Waterton Canyon (Jefferson); target bird was the red Fox Sparrow that has been reported for a week or so.  It was not found during my 1.5 hour hike up and down the canyon.

Next stop was the Plum Creek wetlands at Titan Road.  Finally, a target bird was located.  I did photograph the Trumpeter Swan swimming south of Titan Road.

I returned to South Platte Park Reservoir and scoped the lake.  The Black Scoter was swimming and diving below the dam at the eastern edge of the reservoir.

A quick look at Eaglewatch Lake (southeast of the reservoir) found four Greater Scaups which had previous been reported.  Another pair swam on the South Platte River, just east of the Lake.

My next stop was the South Park neighborhood; target birds were the Pine Warbler and Palm Warbler previously reported.  Skies were darkening and temperatures dropped into the 20's.  Winds also picked up speed.  Neither target bird was found.

I had stopped at nearby South Platte Park as I passed it.  The previously reported Harris's Sparrow was in the bush at the southwest corner of the nature center.

After missing Palm Warbler at the "bowl" at South Park II,   I walked over to the north side of McLellan Reservoir still searching for the Yellow-rumped Warbler flock.  

Two Tundra Swans were on the northwest corner McLellan Reservoir (Arapahoe County).   

I do not remember if I mentioned any time before, scoping McLellan Reservoir from the paved path along the north side is closer and easier than finding a place to park and scope along West County Line Road (south side of Reservoir).

Do not know how today's photos will turn out, as shutter speed at South Platte Park was 1/60 second and 1/10 second at McLellan (quite slow for a hand held camera).  Will put on Colorado Birding Society's website tomorrow. 

Guanella Pass

November 29, 2018

High temperature today was 26 degrees.  Winds were 16-18 mph with gusts to 28 mph on Guanella Pass.  The strenuous snowshoe trip heated me up and compensated for the cold temperatures.

Richard Stevens:

I headed into the mountains today, specifically Guanella Pass (Park and Clear Creek Counties).  The exhausting 2.0-mile (one-way) snowshoe trip to the Summit was rewarded with a sighting of nineteen White-tailed Ptarmigan.  The Ptarmigan were below the Rosalie Trail and just east of the 603 Trail.

On my trip back toward Grant (now dark), a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to a recording at Geneva Campgrounds.  I did not put out my "owl listening stations" because the temperature was in the 20s.

Most of the night was spent snowshoeing up and down Guanella Pass Road searching for owls.  

While playing a recording at Whiteside Campgrounds, I noticed a shadow fly to a nearby pine.  A brief spotlight on the bird revealed a young Northern Saw-whet Owl.