Monday, December 10, 2018

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.

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