Thursday, December 26, 2019

Loons at Aurora Reservoir (including Yellow-billed Loon)

Hello cobirders,

Transcript of telephone call from Richard Stevens:

"I skipped Lamar Christmas Count today letting others conduct it.  

On my way southeast, I stopped at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams Cty).  The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull is still there on Lake Ladora.

I also passed Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe Cty).  While scoping the lake from below the lower parking area I saw three loons.  The Pacific Loon was at the mouth of the Lonetree Cove.

A Common Loon swim south of the scuba beach.  Another loon swam below the dam at the northwest corner.  This loon swam to the scuba beach.  When it reached the Common Loon, it looked bigger.  From the lower parking area, I could pick out the larger loon near the dam tower even without binoculars.

Other birder walked from the northwest corner of the dam to the scuba beach.  When I asked, she stated the same field marks that I recorded.  Obvious pale barring on back, light brown head with much white around eye, bill held slightly upright and bill was yellow except for base of upper mandible.  It looked like the Yellow-billed Loon I found last month at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Tens of thousands of White-cheeked Geese flew into the lake.  Relocating the loons became difficult.  When they were feeding, they stayed above the water only a few seconds and stayed below almost a minute."  The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull stood on the shore at mile 4.5.

If this is the same Yellow-billed Loon reported both at Aurora and Cherry Creek Reservoir, where or how does it disappear for a day or two?

Good birding!

Directions to birding spots on CoBus website:

Rebecca Kosten, Colorado Birding Society
Denver, Colorado
Contact CoBus/Report Interesting Birds: 303-324-7994
Subscribe to "cobirders" by sending blank email to:
Read "cobirders" at:

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

South Platte Birding Area (Adams County)

December 25, 2019

Richard Stevens:

The high temperature in Denver was 53 degrees in early afternoon.  Winds were 9-10 mph with gusts to 18 mph at the DIA Owl Loop (Adams).

With Aurora Reservoir and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal closed today, birding was limited.

Rebecca and I drove through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) and found 75 percent of the Lake ice covered.  A few Common Goldeneyes, Western Grebes and one pair of Hooded Mergansers were the only ducks found.  Gull count was less than 60 with one Herring Gull among the majority of Ring-billed.

Later we walked the South Platte Birding Area from 88th avenue to hwy 224 and back.  The Barrow's Goldeneye was still on Tani Reservoir.  We did not see any Long-tailed Ducks.  

Once the lakes freeze over the ducks will spend more time on the South Platte River.  Seeing a Barrow's Goldeneye should become less of a chore.

We watched sunset back at West Cargo Road and 96th Avenue.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.  Raptors included a Ferruginous Hawk, sub-adult Bald Eagle and two Red-tailed Hawks.

Aurora Reservoir to Lookout Mountain to Arvada (Brant)

December 24, 2019

Richard Stevens:

I ran over to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) when they opened.  The loons that Dave King reported yesterday were still on the far eastern side of the lake.  I could make out two Common Loons and the Pacific Loon.  A fourth loon was larger than the Common Loons and may have been the Yellow-billed Loon.  It was too far away to be sure.

High temperature was a comfortable 50 degrees in Arvada.  Winds were mild at 4-5 mph with gusts only to 9 mph.

Rebecca and I have a tradition of birding in the foothills on Christmas Eve.  Today we searched unsuccessfully for the Williamson's Sapsucker reported a few days ago at the Lookout Mountain Visitor's Center.

On the drive back to Denver, we detoured to Lake Arbor.  The Brant was not around at Noon so we tried Far Horizons Park (no geese), Pomona Lake #2 (no geese), Indian Tree area and Fireman's Park (no geese).

We returned to Lake Arbor; the Brant had returned (or perhaps we had just missed it on our first stop).  The goose hunkered down and there was little photo opportunity.

After lunch and grocery shopping (stores closed early), we returned to Lake Arbor hoping for a better photo.  The Brant was not around.  We sat on a bench and waited for sunset.  Around 4:45 pm geese started to return in large number to the lake.  At 5:01 pm, the Brant was observed flying back to the Lake.   Unfortunately, it was too dark for any photos.

Ovid to North Sterling Reservoir

December 23, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 53 degrees on the eastern plains.  Winds were mile at 3-4 mph with gusts only to 8 mph.

Terry Michaels, Jacob Washburn and I lingered in northeastern Colorado today.  The choice turned out to be quite a reward and highlight.

We were making leisure stops along Highway 138 in Sedgwick County.

A walk along Lodgepole Creek in Ovid found a Red-bellied Woodpecker east of the high school and a pair of Rusty Blackbirds about halfway south to highway 138.

We stopped at four friend's yards with feeders and found a young Purple Finch at one and a male Northern Cardinal at another!

Julesburg Wildlife Area added only a Harris's Sparrow today.

Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area was even slower.  Two Eastern Bluebirds perched on telephone wires near the parking area.

It was then that we received a text message about a Snowy Owl sighting near North Sterling Reservoir (Logan).  Needless to say, we took off.

Eventually we found the Snowy Owl after an hour search.  Unfortunately, the owl was quite far from us; we only captured witness photos.

Later we drove the picnic and Campgrounds.  A Barn Owl was not well hidden in the picnic area.

We hoped for uncommon gulls or perhaps a Snow Bunting; neither materialized.  All the same what a great day!

The Sixteenth Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area/Jumbo Reservoir Christmas Count


Full details will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

Ten birders and six feeder watchers particated

Trumpeter Swan (2)
Greater White-fronted Geese, Ross's Geese
Greater Scaup (1)
Greater Prairie-Chicken (southern section)
Long-eared Owl (2, Red Lion Wildlife Area)
Short-eared Owl (Jumbo Reservoir)
Barn Owl (1, northwest Jumbo Reservoir)
Eastern Screech-Owl (2, Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, 1 Jumbo Reservoir)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Gulls: Lesser Black-backed, California, Herring, Glaucous, Iceland
Eastern Screech-Owl (2, Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area, 1 Jumbo Reservoir)
Purple Finch (Tamarack Ranch)
Sparrows: Field, White-throated

The Nineteenth CoBus South Republican Wildlife Area Christmas Count


Full details will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

Eight birders and four feeder watchers particated (plus one in Kansas, results not added to Colorado list)

Highlights included:

South Republican Wildlife Area
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Eastern Bluebird (3)
Eastern Screech-Owl (3)
Long-eared Owl (2)
Field Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Fox Sparrow (red), Field Sparrow
Rusty Blackbird (2)
Northern Cardinal

Missed: Northern Saw-whet Owl, Barn Owl

The Fifteenth CoBus Wray Christmas Count


Full details will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

Eight birders and nine feeder watchers participated


Wray City Park: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker
Wray Fishing Unit: Northern Cardinal
CR 45/CR P: Greater Prairie-Chicken (2)
private yards: Northern Cardinal (5), Fox Sparrow (red), White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Screech-Owl (2)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Loveland Pass

Hello cobirders,

My brother John David and I made the traffic laden trip to Loveland Pass on Saturday.

When we parked at the first pullover west of highway 9, we found two White-tailed Ptarmigan on the hillside east of highway 9.  While taking photos back at the Summit, John saw two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches circling overhead.

In Silverthorne we saw three species of Rosy Finches at a private residence.  They are beautiful birds!

The drive home was not much better than the trip up.

Amy Davenport

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Adams County Birding

Adams County Birding 12/20/2019

My brother John David and I went over to Barr Lake State Park .  The Trumpeter Swan was swimming northwest of the banding station peninsula.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull was off the boat ramp.  Thousands of Common Mergansers filled the open water.  A red morph Red-tailed Hawk was south of the boat ramp area.  A Long-eared Owl was near where Richard Stevens reported it on 12/18.

In the town of Barr, we found 42 male and 2 female Great-tailed Grackles along the railroad tracks north of town.  Photos on the Colorado Birding Society's photo library

The Lesser Black-backed Gull stood on the ice at Lake Ladora, Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Amy Davenport

Friday, December 20, 2019

Highline Canal and Quincy Avenue

December 19, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Much colder today with a high of 44 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

A birding was concentrated along the Highline Canal and Quincy Avenue (Arapahoe) today.  My first stop was John Meade Park (Quincy & Meade) in search of the Northern Goshawk reported by Santiago Tabares on 12/17.

Today the Northern Goshawk was in trees behind the private yard north of Quincy and the Park.  I had to use my scope for good views.  Eventually the Hawk flew into the evergreens just east of the home and north of Quincy.

A walk around the park found no additional uncommon birds.  The Village Trail sign along the south side of the Park stated its intersection with the Highline Canal 0.5 miles to the east.

My plans to return to Aurora Reservoir today were scraped and I hiked the Village Trail to the Highline Canal and then the Highline Canal to Quincy (a half moon configuration).

The most birdy spot was a group of Hackberry bushes that still had berries (near the brown house along Highline Canal).  Eleven Cedar Waxwings, unfortunately no Bohemian Waxwings, two Black-capped Chickadees and a dozen House Finches gulped down the berries.  No berries should be left in another day or two.

Highlights of my trek included two Eastern Screech-Owls.  Both were along the Highline Canal; however, they could only be observed from private property. 

I stopped at a friend's home to see what was around.  She has seen the resident male Northern Cardinal two times in the past ten weeks.  A few houses farther south her neighbor sees it once or twice a month.  

I was able to walk the eastern side of the Highline Canal and observed an Eastern Screech-Owl facing the southern sun.

The second Eastern Screech-Owl sighting happened because I would ask dog walkers who are familiar with the area if they knew of any Eastern Screech-Owls.  One woman said she had one in her yard and was happy to show me.  I made a new friend and got my second Eastern Screech-Owl of the day!

In 2018, Eastern Screech-Owls nested along the western side of the Wildlife Area pond just south of Quincy and around the parking area at Dahlia and the Highline Canal.

The Northern Cardinal appears to wander from Quincy to a half mile south.  I saw and reported it last year, however have not seen it yet this year.

My birding day ended at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  I walked the drainages entering Augie's Pond.  No Rusty Blackbirds, one Brewer's Blackbird was the only bird seen.

The Lake was about 50 percent ice covered.  Many of the Common Mergansers were standing on the ice edge.  Nothing uncommon was observed.  No American White Pelicans and only two Double-crested Cormorants were found.

South Platte Birding Area

December 18, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 57 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

To stretch my legs I decided to walk the South Platte Birding Area (Adams) from 88th avenue to highway 224.

First, a detour was made to the pond northwest of the International Hearing Dog Training Center.  The pond was 90 percent ice covered when I scoped it; birds included three Common Goldeneyes and a few Buffleheads.  The Long-tailed Duck found by Scott Somershoe on 12/16 was not seen.

I then walked the west side of South Platte from 88th avenue down to highway 124 and returned along the east side of the Platte River.  As in most winters, many of the common ducks can be observed on the South Platte River, nothing uncommon was encountered today.

Northern West Gravel Lake was about half open water while southern West Gravel Lake was ice covered.  Nothing uncommon was found at either Lake.

On my return trip, I found probably the same male Barrow's Goldeneye (10/30) at the southern end of Tani Reservoir.  Farther north, a Long-tailed Duck (probably Scott's duck) was at the southwest end of East Gravel Lake.

Several stops were made on the drive home.  Only one Great-tailed Grackle was found this trip in the Town of Barr.  No Yellow-headed Blackbirds (sometimes winter) or additional Great-tailed Grackles were seen at the cattail fields along the southern I76 service road (just east of Barr).

Later, I scoped Barr Lake from the boat ramp and across from the Visitor's Center; however, no uncommon birds were found.

Later, a couple of squawking Black-billed Magpies lead to a Long-eared Owl sighting in the entrance windbreak!

My birding day ended along West Cargo Road south of the State Park.  I parked 0.2 miles south of Cargo Road and Third Creek.  Raptors included two Ferruginous Hawks, one Red-tailed Hawk and one juvenile Bald Eagle, however no Short-eared Owls.

After sunset, I continued south and parked at the junction of W. Cargo Road and 96th Avenue.  At 5:04 pm, a Short-eared Owl hunted over the field to the northwest.  It continued south across 96th avenue and disappeared near 88th avenue.

Fourteenth CoBus Aurora/Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County) Christmas Count

The fourteen CoBus Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County) Christmas Count was held on December 17, 2019

Details in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

Six birders and seven feeder watchers participated


Aurora Reservoir:
two Greater White-fronted Geese
two Lesser Black-backed Gulls
one Mew Gull
one Pacific Loon

Cherry Creek Reservoir
one Swamp Sparrow
one Northern Shrike
one Long-eared Owl
one Great Horned Owl

Cherry Creek trail
one Brown Thrasher

one Harris's Sparrow at a private yard
one Cassin's Finch at a private yard

Fourteenth CoBus Georgetown Christmas Count

The fourteenth CoBus Georgetown Christmas Count was held on December 16, 2019

Details in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

seven birders and five feeder watchers had a good day


White-tailed Ptarmigan (11) on Guanella Pass which required a four mile round trip snowshoe adventure

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS two just south of Clear Lake Campgrounds

Dusky Grouse: one north of Clear Creek Campgrounds

male American Three-toed Woodpecker at Echo Lake Campgrounds

Pine Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills (Guanella Campgrounds)

Rosy Finches: 42 at a private yard; 3 species (one black) represented

Seventh CoBus Silverthorne/Summit County Christmas Count

The seventh CoBus Silverthorne, Summit County Christmas Count was conducted on December 15, 2019

Details in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

eight birders and five feeder watchers enjoyed a successful day


Northern Pygmy-Owl along Argentine Pass
Boreal Owl (2) up St. Johns trail

White-tailed Ptarmigan (5) at Loveland Pass

Rosy Finches (3 locations) total 282, three species represented

Barrow's Goldeneye (1)

Swamp Sparrow at private yard in Frisco

Common Redpolls (2) private yard in Silverthorne

Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcracker

Twelfth CoBus Colorado State Forest Christmas Count

The twelfth CoBus Colorado State Forest Christmas Count was conducted on December 14, 2019

Full details will be in January's "Colorado Field Notes"

Eight birders and six feeder watchers enjoyed a great birding day.

American Three-toed Woodpeckers
  (1) one across from the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center
  (2) one at ranger lakes Campgrounds

Boreal Owls
  (1) two west of the Cameron Pass Summit
  (2) one at ranger lakes Campgrounds
  (3) one south of Crags Campgrounds

Greater Sage-Grouse
  two birds about a mile south of Gould

Dusky Grouse
 (1) one below south side of Cameron Pass
 (2) just south of Campgrounds south of Gould

Rosy Finches
two groups at private feeders totaled 423 birds, all three species represented

White-throated Sparrow
one at a private yard

Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins

Northern Pygmy-Owl called at a private yard

Friday, December 13, 2019

Littleon (Varied Thrush) & Cherry Creek Reservoir (White-winged Scoter & Tundra Swan)

December 13, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was 46 degrees today.  Winds were strong at 14-15 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

Rebecca and I had business in downtown Denver.  Later on, we decided to attempt for a better photo of the Varied Thrush near Carmody Park.

Friday the thirteenth was not bad for us.  The Varied Thrush appeared less than 30 seconds after I turned off the car at the Hoyt Street cul-de-sac.  It came to the birdbath and then flew into the tall pine tree.  Later it landed in the tree with the red can (behind the Pine).

When the Thrush tried to return to the birdbath, two Blue Jays kept scaring it away.  After the third attempt, the Thrush flew north into the yard of the yellow house.

We debated on whether to continue south to South Platte Park Reservoir (Long-tailed Ducks & Black Scoter) and Chatfield Reservoir (White-winged Scoter).  Traffic was horrible; we decided to head for home instead.

As we passed through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe), I scoped the Lake from the southwestern boat ramp.  A dark duck caught my eye.  It turned out to be an adult White-winged Scoter.  Anyone see the White-winged Scoter at Chatfield Reservoir today?  Perhaps this was the same bird.

We drove around to Pelican Point where only White-cheeked Geese and Ring-billed Gulls were.  No Pelicans were among them.

While scoping the swim beach from the Dixon Grove parking area, Rebecca noticed two large white birds just off the southern end of the parking area.  They turned out to be two Tundra Swans!

Either many Tundra Swans have passed through the State Park in recent days, or these two come, go each evening, and depart in the early morning hours?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Aurora Reservoir, First Creek Trail & Barr Lake

December 12, 2019

Today felt colder than yesterday with a high temperature of 49 degrees.  Winds of 12-13 mph with gusts to 22 mph made it feel even colder.

I returned to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) and circled the 8.7 mile path with my bike.  Target bird/question, is the Yellow-billed Loon still around?

I carried a smaller Nikon Scope and light tripod instead of my heavy Vortex Scope and stopped to scope the Lake every 0.5 miles.  After many stops, I concluded that the Yellow-billed Loon is no longer on the Lake.

Highlights included the Pacific Loon found yesterday (off mile 4.5), the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (lower parking area), 2nd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull (Lone Tree Cove) and a Mew Gull (Lone Tree Cove).

No uncommon geese or waterfowl were encountered.  Several dozen Snow Geese (two Blue phase) were among tens of hundreds of White-cheeked Geese.  

My next stop was the First Creek Trail, which I walked from the eastern 56th avenue bridge (Denver) across Buckley Road and continued to the eastern Rocky Mountain Arsenal fence line.

No Rusty Blackbirds appear to be around this year.  Sparrows were scarce; only a handful of White-crowned Sparrows and two Song Sparrows counted.  Dark-eyed Juncos were the majority bird.  Two Red-tailed Hawks circled over Adams County section.

I spent 30 minutes or so trying to relocate the Harris's Sparrow Rebecca and I had found in the high weeds south of 56th avenue and the horse corrals; without success.

Continuing north, I scoped Barr Lake (Adams) from the Niedrach Boardwalk and the boat ramp.  No Tundra Swans were found.  The Bald Eagle count was 38 birds of various ages.

Various common ducks were obscured by thousands of Common Mergansers swimming on the Lake.  Nothing uncommon could be separated from the horde.

I did find one Long-eared Owl in surrounding windbreaks.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening along the DIA Owl Loop.  I parked along West Cargo Road at 0.2 miles south of Third Creek.  One Ferruginous Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks and an adult Bald Eagle flew by before sunset.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Aurora Reservoir

December 11, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was a pleasant 50 degrees.  Winds were 10-11 mph during my visit.

I found the time to scope Aurora Reservoir from the lower parking area this afternoon.  An adult and younger Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Mew Gull, two California Gulls were among several hundred Ring-billed Gulls below the Pavilion.

A Pacific Loon swam off mile 4.5.  No additional uncommon birds were observed.

I hiked to the north end of the Pronghorn Nature Open Space north of Quincy Avenue and Aurora Reservoir.  No uncommon birds or Short-eared Owls were encountered today.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Search for Owls and a Varied Thrush

December 10, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was another superb day around Denver.  High temperature was 40 degrees.  Winds were calm to 3 mph in Lakewood.

Rob Baker and I left Denver at 4:00 am.  Our target bird was a Northern Pygmy-Owl or possibly a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  

We walked Foxton Road from the large to small parking areas at Reynolds Park (Jefferson).  Our return was along the Songbird trail and then up Oxen Draw Trail.  Regrettably, there was no hint of a Northern Pygmy-Owl this morning.

At nearby Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson) we hiked up to the Strawberry Jack trail intersection with the Skipper Trail and back.  Then we hiked the Narrow Gauge trail to its western end.  Again, no owls were encountered.

Our return trip to Denver was by way of Jefferson CR 126 to Hwy 67.  Fortunately, Rob spotted a Northern Pygmy-Owl hunting from low in a willow along the South Platte River (east of CR 126 and Forest Road 529!

Rob did not have additional time and we returned to his hotel at I25 and Hampden.  After dropping Rob off, I was close enough to the Lakewood Varied Thrush spot and gave it a try.

I walked back and forth along the boundary of Carmody Park for an hour behind the houses along South Hoyt Court.  No other birders or Varied Thrush appeared; there were however many dog walkers.  A flock of 22 Bushtits hung around where the park and entrance path intersected.

I asked numerous dog walkers if they had seen a Varied Thrush or people with binoculars.  After almost a dozen inquiries, one local person had heard of the infamous sighting.

Taking her directions, I detoured over to South Hoyt.  Less than 30 minutes into my stakeout, the Varied Thrush made a brief appearance!  By the way, original directions were way off.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Clear Creek & Summit Counties

December 9, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature in Georgetown was 34 degrees.  It was at least 10 degrees colder at Loveland Pass and Silverthorne. 

Rob Baker and I searched for White-tailed Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties) this morning.  Two and a half hours passed before we finally turned up one along the western trail.  

The Ptarmigan was a good 0.7 miles uphill, south of the trail.  The climb from the parking area (11990 feet) to the Ptarmigan location (12414 feet) was only 424 feet in elevation.  However, starting from 11990 feet, the thin air makes the hike effortful.

We had first checked more likely and easier locations 1. east of hwy 9 at first pullover south of the Summit, 2. west side of hwy 9, 2nd pullover south of Summit, 3. eastern side of Summit, then the strenuous hike up the western trail!

Later we dropped in on a friend in Silverton (Summit County).  We stood around in a cold 26 degrees for over an hour.  Birds encountered included three species of Rosy Finches, a Clark's Nutcracker, two Canada Jays, four Pine Grosbeaks, seven Evening Grosbeaks, Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and Pine Siskins.  

A stop at the Georgetown Park (Clear Creek) added four Red Crossbills to our day list!  No Rosy Finches were found during a drive around Town.

On the way back to Denver, we detoured up hwy 103 to Echo Lake (Clear Creek).  Birds were scarce around the Lake.  Eventually we found an American Three-toed Woodpecker at the southeast corner of the Campgrounds.

Then we stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson).  No uncommon birds were found; we missed the Barn Owls also.  Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Western Scrub-Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos and a Spotted Towhee were observed behind the Trading Center.

Eastern Colorado Birding Trip

December 7-8, 2019

Richard Stevens:

December 7

High temperature in Wray was 56 degrees.  Winds were 2-3 mph.

Rob Baker and I headed to Wray by way of Hwy 59 (near Joes).  Two county roads north of Joes were searched unsuccessfully for Greater Prairie-Chickens.

We continued to the Republican Wildlife Area (a.k.a. Bonny Reservoir, Yuma).  At Fosters Grove, we found a Long-eared Owl (windbreak) and ten Wild Turkey (along CR 3).  The absence of songbirds and sparrows was surprising.

Birds were scarce at the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was spotted during a hike along the southern gated road, which is quite overgrown with vegetation.

After lunch in Burlington, we drove back north.  We searched Fairview Cemetery north Burlington for Pine Warblers and other uncommon birds.  Two Red Crossbills were the most interesting birds there.

A couple of hour's walk around the Republican Wildlife Area (Hale ponds) found two Eastern Bluebirds (CR 4), a male Red-bellied Woodpecker and an Eastern Screech-Owl (called shortly after sunset).

December 8

Our target birds this morning along Yuma CR 45 were Greater Prairie-Chickens and Short-eared Owls.  We drove to CR 45 by Yuma CR P.  I have seen Short-eared Owls on several occasions near the bend where CR P turns into CR 45; none was around this morning.

Fortune shined, a male Greater Prairie-Chicken was observed in the field south of CR 45 (between the gravel road to the CR 45 lek and Hwy 385).

The highlight of the trip for me was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker just south of the Community Hospital.  We missed the resident Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  Two local birders had seen one along the draw just east of the Hospital about 10 minutes before our arrival.

Nothing uncommon was found at Stalker Lake.  We searched the cattails below the parking area for a stray wren (Winter, Marsh or House).  We could not find the resident Northern Cardinal at Wray Fishing Unit.

A brief stop at Washington Country Club Golf Course Park did not find any uncommon birds.  Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) did not add any uncommon birds to our trip list.

Return to Aurora Reservoir Under Better Weather Conditons

December 6, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature reached 42 degrees.  Winds were 9-10 mph.

I returned to Aurora Reservoir today hoping for better visibility.  

The swim beach was scoped from the Lower Parking Area.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull and Glaucous Gull were among 1500 gulls on the swim beach.  At least one Herring Gull and two California Gulls were also there.

Four additional groups of 1000+ gulls were scattered along the shore (mile 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 and 2.5).  After an hour, the gulls on the swim beach were dispersed by human activity.

I hiked up from the Western Parking Area to the west side of the dam.  My target bird, the Yellow-billed Loon was also not found from here.  In fact, few birds were at the northwestern corner of the dam today.

It was such a beautiful day, warm and calm winds, that I decided to hike down to the Lake from the south side.  It is approximately a 1.5 hike one way to the shore.  Yet another group of 1000+ gulls was on the shore in Lone Tree Cove.  

This group included most likely the same Glaucous Gull previously found, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and at least one Mew Gull.  Another scope of the Lake from the mouth of nearby Senac Cove did not find the Yellow-billed Loon.

To continue enjoying the excellence day I walked the length of the nearby northern Pronghorn Open Space trail.  It is about 1.2 miles one way to the northern border.

Song Sparrows were the only species found in the long cattail fields today.  No Short-eared Owls appeared at sunset as I hiked back to my car.

Brief Afternoon Visit to Aurora Reservoir

December 5, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature in the afternoon at Aurora Reservoir was 39 degrees.  Winds were 14-15 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

We stopped at Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe) on the way home.  Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, one Herring Gull, two California Gulls and one Mew Gull were among 1600 Ring-billed Gulls on the swim beach.

It took almost an hour to scope the beach and shore at mile 2.0.  By the time we arrived at the dam at the scuba beach, visibility was less than 10 yards; we left. 

Yellow-billed Loon and whatever could still be on the Lake.

Trip to North Park

December 2-5, 2019

Richard Stevens:

December 2

Rebecca and I drove to Cameron Pass and the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center (Jackson County).  Nothing uncommon was found at the Visitor's Center.  After dark, a Boreal Owl called from west of the Pass's Summit.

December 3

High was 39 degrees west of Cameron Pass.  Winds were a whooping 23-24 mph with a few gusts reaching 29 mph.  Owling under these conditions was (is) a bust.

We checked the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center this morning.  A lone Gray-crowned Rosy Finch was observed.  Among other birds seen were a Clark's Nutcracker and Canada Jays.

On the way to the Colorado State Forest, we walked hwy 14 near Ranger Lakes.  A drumming male American Three-toed Woodpecker made the stop worthwhile.

Then we explored the main road in the Colorado State Forest and did a little cross-country skiing.  Nothing noteworthy was found.  

Two hundred and fifty Rosy Finches (66 percent Gray-crowned Rosy, 33.9 percent Brown-capped and a few Black) entertained us at a friend's ranch.  Other birds stopping by included Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers.

At sunset, we skied down to the Crags Campgrounds.  No Dusky Grouse or additional Boreal Owls were found.

December 4

It warmed up to 43 degrees today.  Winds 14-15 mph with gusts to 22 mph.

Rebecca and I drove Jackson County Road 26 an hour before sunrise.  Our early rising was rewarded with a Greater Sage-Grouse sighting (northwest of CR 26b).

A drive along the streets of Walden did not find any Rosy Finches.  We visited another friend's ranch this time west of Walden.  They had a flock of about 100 Rosy Finches visit most days.  Unfortunately, the Rosy Finches did not visit during our stay.

Walden Reservoir was snow covered.  The few birds around were American Crows.

December 5

It was relatively warm this morning at 34 degrees.  Anomometer readings were 6-7 mph.  However, snowstorms were in the forecast; we got out of there.

We checked behind the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, again found only one Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, and then headed for home.  An American Three-toed Woodpecker could be heard drumming north of hwy 14 across from the Visitor's Center.

Stops at Joe Wright Reservoir and the Zimmerman Lake Loop Trail parking areas did not find any uncommon birds.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Weld to Arapahoe to Jefferson County

December 1, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It warmed up, sort of as high temperature today was 44 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

Rebecca and I headed north to Union Reservoir (Weld.  Eventually one Long-tailed Duck was relocated.  We could not find any of the reported Mew Gulls.  Other sightings included a Barrow's Goldeneye and possible Eastern Meadowlark (singing).

Next, Rebecca and I settled on driving to the South Platte Park Reservoir area (Arapahoe/Jefferson).  Only on Sunday is there a chance at not running into heavy traffic in Denver/Littleton.  

The two Long-tailed Ducks found earlier this morning by Adam Vesely were at first in Jefferson County at the western end of the Reservoir.  They swam around much and ended up in Arapahoe County before we departed!  The previously reported Black Scoter stayed at the western side of the Lake in Jefferson County.

We parked near Blackrock Lake and walked between Blackrock and Eaglewatch Lakes.  No swans were at either Lake.  Our target birds were Greater Scaup, which historically spend late, fall and early winter on the two lakes before they freeze.  None was found today.  

A consolation bird was a Surf Scoter on the northwest corner of Eaglewatch Lake.  Most likely, this was the South Platte Park Reservoir duck.  Both scoters seem to disappear for a day or two from the Reservoir.  Perhaps they are flying back and forth between the Reservoir and the two Lakes just below and to the east.

We had no strategy to travel to nearby Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).  However, because we had observed two of the three species of scoters our next stop was Chatfield Reservoir.  The White-winged Scoter was observed while we scoped the Lake from above the dam.

We then continued northwest to Harriman Lake Park (Jefferson).  The six Tundra Swans stood on the ice at the northwest corner of the Lake.  The yellow spots on their bills were visible on all six birds.  

Thanks Lucy Dealcins for reporting them!  I put photos on the Colorado Birding Society's Photo Library: 

Our final stop was Addenbrooke Park (Jefferson) where our target bird was a Greater White-fronted Goose.  Regrettably, not one goose was at the Park.  More distressing, I had to spend 35 minutes digging our car out of a snow bank, which used the remained daylight.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Return to Arapahoe County

November 30, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 34 degrees.  Cold but it was warmer than the past few days.  Winds were measured at 14-15 mph with gusts to 21 mph.  The wind caused high waves on the Lakes.

I returned to Arapahoe County to see if some of the previously reported birds were still around.  The Common Loon was observed swimming near the mouth of Lone Tree Cove at Aurora Reservoir.  The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull stood on the shore near mile 4.5.

My next stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Winds had picked up quite a bit.  I received a text message about the sighting of two Trumpeter Swans.  Unfortunately, I did not find them as I scoped the Lake four times.

Two to four Bonaparte's Gulls and the Glaucous Gull flew around the Reservoir during my stay.  Dozens of Western Grebes and some common ducks were more toward the swim beach.  

Only three American White Pelicans remained of the sixty-eight+ seen Thanksgiving Day. I did not find the Yellow-billed Loon, however it could have been hidden by the high waves.

On the way home, I stopped at the apartments south of the horse corrals on 56th avenue.  High winds bent the tall grasses back and forth.  I relocated several of the Song Sparrows, however did not see the Harris's Sparrow Rebecca and I found on Thanksgiving.

No Short-eared Owls were observed this evening as I parked at 88th avenue and the Toll Road Bridge.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Aurora Reservoir, Rocky Mountain Arsenal & Cherry Creek Reservoir

November 29, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures only reached 25 degrees today.  Anomometer readings hovered between 11-12 mph.

Rebecca and I returned to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe County).  Most gulls were too far away to id properly.  We did see the continuing Common Loon.

We then visited Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams) to see if the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was still there.  No gulls or waterfowl were around as both Lake Ladora and Lower Derby Lake were ice covered.

After visiting friends, we passed through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe) at 4:00 pm.  Heavy fog reduced visibility to less than 30 feet.  Yesterday's large gulls and the Yellow-billed Loon could not be seen.

Cherry Creek Reservoir & First Creek Trail

November 28, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was only 28 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph most of the day.

Rebecca and I took Thanksgiving dinner to a friend living near Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe County). 

We stopped afterwards to look for the reported two Trumpeter Swans.  Around the marina area, we found two American White Pelicans, two Double-crested Cormorants, four Snow Geese and various common ducks.

Two large white gulls caught our attention.  One was a young Glaucous Gull.  The second bird appeared to look like a Glaucous-winged Gull.

The Yellow-billed Loon is still on the Lake.  At least two Bonaparte's Gulls also remain at the State Park.  Over sixty eight American White Pelicans swam in the cove west of the swim beach.

Our final stop was the Denver County section of the First Creek Trail.  We parked at the new apartments south of the horse corrals along 56th avenue.  A walk from 56th avenue to the light rail bridge found few birds.  No Rusty Blackbirds have yet returned after wintering here last year.

While returning to our car we noticed a large flock of sparrows in the high grasses northwest of the apartment buildings office.  Half a dozen Song Sparrows, at least ten American Tree Sparrows and a Harris's Sparrow were observed.

No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening along the DIA Owl Loop (Adams/Denver).

Southeastern Trip

November 25-27, 2019

Richard Stevens:

A big storm storm was the forecast for Denver.  I chose to drive to Baca County where the storm was predicted to miss.  Later I found out that DIA received over 9 inches of snow.  I did not see snow until driving highway 25 north of Trinidad!  My trip was quite enjoyable and snow free!

November 25

High temperature was 53 degrees near La Junta.  Winds blew at 16-17 mph with gusts to 23 mph.  

I arrived at Vogel Canyon Recreation Area shortly after Noon.  Not many birds can be expected this time of year.  A Say's Phoebe sang its "pweer pee ee" from the parking area.

A hike down the trail found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow running along the rocky hillside along the Canyon Trail.  I continued down the loop, Canyon, Prairie & Mesa Trails.  Other interesting birds discovered along the loop included three wrens (Bewick's, Rock & Canyon).

The highlight was a Greater Roadrunner running behind the ruins at the parking area when I returned to my car.  A flock of four Mountain Bluebirds flew along the drive back out of the canyon.

Later I drove down CR 804 (Higbee Cemetery Road).  While it was late in the year to find a Black-throated Sparrow, Late sighting dates include 11/10 & 11/23.

A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a Lincoln's Sparrow fluttered about the Cemetery.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was found farther down the road.  Nothing else uncommon was found on the drive to the end of CR 804.

My route to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) was by way of Carrizo Mountain.  Another Greater Roadrunner and Rufous-crowned Sparrow was discovered along the trip.  I arrived in Cottonwood Canyon after dark.  One Western Screech-Owl called at the camping area near Carrizo Creek & CR J.

November 26

High temperature reached 42 degrees on this windy day.  Winds were 20-21 mph with gusts to 40 mph.  Many birds were found in spite of the winds.

Most of the day was spent hiking around Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  When I started birding, my first excursion was at Cottonwood Canyon.  It has provided many birding memories in the 208 days birded there.  It accounts for 109 lifebirds, at least 50 good finds and one first state record (Tufted Titmouse, 11/2/1994)!

I revisited the three routes that I would walk every day when visiting Cottonwood Canyon.  1. Camping area to bear canyon 4.5 miles round trip 2. Up the southern draw, 2.6 miles round trip & 3. Camping area west to Carrizo Mt road and draw 2.5 miles round trip.  Several days I would duplicate the hike for a total canyon mileage of 2247 over the 25 years

1. Two Rufous-crowned Sparrows moved around the rocks near the entrance of Bear Canyon.  Fourteen Wild Turkeys were spotted near there.  A good number considering I ran into several hunters who had not ran across one.  Canyon Towhees were found at several locations along the walk.  Chihuahuan Ravens roosted on the canyon walls.

2. Highlight of the visit was a Winter Wren about 60 yards up (south) the southern draw.

3. A pair each of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers all found up the western draw.  It was this draw in 1994 that I heard and later tracked down a pair of Tufted Titmice!  I have seen Long-eared Owls in the evergreens here and Short-eared Owls on the top of the rocky cliffs several times over the years.

Bewick's Wrens are usually found in the evergreens along East Carrizo Creek near the camping site.  A Cooper's Hawk was just west of there.

Misses: Lewis's Woodpeckers appear to have abandoned Cottonwood Canyon several years ago.  Last reported sighting(s) were 8/20/2014.  Many of the old taller cottonwoods have fallen down.

Mississippi Kites still visit in the summer.  I have found Northern Cardinals in November and December; none was found this trip.

Another note on my Cottonwood Canyon history, Rufous-crowned Sparrows were a nemesis bird.  I search 19 days (those 10 mile hikes) before finding my first one.  I would hike the road, halfway up the cliffs and the top of the canyon without a sighting.  

The time was not a waste as many other birds (and some good finds) held my attention.  Once I found my first Rufous-crowned Sparrow, I learned just how and where to look for them.  Very seldom are they missed on my visits now.

I ended my birding day at the Upland Bird Management Area (east of Picture Canyon).  No Short-eared Owls were found this trip.  Three Lapland Longspurs were the highlight.

November 27

High temperature today was 41 degrees.  Winds were 21-22 mph with gusts to 30.  It was a pleasant day while back in Denver they were digging out of a snowstorm.

I camped at Picture Canyon (Baca) and walked to the Oklahoma border.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow ran around the short red hillside near the parking area (camping spot).

Continuing to North Canyon, I observed a Curve-billed Thrasher hunting for food along a short cliff (five feet high is probably not worthy of "cliff").

Later I drove to Sand Canyon and spent a couple of hours exploring.  A Northern Mockingbird was the highlight there.

Then I took the eastern route to the Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area (Las Animas).  A Swamp Sparrow popped out of thickets near the parking area.  Just a few hundred yards up the hill (north), a Juniper Titmouse also came into view.

At dusk I set up my two "owl listening stations" and stayed for several hours listening for owls.  One Northern Saw-whet Owl was found north of the pond.

My trip needed to end as additional snow was predicted for the next day.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Aurora Reservoir, Pronghorn Nature Area & Star K Ranch

November 24, 2019

Richard Stevens:

What adjective to use to describe the magnificent fall day it was in Colorado?  Rebecca and I went to Aurora Reservoir to look for the Northern Goshawk reported yesterday.

We entered from the southern entrance and walked down to the Lake at mile 2.0 then west to mile 0.5.  A pair of Rusty Blackbirds flew up from the cattails along Senac Cove about halfway between the entrance and the lake.  They were most likely the same pair I observed on 10/18/2019.

We scoped the trees along the east and south sides of the Lake; no Goshawk was found.  A pair of Great Horned Owls stood on the same cottonwood branch near mile 0.8.

The contrast between the two in color was interesting.  One was a light gray color while the other almost brown in color.  Both were similar in size.

Gulls were scattered across the lake because of the many boats and fisher people.  Groups of gulls were on shore at mile 2.0, 4.5 and 5.5.  Most were too far away to identify.  The Common Loon was near the mouth of Lone Tree Cove.

Next, we decided to hike the northern Pronghorn Open Space trail to its end (about 1.2 miles one way).  We watched the large cattail fields along the way for sparrows (Swamp Sparrow).  

The highlight was a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk hunting over the field just outside of the Open Space boundary.  We observed one over nearby Aurora Reservoir on 8/7/2016.  The Open Space and nearby DADS (Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site) comprised a huge territory for a Ferruginous Hawk to hunt or live.

The southern Pronghorn Trail was scoped from the trailhead.  A lone adult Red-tailed Hawk was perched in one of the larger cottonwoods.

Our final stop was the Star K Ranch (Arapahoe).  Two American Woodcocks have been reported in the area (1/1/2005 & 10/16/2016) over the years.  We became excited when a long bill was spotted sticking out of the cattails along the southern side of the Nature Loop Pond.  Regrettably, it belonged to a Wilson's Snipe.

Not much else was around.  There was no repeat of the 12/29/2002 male Red-bellied Woodpecker who wintered through 3/8/2003.  A Great Horned Owl called from the southeast corner of Sand Creek.

Daylight ran out before we could make it to nearby Coal Creek Regional Greenway.  Perhaps we can visit it tomorrow.  American Woodcock was photographed there on 10/16/2016 (cover of November 2016 "Colorado Field Notes")

Rocky Mountain Arsenal & Cherry Creek State Park

November 23, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperature reached 57 degrees today.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

To enjoy this superb fall day, Rebecca and I drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams).  The Lesser Black-backed Gull continued on the east shore of Lake Ladora.

Four Common Goldeneyes, pair of Hooded Mergansers and a Western Grebe were on the Lake.  A first year Barrow's Goldeneye was a surprise find.

Afterwards we drove to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on the way to dinner.    The Yellow-billed Loon continued to swim in the middle of the Lake.  At least four Bonaparte's Gulls flew by and dove in attempts to catch their dinner.

Another Trip to Northeastern Colorado

November 20-22, 2019

Richard Stevens:

November 20

High today was 50 degrees.  Winds were 14-15 mph with gusts to 23 mph.

Jacob Washburn and I returned to Northeastern Colorado.  We arrived at Prewitt Reservoir around sunrise to find the many gulls on the small strip of land at the western end of the Lake.

From the main entrance near the ranger's home drive west staying as close to the Lake as possible.  After passing the second restroom, there is a pullover about 10 yards farther west.  The water level currently allows for a strip of land about 3 feet wide and 40 feet long.  Gulls have been spending the night here.

The previously reported Mew Gull was among hundreds of Ring-billed, six California and two Herring Gulls.  We did not find the Laughing Gull.

We walked from the ranger's office to the east and south end of the dam.  The Eastern Screech-Owl was again sunning himself.  The Red-headed Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker were not found.  The 11/18 swans and Surf Scoter were also missing.

It took about 30 minutes to relocate the three White-winged Scoters at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  Winds were 18-19 mph, which created high waves.

No additional uncommon ducks were found.  Thousands of white geese (Snow & Ross's) formed a large raft in the middle of the lake.

We parked near sunset at the southeastern hill and watched nearby fields for owls.  None appeared this evening.

November 21

It was much colder today with a high of 34 degrees.  Winds were 11-12 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

After camping at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan), Jacob and I explored the southern sections before sunrise.  Greater Prairie-Chicken favorite locations (windmill just south of I76 & Logan CR 81 and the intersection of CR 46 & CR 89) did not yield a bird this trip.

Later, Jacob and I walked the riparian area at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) from 2West to 8East and back.  Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and two Field Sparrows were relocated.  Misses included the Eastern Screech-Owl, any warblers or vireos.

Ovid Woods (Sedgwick) and Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) did not add any uncommon birds to our trip list.  Sedgwick Cemetery and Sedgwick Draw also were a bust.

An Eastern Screech-Owl called briefly while we enjoyed a barbecue near sunset at a friend's ranch.

November 22

Cold weather continued with a high of 32 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 12 mph.

Jacob and I departed our friend's ranch early enough to reach Yuma CR 45 at dawn.  We drove the loop of CR 45--CR PP.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens or Short-eared Owls were found this morning.

Brief stops at the Wray Fishing Unit, Stalker Pond and the Wray City Park did not find any uncommon birds.

The highlight at the Republican Wildlife Area (Yuma) was two Long-eared Owls in the Fosters Grove windbreak.  Twelve Wild Turkeys walked across CR 3 as we continued to Hale.

Hale Ponds added a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, four Eastern Bluebirds and an Eastern Screech-Owl to our trip list.  In summary, birding was slow.

Target birds, American Woodcocks, Greater Prairie-Chickens and the Laughing Gull were all missed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Birding Parks: Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Aurora Reservoir & Barr Lake

November 19, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 64 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph.  

I left home at 4:00 am to miss the traffic across town to Chatfield Reservoir.  The goal today was to see three species of scoters in one day.  I had not done so since November 2, 2001.

The first two hours before sunrise I drove up and down Deer Creek Canyon Road in search of owls.  Northern Pygmy-Owls sometimes hunt along Deer Creek and Short-eared Owls hunt north of the same Road in South Valley Park.  Unfortunately, none was found this morning.

I scoped Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) from above the dam.  Only one of the two reported White-winged Scoters was found.  Nothing else uncommon was discovered.

Then across C470 at South Platte Park Reservoir (Arapahoe/Jefferson), both the Surf Scoter and Black Scoter were observed.  No Greater Scaups were found at Blackrock Lake or Eaglewatch Lake.  Some usually winter here; perhaps it is early in the season.

Both the Yellow-billed Loon and Common Loon were still on Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) when I passed through.  Another Common Loon swam on Aurora Reservoir.  Gulls were too far away to identify today.

I spent the late afternoon walking the canal below the Barr Lake dam (Adams).  With so many late migrants being reported along the Front Range, it seemed to be a good choice.  However, few birds moved about. It was cloudy unlike my visit last week.

The highlight was a probable Winter Wren.  I would have liked another look, only got two (90 percent sure of ID).  It was under the fallen tree at the first break in the riparian willow row as one comes from the Old Stone House.

Additional birds found were two Wilson's Snipes, nine Song Sparrows and a pair of Black-capped Chickadees.

Later, I scoped the Lake from the boat ramp.  Hundreds of Western Grebes, hundreds of Northern Shovelers and many other ducks as well as White-cheeked Geese were scattered across the Lake.

My birding day ended as I sat at 88th avenue and the toll road 30 minutes before and after sunset.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Search for American Woodcocks Along the I76 Corridor

November 16-18, 2019

Richard Stevens:

November 16

One of my Wray, CO friends died last week.  Another had died several months ago and I wanted to deliver condolences in person.

I departed Denver at 3:00 am in order to drive Yuma County Roads between Joes and Yuma (highway 59).  Eventually I ran into a Greater Prairie-Chicken on one of the County Roads, which are driveways for several ranches.  Nevertheless, they are public roads; I have previously met with landowners and obtained permission to head toward their homes early in the morning.

When I arrived in Wray, I walked the City Park and hospital area searching for Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  While none turned up, a local resident out for a walk pointed me in the direction of Jackson Street, south of Kitzmiller Street (south side of hospital).  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was easy to find with its loud, harsh "kwrrr" call.

I then drove into the Wray Fishing Unit located just a few miles east of the City Park.  The resident male Northern Cardinal was foraging in the evergreen trees along the entrance road (near the 10 mph sign).

While watching the Northern Cardinal, an Oriole was popped out in the same area.  Orioles are uncommon sightings in November and I needed to determine if it was a Bullock's or Baltimore Oriole.  Both Orioles breed in the area and a hybrid was even photographed back in September 2019.

It took 45 minutes before the Oriole revealed enough of itself for an id.  The bird's head was dull brownish color down to its weak orange breast.  Its two wingbars were well defined.   Its back was streaked and brownish scapulars had dark centers.  It was a young Baltimore Oriole!

A young Bullock's Oriole is expected to have a yellowish head, neck and auriculars, grayish less streaked back, yellowish malar and breast areas.

The Baltimore Oriole eventually flew to the cottonwoods below the Stalker Lake parking area and so did I!

While attempting to relocate the Baltimore Oriole I noticed two swans swimming on the west end of the Lake.  I circled a distance to the south around to the west end of the Lake.  Unfortunately, I got greedy, wanting good photos of the Swans.  I wanted a great photo of the birds and did not take any far away, long shots. 

The swans had all the field marks of Trumpeter Swans.  Regrettably, as I approached, the hundreds of ducks swimming around the Swans took off and frighten the Swans.

As I returned to my car, I noticed that the Swans and ducks did return to the Lake.  However, I did not have the time to return and also concluded they would fly away again if approached. 

My original plan was to visit Wray, drive to Jumbo Reservoir and end my day at North Sterling Reservoir.  Too much time was spent in Yuma County and I did not arrive at Jumbo Reservoir until 3:30 pm.  There was not enough daylight to visit North Sterling Reservoir this day.

At Jumbo Reservoir, I scoped the Lake from the south side, the eastern Campgrounds and west side.  On my second attempt along the south side of the Lake, I discovered the three White-winged Scoters not far off Logan County Roads 1 & 24.8 (recent witness photo on Colorado Birding Society's website: 

Later I would take GPS waypoints and found that the ducks had swum in both Logan and Sedgwick Counties!

Originally, I had reported only two White-winged Scoters.  Winds were 20+ miles and waves were quite high.  After examining my photos, I had captured all three White-winged Scoters in two of the shots!

At sunset, the fields south of the Reservoir were watched.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

After dinner in Sterling, I returned to Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).  A walk between Eastern sections 1 to 8 found one Eastern Screech-Owl!

November 17

I camped at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan), woke up to 21 degrees.  First, I hiked west sections 1 & 2, reversed and continued east to section 8.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found in 1 West and later 2 East sections. The most active birding was between sections 6 East and 8 East.  Two Field Sparrows were in the 7 East windbreak while a Harris's Sparrow was found in the 6 East windbreak.

No warblers or vireos were encountered.  Several Lapland Longspurs were on the main road as I drove to the Tamarack Pond area.  Nothing uncommon was encountered there.

A return to nearby Jumbo Reservoir found the three White-winged Scoters still north of CR 1 & 24.8, although the Scoters were farther away from shore today and too far for photos.

No birds were found at Duck Creek Wildlife Area (north of Crook).  Brush Wildlife Area (Morgan) was more interesting, in spite of more than half a dozen duck hunters lining the Lake and S. Platte River.

To avoid the hunters, I walked west from the Lake and found a Red-bellied Woodpecker on the north side of the Platte River.  GPS stated the woodpecker was 1461 feet west of the fence along the west side of the Lake. 

Another 142 feet west, a flock of sparrows on the south side of the Platte River contained nine Song Sparrows, fourteen American Tree Sparrows and a Harris's Sparrow.

A brief detour to North Sterling Reservoir (Logan) found few birds and nothing uncommon.  My trek then resumed toward Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).

I stopped at Riverside Park Nature Trails (formerly Morgan Ponds.  A birder had just finished her two mile loop of the trails where she had found two Eastern Bluebirds and an Eastern Screech-Owl.  Jane was nice enough to take me back to the Eastern Screech-Owl; during the walk, we saw the Eastern Bluebirds!

Finally I reached Jackson Reservoir (Morgan), however did stop at Bijou Creek and Highway 144.  It is one of the most reliable spots to find a Wilson's Snipe in Colorado; one Snipe walked just below the south side of the bridge.  Regrettably, my American Woodcock search continued unsuccessfully.

Jackson Reservoir was scoped three times from the north side Wildlife Area and five times from the west (Lakeside Campgrounds).  The previously reported Long-tailed Ducks were not found.  I also did not find the Harris's Sparrow reported awhile back at Morgan CR CC & 4.  The lack of sparrows anywhere at the Park was surprising.

Eventually I found three Long-eared Owls along the west side of the Lake.  Two were in an area that most birders would not think to look.  The days of 11-14 Long-eared Owls wintering are most likely over.  I will no longer list exact locations; the park is overrun with people, just too busy and a disturbance to the owls. 

Perhaps additional owls will return once cold weather discourages people from camping.  Yet, additional campsites and new trails through the west side riparian area may dishearten Long-eared Owl from wintering here.

At the end of the day, the plan was to park at the northwestern Campgrounds and wait for dusk, perhaps seeing Short-eared Owls hunt over the open fields.  Unfortunately, the Campgrounds were closed to cars for the season.  It was too far to walk over a hill to view the open fields.

Instead, I parked along the west side of Andrick Ponds Wildlife Area (Morgan CR 2) and walked along the cattail fields hoping for a Swamp Sparrow or Marsh Wren.  Neither was found and no Short-eared Owls appeared over the Wildlife Area this trip.

I drove to Fort Morgan for dinner and a motel stay.  Two nights camping in the cold and without a shower was too much.

November 18

Went to Prewitt Reservoir this morning and found hundreds of gulls on a narrow strip of land at the inlet area.  One dusky brown Gull with a slightly hooked bill caught my attention.  After long looks, it was determined to be a first year Laughing Gull.

Note: I had not noticed at the time.  While studying photos later during lunch, I noticed that an adult Mew Gull was standing less than ten feet from the Laughing Gull.

Then I hiked the dam, it was 25 degrees at 7:00 am.  Once I got moving, it warmed up nicely.  A few interesting birds were moving around.

I drew arrows in the dirt on the dam trail for anyone trying to look for the birds.  A Red-headed Woodpecker flew below the dam.  It stayed approximately 3-4 yards north of the edge of the woods.

Continuing south, I found a Surf Scoter at the next arrow.  The duck was approximately 30 yards south of the dam.  While the other birds were in Washington County, the scoter swam from Logan County to Washington County.

The third arrow marks the location of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Originally, it was in cottonwoods in Logan County.  Eventually it flew south into Washington County.

I did run into an Eastern Screech-Owl sunning itself in Logan County!

On the way back, I circled the riparian area west of the outlet canal.  Six American Tree Sparrows and two Song Sparrows were just about all there.  Two Lapland Longspurs flew up from the short grasses to the north.

On the trip back to Denver, I stopped at several Wildlife Areas along the Platte River and searched for an American Woodcocks; none was found.  Stops included Atwood, Dune Ridge, Knudson, Messix, Elliott, and Jean K. Tool Wildlife Areas.

Nothing stood out at any of the six Wildlife Areas.  Most of the late afternoon was spent at Jean K. Tool Wildlife Area.  The Rufous-crowned Sparrow reported back in September was not found.  The resident Eastern Screech-Owl was not out today.

Missed target birds included American Woodcocks and Short-eared Owls.  Uncommon birds found included Savannah Sparrows (Yuma & Logan Counties), Lincoln's Sparrow (Morgan), Swamp Sparrow (private land, Morgan), my first Rough-legged Hawk of season along hwy 138 (Logan), second Rough-legged Hawk (Washington), Ferruginous Hawks (Yuma, Logan, Washington Counties), Long-eared Owl (Logan) and two Wilson's Snipes (Logan, Morgan).

It was quite an enjoyable three days with weather in the 60s, sunshine, good friends and great bird walks!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Aurora Reservoir Area

November 15, 2019

Richard Stevens:

After staying up most of last night (owling), I got a late start on the birding day.  Rebecca and I drove to Aurora Reservoir around 1:00 pm.   

A group of gulls beneath the lower parking area pavilion included an Iceland Gull (Thayer's), two Herring Gulls and hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls.  We examined the gulls for almost an hour; no Mew Gull was among them.

The only other group on shore was near mile 4.5.  Too far away for most IDs, we could pick out an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  

Few waterfowl were on the Lake today.  We did see nine Western Grebes in one cluster.

We hiked to the Lake from the West Dam parking area.  Several hundred geese, including one Greater White-fronted Goose stood on the shore at the southern end of the dam.

One Common Loon swam along the scuba beach.  Most gulls standing on the northwest corner of the dam were Ring-billed with a few California Gulls.

We hiked part of the Pronghorn Open Space (north of Aurora Reservoir) searching unsuccessfully for a Swamp Sparrow in the large cattail fields.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

A 24 hour Birding Day

November 14, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Okay perhaps I am a crazy birder.  Today I found two akin!  We departed Denver around 4:00 am.  Stops at several of the Campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road (Park County, from Grant side) did not uncover any owls.  If any Northern Saw-whet Owls were still around, they were not enticed by our recordings.

Once at the Summit, we scoped the 603 and Rosalie Trails and found two White-tailed Ptarmigan near the intersection.  Later, we found another five birds along the trail to the lake below the main parking area.

Continuing north, Guanella Pass Campgrounds yielded few birds.  Two Pine Grosbeaks (pair) were spotted.  No American Three-toed Woodpeckers could be located.

We reversed our trek and ended up at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson County).  An American Three-toed Woodpecker was finally run into just downhill (north) of the intersection of the Parkview and Strawberry Jack trails.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl called briefly near the rocks about 400 yards south of the intersection.  It went quiet before we could put binoculars on it.  The Park closes at sunset and we had to retreat to our SUV and leave.

The experience was the same at nearby Reynolds Park.  It was now dark.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard near the main parking area and the Songbird Trail.  Again, we did not see it.

The trip was about to end when I mentioned that Flammulated Owls could possibly still be around Wellington Lake.  The Lake was not far away and we headed for it.  Regrettably, no owls were found.  Perhaps they had migrated south for the year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rocky Mountain Arsenal

November 13, 2019

Richard Stevens:

My brother drove up from Arizona and I took him to see the Bison and deer at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Adams County).  The day was cooler than yesterday with a high of 54 degrees; still it was a nice fall day.

The low number of birds at the Arsenal is not surprising anymore.  We did see two adult and two juvenile Bald Eagles.

The highlight was the continuing Lesser Black-backed Gull at Lake Ladora.  Most of Colorado's common ducks swan on Lower Derby Lake.  Two Long-billed Dowitchers walked along the shore at the island in the middle of the Lake.

Adams County Birding

November 12, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High today was a warm 64 degrees.  Winds stayed 4-5 mph.

What a stunning fall day in Colorado.  I was considering the day a throw-away- day, no planned searches for uncommon birds, just relish leisure hiking.

I did stop at Ken Mitchell Park and Open Space.  It had been three days and a snowstorm since a Northern Mockingbird was reported.  I walked from the southeastern parking area at Mockingbird Lane along the South Platte River Trail to Highway 7.

Highlight was a Northern Shrike at the northern corner of the Park.  It stayed near the yard of the green house on the corner and the bushes across the trail.

Next at Barr Lake (Adams), I decided to focus on the canal below the dam.  I walked the dam from mile 6 to 7 and then dropped down to the canal.  While scoping the Lake from the southern end of the dam, I saw a Pacific Loon and Common Loon swimming west of the boat ramp.

The canal below the dam was quite interesting although no uncommon birds were encountered.  A flock of birds near blind #4 included six Black-capped Chickadees and four Song Sparrows.  

While watching a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (late?) in the same area, a Golden-crowned Kinglet popped out of the Russian Olive trees.  I had not seen a Golden-crowned Kinglet at Barr Lake since a flock of 11 fluttered around the banding station on 10/23/2001.

A Virginia Rail walked out of the cattails along the stream near blind #5.  A Wilson's Snipe flew up near outlet canal #4a (nowhere near blind #4).

One Long-eared Owl was found buried deep in thickets.  It was not along the main canal but thickets to the east.

Success tonight, after a dozen misses. a Short-eared Owl was observed flying along Third Creek, south of 104th avenue.  I was parked along West Cargo Road about 0.2 miles south of its intersection with Third Creek.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Birding Around Denver After A Snowstorm

November 11, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today reached a nippy 24 degrees.  Winds ranged from 9 to 12 mph with several gusts at 22 mph.

I left for Chatfield State Park (Jefferson/Douglas) around 4:30 am to beat traffic.  Target birds during a drive up and down Deer Creek Canyon Road were Northern Pygmy-Owl or Short-eared Owl; neither found this trip.

I scoped Chatfield Reservoir from above the dam.  Target birds were any Murrelets; none was found.

The two White-winged Scoters were swimming off the south marina.  Nothing else uncommon was found.

The Black Scoter was found when I scoped Bear Creek Lake (Jefferson).  Again, no other uncommon birds were found.

A brief stop at South Platte Park (Arapahoe) did not find the Nashville Warbler reported yesterday.  Perhaps last night's snowstorm encouraged it to move on to warmer places.

I took the toll road to Aurora Reservoir (Arapahoe).  Again, most gulls were at the shores of mile 2.0 or 4.5.  I could pick out an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at mile 2.0 (from lower parking area pavilion).  Gulls were too far away to identify a Mew Gull (previously reported).

My final stop of the day was Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  I found a strange looking sparrow with a flock of American Tree Sparrows (14) along the Lake Loop at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

The face appeared similar to an adult Chipping Sparrow (gray face, blackish eye line, white supercilium) but had characteristics of an American Tree Sparrow (bicolor bill, rufous patch on sides, isolated dark spot on chest).

I spent an hour trying to photograph the bird.  My seven or eight photos were blurry because of fading light.  It seemed that every time the flock came down to the Lake Loop road, a car would come by.

I checked the "Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World" and found no mention of a Chipping Sparrow/American Tree Sparrow hybrid.  Their breeding grounds are quite far apart.  It was interesting how many times Chipping Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Brewer's Sparrows and Field Sparrow interbred.

Will do additional research later.  The Yellow-billed Loon, one Common Loon and two Bonaparte's Gulls continue.  Dozens of American White Pelicans, a few Double-crested Cormorants, many Horned & Eared Grebes (no Red-necked Grebe) and Western Grebes are also still there. 

Since it was getting late anyway, I stayed around until after sunset to look for owls.  I found one Long-eared Owl, no Barn Owls.