Thursday, May 9, 2019

Birding On a Rainy Spring Day

May 8, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was a rainy day off and on.  High temperature may have reached 52 degrees; however, it never felt that warm.  Winds were 11-12 mph most of the day.  They reached 25 mph when the rainstorms moved in.

I circled the southern ponds at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) and found many birds.  Highlights were a Palm Warbler at the Pond 3 eastern windbreak and a Black-and-white Warbler at the Pond 2 western windbreak.  A Barn Owl flew out of the western border windbreak.

It was not possible to cross the canal to bird the large windbreak on the western side.

Other birds encountered included many sparrows (Chipping, Brewer's, Lark, Vesper, White-crowned and a Grasshopper Sparrow being the best), Spotted Towhees, one Green-tailed Towhee, Bullock's Orioles, Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Bushtits, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, one Hairy Woodpecker, Killdeer, one Greater Yellowlegs, one Broad-tailed Hummingbird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warblers and several House Wrens.

Back at the CoBus office, I picked up Sue Ehlmann.  We had to decide to chase the Piping Plover at Clear Creek Valley Park or the Field Sparrow at Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Terrible traffic made the choice for us; driving across town would have been a nightmare.

When we arrived at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe), numerous sparrows were along the entrance road to the Lake Loop.  Sparrows were similar to my Banner Lakes Wildlife Area experience (Lark, Vesper, Brewer's and Chipping Sparrows.  Two additions included a Savannah Sparrow at the entrance.

When we drove the Lake Loop, four Clay-colored Sparrows were searching for food at the northern eastern gravel parking areas!

When we returned to the flock along Lake View Road, Sue pointed out the Field Sparrow reported earlier in the day.

A downpour started when we arrived at the Smoky Hill Picnic area and we decided to leave.  Did not hear until much later about the Piping Plover and Semipalmated Plover on the swim beach.

One additional observation that I am reluctant to report except to a limited number of friends.  Hopefully they will confirm.  When we passed the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands Pond we stopped to scope for Green Herons.

It was getting dark at 7:00 pm, although sunset would have been 8:00 pm.  Rain was coming down quite rapidly.  We noticed a 14-15 inch bird perched on a cattail (past the first span of water).  

It is not often that a bird stumps me.  We stood in the rain for 20 minutes watching a bird that we could not identify.  Finally it turned its head and showed a long pointed bill, a little longer than its head.  Head appeared lighter than the darker (likely rusty colored breast).  Its flanks were barred white and black.  In the rain and limited light we could not determine how thick/dark the bars were.

After 20 minutes the bird jumped down into the cattails.  Could we have seen a 14-15 inch Rail?  The bird was too big to be a Virginia Rail as it was definitely bigger than a foot ruler.  Did we see a King Rail or Clapper Rail?  There are two reports of King Rail presently in Colorado.  While there are no Clapper Rail records in Colorado, there are two King Rail records (6/12/1976 & 5/23/1985).

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