Sunday, May 26, 2019

Trip to Eastern Colorado Plains

May 23 to 25, 2019

Richard Stevens:

May 23

High temperature in Sterling was 50 degrees.  Winds were 11-12 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

Thankfully, I started out for Fort Collins at 2:00 am. I could not imagine what any rush hour traffic would be.  The 50-mile drive was completely a construction zone.  I knew Interstate 25 would not be on my return trip.

There was light snow for about the last 30 miles. Once at Fort Collins it turned to rain.  I arrived well before sunrise and chose to walk along CR 64/CR 3.  

A Long-eared Owl called from the windbreak along CR 3.  Great Horned Owls called from the ranger's home and the private home to the southwest.  Regrettably, no Short-eared Owl was observed at civil twilight.

The Common Gallinule did not show up in the two hours spent at the Schware Unit of the Wellington Wildlife Area (Larimer).  It rained the whole time.

I detoured to the Cobb Lake unit of the Wellington Wildlife Area and walked around in the rain.  Not knowing which parking area the Chestnut-sided Warbler was reported I started with the southern one.

No Chestnut-sided Warbler was around; however, the area was quite birdy.  The highlight was a Gray-cheeked Thrush under the trees just west of the parking area.  

A hike down the windbreak and then at the eastern windbreak found a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Spotted Towhee, two Yellow-rumped Warblers, four Swainson's Thrushes and many Robins.

The eastern parking area had few if any birds.  Later I was told that this was where the Chestnut-sided Warbler had spent several days.

A walk down to the lake from the northern parking area added many birds to my day list.  Two Great-tailed Grackles squawked from the cattails.  Several dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers flew around the northern windbreak.  A pair of Great Horned Owls perched in the most eastern tree in the windbreak.

I continued around the Lake and spent an hour exploring the western trees, no Chestnut-sided Warbler.

A return to Schware Unit was a success.  The Common Gallinule was under the tall willow in the western half of the pond.  Other birds included one Pied-billed Grebe, half a dozen Yellow-headed Blackbirds, many Red-winged Blackbirds, nine Wilson's Phalaropes and many ducks including the three species of teal.

From there I drove east toward Crow Valley Campgrounds (Weld).  Stops at traditional listed Mountain Plover locations did not find any.  One was eventually found at an undisclosed nesting area.

Both McCown's Longspurs and Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found along Weld County Road 96, east of CR 69.

Migration appears to be late at Crow Valley Campgrounds.  Only a few uncommon birds were encountered.  These included two Plumbeous Vireos; they hang around the group picnic area each year.

A Red-eyed Vireo was along the western border at campsite 10.  A Veery and Gray-cheeked Thrush were south of the pavilion.  Other birds included 89 Swainson's Thrushes, four Gray Catbirds and three Brown Thrashers.

Having exhausted the bird sightings at Crow Valley Campground I continued east.  My plan was to get to the north side of North Sterling Reservoir (Logan) thirty minutes before dark.  I hoped that the Sharp-tailed Grouse reported a week ago could be relocated.

With plenty of time, I circled Sterling.  At least an hour was spent at each of the following Parks.

A Green Heron walked the banks of the South Platte River at Overland Park (east side of Sterling).  Along the trail and stream, I found a Northern Waterthrush, a Least Flycatcher and a male Baltimore Oriole.

Pioneer Park (west side of Sterling) added a Veery, another Least Flycatcher, a Gray Flycatcher, and young American Redstart to my day list.

A male Baltimore Oriole was flying around the picnic area south of the Lake.  Many sparrows, the least common being Savannah Sparrow flew around here.

Finally, I drove Logan County Roads 58 and 13.  Unfortunately, no Sharp-tailed Grouse were found.  It was quite an enjoyable day on the northeastern plains in spite of the rain.

May 24

High temperature at Crook was 73 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts in the afternoon of 16 mph.

I consider this one of my top five best birding days.  In all 16 miles were hiked at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan County).  The east side is 6.8 miles long (13.6 round trip).  The west side is a little over a mile long. 

Birds encountered on the west side of Highway 55 included in no particular order:

Eastern Towhee, although some state that any Eastern Towhees in Colorado are hybrids.  It sounded and looked like an Eastern Towhee.

Three Red-bellied Woodpeckers, one or two Bell's Vireos, a Tennessee Warbler and several Spotted Towhees added.

Then it was time to "get down to business with the approximately 14 mile hike down the east side.  It was quite enjoyable with sightings found.

Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, only one Red-headed Woodpecker, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher and Great Crested Flycatcher.

Vireos included Blue-headed Vireo (best although the Bell's Vireo was good also) and Red-eyed Vireo.

Warblers included two Nashville Warblers, one Tennessee Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler (best find), Virginia's Warbler, two MacGillivray's Warblers, and only six Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Rest: Gray-cheeked Thrush, one Hermit Thrush, many Swainson's Thrushes, one Eastern Bluebird, and many Robins.

Sparrows: White-crowned, two Field, one Grasshopper, two Cassin's, many Lark Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows.

Male Northern Cardinal and Baltimore Oriole finished my list.

At dusk, I returned to 6 & 7 East Sections.  One Eastern Screech-Owl called.

May 25

High temperature in Sterling was 75 degrees with winds 11-12 mph.

My plan was to be at Duck Creek Wildlife Area (Logan) at civil twilight.  One Upland Sandpiper stood on a fence post as I drove to the parking area.

It was not birdy today.  Highlights included two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Veery and many Swainson's Thrushes. A Great Horned Owl called toward the eastern side of the property.  Another owl flew out of the northern windbreak.  I was not able to identify it as Short-eared or Long-eared.

I had obligations at DIA Airport and returned to Denver.  Before picking up my friends who arrived at 10:00 pm, I decided to try for the Hooded Warbler at Main Reservoir (Jefferson).

I would arrive at 1:00 pm and stayed until almost 7:00 pm.  The Hooded Warbler was observed by three groups near the stream not far from the southern parking area.  Two groups reported it 400 yards father west.  I thought that was quite a distance of the bird to move.

Finally, I caught glimpses of the male Hooded Warbler flying from south to north and later back across the path at 5:17 pm.  I would stay until 7:00 pm hoping for a photograph, which did not happen.

No comments: