Monday, September 16, 2019

Barr Lake & Cherry Creek Reservoir

September 16, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperature was 65 degrees at 7:00 am; it soared to 77 degrees by 10:00 am.  Winds were7-8 mph with gusts to 13 mph by the time I left at 10:00 am.

I returned to Barr Lake (Adams) because of the report of White-rumped Sandpipers on 9/15 & 9/16.  I had been at the same location on 9/15 and captured photos.  On my photos, the dark centers of the Baird's Sandpipers clearly show dark centers.

Today I encountered no sandpipers on the trek between mile 6 (north side of the dam) to mile 5.  Saturday's Lesser Black-backed Gull was not around either.  It may have been on the southern side of the Lake, which I did not visit.

Late in the afternoon, I visited Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  One of the juvenile Sabine's Gulls flew around the eastern end.  It started to rain before the second one was located.

Additional interesting birds included 60+ swallows at the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands Pond.  They included two Cliff Swallows, two Violet-green Swallows and many Barn Swallows.

One additional observation: There were half a dozen California Gulls with various degrees of mantle color.  One was rather dark; even so, yet another was as dark as a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  The Gull had dense streaking on nape (not around eye as would be expected on a Lesser Black-backed Gull).  It had yellow legs and black and red on its bill.  This appears to be a bird that has returned for the last six years.  Either a dark mantled California Gull or some type of hybrid, would be my assessment. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Brief Stop at Cherry Creek Reservoir

September 15, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Hot temperatures returned with a high of 90 degrees.  Winds were 8-9 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

On the way to dinner, Rebecca and I stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  We spotted the two Sabine's Gulls that have been around since Friday (9/13).  They flew around the southeastern end of the Lake eventually landing off Pelican Point.

Few birds other than Black-billed Magpies were encountered.  Two Vesper Sparrows were on the road at the Lake Loop drive.  A couple of Snowy Egrets stood on the willows at the Cottonwood Creek Wetlands.  Hundreds of American White Pelicans stood at the southeastern corner of the lake.

Trek At Barr Lake

September 14, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High in the afternoon at Barr Lake (Adams) was 89 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 16 mph.  It was hot along the sunny shore with no shade.

I spent the afternoon (2:00 pm to 6:00 pm) stretching and resting my legs on the flat trails at Barr Lake (Adams).

The southern side of the lake was not birdy.  A Cassin's Vireo (banded) turned up at the north end of banding station peninsula.  Three thrushes were observed under the cottonwoods and willows at the western end of the Niedrach Boardwalk trail.

One Hermit Thrush and one Swainson's Thrush were definitely identified.  The third thrush was quite interesting.  It appeared to be a Gray-cheeked Thrush, which would be utterly uncommon for fall.  However, Barr Lake and Adams County has a 10/8/2018 sighting and the First Creek Trail (Adams) has a 9/30/2018 sighting.  Photos taken and will end up on the Colorado Birding Society's website soon.

No shorebirds were found along the southern shore.  Meanwhile hundreds American White Pelican stood on the island off the banding station.  The only gulls seemed to be hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls.

With the lack of shorebirds, I resolved to try the northern shore.  Ultimately I would traipse the northern shore from mile 6.0 (north end of the dam) to mile 4.0.  On the return, I hiked the main Barr Lake trail near the railroad tracks.

On the drive along Lark Bunting Lane to the Northern parking area near the old stone house, a Burrowing Owl was spotted south of the road in one of the prairie dog towns.

The only non-Killdeer shorebirds found were six Baird's Sandpipers.  A young Bald Eagle and a Red-tailed Hawk stood in snags near mile 5.4.  Another young Bald Eagle was feeding on a dead carp at mile 5.0.

A few Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Herons lined the shore.  The Killdeer count was 18 walking around the Smartweed (pinkish flowers all over the shore).

A dark mantled Gull at mile 4 turned out to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Several Franklin's Gulls and many Ring-billed Gulls were in the same area.

Now walking back along the main trail I ran into a male Great-tailed Grackle and male Yellow-headed Blackbird around the pond north of the railroad tracks near mile 4.9.

Final interesting bird was a Townsend's Warbler in the cottonwoods at mile 5.3.  A House Wren, four Yellow-throated Warblers, two Black-capped Chickadees, a White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-breasted Nuthatch were also here!

No owls appeared along the DIA Owl Loop at sunset.

Abyss Lake

September 13-14, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperatures were a cool 65 degrees in the mountains.  Winds were 12-13 mph with gusts to 19 mph.

This summer appears to be one to visit areas always on my plans however I never found time to frequent.  Today I started a two day hike to Abyss Lake (Clear Creek).  It is approximately 17 miles round trip.  Any detours would add additional time.  The trail is not one I would like to take for just one day.

The lake is located below Mt Bierstadt and Mt Evans.  It is reached from the Scott Gomer creek trail.  After 6 or 7 miles the Rosalie Trail, which skirts the unnamed hill at the southeast corner of Guanella Pass, meets the Scott Gomer.

More information on the trip will be in October's "Colorado Field Notes".  

Noteworthy birds encountered included two White-tailed Ptarmigan, four American Three-toed Woodpeckers, two Fox Sparrows (Slate-colored), three Brewer's Sparrows (possible Timberline) and many Chipping Sparrows.

Regrettably, no owls were found either day.

Guanella Pass & Campgrounds

September 12, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was a great escape from the heat with a high temperature of 55 degrees in Bailey.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 15 mph.

Two hours before midnight I set up my "owl listening stations" at Whiteside Campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road (Grant side).  Two Northern Saw-whet Owls eventually landed in trees around the campsite.

I was not tired so continued to Burning Bear Campgrounds (also Park County).  After playing owl recordings for less than 30 seconds, a Northern Pygmy-Owl returned the call!

In the morning, I drove up toward Guanella Pass.  The distinctive drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker was heard across from the entrance to Duck Lake.  A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was observed flying from pine to pine on the east side of the road!

A hike up the south side of the unnamed hill at the southeast corner of the Summit found an adult female and young White-tailed Ptarmigan wandering 20 yards below the top of the hill.

I continued over the hill to the parking area and decided to take the Square Top Mountain trail.  Target birds were additional White-tailed Ptarmigan or perhaps a Black Swift.  Neither was found; however, I did find a nice Slate-colored Fox Sparrow and two Wilson's Warblers.

Birds found at the Guanella Pass Campgrounds included yet another American Three-toed Woodpecker, Wilson's Warblers, a male MacGillivray's Warbler, a singing Hermit Thrush and a small flock of four Red Crossbills.

No owls were found after dark.

Wellington Lake and Jefferson County

September 11, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature at Wellington was 60 degrees.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

I left Denver a little after sunset to search for owls along CR 560 (Jefferson).  Eventually three Flammulated Owls and one Northern Pygmy-Owl were heard all before midnight.  Only one Flammulated Owl was observed.  Too many birders have been in the area in the past month.  I did not want to disturb the owls any more than has already occurred (registering for fall counts).

While camping another Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard near the Campground at Wellington Lake.  After sunrise, two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found while I hiked around Wellington Lake.

Later I hiked into the Pike National Forest (Pine Valley Ranch Park, Jefferson) by way of CR 550.  A male American Three-toed Woodpecker was found feeding a young male.  Western Bluebirds, one Cordilleran Flycatcher, and many Chipping Sparrows were also counted.

Late in the afternoon, I visited a friend who lives in Bailey (Park).  He has had visits from several large hummingbirds over the years.  Today Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds and a Calliope Hummingbird visited his feeders.

Blue-throated Hummingbird: 7/2/2014
Rivoli's Hummingbird: 7/22/2017

After dark, we hiked roads around Bailey.  None was found.  However, while sitting back at his house and playing my "owl listening stations", a Northern Saw-whet Owl was enticed into flying in.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ken Caryl Valley & Sand Creek Birds

September 10, 2019

Richard Stevens:

I spent the morning assembling a Ken Caryl Valley birding club.  Several of my friends have recently been turned onto birding, which allowed great access for me and other non-residents to an area restricted to residents.

Today we hiked about 1.2 miles (one way) along the Massey Draw Trail.  Highlights included a late sighting of a Bullock's Oriole and a Cassin's Vireo!

Later, I stopped at Sand Creek for another look and possible photo op of the Groove-billed Ani.  Today at 2:00 pm, the Ani was quite far east of yesterday's location near Akron & 37th street.

To find the bird today, I parked at Florence Way and Dayton Circle, and then walked northeast to Sand Creek.  The bird stayed in an 18-foot willow along the north side of the Creek.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sand Creek & First Creek

Setember 9, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature today was 83 degrees.  Winds were 4-5 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

After taking care of business in downtown Denver, we detoured over to Sand Creek (Denver County).  The Groove-billed Ani was again below the southern trail (100 yards east of the RF building).

For the majority of the time it stayed in willows below the path (37th avenue & Akron).  It called several times and flew about 40 yards to the west.  Then once again, it buried in streamside willows.

We decided to drive the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Drive.  Few birds were encountered; it was the hottest part of the day.

The few highlights included a male Lark Bunting at mile 8 near 88th avenue and Havana Street, a Sage Thrasher in the field north of the Contact Station (old Visitor's Center), two Lark Sparrows at the new Visitor's Center and several small flocks of Vesper Sparrows.

I concluded my birding day back at the First Creek Trail (Adams).  Another sighting of Saturday's mystery sparrow was not expected.  Its identification is still up in the air and photos were sent off to a friend in Texas.

Nothing uncommon was found on the hike.  The Northern Waterthrush was not relocated when I searched both the north and south sides of First Creek.

No owls were found along the DIA Owl Loop on my drive home.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Groove-billed Ani along Sand Creek

September 8, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was only a cool 79 degrees today.  Winds were 6-7 mph.  The thunderstorm at 5:00 pm brought winds of 42 mph to Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Early in the morning, Terry Michaels and I explored a Varied Thrush report at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).  It was reported near Pelican Campgrounds.  We did not find it.

We did count a Townsend's Warbler, two Spotted Towhees, one Long-eared Owl and a Cassin's Vireo all from the Campgrounds.

Our plans were to continue to Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington) and look for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  A text message altered those plans.

Our next stop, Sand Creek (Denver) where many birders got descent looks at the Groove-billed Ani.  When accepted it will be the fourth Colorado State Record.

photos at the photo library:

Late in the afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I went to check on a Common Tern report at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  It was raining quite heavily by the time we arrived.  Winds were 42 mph, visibility possibly 10 yards.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

East of DIA and the First Creek Trail

September 7, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached 89 degrees today.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 11 mph in the morning.

Terry Michaels wanted to hunt for Cassin's Sparrows so we drove the gravel roads east of DIA Airport this morning.  

It is always the last place you look (of course because your done).  We checked Hudson Road (9/5 bird) and then 104th avenue and Box Elder Creek (9/6 bird) before finding a Cassin's Sparrow along Umpire Road just south of 104th Avenue.

None of the Red-headed Woodpeckers reported last spring was relocated.  Raptors included a Great Horned Owl, two Ferruginous Hawks, two Swainson's Hawks and a Red-tailed Hawk.

After I dropped Terry off, I drove to the First Creek Trail.  Winds were strange.  The Denver County half had winds of 7-8 mph while the Adams County trail was calm.

The Gray Flycatcher reported this morning by John Breitsch was not relocated.  I only detected one "empidonax" flycatcher in Adams County.  The bird was in the cottonwoods along the road running north from the Pond near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal border.  A Say's Phoebe was in the same tree.

A strange sparrow popped out of the tall grasses northeast of the same Pond.  It was small, rather flat headed, square tailed and its face looked like that of a Baird's Sparrow.  I was able to watch it for twenty seconds or so (and get one photo) before it dropped back down into the grasses.  

If it was a Grasshopper Sparrow, it had to be a juvenile.  However, the dark lateral throat stripe was strong.  I could not see if it had rufous tinged streaks on its flanks.  The breast streaks were well defined.  It may have been a juvenile Baird's Sparrow.  Will look at photos tomorrow.

Other birds encountered along the trail included two Blue Jays, four Barn Swallows, three Vesper Sparrows, fourteen Chipping Sparrows and two Lark Sparrows.

The Lark Sparrows were still in the same location on my return trip about 1.5 hours later.  They were south of the trail and over a clearing (pool of water, open area between cattail fields) about 50 yards west of the Adams County trailhead.

While trying to take of photo of the two birds there was motion along First Creek.  It turned out to be a Northern Waterthrush.  The bird walked along a grassy area on the south side of the creek (north side has tall cattails).

Eventually the bird hopped across the Creek and into the cattails.  I hurriedly circled round by way of Buckley Road to the south side of the Creek.  The Northern Waterthrush could be seen walking among the cattails.  Unfortunately, my camera would not focus through the cattails and on the bird.

The Barn Owl that nested in the owl box we constructed last year is gone.  She fledged three owlets this summer!

No Short-eared Owls or Burrowing Owl were found this evening along the DIA Owl Loop as I drove home.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Avoiding a Thunderstorm and Hail

September 6, 2019

Richard Stevens:

High temperature was a "cool" 84 degrees.  Winds before the late afternoon thunderstorm were 8-9 mph.  Gusts during the storm reached 30 mph. 

After doing chores I was tempted to drive back down to the Walker Gravel Pond for another look at the egrets there.  Yesterday I relocated the three Snowy Egret s first seen on September 2 (Monday).

Fortunately several reporters of the Little Blue Heron appear to have retracted their identification.  

I say fortunately because a thunderstorm with hail hit Parker and Franktown just about the time I would have been arriving at the Walker Pond (just west of Franktown).

At least I finished many chores today!

I did take a brief drive east of Denver International Airport searching for the Cassin's Sparrow reported yesterday; none was found.

Then I checked on the Red-headed Woodpecker at Box Elder Creek and 104th Avenue, not there.  A Cassin's Sparrow was observed just west of the Creek and south of 104th.

Misses In Elbert & Douglas Counties

September 5, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was a hot one today; highs reached 98 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph.

I returned to Kiowa (Elbert) to search for Dickcissels.  While there appears to be much adequate habitat, Dickcissels have been uncommon in Elbert County this year.  None was found today at the previously reported fields.

A report of a Little Blue Heron changed my route back to Denver to the Walker Gravel Pond (Douglas).

Three egrets were on the far side (northern) side of the pond.  I scoped them for almost an hour until they walked the shore and showed their yellow feet.  All three were Snowy Egrets; probably the same three observed on Monday, September 2.

The Common Loon, which has been reported since June 22, was still around.  His flight feathers are looking much better than they appeared several weeks ago.

Then I drove over to nearby McClain Gravel Pond and walked up and down Castlewood Canyon Road.  In order to see the pond from the road it required peeking over the hillside between the road and pond.

Only one egret was observed.  It took a good twenty minutes before the Snowy Egret flew and revealed its yellow feet.

Afterwards I visited a friend who lives west of Castlewood Canyon State Park.  We set up my two "owl listening stations" and sat watching the sunset and listening to sounds of the night.

No Northern Saw-whet Owls were heard of seen this night.

Searching for a Few Target Birds for an Iowa Birder

September 3-4, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Iowa birder, Jan Nolan and I searched for several of his target birds.

September 3

High temperature in Idaho Springs was a pleasant 55 degrees and much cooler at Mt. Evans!  Winds were 15-16 mph.

We arrived at Mt. Evans just after sunrise and continued to Summit Lake (Clear Creek).

Two Brown-capped Rosy Finches landed several times on the rocky hillside at the northwest corner of Summit Lake.  It is one of the most reliable spots to find them in summer.

It took almost two hours of walking the field east of the Summit Lake parking lot before finding White-tailed Ptarmigan.  Two birds hunkered down behind a large granite rock.  Their summer plumage matches the rock quite well.

We hiked the Echo Lake Campgrounds twice before hearing the distinctive drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker.  A male drummed at the southeast corner!

A female Barrow's Goldeneye and several young swam on Echo Lake.  A Green-tailed Towhee and Lincoln's Sparrow were in the northwest willows.

NOTE: Mt Evans is now closed just north of Summit Lake.  Access to the Lake should be open until the first weekend in October.

A search below tree line did not find any Dusky Grouse.  No owls responded to our recordings played around the Campgrounds and Echo Lake.

September 4

Highs reached into the low 90s.  Winds were 7-8 mph.

Today Jan Nolan and I went to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) looking for a Long-eared Owl.  Regrettably, none was found.  We did find a Townsend's Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Still looking for our target bird, we headed to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan).  Another Townsend's Warbler and a Long-eared Owl were encountered here!

Birding In Douglas County

September 2, 2019

Richard Stevens:

A new record high for September was set today as highs reached 100 degrees!  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 16 mph.

Rebecca Kosten and I had some business in Parker.  Afterwards we continued to the Walker Gravel Pond (Douglas).

The Common Loon continued swimming around mostly in the middle of the pond.  Three Snowy Egrets walked the shore.  Twelve Double-crested Cormorants (no Neotropic Cormorant) stood on a small island at the southeast corner.

No hummingbirds were found at the only feeder at the Castlewood Canyon State Park Visitor's Center.  Later circling around to the west side, nothing uncommon was found.  Bobolinks appear to have departed the Winkler Ranch south of the State Park.

Highlight, but a small one, a female and one young Wild Turkey walked along Castlewood Canyon Road between the Ranch and southern entrance to the State Park.

Search for a Little Blue Heron

September 1, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was a hot 98 degrees on this memorial day.  Winds 5-6 mph with gusts to 11 mph.

Rebecca and I headed to Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area (Adams) after a report of a Little Blue Heron.  We circled the Wildlife Area and all the ponds however found not one heron.

We ran into an Arizona birder looking for Clay-colored Sparrows.  I suggested Clear Creek Valley Park on the north side of I76 (it was once considered part of Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area).

Rebecca and I headed over that way and circled the park on the new hiking path (much nicer than the many times I had to bushwhack along the south fence line).

We counted thirty one Snowy Egrets, no Little Blue Heron.  As a side note, we found three Clay-colored Sparrows at the southeast corner of the most western pond!

Return to Denver

August 31, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was 91 degrees when I reached Broomfield.  Winds were 4-5 mph.

On the drive south on Interstate 25, I detoured over to Plaster Reservoir (Broomfield).  The previously reported American Bittern was almost hidden in the cattails.

I stopped at Barr Lake (Adams) to stretch my legs after the long drive.  In the afternoon heat, few birds moved about.  Highlight was a Philadelphia Vireo at the north end of the peninsula at the banding station.  I was able to watch the vireo for a good six minutes!

No shorebirds were along the shore off the Niedrach Trail today; so I circled over the north side.  The peninsula had not quite turned into an island yet because of high water.  The north side of the peninsula is often the best spot for shorebirds.

Scoping the peninsula from the north side of Barr Lake did not reveal any uncommon shorebirds.  A large number of shorebirds were walking the shore near mile 4.5.  Included in this group were the Black-bellied Plover in alternate plumage still, two Least Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Baird's Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and one Greater Yellowlegs.

The sun set before I could explore below the dam.

Escaping the Heat, Birding In the Mountains

August 28-31, 2019

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures ranged between 77-79 degrees during our trip.  This was warm for the mountains; however much nicer than back in Denver.  Surprisingly, winds ranged between 6-8 mph; quite calm for the mountains.

August 28

Terry Michaels and I headed up to Jackson County in pursuit of the Red Phalarope reported at Cowdrey Lake.  

We stopped at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area (Larimer) found nothing uncommon.  

After dark, we counted four Flammulated Owls along CR 44!

August 29

Jacob Washburn had met us in Gould.  He had seen the phalaropes yesterday.  Unfortunately, when we drove to Cowdrey Lake in the afternoon, the phalaropes were gone.

On the drive to Cowdrey Lake we drove Jackson County Roads 26 & 26b searching for Greater Sage-Grouse; none was found.

The male American Three-toed Woodpecker was heard and seen north of the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center and Hwy 14.  Behind the Visitor's Center: Wilson's Warblers, Fox Sparrows, and a Canada Jay.

No Boreal Owls could be located at Cameron Pass or the Crags Campgrounds.  Winds were quite fast this night.

August 30

Jacob Washburn, Terry Michaels and I headed to Buffalo Pass (Routt) today.  We enjoyed a superb day and night of birding.

Our bird count included five American Three-toed Woodpeckers, one Dusky Grouse, a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers and two Flammulated Owls.

Misses: our main target bird(s) was White-winged Crossbill; none was found.

August 31

The three of us drove up Laramie River Road two hours or so before sunrise.  Again, no Boreal Owls called at Cameron Pass (Jackson).

Target bird(s): traditionally uncommon large hummingbirds are found at the Campgrounds in late August.  Regrettably, none was found today.  No White-winged Crossbills to report either.

We did hear a Boreal Owl north of Chambers Lake (Larimer).  A pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a Townsend's Warbler was observed at Browns Park Campgrounds.

On the return trip, an American Three-toed Woodpecker was relocated along the east side of Chambers Lake.

Terry returned to Denver with Jacob (by way of Cowdrey Lake and Silverthorne while I headed east through Fort Collins.

Slow Birding in Eastern Arapahoe County

August 27, 2019

Richard Stevens:

It was an unusual cool day with a high of only 78 degrees (quite pleasant).  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 16 mph.

Drove around Arapahoe County today, I found a Cassin's Kingbird along CR 42, east of CR 161.  No Loggerhead Shrikes were along CR 161, south of CR 42. 

Birding was quite slow.