Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Larimer County Birding 2/28

I spent 4 hours looking for interesting birds before I had to go to work. The first two hours was going around southeast Loveland area. I found a Cooper's Hawk on the west side of Cooper's Hawk. A Merlin at Lon Hagler Reservoir. Both of those were photographed.
                                                       Cooper's Hawk



At Dry Creek Reservoir there were a lot of geese and very few ducks. Looking through the geese I was able to find 2 'Taverner's' Cackling Geese and 1 Ross's X Cackling Goose Hybrid, which is the first time I have seen this hybrid combination. It was smaller than the 'Richardson's' Cackling Geese it was with with a mostly white head and a very small pink and black bill. Then after the first 2 hours I went to Lake Loveland and then Horseshoe Lake there were very few birds at both locations and all the gulls I saw were Ring-billed Gulls. I then was able to photograph a couple Bald Eagles at Donath Reservoir.
                                                       Bald Eagle

                                                        Bald Eagle

Duck Lake is finally getting some open water with about half the lake open and quite a few ducks were present including over 30 Canvasback. Kechter Pit had a lot of birds also, but still can't find anything of interest here. Timnath Reservoir had a turnover. I was not able to find the Tundra Swan, Long-tailed Duck, or Mountain Bluebirds. There were more small grebes present including 4 Eared Grebes. I also saw a number of Northern Shovelers of which I didn't have yesterday either. I didn't many interesting birds, but it was still exciting.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Timnath Reservoir Lunch Break and After Work Fossil Creek 2/27

I decided to make another Timnath Reservoir trip on my lunch break as my break was during daylight hours and no wind. I found that it was almost all open water with a lot of birds, most of them on the other side of the lake. I ended up getting all the regular diving ducks and most of the dabbling. The best bird I found on the lake was a LONG-TAILED DUCK on the north side of the reservoir, so to far away to get any photos. The most interesting thing about this bird was that it was the 6th Long-tailed Duck I have seen this month and all in Larimer County, I don't even think I have ever seen 6 Long-tailed Ducks in Larimer County in one year. I then drove around to the east side and as I was driving up towards the outlet area I saw a large white bird flying east to west over the road. I quickly get up to where I can see it as it lands. Turns out it is an adult Tundra Swan, although it was quite a ways away. It had a short neck, very little black going up to the eye making it where you could see the eye, and even better was a small yellow spot towards the base of the bill. Luckily I was able to get a photo that is barely identifiable.
                                                      Tundra Swan

I then decided to do a quick drive around the northeast side of the lake and I happened upon a couple of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS (134) along with a small flock of Horned Larks. I also got a digiscoped shot of one of the birds.
                                                   Mountain Bluebird

Then after I got off work I made a quick stop at Kechter Pit where I saw quite a few birds, but nothing interesting. On my way to Fossil Creek I made another quick stop at Swede Lake (PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING). I again saw a lot of birds. I was surprised with the large numbers of gulls, which totaled over 500, but interesting enough was all but one of those gulls were Ring-billed Gulls and the one odd ball was an adult THAYER'S GULL. I then met up with Cade Cropper at Fossil Creek. Here was also a ton of birds, including most of the diving ducks and a lot of dabbling ducks. The best birds we saw were 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, several Horned Grebes, and 1 Pied-billed Grebe, but I saw all of those species the last time I was there, which was when I found the Long-tailed Duck.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another Trip to Estes Park 2/15

I met up with Scott Rashid to go looking for Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. Scott has a friend that has both of these birds, so a trip up there would happen. When we pulled up there were a lot of birds around, but no grosbeaks. I was able to get some photos of a Hairy Woodpecker though.
                                                  Hairy Woodpecker

After waiting about 5 minutes we found a Evening Grosbeak (133) sitting in a tree behind the house. We ended up seeing 11 Evening Grosbeaks and they were going back and forth from the first tree to the feeder. We were not able to find any Pine Grosbeaks while we were there, but we were able to see one of my favorite birds with the Evening Grosbeaks.
                                                   Evening Grosbeak

                                                     Evening Grosbeak

                                               White-breasted Nuthatch

Then we decided to go on a hike at Cow Creek to try for other mountain birds I still need for the year. Unfortunately I didn't though. We did have some interesting birds though including Brown Creeper and Hairy Woodpecker. Overall was a fun day and I ended up with one year bird.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Snowy Valentine's Owl 2/14

Yesterday, Dave Leatherman told me about a Snowy Owl he had found on the Pawnee National Grasslands. After I had lunch with some friends I convinced my friend Stefan Nash to join me on a ride out to try to find it. By the time we got out there I realized I only had about 30 minutes to search for it before I had to go back to get to work on time. I decided to drive a loop around the area it had been reported from earlier in the morning while making stops every quarter mile to scan for it in the area. On our last stop quarter mile stop we could make before getting to where we started I spotted the juvenile Snowy Owl in the field about a half mile away sitting on the ground. I told Stefan, "I got it" and he replied "no you don't". I then took out my scope and got Stefan on the bird. I quickly waved to the other birder that was out there and got him on the bird also. We watched the Snowy Owl for about 15 minutes before we left and only got to work 5 minutes late. I kept two pictures of the bird, one was a picture I took with my Canon XSi with my new 50-500mm Sigma Lens. The other picture I took was with was by digiscoping through my Swarovski spotting scope with my iPhone 4. It was a very exciting afternoon for such a depressing day for single people. 
                                                        Snowy Owl

                                                         Snowy Owl

Monday, February 13, 2012

Third day to try for Varied Thrush 2/13

I joined Cheri Orwig today to try to find a life bird for her with a Varied Thrush. The best place to see one right now is driving up to Steve and Kathy Martin's house to try to see the bird I found there two days ago. We got there a little after 8 this morning. Just after 8:30 I heard a excited call of a bird and saw it drop out of a tree, this was the Varied Thrush and it gave a call I had never heard before, but I don't have much experience with this species. It took another 5 minutes to find the bird, but after we did we were able to watch it for 5 minutes in a small tree. I also got a decent picture of it, despite the bird being half way across the yard. 
                                                      Varied Thrush

We then decided to try to find Cheri another life bird, a Lapland Longspur. We went back to the Feedlot north of Wellington where I had several yesterday. Here we refound several large flocks of Horned Larks in the area which totaled more than 500 birds. We eventually got a great but brief view of a Lapland Longspur on the ground. We also watched and heard several more flying around. Unfortunately for the second day in a row I wasn't able to get any photographs of any. 

Wellington Area 2/12

Cade Cropper and I set out to try to refind the Varied Thrush this morning at the Martin's House. We arrived to a slow yard and I a guessing some kind of raptor was around. It took about 20 minutes and we started hearing a 'Chup' call. I then quickly found it and got Cade on the bird as well. Unfortunately I didn't get a very good picture of it, but here is the best. There is a Great Horned Owl nesting close to the house and at 9:30 in the morning, which is about 10 minutes before we found the Varied Thrush we heard one of the owls calling.
                                                      Varied Thrush

Cade then asked if we could try to see the White-throated Sparrow and we got permission to go inside to wait for the sparrow. After about a 15 minute wait the sparrow came in and we got great looks at it and some good photo ops. Just like yesterday, there were a lot of birds around.
                                               White-throated Sparrow

                                                 White-crowned Sparrow

                                                     House Sparrow

                                                   American Goldfinch

We were at the Martin's house a little more than an hour, but we saw both birds we were chasing. We then went to the feed lot northeast of Wellington to look for large flocks of Horned Larks in hopes to find Lapland Longspurs. We weren't disappointed. We quickly picked up on large numbers of Horned Larks landing behind some houses and got out our scopes to look at them closer. We quickly found a couple Lapland Longspurs (132) and eventually heard and saw a number of them flying over. While driving out of the area we found a Prairie Falcon sitting on a power pole and got great looks at it.
                                                       Prairie Falcon

Finally we drove to the Wellington State Wildlife area to look for Long-eared Owls. Our one stop where I had three in January didn't produce any Long-eared Owls, but we were still able to find 1 Great Horned Owl and 1 Barn Owl.
Overall a good morning of birding with seeing 3 out of 4 birds we were trying to find and Cade got saw two life birds.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Martin's House in Wellington 2/11

I had sent an email last night to Steve and Kathy Martin about a going to try to see a White-throated Sparrow sometime soon that Nick Komar told me was wintering at their house. This morning I received an email back saying that I could go look whenever I would like as long as they are home. Then, a couple hours later I got another email from them saying that in the snowy weather that it has been around most of the morning and now would be a good time to try to see it. So, I called them right after I got the email and headed over. I got there around 12:30 in the afternoon. They invited me inside their house to sit on their couch waiting for it to show up and about 10 minutes later I saw the White-throated Sparrow (130). It stuck around for a while giving good looks and great photo opportunities. There were also a lot of common birds coming to their feeders in the backyard. I was inside watching the feeders for about 40 minutes and the White-throated Sparrow was visible for almost half of that time.
                                                White-throated Sparrow

                                                White-throated Sparrow

                                                  White-throated Sparrow

                                                White-crowned Sparrow

                                                     Northern Flicker

My plan was to hurry up to the feed lot a little ways northeast of Wellington to look for Lapland Longspurs before I had to hurry for work, but when I left the house I decided to look and listen for anything interesting and in particular listen for a Yellow-rumped Warbler that I was told has been around all winter. After about 45 seconds I heard a familiar call that I just couldn't place. As I was looking in the direction of where the call was coming from I saw a bird sitting still in a tree. I quickly realized it was a female VARIED THRUSH (131). I ran back to their front door to tell them about this wonderful find and then realized I didn't get any pictures of it. They both came outside to look for it and I was hoping to get to see it again for two reasons. One was so they could see it and they other was to get documentation through photographs. We stood and walked around outside for about 10 minutes and then Steve said he had to go do something quickly inside and not 30 seconds after he walked away I heard the heavy 'chup' coming into a set of large leaveless trees. I quickly spotted it and immediately started taking pictures and trying to get Kathy on the bird. Eventually she got good looks and I got good photos. Then the battery on my camera died and about 5 seconds later it flew north the the neighbors house. About 2 minutes later Steve came back out and we told him that we saw it again.
                                                       Varied Thrush

                                                      Varied Thrush

I am not sure if anyone saw the bird again at all during the day or even if anyone looked for it. Thank you Steve and Kathy Martin for letting me come to your house and the great hospitality today. It was a great joy getting the chance to visit your yard and hear your exciting stories.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

GULLS plus a full day of birding 2/9

Tom Thompson and I did half a day of birding in NE Larimer County. We first started by stopping every mile looking for Snowy Owl, Lapland Longspur, or anything else of interest that we could find. Our route was a breeding bird route I made up last summer. We didn't have to much of interest, but the best birds include 1 Merlin, 1 Prairie Falcon, and 1 Ferruginous Hawk.
                                                  Black-billed Magpie

While on our way to Hamilton Reservoir we found 1 Golden Eagle and 2 Ferruginous Hawks on County Road 9. At Hamilton Reservoir we refound the 3 Long-tailed Ducks, but didn't see anything else of interest. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't an American Black Duck, Mexican Duck, or Mottled Duck there as there are thousands of Mallards around, but most are to far away to identify. A stop at North Poudre #3 had a Snow Goose with a large flock of white-cheeked geese. At Douglas Reservoir we found a Northern Shrike.
We then decided to drive around Long Pond looking for waxwings. We found a large flock of Cedars, but couldn't locate any Bohemians. We then tried to find a White-throated Sparrow in Bellvue, but failed on that.
We then drove out to Fossil Creek Reservoir where it was full of birds. The best bird I found was a Long-tailed Duck for the 4th of the day and the 5th different Long-tailed Duck I have seen in Larimer County so far this month. A few other birds of excitement was 1 Snow Goose, 25 Horned Grebes, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, and 30 Gadwall.
                                                    Long-tailed Duck

                                                      Long-tailed Duck

                                                     Pied-billed Grebe

                                                      Northern Pintail

A stop at Horseshoe Lake revealed the lake was still all frozen except for a small opening in the ice in the middle of the lake. The only bird in the water was a Common Merganser, but it was some birds on the edge of the ice I was more interested in. Ten gulls were standing on the ice and I realized 8 of them were adult Herring Gulls. The best bird was an adult ICELAND GULL, which is only the second adult I have ever seen. The other bird turned out to be a delayed first winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was probably the same bird that was seen in Loveland in mid-December and also seen at the beginning of January at Pueblo Reservoir. We then went looking for more gulls at Lake Loveland. From the swim beach I was able to see there was some open water on the southwest side of the lake, so we drove to the south end of the lake. Here we found 3 Thayer's Gulls (1 1st winter, 1 2nd winter, and 1 adult) and 2 1st winter Glaucous Gulls. At this point in time I dropped Tom off at his car.
I continued on to the Cattail Pond area. The only bird of interest was the Trumpeter Swan at Cattail Pond, which has not been at this location the last 2 days. I then talked to Cade Cropper and Nick Komar about the gulls. Nick was in a meeting, but Cade and I decided to meet back at Horseshoe Lake to look for the Iceland Gull. When we arrived at Horseshoe we quickly realized there was no gulls here. So, we decided to head to Lake Loveland and this is where the fun started.
On the south side of Lake Loveland I found 2 Horned Grebes and 4 Hooded Merganser, but the gulls were even more exciting. We were able to find not 2, but now 3 juvenile Glaucous Gulls. We also found 3 1st winter Thayer's Gulls and an adult, but couldn't find the 2nd winter. This makes 5 different Thayer's Gulls at this location this afternoon. We then saw 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (1 delayed 1st year, 1 2nd winter, and 1 adult). I then noticed the adult Iceland Gull sleeping behind a Herring Gull as I was only able to see the wingtips. When the Herring Gull moved we were finally able to get a great look at it. Shortly after all the gulls took off and flew towards the southwest. I called Nick and as I was calling he was just leaving work. I told him we should meet at Kmart and head to Carter Lake for the gull roost and Cade had to go home.
Nick and I got to Carter Lake and found 2 different flocks of birds. The close flock only had Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, but the other flock had a lot of birds of interest. We were able to find the 3 juvenile Glaucous Gulls that I watched fly from Lake Loveland, but then we found an adult Glaucous Gull. I was able to find 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and we were only able to positively ID 1 Thayer's Gulls, but we saw several probable birds. We never positively saw the adult Iceland Gull either. The best bird that we found was a bird first spotted by Nick and then team work to get all the field marks with a 1st year GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL that was close to one of the young Glaucous Gulls.
This was a special day for me with gulls as this was only the 2nd adult Iceland Gull I have ever seen and I saw it at two different lakes. I have only seen 1 adult Glaucous Gull in Larimer County before this one and it is the first time I have ever seen 4 Glaucous Gulls at one location. Also, this is only the 3rd Glaucous-winged Gull I have ever seen in Larimer County and the second was an adult at the same location in January.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Timnath Reservoir and Loveland 2/8

On my lunch break at noon I decided to head over to Timnath Reservoir. There was a little bit of open water on the north side and to my surprise a lot of birds which included 100 Mallards, 45 Northern Pintail, 40 Common Goldeneye, 25 Common Mergansers, 24 Redheads, 4 Green-winged Teal, and 3 Ring-necked Ducks. Then I came across the flock of geese in which the approximate numbers were 2200 Cackling Geese, 250 Canada Geese, and 1 Ross's Goose. I would guess there was more interesting geese in the flock, but they were to far away to do much with.
This was just the beginning of the fun. As I drove around towards the northeast side of the lake I was noticing large numbers of fairly common birds. These included 320 Horned Larks, 115 Eurasian Collared-Doves, 36 Western Meadowlarks, 45 House Sparrows, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, and 2 Northern Harriers among others. I then found a Prairie Falcon sitting on a large telephone post and the best was a calling Swamp Sparrow (129) in the marsh along the northeast side of the reservoir. It isn't the first time I have had one at this location, but it is the first time in a couple of years. The biggest surprise was there was that I wasn't able to find a Lapland Longspur in with the large numbers of Horned Larks, although I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few out there. To bad I only had a one hour lunch break as I could have spent a couple more hours out there trying to find something else of interest.
On my way home from work I decided to try to find anything around the Cattail Pond area and I was successful. Ryan's Gulch again had large numbers of Ring-necked Ducks and Canvasback. While scanning the ducks at Cattail Pond I started hearing a bird calling in the cattails, I quickly knew what it was, a second Swamp Sparrow for the day. Unfortunately, the Trumpeter Swan was missing for the second day in a row. Perhaps this time it has really moved on, but only time will tell. Bud Mielke Reservoir keeps getting more open water and with it more birds are moving in, but nothing of interest. 
It was a very exciting day for the little time I was able to spend outdoors.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Loveland 2/7

I decided to check lakes around the Loveland area today. I was surprised to find out the Donath Reservoir, Horseshoe Lake, Boyd Lake, and Lake Loveland was frozen. When I got to Ryan's Gulch Reservoir it still had a bunch of open water with a lot of birds, but nothing new. Cattail Pond was also open and a lot more open than yesterday. Here the Trumpeter Swan was gone as was all the Canvasback and the Gadwall.
                                                   American Wigeon

Bud Mielke Reservoir had more open water than I have seen it so far this year. I then went to Lon Hagler and there was a little bit of open water, but the only birds I could find was 3 Ring-billed Gulls.
On my way towards my house I decided to stop by the feeders at Nadine Ct. There was a ton of birds at this location, but I couldn't find anything of interest. I was able to get some good photos though.
                                                          Blue Jay

                                                         Blue Jay

                                                       Song Sparrow

                                                 Eurasian Collared-Dove

The last stop was at Connie Kogler's House to try to see the Harris's Sparrow. After a long 40 minute wait while watching the good numbers of birds I finally spotted the Harris's Sparrow fly into a shrub. It stayed for about 3 minutes while I was able to take quite a few pictures. Thank you for letting me visit your house again Connie.
                                                     Harris's Sparrow

                                                      Harris's Sparrow

                                                     Harris's Sparrow

                                                American Tree Sparrow

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mountain Finches and SW Loveland Lakes 2/6

I met up with Cheri Orwig and Cade Cropper to go to Ellen Wride's house to look for Rosy-Finches. When we  were just about to arrive at Ellen's house on the mountain north of Masonville we noticed a bunch of birds on the telephone wire. ROSY-FINCHES, sweet. All the birds that we could identify on the wire was Black Rosy-Finches (126), but they quickly dropped down to her house. As we arrived the large flock of about 80 birds took off. They quickly came back and we noticed a bunch of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches (127) in with the Blacks. As we were watching I noticed a female Brown-capped Rosy-Finch sitting on the roof of her house, but it quickly dropped down to the deck and disappear. I then picked out a male Brown-capped and it to dropped out of sight and we never saw any Brown-capped again. Of the Rosy-Finches there were about 40 Blacks, 40 Gray-crowned, and 2 Brown-capped. A few other interesting birds present were all the Colorado subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos and Cassin's Finches. On the way down the best bird we found was a Northern Shrike.
                                                      Black Rosy-Finch

                                                      Black Rosy-Finch

                                         'Hepburns' Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

                                                 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

                                                        Cassin's Finch

                                                        Cassin's Finch

                                                     Dark-eyed Junco

                                                    Dark-eyed Junco

                                                       Dark-eyed Junco

                                                    Northern Shrike

After we got back to our cars we went our separate ways. I went straight towards Lon Hagler Reservoir where I found a bunch of gulls sleeping on the ice. Lots of Ring-billed Gulls and Herring Gulls, but a few others include a 'Nelson's Gull' which is a hybrid between a Herring and Glaucous, 1 2nd year Lesser Black-backed Gull, and 2 adult Thayer's Gull. I called Cade and he came to look.
                                     Nelson's Gull (Herring x Glaucous Hybrid)

We then went towards Hertha Reservoir and we found a few Horned Larks as we were pulling out. Then there was Dry Creek Reservoir where we found very little water with a small number of birds, but it was exciting. Here we had 3 Eared Grebes, 4 Bufflehead, and 1 Lesser Scaup with a number of Redheads and American Coots. The Eared Grebes were perhaps the same 3 we had on the Loveland CBC on Jan. 1 at Carter Lake, which is just up the hill from Dry Creek.
                                                        Horned Lark

                                                       Eared Grebe

                                                        Eared Grebe

We then went to Cattail Pond where there were still lots of birds with the best being the Trumpeter Swan and a male Gadwall. At Ryan's Gulch Reservoir the numbers keep going up, but I think a lot of these are birds moving over from Cattail Pond including most of the Ring-necked Ducks and Canvasback.