Saturday, March 31, 2012


While scanning Double-crested Cormorants on the north side of the reservoir (from the SW corner) I noticed a cormorant flying with a long tail, as long as the rest of the body. Then it landed in a tree and it appeared a lot smaller than the other birds around it. I assumed it was just the distance and it was possibly a Neotropic, but no way to tell for sure. After scanning the SW corner of the reservoir I went to the NE side. From there I noticed a bunch of DCCO swimming in the reservoir. The fifth bird I saw after starting to carefully scan appeared quite a bit smaller. So, I went through the other birds quickly and didn't see anything else that looked that small, so I knew this was a good sign. When I got back to the small bird I started looking at it more carefully. I noticed it had a very small head and also a very small bill. Right about that time I noticed some of the birds around it was biting it. Then they started chasing it while swimming. It then turned and went to the back side of the flock of cormorants and it disappeared from my sight, mostly because it was smaller than the other birds. I am assuming that it was the same bird I saw from both locations, but can't be certain, although it appeared like it was the same bird.
Geese numbers were way down today as there was only about a thousand instead of five thousand. I saw 7 Western Grebes, which are now starting to show up and I heard them call a few times also. A few other birds of interest were 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Franklin's Gulls.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Not many interesting birds, but some interesting sightings 3/29

I birded the SW Loveland area again. The most interesting bird was Say's Phoebe and I had one at three different locations: Lonetree Reservoir, Hertha Reservoir, and Dry Creek Reservoir.
                                                      Say's Phoebe

While at Dry Creek Reservoir I watched and photographed a Bald Eagle attacking American Coot on the water. Every time the eagle would swoop down the coots would all dive. The eagle did eventually plunge in the water, but didn't come up with anything. After about 8 minutes of watching this the eagle then went down and picked up a very worn out coot off the top of the water and flew off with it in its grasp. I have seen this several times before, but this was the first time I have been able to photograph it.
                                                        Bald Eagle

                                                        Bald Eagle

                                                        Bald Eagle

                                                        Bald Eagle

Then on my way back home I noticed an Osprey sitting on a power pole right next to the road eating a fish, so I pulled over and got some great photos of the bird.




Then in the afternoon I ran up to Drake to try to find anything of interest. Unfortunately it was very quiet and didn't end up with very many species. I did end up seeing a Wild Turkey and an American Dipper. I tried for White-throated Swift in many places, but ended up empty handed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gulling on 3/27

I met up with Nick Komar early in the morning trying to find the strange dark mantled gull. We met at Lake Loveland to find no interesting gulls present. We then went over to Horseshoe Lake with few gulls and none of interest we quickly continued to Boyd Lake. At Boyd there were a decent number of gulls on the swim beach. We were able to find an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull mixed in with the Ring-billed and California Gulls. This was an interesting Lesser Black-backed Gull as the mantle color was one of the lightest I have ever seen for this species and it almost makes one wonder if it could have been a hybrid, but no field marks could make us think that. We then went by Donath Lake to find no gulls there either. Another quick stop produced 6 Ring-billed and 2 Herring Gulls at Robert Benson Lake. We then went to the Landfill and asked at the main office if we could go in. A little wait and they decided to let us. Here we found hundreds of gulls. There were a ton of Ring-billed and California Gulls. Other gulls we saw were 3 Franklin's, 2 Herring, 2 Thayer's, and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. While driving on Namaqua Road heading towards the Cattail Pond area I saw 2 Osprey (156) sitting on the nest platform right next to the road. Just as I was about to leave after photographing them I looked up and there was a Turkey Vulture (157) flying over Namaqua Park. In the Cattail Pond area I couldn't find anything of interest.
On my way to work I made a quick stop at Kechter Pit. The only shorebird I could find was Killdeer. I wasn't able to find any of the Blue-winged Teal, but there was a Cinnamon Teal. In the Ring-billed and Herring Gull flock I was able to find 4 Franklin's Gulls, 1 Thayer's Gull, and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Timnath Reservoir and Kechter Pit on 3/25 and 3/26

Yesterday, 3/25, on my lunch break I went back to Timnath Reservoir. As I was pulling up I saw an American White Pelican (148) swimming on the northeast side of reservoir, I eventually saw 4 others flying around. It was a great day to be at Timnath Reservoir as there was no heat waves and very light wind. As I saw 3 Snow Geese mixed in with the thousands of Cackling and Canada Geese. Then just as I finished scanning through all the geese I heard some birds flying over that I knew right away, American Pipit (149). As they slowly flew over I was able to find 10 pipits. Then a few minutes later I heard the most unexpected bird of the day. A singing Green-tailed Towhee (150) sang several times. With getting the towhee I am now half way to my goal for the year. At Timnath I was able to identify 35 species with some of the other interesting being a Virginia Rail, 2 Greater Scaup, 34 Canvasback, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, and 35 Horned Grebes.
After work I made a quick stop at Kechter Pit. Shortly after I got there a Wilson's Snipe (151) started calling in the cattails. Out of all the birds there I was only able to find one other bird of interest in a Greater Yellowlegs (152).
Just at dusk I made a quick stop at Boedecker Reservoir. I was able to find a flock of 18 Franklin's Gulls and also saw 2 Hooded Mergansers.
Today, 3/26, while standing outside of my house in SW Loveland in the morning I heard a small flock of Sandhill Cranes flying over, unfortunately I couldn't see them. I then met up with Cade Cropper at Timnath Reservoir. On my drive I from my house in Loveland to Timnath Reservoir I counted 17 Red-tailed Hawks, a Ferruginous Hawk, and a Golden Ealge. Just as I had pulled up to the reservoir Hillary Williams got out of her car and came over to join us. I quickly found a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye by the dam. Unfortunately the wind had starting to pick up and quickly became very windy. After careful scanning I was able to find a male Blue-winged Teal (153) in with a small group of Lesser Scaup. Two Cinnamon Teal were in a small pond on the east side of County Line Road by Timnath Reservoir. The only other birds of interest today was 4 Snow Geese, 1 unidentified white goose (my thought was Ross's, but to far away to be sure with the wind), and 9 Double-crested Cormorants.
Then the three of us went back over to Kechter Pit. It was another amazing day at this location. While scanning I found a group of 5 American Avocets (154) and then found 2 more a few minutes later. While scanning the gulls I quickly found a 1st year Lesser Black-backed Gull and a 1st year Thayer's Gull. Then when I got back to the Avocet flock I found a Greater Yellowlegs. Also, when I got to the location that had the 2 Avocets I found another yet another Greater Yellowlegs and standing beside it was a Lesser Yellowlegs (155). On the water we were also able to find all three species of teal (Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon). The last stop of the day was a newly made pond on the south side of east Horsetooth Road, it is east of Ziegler Road. There were quite a few gulls mixed in with a large group of Common Mergansers. The most interesting gull was a washed out 1st year Thayer's Gull and a 3rd year (?) Lesser Black-backed Gull.
All in all it has been a great two days with 8 year birds and lots of other exciting birds.
While in Greeley I saw one new Colorado year bird with a Turkey Vulture and 3 Mute Swans, which are non-countable species for Colorado as they are assumed to be released birds.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wellington Trip Including 2 More Year Birds 3/22

I decided to drive the 25 mile route that I made last year. I have decided to try to drive this route once a month this year. I found one area of about two miles that was loaded with birds. This area was just east of the Feed Lot north of Wellington. Here I was able to find over 9,000 Red-winged Blackbirds. With the Red-wings I saw at least 450 European Starlings, 5 Common Grackles, and 3 Yellow-headed Blackbirds (146). After the route I stopped at several lakes in the area. I was surprised with seeing Red-breasted Mergansers at almost every location. On the way back to Loveland I stopped by Kechter Pit. This location in still a hot spot. While looking through the Ring-billed and Herring Gulls I found a single Franklin's Gull (147). The last good bird of the day was the Trumpeter Swan still at Duck Lake. Unfortunately with all the driving I wasn't able to find anything rare or unusual, just a few species that that is starting to come back for the summer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two More Larimer Year Birds plus Swan and Swallow 3/21

On my lunch break I again birded Timnath Reservoir. While scanning the reservoir I noticed there was total turnover since the last time I was there. Looking through the large numbers of Cackling Geese and small numbers of Canada Geese I found 5 Snow Geese, 1 Ross's Goose, and 1 Greater White-fronted Goose. I found 4 Double-crested Cormorants (144) standing in the trees close to the large numbers of empty cormorant nests. A few other birds of interest that I saw in the area was 1 female Barrow's Goldeneye, 5 male Red-breasted Mergansers, and 1 Tree Swallow.
After work I went to Kechter Pit. This was another hot spot today. I saw the best bird just as I got back in my car to leave and I saw a sparrow fly by. This bird turned out to be a Vesper Sparrow (145). It is the earliest Vesper Sparrow I have ever seen in Colorado and according to ebird it is the earliest ever observed in Larimer County.
I then was on my way to meet Cade Cropper at Horseshoe Lake and on the way I made a quick stop at Duck Lake. There I found yet another Trumpeter Swan. There were just less than a hundred ducks on the lake, but I was still amazed by the number of Canvasback as they totaled almost half of the ducks on the lake as there was 42 present. As I met up with Cade we checked the lakes of the area: Horseshoe, Donath, and Boyd Lakes. The most interesting bird was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in the 300ish gulls we could identify. We then found at least twice as many gulls on the south side of the reservoir, but they were way to far away to get any field marks on any of the birds. I am thinking this is another spot where they roost as there haven't been nearly as many birds showing up at the Lake Loveland roost as was seen here. Our last stop was the roost at Lake Loveland and the only interesting gull was a Thayer's Gull.
Cade informed me that he saw the Western -like- Gull again yesterday afternoon at Lake Loveland and all the field marks he saw fits perfect for Western Gull.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Loveland Sandhill Cranes plus Tree Swallows 3/19

I made a plan to go looking for Sandhill Cranes today before work. My plan was to check the Cattail Pond area and then go up to the Wellington area which is the best area I know of for Sandhill Cranes in Larimer County. I checked Lon Hagler Reservoir and found 3 Herring Gulls. As I was just pulling off the road at Bud Mielke Reservoir I saw 2 hawks flying in the distance. Just as I was identifying them as Red-tailed Hawks I saw 2 long legged birds flying behind them. I quickly pulled out my scope and they were indeed 2 Sandhill Cranes (142). I wasn't able to find anything else of interest in the Cattail Pond area. I decided against still going up to Wellington because of the wind.
Just before I got to work I made a quick stop at Kechter Pit. Just as I was pulling up I spotted 2 swallows flying around the area, which I was quickly able to identify as Tree Swallows (143). The only other birds of interest were 4 Hooded Mergansers that continue at that location.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gulls, Passerines, and a Guided 1 Day Tour 3/17 and 3/18

After unsuccessfully chasing an Eastern Phoebe along the Big Thompson River and a Sage Sparrow in Bellvue on 3/16 I decided to start the day of 3/17 at the Big Thompson River trying again for the Eastern Phoebe. My first stop of the day (3/17) was at Boedecker Reservoir. The most interesting bird out there was an adult Trumpeter Swan. Then off to the Big Thompson Bike Trail.
I arrived at the Big Thompson River on Wilson Avenue at 7:10 AM. I got out of my car with only one other car in the parking lot and started walking towards the phoebe location when I spotted a sparrow pushing up towards the top of Rabbitbrush. In a very brief view I noticed an eye ring, streaked breast, a gray head, and a brown body. It then flew across Wilson Ave and I then noticed a black tail with a little bit of white on each side of the tail. This was a Sage Sparrow (140). Several people have looked for it since and unfortunately have not been able to find it. When I was getting close to the location of the phoebe I heard it start singing and did it ever. I quickly found it and started getting photographs. During the 10 minutes of observation it sang the entire time. This is the earliest Eastern Phoebe (141) I have ever seen in Colorado and it is the earliest ever in Larimer County. This was a great find Elaine Coley.
                                                    Eastern Phoebe

                                                   Eastern Phoebe

I then had to quickly leave as I was leading a water bird tour for the Fort Collins Audubon and had to meet in Fort Collins. The trip turned out well. We stopped at several locations in 4 different counties and saw 53 species of birds. Some of the highlights included a Franklin's Gull, 5 American White Pelicans, 1 Double-crested Cormorant, 1 dark phase Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle sitting on the nest, Hooded Merganser (species 50 for the day), and my favorite of the day was actually a mammal - Mink.
                                                   Red-tailed Hawk

After the trip I busted over to Lake Loveland to see the gulls come in to roost. A quick scan quickly produced a very interesting dark backed gull. After watching it in flight I noticed bright pink legs. With a dark back and pink legs it rules out most species of gulls and the only gulls I know of that it can be is Western Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, or a hybrid. Cade Cropper showed up minutes after I lost it while it was flying around, but after searching for 5 minutes Cade refound sitting back on the water. We carefully watched it and noticed other features on the bird. It was slightly smaller next to the Lesser Black-backed Gull it was sitting next to, but it was a large Lesser Black-backed Gull as it was the same size as the Herring Gulls. It was also one or two shades lighter than the Lesser Black-backed also. The back color was the same shade of black as Colorado's first Western Gull which showed up on June 1, 2011 at Chatfield Reservoir and stayed for a couple of weeks. Photos I took of Colorado's first Western Gull can be seen at and The Loveland bird had a fairly heavy bill and an all white head. Looking carefully at it in flight we never saw any 'string of pearls' on the primaries and it had quite a bit of black on the primaries which eliminates Slaty-backed Gull. Also, after careful study we noticed a mostly white P9 primary feather, which with the P9, the bulky shape, and everything else I mentioned this makes for good odds that it is a Western Gull. I was not able to see the eye color or the iris color (ring around the eye). If after doing more research and this turns out to be a Western Gull then it would be Larimer County year bird 142 and it would be a first Lairmer County record. While watching the probable Western Gull we saw a large gull, actually the largest gull on the lake. This gull turned out to be an adult Glaucous-winged Gull. The primaries appeared to be about the same color as the back (if it wasn't it was only 1 or 2 shades darker than the back). It had a gray back, a very large bill, and a lot of markings on the head. Yet another gull of interest was a very pale gull, which while it was facing towards us appeared to be an Iceland Gull, but then it turned and had black primaries. This gull turned out to be a very bleached Thayer's Gull, which was 1 of 4 Thayer's Gulls we ended up seeing.

On 3/18 I decided to start the day at Lake Loveland hoping to find any of these interesting gulls. When I got there at first light I realized there was only about 20 gulls present. Of these there was 1 adult Thayer's Gull, 3 California Gulls, and all the rest was Ring-billed Gulls. Stops at other locations around Loveland produced the same results. At dusk I met up with Nick Komar to watch the gulls again at Lake Loveland. Only about half of the gulls arrived as was here the night before. We could only locate one gull of interest and it was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Winter Wren Chase 3/15

On my lunch break I again went to Timnath Reservoir. I wasn't able to find anything of interest though. The highlights included a couple butterflies (Mourning Cloak and some type of white, my thoughts are Western White), a Coyote, and some photographs of a Horned Lark.
                                                       Horned Lark

                                                       Horned Lark

After work I went to Prospect Ponds looking for a Winter Wren that Kevin Cook told me about. On my walk to the location I saw several Dark-eyed Juncos and Brewer's Blackbirds.
                                                   Brewer's Blackbird

The wren did not respond to playback at all, not coming in or calling back. I then saw several chickadees in the area and decided to play the mobbing tape that I have and the chickadees came in. After I stopped playing the tape I was able to hear an Eastern Screech-Owl responding from the far side on the Poudre River and what was that. Yes, indeed it is the Winter Wren (139) calling. I only heard it call about 4 or 5 times, but that is plenty to be sure it was a Winter Wren and not a Song Sparrow. I also got a couple pictures of the chickadees.
                                                 Black-capped Chickadee

                                                 Black-capped Chickadee

On the walk back out I was able to see several Killdeer in the area and also get a photo.

I checked out the Southwest Loveland area. Highlights included a Cinnamon Teal at Boedecker Reservoir, 3 Eared Grebes at Dry Creek Reservoir, and that was about it for the highlights.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Second Week of March

I haven't posted for a while, but have still been doing quite a bit of birding. I have been seeing the Trumpeter Swan at both Cattail Pond and Ryan's Gulch Reservoir. The Hooded Merganser x Common Goldeneye Hybrid has still been hanging out at Bud Mielke Reservoir. The only new year bird for me was an adult Peregrine Falcon (138) that had a rabbit in its claws being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk at Bonnell Drive Pond. I have been seeing Red-breasted Mergansers and Cinnamon Teal in a lot of different places around the county recently. There are currently a number of ponds and lakes that should be checked as much as possible right now. Those include Bud Mielke Reservoir, Ryan's Gulch Reservoir, Kechter Pit, Fossil Creek Reservoir, and Timnath Reservoir.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Boreal Owl and a Hard Hit 3/10

On my lunch break I made another quick trip to Timnath Reservoir. As I pulling up to the parking area, so was John Shenot, a birder I have met only one other time also at Timnath. Again, there was a ton of birds there. The Horned Grebe numbers still continue to rise as did the Lesser Scaup numbers. While scanning 3 Killdeer flew in and landed 100 yards to our west, about a minute later they scrammed and a Sharp-shinned Hawk was almost on them, but missed. While scanning through the large numbers of Cackling Geese I was able to find a hybrid Cackling x Snow Goose and a pure white Snow Goose.
After work I made a stop at Kechter Pit and the wintering Mourning Doves were still in their usual spot. I again saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but it was a 2nd year bird instead of an adult which I saw there on the 8th. The Great Blue Heron numbers continue to rise as I counted 12 in total and there was one laying down in the nest.
Denise Bretting, Sol Miller, and I decided to head up towards Cameron Pass to look for Boreal Owl. When we started out we made a quick stop at the Grandview Cemetery and saw the Great Horned Owl that is sitting on her nest. We also saw 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches coming down to the ground right at our feet at a small wet patch of mud. We then drove up Rist Canyon looking for Northern Pygmy-Owl, but wasn't able to find any. We made a couple of stops for Northern Saw-whet Owls on the way up, but just like the Pygmy we couldn't locate any.
Then while we went around a corner there were some deer in the middle of the road and I hit the breaks, but all was to late. One of the deer was right in my way, just as it jumped. As we got the car stopped I went to check on the damage on my car expecting the trip to be over right then and there. Miraculously there was one spot that it chipped the paint and the hood was pushed up a little bit, but it appears as nothing had happened to the car except collect a lot of deer hair. We then went and checked on the deer and was disappointed to find out we broke her back. Sol then went and talked to a local who was in his car and he said he would go and get his .22 so she didn't suffer anymore. Sol and Denise said they didn't want to see it, so we left.
We made several stops on the Larimer County side of Cameron Pass hoping to hear a Boreal Owl, but nothing. So, we decided to go up and over to start at the Moose Visitor Center. A couple of miles before the visitor center we saw a car pulled over with two guys standing outside. I asked if they were looking for owls and they said they had a Boreal Owl calling right now. When then quickly pulled off the road and heard the owl. Come to find out these birders were Kevin Cook of Loveland and David Steingraeber of Fort Collins (actually he lives above Horsetooth Reservoir and I am not quite sure which town he officially lives in, but close enough). We then left them and continued on. We found out they were having a night time snowshoe party at the Moose Visitor Center and I was able to talk to Deb McLachlan who is the compiler of the North Park CBC and a bird rehabilitator. She also gets Rosy-Finches at her house in the winter time. She told me about a Summer Tanager that she photographed in November. It was nice to talk with her as it has been a couple years since I have had the privilege to do so.
We left making several stops looking for Boreal Owls again. We eventually heard 5 in Jackson County, 3 of which was at one stop and 2 in Larimer County. Boreal Owl was a life bird for Denise and my 136th Larimer County year bird. It was such a nice night up on Cameron Pass as we could see a ton of stars lighting up the sky and got great looks at 3 planets (Venus, Mars, and Jupiter). There was also no wind, which made up for a great night of owling and it only got down to 15 degrees at the coldest.
n the way down we saw 2 moose in the middle of the road, we were lucky to not hit one of those.
On our way back down we again made several attempts at Northern Saw-whet. In the upper Rist Canyon almost to the Stove Prairie School we eventually got a Northern Saw-whet Owl (137) to give a single call note back to us that all three of us heard. It was to high pitched to be a Northern Pygmy-Owl and it had the same quality as the tape we had been playing.
Overall a good night, but it could have been much better. I am not disappointed at all though as we heard and saw 9 owls (7 Boreal, 1 Northern Saw-whet, and 1 Great Horned) and really no damage on my car after hitting a deer.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Trumpeter Swan, hybrid duck, and others 3/8

I checked several spots in southwest Loveland. Hertha Reservoir, Dry Creek Reservoir, and Lonetree Reservoir all had a handful of birds on them, but not many birds and nothing of interesting on the water. I was able to find a handful of landbirds at Dry Creek Reservoir, but the only birds of interest were 2 Spotted Towhees.
                                               Black-capped Chickadee

                                               Black-capped Chickadee

At Bonnell Drive Pond I saw 3 Great-tailed Grackles.
                                                Great-tailed Grackle

At Bud Mielke Reservoir the Golden Eagles are still on the nest. While scanning the many ducks on the water I was able to find a Hooded Merganser x Common Goldeneye Hybird and it was one of the neatest looking ducks I have seen. I also saw a Prairie Falcon flying over the reservoir.
                             Hooded Merganser x Common Goldeneye Hybrid

Cattail Pond also held lots of birds as did Ryan's Gulch Reservoir. At Cattail Pond there were no birds of interest. At Ryan's Gulch I found a Trumpeter Swan, perhaps the same bird that was wintering at Cattail Pond, but I haven't seen any swan in the area since February 9. Also, 4 Horned Grebes on the lake. Then on the way back home I stopped at the feeders on Nadine Ct. I didn't see anything of interest, except for a very light Eurasian Collared-Dove.
                                                     House Finch

                                               Eurasian Collared-Dove

On my way to work I was driving north on Namaqua Road when I heard a bird singing. The only thing I can think of on the species was a Sage Sparrow. I turned around and played a tape, but never heard or saw the bird again, so it was the one that got away. At Rist Benson Reservoir I found 8 Greater Scaup in with the many Lesser Scaup and Redhead.
Kechter Pit held a Lesser Black-backed Gull in the gull flock. Here there were a lot of ducks, but the only exciting bird was a Hooded Merganser. Five Great Blue Herons were standing on the nests in the large cottonwood. The flock of wintering Mourning Doves was still present in the trees across the road towards the west.
                                                   Mourning Dove

On the 6th I made a quick stop at Timnath I saw a lot of birds, but just like most locations recently I couldn't find anything of note. There were a lot of Horned Larks in the area and I was able to get some photos.
                                                   Horned Lark

                                                     Horned Lark

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cinnamon Teal among others 3/2

I checked quite a few lakes around the Loveland area this afternoon. I started with the Southwest area. At the pond at Bonnell Drive I saw 2 Great-tailed Grackles. A quick stop at Bud Mielke Reservoir produced quite a few birds which included the nesting Golden Eagles (they have been sitting on a nest now for about a week), a juvenile Bald Eagle, and a pair of Cinnamon Teal (135). Cattail Pond had a lot of birds, but only 3 species (American Coot, American Wigeon, and Redhead). Ryan's Gulch was also exciting. It had hundreds of birds, most of which were Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Lesser Scaup. The interesting birds were 38 Canvasback, 2 Northern Pintail, 1 male Cinnamon Teal, 1 male Greater Scaup, 1 juvenile Bald Eagle, and 2 flyover Ferruginous Hawks. Horseshoe Lake had around 150 gulls, but I only saw 1 that was not a Ring-billed Gull and it was an adult California Gull. Boyd Lake also had a lot of gulls (all Ring-billed), but not much else around. Donath Reservoir had 3 Bald Eagles chasing each other around, which was quite a sight. Rist Benson had several Cackling Geese in with the Canadas, 2 Hooded Mergansers, lots of Lesser Scaup, and Redheads.