December 31, 2008

White-winged Scoter at Thomas Reservoir

Yesterday we stopped at Thomas Reservoir in Erie on our way back from Denver.  A juvenile White-winged Scoter had been reported there a couple days ago.  There was a corner of the lake that wasn't frozen over, which harbored some waterfowl and gulls.  There were Canada Geese, a female Common Goldeneye, a pair of Mallards, lots of Ring-billed Gulls, and the White-winged Scoter!  The only White-winged Scoter we’d seen previously was on the Upper Texas Coast last spring and it was a very distant view.

White-winged Scoter with Canada Geese - by Marcel Such

White-winged Scoter - by Joel Such

White-winged Scoter - by Joel Such

December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Along the South Platte

Yesterday, December 24th, our family birded the South Platte River by Chatfield State Park with our cousin Victor and Aunt Diane.  We started birding at 4 o'clock PM, and the light on the water was magical.  The river was loaded with waterfowl! A Dunlin had been reported here a couple of days ago, and Victor and Aunt Diane had seen it the previous day.  And, we saw it today!  It was with several Killdeer and a couple American Pipits between a foot bridge and C-470 in the river on a sandbar.  

Male Belted Kingfisher Diving - by Joel Such

Male Common Goldeneye - by Marcel Such

Dunlin - by Joel Such

Gadwall - by Marcel Such

American Pipit - by Renee Haip

Female Hooded Merganser - by Joel Such

American Coot - by Marcel Such

American Coot - by Joel Such

Bird Count for the South Platte River:
Canada Goose - 18
Gadwall - 20
American Wigeon - 10
Mallard - 30
Northern Shoveler - 20
Green-winged Teal - 15
Bufflehead - 2 males, 2 females
Common Goldeneye - 6 males, 4 females
Hooded Merganser - 2 males, 2 females
Common Merganser - 3 males, 2 females
Red-tailed Hawk - 4
American Kestrel - 1 male
American Coot - 1
Killdeer - 6
Dunlin - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 1
Belted Kingfisher - 1 male
Black-billed Magpie - 3
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
American Robin - 15
European Starling - 4
American Pipit - 4

December 21, 2008

Another Christmas Bird Count

On December 20th, we participated in the Longmont Christmas Bird Count with Maggie Boswell and Deanna Williams. Peter Gent joined us for part of the day.  Our area was Hwy 66 on the north, Hwy 36 on the west, Nelson Road on the south, and 75th St. on the east.  Most of our area was rural, agricultural lands which included parts of the St. Vrain River and some ponds, most of which were frozen.  The weather was freezing, but sunny.  It was much more pleasant in the weather department than the Boulder Bird Count!

Searching for Birds


The Count:
Canada Goose - 258
Mallard - 4
Ring-necked Duck - 3
Common Goldeneye - 2 males
Bald Eagle - 2 adults
Northern Harrier - 1 female
Red-tailed Hawk - 2
"Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk - 1
American Kestrel -  13
Rock Pigeon - 10
Eurasian Collared-Dove - 13
Mourning Dove - 1
Belted Kingfisher - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 5
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 11
Blue Jay - 12
Black-billed Magpie - 21
American Crow - 1
Common Raven - 6
Black-capped Chickadee - 9
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
American Dipper - 4
American Robin - 129
European Starling - 1088
American Tree Sparrow - 8
Song Sparrow - 12
White-crowned Sparrow - 10
Dark-eyed Junco - 6
"Slate-colored" Dark-eyed Junco - 2
"Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco - 8
"Pink-sided" Dark-eyed Junco - 40
"Gray-headed" Dark-eyed Junco - 4
Red-winged Blackbird - 74
House Finch - 76
Pine Siskin - 15
American Goldfinch - 4
House Sparrow - 46

December 17, 2008

Northern Harrier on Blue Mountain Road

My mom and I (Joel) were in town today and on our way home, we stopped to get our mail on Blue Mountain Road.  A female Northern Harrier was flying and dropping down every 3 yards, as it was hunting along a roadside ditch going south.  It eventually flew across the road and headed north, as it checked the fields to the east.  It flew back across the road and perched on a fence post.  It had basically made a big circle and we were in the middle of it!  It was flying quite close and unconcerned about our presence.  We had a great opportunity to watch it fly and hunt, and I was glad that we had the camera in the car!

Northern Harrier (female) - by Joel Such

Northern Harrier (female) - by Joel Such

December 16, 2008

Birding at Home

Today it was really active around our house!  We saw 17 species total and 5 sub-species of Dark-eyed Juncos.  All of our normal feeder birds were around.  While we were sledding, two Common Ravens were calling as they flew by the house.  Around 3:45 PM, we watched two Golden Eagles (an adult and an immature) fly over.   At 4 PM, we noticed that it was actually above freezing with the temperature reaching 34˚ F.
Gray-headed Junco - by Joel Such

Pink-sided Junco - by Joel Such

Bird Count:
Golden Eagle - 1 adult, 1 immature
Downy Woodpecker - 1 male, 1 female
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 male, 1 female
Steller's Jay - 2
Black-billed Magpie - 2
American Crow - 1
Common Raven - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 2
Mountain Chickadee - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1 male, 1 female
Pygmy Nuthatch - 6
Townsend's Solitaire - 1
American Robin - 2
"Slate-colored" Dark-eyed Junco - 3
"Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco - 2 females
"Pink-sided" Dark-eyed Junco - 10
"White-winged" Dark-eyed Junco - 2
"Gray-headed" Dark-eyed Junco - 8
House Finch - 1 male, 1 female
Pine Siskin - 10
American Goldfinch - 1

December 15, 2008

Our First Christmas Bird Count!!!

The annual Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science program devoted to counting birds in order to analyze population trends and range expansion over the years.  How does it work? There are count circles, 15 miles in diameter, which are split up into smaller areas in which a party of birders counts birds all day long.   After they have finished birding, they report their list to the circle's organizer, called a compiler.  These circles can be found all across the western hemisphere.

This was the 109th Christmas Bird Count and our very first time to participate!  The first Christmas Bird Count (called Christmas Bird Census back then) was held on Christmas Day of 1900 and was a reaction to the Christmas match hunts where teams of hunters killed every living thing in sight (except, of course, for humans).  Whichever team had killed the most individuals, won the competition. 

Yesterday, for most of the daylight hours, we were participating in the Boulder count circle with our neighbor Raymond Davis (we call him Davis), and his friend Sharon Dooley.  We had area #1, which was basically urban north Boulder.  When we left our neighborhood in the foothills, it was -1˚ Fahrenheit.  It wasn't much warmer in Boulder.  With no sun, a slight breeze in the face, and four inches of snow on the ground, it made for a numbingly cold day of birding.  The first birds we saw in our area were some Black-billed Magpies flying over Highway 36 as we were coming into town.  The creeks and lakes in our area were all frozen over, except for a couple of the larger creeks and a heated pond near a cemetery off of Kalmia Avenue.  The best source of birds we found were at suburban feeders and in numerous Crabapple and Russian-olive trees.   

Our first stop was at a grove of Russian-olives along a creek.  The Russian-olives were loaded with hundreds of American Robins and European Starlings.  We also found four Cedar Waxwings!  Next, we went to the cemetery pond which held lots of ducks and geese in the morning.  When we rechecked that pond in the evening, there were only a few Canada Geese and three Redheads.  The Redheads had been absent in the morning.  After that, we birded at some suburban feeders on the way to Wonderland Lake and had a pit-stop at Davis' work place. Wonderland Lake was frozen over, except for a small stretch of open water near the shore.  We saw five Mallards, an unidentified sparrow, and an American Kestrel.  After checking that, we cruised the nearby neighborhoods looking for feeders and Crabapple Trees.  We searched the western boundary of our area looking for mountain species and found five Steller's Jays.  We also found a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Townsend's Solitaire.  Other good birds we found today were 50 Cedar Waxwings gathered in a couple of trees feeding on adjacent Crabapple Trees, as well as, a female Cooper's Hawk near a bird feeder in the middle of town waiting for an easy meal.  It was a bitterly cold, yet fun day.  Thanks Davis!

European Starlings in Crabapple Tree - by Marcel Such

Bird Count:
Cackling Goose - 3
Canada Goose - 220
Gadwall - 1 male, 1 female in cemetery pond
American Wigeon - 5 in cemetery pond
Mallard - 17
Redhead - 3 males in cemetery pond
Common Goldeneye - 1 male, 1 female in cemetery pond
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 1 female
Red-tailed Hawk - 1 juvenile
American Kestrel - 2
American Coot - 1 at cemetery pond
Ring-billed Gull - 5
Rock Pigeon - 40
Downy Woodpecker - 1 female at a feeder on Island Drive
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 8
Steller's Jay - 5
Blue Jay - 5
Black-billed Magpie - 20
American Crow - 40
Common Raven - 8
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
American Robin - 200
European Starling - 60
Cedar Waxwing - 55
Dark-eyed Junco - 20
"Slate-colored" Dark-eyed Junco - 4
"Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco - 10
"Pink-sided" Dark-eyed Junco - 7
"Gray-headed" Dark-eyed Junco - 2
House Finch - 75
Pine Siskin - 25
American Goldfinch - 9
House Sparrow - 25

December 11, 2008

Birding at Golden Ponds

This morning we birded Golden Ponds in Longmont.  The first pond by the parking lot was frozen except for a hole of open water.  There were lots of Canada Geese, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls around the patch of open water.  We took some good photos of the Canada Geese, and we also caught a couple of gulls in flight!

Ring-billed Gull - by Marcel Such

At the second pond there was more open water and more birds.  There was even a Great Blue Heron on the shore of an island!  When we returned to the first lake, we found a bird that wasn't there before, a domestic duck.

Domestic Duck - by Joel Such

Canada Goose - by Joel Such

Bird Count for Golden Ponds:
Cackling Goose - 1
Canada Goose - 50
American Wigeon - 2 females, 3 males
Mallard - 5 females, 10 males
Ring-necked Duck - 5 females, 15 males
Lesser Scaup - 1 male
Bufflehead - 3 males, 3 females
Common Goldeneye - 2 males
Great Blue Heron - 1
American Kestrel - 1
American Coot - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 30
Herring Gull - 1
Rock Pigeon - 3
Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker - 1
Blue Jay - 1
American Crow - 1
European Starling - 10
House Finch - 5
House Sparrow - 1 

November 27, 2008

Turkey Week Birding

We spent most of this week at our aunt's house in Aurora, and since our cousin Victor is also now birding, we were out birding most of the time. We met them for lunch in Boulder on Monday (the 24th), and since the Long-tailed Duck at Baseline Reservoir was still being reported, we tried again. There were Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Ring-billed Gulls, but again we missed seeing the Long-tailed Duck and the Surf Scoters. We didn't bird there for very long, as the traffic was very loud and distracting. Heading for a quieter place, we stopped by Walden Ponds, which was much more active. We saw 23 species.

Marcel, Victor, and Joel birding Walden Ponds - by Renee Haip

Greater Yellowlegs - by Joel Such

Canada Geese - by Renee Haip

On Tuesday, the 25th, we birded some new territory, Arapahoe County. We got out to South Platte Park near Littleton a little before noon. Joel and I were surprised by the number of ducks in the South Platte River. It took us about an hour to even get to the first lake! One of our most surprising finds was a male Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrid that was hanging out with some Mallards in the river. The camera I use for digiscoping was not working properly, so we relied on Aunt Diane's camera to get photos. 

Mallard x Northern Pintail Hybrid - by Diane Germain

Another unexpected sighting was a late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, spotted by Victor, that was by the bird viewing blind. There were lots of waterfowl on the lakes, even more than on the river. But perhaps the highest quantity of birds were the ones passing overhead, a couple hundred Canadian Geese and several Common Mergansers. There were also signs of the bird life that had been here during breeding season, signs in the form of old bird nests. It seemed to us that there was a nest in every tree, some of which were just two feet off of the trail!  We also saw two large wasp nests.

Bird Count from South Platte Park:
Canada Goose - 250
Gadwall - 20
American Wigeon - 40
Mallard - 60
Northern Shoveler - 2, male and female
Northern Pintail - 1 female, 2 males
Northern Pintail x Mallard hybrid - 1 male
Green-winged Teal - 4 females, 5 males
Redhead - 1 male
Ring-necked Duck - 10
Lesser Scaup - 2 males
Bufflehead - 4 females, 5 males
Common Goldeneye - 10
Hooded Merganser - 10
Common Merganser - 19 males
Pied-billed Grebe - 2
Double-crested Cormorant - 1 juvenile
Great Blue Heron - 2
Bald Eagle - 1
American Kestrel - 1
Prairie Falcon - 1, eating an unidentifiable duck carcass
American Coot - 20
Ring-billed Gull - 25
Belted Kingfisher - 1 male
Downy Woodpecker - 1
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 5
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Crow - 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
American Robin - 20
European Starling - 2
Song Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 4 males
House Finch - 10
House Sparrow - 10

On the way home we stopped at two city parks, Utah and Expo. Utah Park hosted hundreds of Canadian Geese and some Cackling Geese, as well as the normal group of tame Mallards waiting for a hand-out. Among the Mallards we also found a pair of American Wigeons, which were just as tame as the Mallards. Expo Park had less individuals, but more species. We saw Canadian Geese, American Wigeons, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and American Coots.

On Wednesday, the 26th, we birded Cherry Creek State Park. It wasn't quite as active as South Platte Park, but it was still a lot of fun. We got out earlier today, around 8 o'clock in the morning. There had been a lot of cool and rare things reported here lately, but we didn't see any of them. One of the highlights from this trip was a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls in a flock of Ring-billed Gulls on the south side of the reservoir.

Bird Count for Cherry Creek State Park:
Cackling Goose - 10
Canada Goose - 100
Gadwall - a male and a female
Mallard - 2 males and 4 females
Green-winged Teal - 5 males and 15 females
Common Goldeneye - a huge group by the dam
Common Merganser - five in the southeast corner of the reservoir
American White Pelican - 2 late juveniles on the docks
Great Blue Heron - 1 flying over
Northern Harrier - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 1 spooking the gulls
Red-tailed Hawk - 3
American Kestrel - 2
American Coot - 20
Killdeer - 4 walking on the ice
Spotted Sandpiper - 1 very late individual
Bonaparte's Gull - 4
Ring-billed Gull - 100 or so
California Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 5
Belted Kingfisher - 1 male perching on sailboat masts and diving at the marina
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker "Red-shafted" - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 4
American Crow - 10
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
European Starling - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 2
House Finch - 5

Before heading back home for lunch, we stopped at one of Victor's favorite birding spots, Bluff Lake. The lake was low, but there was still a lot of waterfowl. There was also a large thicket of Giant Reed Grass, which is an exotic and invasive species.

Bird Count for Bluff Lake:
Mallard - 5 females 10 males
Northern Shoveler - 6 females 4 males
Green-winged Teal - 10 females 5 males
Killdeer - 3
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
"Red-shafted" Northern Flicker - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Robin - 9
Song Sparrow - 1
White-crowned Sparrow - 3
Red-winged Blackbird - 5
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 male
House Finch - 4

You might have the impression that this was a boys only birding week, but without Aunt Diane as our driver and birding companion, we wouldn't have gotten very far!  Thanks Aunt Diane!

November 22, 2008

Recent Birding Adventures

Now that the leaves have fallen and fall migration has passed, we have turned our attention from the migrants and recently departed summer residents of Colorado, to our bird feeders and local lakes and reservoirs. 

As expected, the juncos returned in the first week of October and the winter flocks of nuthatches and chickadees are coming through. An unexpected bird was a Northern Shrike that showed up on November 5th. It may be staying for the winter, as we saw it again on November 20th.  

Northern Shrike - by Marcel Such, 11-5-08

Around noon today we went down to Baseline Reservoir in Boulder to look for a Long-tailed Duck that had been reported earlier today. The lighting was good, and we searched for over a half-hour with no success. We also searched for a Barrow's Goldeneye among the hordes of Commons, but with no success. 

Bird Count for Baseline Reservoir:
Canada Goose - 15
Mallard - 2 males, 2 females
Bufflehead - 2 males, 5 females
Common Goldeneye - 30, half males, half females
Hooded Merganser - 1 male
Red-breasted Merganser - 4 females
Unidentified Raptor - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 20
American Goldfinch - 2

After Baseline we went to an overlook of Hillcrest Reservoir, part of the Valmont Power Plant cooling lakes. 

Bird Count for Hillcrest Reservoir: 
Gadwall - 1
Canvasback - 4
Red-breasted Merganser - 4 females
Pied-billed Grebe - 4
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
American Coot - 10
Rock Pigeon - 20