December 30, 2011
December 29, 2011
At 6:30 AM, we stepped out of the car in the parking lot of the Fountain Creek Regional Park's nature center, the sun still a good half-hour from breaking the horizon. Accompanying a deep hoot, a large, broad-winged bird swooped up the river corridor to land in a nearby cottonwood. "Leaving two hours late didn't cost us Great Horned Owl," I thought ruefully. As the four of us (we picked up Allan Burns of the Springs en route) descended into the riparian corridor of Fountain Creek, the high-pitched, bell-like flight calls of American Tree Sparrows emanated from the surrounding brush along with the notes of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows. The first of many, the husky chuck of a Song Sparrow came from the cattails lining one of the many ponds in the area.
Throughout the course of the morning, we repeatedly traversed the two miles of river corridor assigned to us. We puzzled over the many "White-cheeked" Geese in the area, weighing our opinions on the differences between the nearly identical "Lesser" Canada Goose and the Cackling Goose against each other. The two Ross's Geese we found mixed in with the flocks of "Canadian Honkers" was a first for the count. The Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, and Swamp Sparrows we found in the cattails are species that are localized to this area during the winter.
As the time for the midday compilation neared and we were forced to return to the nature center, I quickly counted up our list for the day. I listed 48 species. "We can't go back until we have fifty!" said Ted, half jokingly. Unfortunately, there was really only one more potentially easy species, House Sparrows at the nature center feeders. Sure enough, we found two of them feeding on the ground at the nature center. Resigning ourselves to 49 species (we were already 15 minutes late), we pulled out our lunches and entered the nature center where the compilation was being held. Halfway through the reading of the list by compiler Dan Maynard, Allan started pointing out the window and saying "Ted! Ted, look! Look up there!" Sure enough, a male Harris's Sparrow was feeding under the feeders right outside the window. 50. And then, at the end of the compilation, somebody else started pointing out the window and saying, "That's a weird looking White-crowned Sparrow." With many people now gawking through the window, it turned out that it was actually a White-throated Sparrow, yet a new species for the day, and our final.
Ross's Goose - 2
Cackling Goose - 20
Canada Goose - 904
Gadwall - 25
American Wigeon - 8
Mallard - 92
Northern Shoveler - 25
Green-winged Teal - 28
Lesser Scaup - 1
Hooded Merganser - 12
Common Merganser - 3
Pied-billed Grebe - 12
Great Blue Heron - 1
Northern Harrier - 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 4
Virginia Rail - 1
American Coot - 18
Killdeer - 6
Rock Pigeon - 2
Eurasian Collared-Dove - 1
Great Horned Owl - 1
Belted Kingfisher - 4
Downy Woodpecker - 6
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 7
Black-billed Magpie - 3
American Crow - 12
Common Raven - 1
Horned Lark - 40
Black-capped Chickadee - 19
White-breasted Nuthatch - 5
Brown Creeper - 4
Marsh Wren - 1
European Starling - 45
American Pipit - 2
American Tree Sparrow - 16
Song Sparrow - 33
Swamp Sparrow - 2
Harris's Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 1
White-crowned Sparrow - 34
Dark-eyed Junco (undifferentiated) - 24
Slate-colored - 40
Cassiar - 1
Oregon - 3
Pink-sided - 13
Red-winged Blackbird - 68
Western Meadowlark - 1
House Finch - 55
Pine Siskin - 1
American Goldfinch - 6
House Sparrow - 2
December 28, 2011
On Sunday, December 18th, we hit the trails of Mount Sanitas for the Boulder Christmas Bird Count. Though a rather small area for the Boulder circle, this area can take all day because of the miles of trail needing to be covered, and only a tiny section of road in one corner, which de-marks one of the easier habitats to cover, the foothill's suburbs. Elsewhere, it is foothills Ponderosa Pine forest, with some scattered Wild Plum riparian areas. These habitats don't have as high a density of birds - typically just a handful of roving wintering flocks of juncos, chickadees, and nuthatches, plus some scattered jays and woodpeckers - but that makes it all the more difficult to obtain accurate counts. For the previous two years we have covered this area by ourselves, but this year we joined forces with the newly formed Boulder County Audubon Teen Naturalists' program for a great day of hiking and birding.
December 27, 2011
At Hall Ranch, we hiked one and a half miles through the juniper scrubland picking up many Western Scrub-Jays (12) and Townsend's Solitaires (22), plus a Spotted Towhee meowing in the shrubs and a male Cassin's Finch amongst the numerous House Finches.
We covered four miles of river from the intersection of Highways 36 and 66 (just east of Lyons, CO) to half way up Apple Valley Road (northwest of town).
One of 18 American Dippers seen up the river.
Left to right: Marcel Such, Joel Such, and Bryan Guarente
This video will give you a good idea of what it was like to walk through some parts of the river.
After our excursion on the river, we drove around the remaining area including the Lyons Cemetery (1 Merlin), and up Red Gulch Road (19 Wild Turkeys).
Mallard – 10 in the river.
Wild Turkey – 19 in the tops of trees at the bottom of Red Gulch Road.
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1 fly-by.
Cooper’s Hawk – 1 along the river.
Bald Eagle – 1 immature on the foothills highway, and 1 adult flying low over the river.
Golden Eagle – 1 perched on the sandstone cliffs of Steamboat Mountain.
Red-tailed Hawk – 9 seen here and there.
Harlan’s Hawk – 1 perched on a power pole along the Foothills Highway.
American Kestrel – 11 mostly along the Foothills Highway.
Merlin – 1 perched in the top of a backyard tree near the Lyons Cemetery.
Rock Pigeon – 47 along the Foothills Highway.
Eurasian Collared-Dove – 27 around the Lyons Cemetery.
Belted Kingfisher – 8 along the river.
Downy Woodpecker – 7
“Red-shafted” Flicker – 21
Steller’s Jay – 2 on Twilight Road and Hall Ranch.
Blue Jay – 5 along the river.
Western Scrub-Jay – 13 at Hall Ranch.
Black-billed Magpie – 32 along the Foothills Highway and Hall Ranch
American Crow – 5 or so heard only.
Common Raven – 13 along the river.
Black-capped Chickadee – 24 mostly along the river.
White-breasted Nuthatch – 3 at Hall Ranch.
Brown Creeper – 4 along Apple Valley Road.
Canyon Wren – 1 on the sandstone cliffs of Meadow Park.
Winter Wren – 1 at the very south end of Apple Valley Road along the river.
American Dipper – 18 along the river (last year’s dipper count was over 40).
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1 along Apple Valley Road.
Townsend’s Solitaire – 44 mostly at Hall Ranch with a few along the river.
American Robin – 163
European Starling – 54 in the town of Lyons.
Spotted Towhee – 1 at Hall Ranch.
American Tree Sparrow – 6 mixed in with flocks of juncos.
Song Sparrow – 5 along the river.
White-crowned Sparrow – 3 in with the mixed sparrow flocks along the river.
Dark-eyed Junco – 127
Unidentified – 28
Pink-sided – 60
Slate-colored – 22
Oregon – 16
Gray-headed – 1
Red-winged Blackbird – 4 along the Foothills Highway.
Cassin’s Finch – 1 at Hall Ranch.
House Finch – 96
American Goldfinch – 1 along the river.
House Sparrow – 18 in Lyons.
December 12, 2011
December 10, 2011
January 23, 2011
January 9, 2011
3 - The People
With so many people converged on a single spot, this has become not just a birding trip, but also a massive social event. I can’t speak for everybody, but one of the main pulls to this event for me isn’t just the birds, but also the opportunity to meet, greet, and bird with some of the best birders in the state, or country, for that matter. Among the excellent pool of trip leaders for this event are Ted Floyd, editor of Birding; Jeff Gordon, President of the American Birding Association; Bill Schmoker, one of the countries best known bird photographers; Nathan Pieplow, a bird sound expert and editor of Colorado Birds; Bill Kaempfer, an excellent Boulder County birder; and Mike Frieberg, an excellent birder and Nikon Birding Market Specialist. Joel and I were even invited to co-lead alongside Ted Floyd, which is a great honor and provides us with valuable experience. And, lots of other good birders show up and happily share their scopes and expertise with the crowd.