Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Run Down

Bird species seen: 236
Miles by bike: 2054
Miles by bike per bird: 8.7

The average miles-per-gallon in my car= 23
2054/23= 89.3 gallons of gasoline conserved by not driving that distance in my car.
This is an equivalent of 0.78 metric tons of carbon dioxide not emitted. 
This is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of 1.8 barrels of oil, 
or to the carbon sequestered by 20 tree seedlings grown for 10 years,
or to the carbon sequestered annually by 0.18 acres of pine and fir forest, 
or to the carbon sequestered annually by 0.01 acres of US forest preserved from deforestation,
or to the carbon dioxide emissions from 32.7 propane cylinders used for home barbeques,
or to the greenhouse gas emissions avoided by recycling 0.27 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill. 

How significant was my reduction of cabon dioxide? Those 2054 miles include many that were peddled while not directly searching for birds. But I'm always birding, no matter where I go. Even if I'm riding to a friends house I may still pass a grove of cottonwoods that may harbor an Eastern Screech-Owl. One never knows when something will just appear, so every mile I rode my bike gave me that much more of a chance to spot something. My Big Green Big Year gave me the excuse to get on my bike to go places, be it commuting to my office or to go downtown. And that's where the real effect gets magnified if other people begin to use alternate transportation for every-day travel. If a thousand more people can ride their bikes two thousand miles a year, we'd be doing the carbon sequestering work of 10 acres of forests. With the combined efforts of conscious humans altering their habits as to reduce their emissions, and the carbon sequestering abilities of preserved and re-planted forests, there can be a significant effect on global carbon dioxide levels. 

Between early October and December 31st I found 7 more species:

Gray Jay-October 26, 2008: I took an RTD bus up to Nederland and rode out to Kelly Dahl Campground where I easily found the local group of jays. This was the only bird species I found utilizing RTD services. These birds were just within Boulder County. The only bird for my list that I saw outside Boulder Co. was Wild Turkey, but I saw them in the county later on. 

Bonaparte's Gull-November 11, 2008: Saw two birds at Sixmile Reservoir.

Barrow's Goldeneye-November 11, 2008: Saw a beautiful drake at Baseline Reservoir.

Ring-necked Pheasant-November 18, 2008: While contemplating a recent report of pheasants along my bike route to work on Cherryvale Road , I looked to my right to where a male pheasant was standing. 

Long-tailed Duck-November 22, 2008: A cooperative young male at Baseline Reservoir.

Surf Scoter-November 22, 2008: Two females at Baseline. 

Tundra Swan-November 28, 2008: Two adults and an immature at the Boulder Valley Farm pond off 95th. 

The number that I ended up with in my notebook did not match up with the checklist I filled out at the end. I checked the list many times and feel confident that I must have just messed up in my notebook. 

There were a few birds that I consider misses. These include birds that I knew were present and in a reasonable biking distance. Some of these I chased but couldn't locate on my bike. Examples are:

Sage Thrasher-saw two while doing grassland bird surveys on Gunbarrel Hill in July and went looking later but didn't find them. I was surprised that I did not run in to more in Boulder Co. this year, on my bike or off. 

Eastern Screech-Owl- I tried for this countless times but to no avail. 

Loggerhead Shrike- I found a bird in August near Legion Park. I had a guest in town and didn't chase it. Two months later I'm back at the same spot while working and it was sitting on the same fence. I went back that afternoon on my bike and missed it by five minutes. Sheesh. 

Golden-crowned Kinglet- Several hikes in the Eldorado Mountain Open Space, where I ran into this species frequently in the winter of 2007/2008 while working, failed to produce this high-elevation Kinglet. 

Northern Saw-whet Owl- Heard one tooting in January in the Eldorado Mountain Open Space, but couldn't re-locate it when I biked and hiked out there. 

Louisiana Waterthrush- A mega rarity that showed up in biking distance but didn't stick around that extra day that I needed to get out to it. 

Winter Wren- A bird showed up along Boulder Creek in late December, but I didn't have the time to get to it with holiday travels and short day-light. 

Black-bellied Plover- Showed up and was chase-able, but I was away from computers and cell phones, so missed my chance to get out to it. 

Dunlin- Same as Black-bellied Plover. 

Northern Goshawk- Saw several while working, but was not so fortunate during my BGBY forest ramblings. 

White-rumped Sandpiper- Seen by car at Cottonwood Marsh. Not there when I went to look on my bike with only binoculars. Seen very shortly after I departed.

Field Sparrow- I spotted this guy during a spring bird walk at the South Mesa Trail parking lot. I had overslept and chose to drive to the event instead of my original plan to bike. It was never to be seen again. 

Mew Gull- There were two individuals that I might have had a chance for, one at Baseline Reservoir and another at Boulder Reservoir that I spotted while birding by car. 

Slaty-backed Gull (?)- Well, this will probably just always haunt me:
Thanks for all the kind support from everyone. I would have never seen many of the birds if I hadn't been helped by Colorado birding community. And a very special thanks to Mark and Sue Ponsor who graciously gave me their extra tripod, eliminating my need for handy fence posts. 

Great birding!!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Summer Update

I have not posted an update in an eternity! The summer was...slow. Hot. I found it difficult to get motivated to go out on long bike rides in the 90 degree heat. Also, there just weren't many targets to go chase. There were a few that I should have gone to get, but didn't. Namely Orchard Oriole. Also, there were a few birds that I saw while not on my bike that I could have chased later to get but failed such as Sage Thrasher and Loggerhead Shrike. But, there's still hope for both of those although the train is certainly leaving the station as winter is creeping into the foothills. To skip to the good stuff, I'm up to 227 species and I've ridden 1640 miles.

And here's the summer run-down:

Indigo Bunting (#208)- My friend Scot Pipkin and I found a nice adult male a few hundred meters up the Flagstaff Mtn trail from the entrance to Gregory Canyon on July 18th. Steve Jones gave me the heads up on this guy. I found several frustrating hybrid Lazuli x Indigo Buntings this summer, so it was nice to have a pure bird.

Flammulated Owl (#209)- Scot, Kristin Brinkmann and I took a hike on the same evening of July 18th up Gregory Canyon in search of owls. We had plenty of moonlight to hike by, and after hearing a distant Flamm I called this guy in to within a few meters although we never got any looks other than a shadowy figure flying through the canopy.

Dusky Grouse (#210)- On a hike up to Green Mountain via Bear Canyon on July 20th, I heard a Dusky booming in quiet gully. Unfortunately I couldn't track him down although it vocalized several times. While conducting forest hawk surveys for the City I ran into several DUGR in July and August, seemingly the best time of year to find these guys. On this same hike I found a Milk Snake and a Black Witch Moth, two extremely exciting creatures by their own measure, although not countable.

Rufous Hummingbird (#211)- My first of the summer was the sound of an adult male's wing twirl during twilight on my way down Bear Canyon on the 20th.

Common Loon (#212)- A young bird had been hanging out at Baseline Reservoir for a few weeks (still there +1 as of a few days ago), and on August 16th I tracked it down.

Stilt Sandpiper (#213)- A real banner year for Stilt Sands in Boulder Co. On August 16th I saw a flock of 6 at Cottonwood Marsh. A few weeks later I found a flock of 10 at Cottonwood.

Calliope Hummingbird (#214)- As of August 27th, I hadn't found a Calliope and was getting nervous that they would all up and leave. I sent an email to John Vanderpoel to ask if I could take a peek at his hummingbird feeders. I went over on the afternoon of the 27th and soon picked up a female Calliope. There were a few Rufous and Broad-taileds zipping around, and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Brewer's Sparrow were some extra goodies.

Red-necked Phalarope (#215)- A pair of these small shorebirds cooperated on September 2nd at Cottonwood Marsh.

Brown Pelican (#216)- Woah! A Brown Pelican in CO? Darn rare! Word got out on the listserve that an immature Brown Pelican was at Baseline Reservoir during the late morning of September 5th. It's a 2 minute bike ride from my office, so I cut out early for the day and headed over. Unfortunately, I chose to drive to work that day. Fortunately, the bird was gone!! I drove to several other spots including Valmont Res and Cottonwood Marsh. There was a dark blob with some American White Pelicans out in Valmont, but I couldn't tell if it was a goose or something better. When I returned to Baseline, viola, there was the Brown Pelican soaring over the lake. It headed off in the general direction of Valmont Res, so I made phone calls and headed home to get my bike. As I was leaving the house, I got a call from Bill Kaempfer saying that the bird was out at Valmont and was sleeping. I rode like an athlete and got there in record time. And as things usually go, I arrived to the sounds of "it just took off, sorry." Arg. But I did not give up hope and started scanning the horizon. It wasn't long before I picked up the gargantuan bird off to the north-east over Gunbarrel Hill. I even got it in the scope for a second as it cruised off towards Boulder Res.

Townsend's Warbler (#217)- A walk along the Bobolink Trail produced a single TOWA on September 6th.

Long-tailed Jaeger (#218)- September is great :-). Word got out that there was an immature LTJA at McIntosh Lake in north Boulder Co. on September 7th. I scooted over and it was sitting on the water not far from shore. These pelagic birds aught to be way out in the ocean, but a few stray straight south from their breeding grounds in the high arctic instead of heading down the coasts.

Sanderling (#219)- A few birds were scattered along the north shore of McIntosh on the 7th.

Sabine's Gull (#220)- On September 9th I rode out to Boulder Res to look for some reported Sabine's. They were easy enough to find with some help from Walter Szeliga, but soon after I headed home I got a flat tire. While out on the LTJA chase I had received another flat and had used my spare tube. This time I had not spare tube, so had a friend come pick me up. According to my rules, this meant the SAGU did not count. I went back two days later and the Sabine's Gulls were still around, and I didn't get any flats :-)

Common Tern (#221)- A bonus bird (2) on Sept 11th's visit to Boulder Res.

Clay-colored Sparrow (#222)- Plenty of Spizella sparrows were moving through the county in September, and on the 14th I found a Clay-colored for the list near the CU tennis courts in S. Boulder.

Snow Goose (#223)- I spotted a white goose one afternoon while playing frisbee golf at the S. Boulder Rec Center, but I had driven there and didn't bother to investigate closely to see if it was a Snow or just a domestic goose. Soon thereafter, birders reported a Snow Goose with the local flock of Canadas at the S. Boulder and E. Boulder Rec centers. On the afternoon of Sept. 17th I rode home via a route going past the E. Boulder Red Center and I picked up the beautiful adult Snow Goose. Strange bird being all by its lonesome, with no skeens of other white geese in sight (still! they should show up any day now...).

Clark's Grebe (#224)- One pair was out on Valmont Reservoir on Sept. 30th.

Brown Thrasher (#225)- While watching the Clark's Grebes, I got a call from Walter Szeliga that there was a BRTH along Boulder Creek off of 61st. I bolted over and we were able to track it down as the sun was setting.

Red Phalarope (#226)- Another goodie! This is another bird (like the Jaeger and Sabine's Gulls) that aught to be far out to sea. I had headed out to Cottonwood Marsh on Oct. 5th in search of Pectoral Sandpipers. One of the first shorebirds I put the scope on was a basic plumaged adult Red Phalarope! A real mega for Boulder Co., and CO.

Pectoral Sandpiper (#227)- There they were out in Cottonwood, just as I had hoped.

Whew! I missed a few good birds like Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover this past weekend since I was out of town. If I'm going to get to 250, I'm going to have to stop living and get back to birding! I take the GRE in a few days and once that's out of my way I hope to be back out enjoying fall birding with vigor.

Birds: 227
Miles by bike: 1640

Monday, June 30, 2008


Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl
With spring migration winding down and the breeding season in full swing, I found myself becoming a little more lethargic than in May with fewer oddities to chase. I took some weekends off from BGBYing, too, which may have taken a small toll. I went to AZ for a long weekend (life Gray Vireo :-) ), got a flu the next, and then enjoyed three days of music this past weekend. Needless to say, all the extra-curricular activities have delayed my attempts to search out Orchard Oriole and Ring-necked Pheasant. I'm not too worried about them.
I did track down a few good birds. On June 11th, I tracked down one of the last birds to set up shop in the local fields, a singing GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (#205) near my office on Cherryvale Rd. A SCARLET TANAGER (#206) returned for his second summer a little ways up Gregory Canyon. And finally, this morning I was fortunate enough to locate three young LONG-EARED OWLS (#207) while hiking around Shanahan Ridge. I returned in the heat of the afternoon to tick them off (off my list...tried not to literally) and to get a few photos.

Miles by bike: 945
Bird species: 207

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Rest of May

Gray-headed Dark-eyed Junco


Rose-beasted Grosbeak

Hooded Warbler

After three tries, I finally tracked down a skulky WORM-EATING WARBLER (#186) that had been found in "Warbler Woods" along Boulder Creek. This was on May 20th.
On the 23rd, I took a ride out to the Doudy Draw Trail to see if I could find a reported Indigo Bunting. Unfortunately, the late afternoon doldrums had set in, and I couldn't find the Indigo, but did find my first BLUE GROSBEAKS (#187) and MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (#188) for the green year. After striking out on the bunting, I rode up to the Eldorado Mountain Open Space. I had found a singing male Hooded Warbler on the 20th while at work, and it had stuck around. On the hike up to the warbler spot, I had an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (#189) hunting in an old burn. The HOODED WARBLER (#190) piped up on cue. A few meager "twees" brought a ROCK WREN (#191) bopping into view.
The mature cottonwoods along Boulder Creek as it goes through the Sawhill Ponds complex attracted a vocal YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (#192) that I tracked down on the 24th. A bonus was a female ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (#193).
When I read a report of a Yellow-throated Warbler up in the Eldorado Mountain Open Space, near the Hooded Warb, I made a mad dash out there. Unfortunately, no warblers at all other than Virginia's. I did hear a RED-EYED VIREO (#194) singing down in the hamlet of Eldorado Springs.
I rode out in a soggy rain storm on May 26th after Walter Szeliga reported Lark Buntings at Walden. When I got there I was drenched and the Buntings weren't there. I took a walk around the perimeter of the ponds picking up two SNOWY EGRETS (#195) and 1 GREEN HERON (#196). When I completed my loop, the two female LARK BUNTINGS (#197) were sitting right there where they were supposed to be.
On May 28th, a bunch of good birds were found at Greenlee Preserve. Things like Yellow-throated Vireo. Unfortunately, I've been doing bird surveys at work, and this means I have to start around 5:30 am, which really takes a bite out of the morning birding. But when I get home in the early afternoon, I have plenty of time to go out on bike rides. But it's early afternoon...and it's hot...and birds don't show themselves easily in those conditions. When I got to Greenlee, it was pretty difficult to find any birds at all. Luckily, a WILLOW FLYCATCHER (#198) made the trip worth while. While at Greenlee, word of a Least Tern at Walden came through the grapevine, so off I went! When I got to Walden, there were two BLACK TERNS (#199) flying around, but the Least was MIA. After about 20 minutes, the LEAST TERN (#200!) flew in.
On June 1, I took a hike up Bear Peak. I had found an Ovenbird on the 30th while doing point counts, and my main goal was to track him down. As I headed up the Bear Canyon Trail, I found a singing GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (#201) and CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS (#202). In the early afternoon heat, the OVENBIRD (#203) sang away.
I just returned from Safeway, and while unlocking my bike I spotted a COMMON NIGHTHAWK (#204) soaring around under a huge thunderhead.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Too much sleep

I had ambitious plans to embark on a Big Green Big Day on Saturday, May 17th. But when I woke up and saw that it was light outside, I knew I had blown it. I had slept through my 3:30 am alarm and woke up at 6 instead. I decided that an all out epic bike ride would probably kill me anyway, so I just rode up to the OSMP Lindsey property where I work every day to track down some neat things I've been seeing up there. I made a stop by the Mesa Trailhead first to see if there was anything good around. Here I picked up YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (#180) and LAZULI BUNTING (#181). I hiked around the Lindsey property for a few hours, searching for an Ovenbird I had heard on the 15th and also looking for a Rock Wren up on one of the hogbacks. Didn't have any luck with those two, but did find singing VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS (#182), a SWAINSON'S THRUSH (#183), a LESSER GOLDFINCH (#184) and a COMMON POORWILL (#185) on a nest!

Chasing Migrants

Cassin's Vireo
American Robin
Wilson's Warbler

On the morning of May 14, word of a Swainson's Warbler at Sale Lake came from Walter Szeliga. I had just arrived at my office, but decided that it was worth leaving work for a few hours to chase such an incredible bird. I rode up to Sale Lake to join throngs of searchers. No one found the Swainson's again :-( However, it was a happening place and I picked up a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (#173) and a CASSIN'S VIREO (#174). A Summer Tanager had also been reported that morning along Boulder Creek. When I went to look for that, I again could not find the bird, but did have two fly-over EVENING GROSBEAKS (#175).

On May 15, I birded along Boulder Creek in hopes of finding that Tanager. No luck, again. There were few birds in the area around Folsom and the Buff's Stadium. I did find a HERMIT THRUSH (#176) feeding in the path. I found a great pocked of migrants near the Confluence Ponds, including one LEAST FLYCATCHER (#177). There were two singing Wilson's Warblers, Western Wood-Pewee, Orange-crowned Warblers and many Yellow-rumps. Along the Centential Path on the north side of the Burke I property, there was a calling SORA (#178) and singing BOBOLINKS (#179).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

East meets West

You never really know what will turn up where. Walter Szeliga called me this morning to report a continuing Black-throated Gray Warbler and an American Redstart. The BT Gray is a western warbler, breeding in Pinyon/Juniper woodlands. Redstarts are an eastern species. They both managed to find the small patches of cottonwoods around Sale Lake in north Boulder. This tiny little pond and the riparian habitat that surrounds it have already produced several good vagrant warblers this spring including Northern Waterthrush and Black-and-white Warbler. I rode out after work this afternoon. The first thing I heard when I stopped to get off my bike was a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (#170). With Walter's help, I tracked down the AMERICAN REDSTART (#171) and the BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (#172). I visited Walden Ponds after Sale Lake, but didn't turn up anything of note there except stunning views of the continuing American Bittern.

On May 9, I birded along Boulder Creek before work. I picked up a singing WARBLING VIREO (#168) and an adult BROAD-WINGED HAWK (#169)