Sunday, April 6, 2008

Eldorado Mountain and N. Teller Lake 4-6-08

Today I went on a rather long excursion covering over 30 mi. I started out riding out to my field site where there have been several good birds that I see daily...but not BGBY countable. These include pairs of Eastern and Western Bluebirds, a Red-naped Sapsucker, a Cooper's Hawk on territory, and rarely a Golden-crowned Kinglet.
My biggest nemesis so far has been Pine Siskin. I hear them every day up in the Ponderosa Pines, and occasionally down here in town. The other day I drove to work and stopped at the local coffee and bagel shop. As I was walking in, I heard a PISI fly over...arg. I've been taking almost daily walks around my neighborhood in search of things like Siskins and other common feeder birds, but with no luck. Today was different. I was only two blocks from my house, on a street that I normally don't walk, when I heard my first PINE SISKIN for the day (#99).
I headed to the Eldorado Corner Market and grabbed some Gatorade and stepped out back to see if I could find the Say's Phoebe that I had seen there a few days ago. No luck. So off towards Eldorado Springs to the Eldorado Mountain Open Space I went. On the ride I heard what sounded like the begining of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet song. I stopped and pished for a moment but didn't have anything other than Mountain Chickadees and some Dark-eyed Juncos respond. Hmm, I must have heard a junco sqeeking. As soon as I stopped my bike at the trail head, however, a bonafide RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (#100) began to chatter from the drainage. On my way out he was singing.
Today was very mild, around 60 degrees maybe and sunny with clouds and wind building in the afternoon. I hiked up to the burn area where I had been seeing the above mentioned birds. There has been one pair of Eastern's and two pairs of Western's around acting very territorial and I'm really hoping they stick around to breed. From what I can tell from the CO Breeding Bird Atlas, a nesting record of Eastern in a Ponderosa Pine forest would be unique for the state. There are some historical records of all three bluebird species nesting in the same stand of trees, but my impression was that those were in Aspens. When I arrived at the burn...all was quiet. I spotted an Abert's Squirrel and some Mule Deer. I headed over to where I have a remote camera set up to look for a strange aster-like flower I had seen a few days before. When I got to my camera spot, the pair of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS (#101) appeared, getting all riled up, chattering and singing away. Just prior to their appearance, I could have sworn I heard a distant tooting, almost like a Pygmy-Owl, but I left it as just a distant Flicker or something.
The Eastern's were acting agitated, and I didn't want to bother them. I started to head over to where I had seen a male Red-naped Sapsucker and Western Bluebirds. But the Eastern's just kept flying around chattering away, going in the same direction I was. Man, I thought, I'm really pissing these guys off. Who knew I'd be such an annoyance to them? Suddenly, I heard another bluebird enter the chatter. I looked up and spotted an adult male WESTERN BLUEBIRD (#102) only 15 m away in a snag. He flew right towards me and landed in the crown of a another snag, right next to a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (#103)!!!!! No wonder they were so pissed off. And all that time I was selfish enough to think that they really cared about me, ho hum :-( I enjoyed killer looks at the Mountain Pygmy-Owl as it sat in the snag for several minutes. I shot a few record shots and even got shots with both Western and Eastern Bluebird harassing the owl. I turned around and looked to where the sapsucker should be, and there he was, a beautiful male RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (#104) right on cue.
I searched around Spring Brook for the Golden-crowned Kinglet and Cooper's Hawk, but didn't have any luck. I hiked around to the back side of the hogback where I had a good view of Eldorado Canyon. I scanned and scanned for Peregrines and White-throated Swifts, but struck out. That's ok since there are still some upper foothill birds (Canyon Wren, Bushtit, Long-eared and N. Saw-whet Owls, Violet-green Swallow etc.) that I need and I'm sure to pick those up later on in the spring. I did spot a pair of Prairie Falcons flying around the north side of the canyon and watched one bird shoot up into her aerie. As I was riding back out towards Boulder, I began to think about that Say's Phoebe again. I began to think "dang, where is this sucker?" rather than "OK, this is a nice area for Say's, should keep an eye out" when I spotted the bird on a fence. I like how that works sometimes, just thinking of a bird and having it magically appear. SAY'S PHOEBE (#105).
North Teller Lake out near Valmont and 95th has been producing some good shorebirds this week. Earlier in the week, one of the City Rangers, Jean, sent out a heads up email that there was a large flock of American White Pelicans here. That night the same word was out on the local bird sighting listserve, as well as news of other goodies like both Yellowlegs and Avocets. With the wind at my back, I made really good time getting out east of town to the lake. And just as reported, 170 AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS (#106), 5 AMERICAN AVOCETS (#107), 1 LESSER YELLOWLEGS (#108) and 25 Greater Yellowlegs were milling around. I made a quick stop at Cottonwood Marsh but there wasn't anything too exciting going on there. Then it was a blustery ride into the head wind back to my house.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Valmont 4-2-08

Although all the ice in the area has long since melted, there are still good numbers of gulls going in to roost at Valmont Reservoir. California Gulls are now abundant, about 1/3 of the birds present this evening and last. On my ride over to Legion Park from the office, I spotted a MOURNING DOVE (#97) on Westshore Dr. As I set up my scope on my already crippled tripod, the little knob that is used to screw the scope to the mount snapped off. Now it's missing 2/3 of a leg and I can't attach the scope. I can still balance the scope on top which seems to work just about as well as before. Piece of junk, but trustworthy. I scanned the gulls a few times, and was disappointed not to find my target Franklin's Gull (there were 9 here last night). I took a minute to study the local male Red-tail that was perched on his favorite utility pole below the overlook, and when I looked back at the gull flock 5 adult FRANKLIN'S GULLS (#98) had materialized.