January 17 & 18: Photographing Rosy-Finches, led by Debbie Barnes

Saturday: The weather was wonderful for January—mid to upper 30’s with little to no wind. We saw lots of raptors sitting on power poles on the way up and a coyote below Woodland Park heading into the woods. We didn’t find many birds in Cripple Creek, but Victor really produced some great sightings, including a fox. We had around 200 Rosy-Finches! Most were Gray-crowned, with a few Black and Brown-capped thrown in. We even got three Hepburn’s Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, visiting from the coast. On the way home we got a nice surprise with a young Mountain Goat feeding beside the road. Everyone went home with some wonderful images and a few tips to help them with their bird photography.

Our birds for the day: Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Clarks Nutcracker, Steller’s Jay, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (including Hepburn’s), Black Rosy-Finch, Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, American Crow, Common Raven, Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco (Pink sided, Oregon, Gray-headed, White-winged), Mountain Chickadee, House Sparrow, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Black-billed Magpie.

Sunday: This day’s trip was slightly cooler, with a small breeze that probably affected what we saw. We had the same poor luck in Cripple Creek, but the drive up to Victor produced some nice birds. In fact, our day was characterized by raptors. First we saw an interesting second-year dark-morph-ish Rough-legged Hawk. That was followed by a Prairie Falcon. While we were looking at a few finches, we heard a Northern Pygmy Owl vocalizing and moving around us trying to avoid the crows and jays that were harassing it. We didn’t get a look at it, but it was a cool encounter. We also had fly-bys of another second year light-morph Rough-legged Hawk and a second year Golden Eagle!

The Rosy-Finches were not as numerous as on Saturday, but we did see them. A flock of about 75 fly around us but didn’t land. Everyone was disappointed but philosophical about the small numbers of Rosy-Finches seen.

Our birds for the day: Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Townsends Solitaire, Clarks Nutcracker, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco (Pink sided, Oregon, Gray-headed, Slate-colored), Mountain Chickadee, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Black Rosy-Finch, Cassins Finch, House Sparrow, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Black-billed Magpie.

April 8 : Chico Basin Ranch, led by John Drummond

Spring snowstorms forced the trip to be postponed several times, but, the intrepid birders finally made it to Chico Basin Ranch. Here are the lists, by county, of birds sighted.

El Paso County list: Number of species: 20. Scaled Quail – 8, American Kestrel – 2, Killdeer – 8, Mountain Plover – 1, Mourning Dove – 4, Burrowing Owl – 3, Long-eared Owl – 6, Ladder-backed Woodpecker – 1, Blue Jay – 4, Chihuahuan Raven – 1, Horned Lark – 20, Townsend’s Solitaire – 1, American Robin – 6, Curve-billed Thrasher – 1, European Starling – 10, White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel’s) – 2, Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) – 3, Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided) – 2, Western Meadowlark – 10, House Finch – 4

April 25: Ramah Reservoir SWA, led by Leslie Holzmann

Nine intrepid birders braved the cold and damp to spend an early morning at Ramah SWA and Mallard Lake. Birding was rewarding in spite of the weather, and we spotted 45 species.

Ramah SWA: Number of species: 28. Western Meadowlark, Mourning Dove, Peregrine Falcon, White-faced Ibis, Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Franklin Gull, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Bonaparte’s Gull, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Dowitcher sp., Wilson’s Phalarope, Mallard, Killdeer, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Horned Lark, Northern Flicker (heard), Downy Woodpecker (heard).

Hwy 24: Number of species: 6. Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Western Meadowlark*, Swainson’s Hawk, Great-tailed Grackle, Ferruginous Hawk (Debbie & Patrick only).

Mallard Lake: Number of species: 16. Northern Shoveler*, Mallard*, Red-winged Blackbird*, Tree Swallow*, Canada Goose, Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Coot, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, European Starling, Cliff Swallow, Common Grackle, Western Grebe, Brown-headed Cowbird.

* (Sighted earlier)

June 30: Emerald Valley, led by Ken Pals

This hike is always spectacular, and this year was no exception. Yellow Lady Slippers, Coralroot, and Green Bog orchids were sighted. A broadtail hummingbird sat on her nest. A sapsucker peeked out of her nest cavity. Columbine was everywhere.

September 5: Burnt Mill Road, led by Gary Conover

For one participant’s story about the trip, go to her “Mountain Plover” blog.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day, and seven lucky birders spent it enjoying the birds and the outdoors. Highlights included great views of a Canyon Wren, all three kingbird species, and a Peregrine Falcon. Several participants scored a “lifer” with the last birds of the day: a flock of Lewis’s Woodpeckers.

Birds: Yellow-headed blackbird, Western bluebird, Gray catbird, Mountain chickadee, Eurasian collared-dove, Peregrine falcon, House finch, Cassin’s finch, Northern flicker, Dusky flycatcher, Lesser goldfinch, Common grackle, Northern harrier, Red-tailed hawk, Swainson’s hawk, Broad-tailed hummingbird, Rufous hummingbird, Western scrub-jay, Eastern kingbird, Western kingbird, Cassin’s kingbird, Belted kingfisher, Black-billed magpie, Western meadowlark, Common nighthawk, White-breasted nuthatch, Western wood-pewee, Eastern phoebe, Common raven, American robin, Pine siskin, Chipping sparrow, European starling, Barn swallow, Cliff swallow, Violet-green swallow, Western tanager, Juniper titmouse, Canyon towhee, Turkey vulture, Lewis’s woodpecker, Canyon wren.  In addition, Cindy had reported seeing a vesper sparrow, but no one else saw it.  Gary reported hearing the call of a vireo.  And some in the group caught a brief view of an owl flying in the distance.

October 31: Smith Creek Ponds, led by Leslie Holzmann

After the snow of the past several days, Saturday dawned clear and sunny, eventually reaching a high of around 60 degrees. At 8:30 am, the muddy paths were still frozen, and we crunched along through the crusty snow. Unfortunately, both ponds were almost totally frozen. Highlights included a Northern Shrike sitting on the uppermost top of a tree, and an owl, most probably a Great Horned Owl, flying through the denuded cottonwoods. In all, we counted 22 bird species. Also of note was the beaver lodge in the lower pond and the large-but-almost-gnawed-through tree trunks in the area.

Maybe because of the storm, everyone was quite anxious to get outside and soak up some sunshine. Ten people participated in the field trip. We all agreed that this site would be an excellent place to bird during spring migration, and intend to come back then.

Birds: Red-winged blackbird, American Robin, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Eurasian Collared Dove, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Finch, Northern Flicker, Western Scrub-jay, Stellar’s Jay, Blue Jay, Red-tailed Hawk, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco – Oregon, Dark-eyed Junco – Gray-headed, Spotted Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, American Crow, Great Horned Owl, Pine Siskin, Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shrike.