Date: 2/24/18 9:03 pm From: 'Norm Lewis' via Colorado Birds <cobirds...> Subject: [cobirds] Winter wren, Morgan County
Heeding warnings of possible high winds along the Front Range, Nina Routh and I decided that Morgan County might be a good choice for a day of birding. Having seen a couple of interesting sightings posted by Chris W and David D from a week or so ago, we decided to have a look at the east unit of Riverside Park. The area was reasonably birdy, with the best find being a winter wren.
We did not have a specific location for the winter wren reported by Chris and David, but I assume ours is the same bird. If you would like to look for the wren, the location is easy to find. If you are not familiar with the site, the east unit can be reached by taking the first exit past Fort Morgan, about a mile east of town. This exit basically serves a couple of motels, but taking the road to the north beyond the motels and then west will bring you to the parking area. Walk west from the parking area along the South Platte until you reach a creek. Staying on the east side of the creek, walk upstream a couple hundred yards until you come to the ninth tee of the frisbee golf course. The wren was in the bushes against the opposite bank.
At the west end of the park, in Fort Morgan, there were a thousand+ white-cheeked geese, split about evenly between Canada and cackling. There were two snow geese and one white-fronted among the crowd.
After Fort Morgan we took highway 144 west toward Weldona, and then followed county roads north and west, hoping to find some redpolls in the wild sunflowers along the roads. Unfortunately, a stiff breeze had come up which suppressed songbird activity, but we did find a decent assortment of raptors. From there we made a stop at Jackson Lake SP where things were pretty quiet. Nine bald eagles were loafing on the ice, and one of the resident great horned owls flushed from the woods across from the visitor center. There were the usual hoards of robins, a few solitaires and juncos, and not much else.
As so often happens, the "event of the day" occurred after we had quit birding and were headed for the barn. We took 144 from Orchard toward I-76, and were within a mile of the freeway when we spotted a large flock of geese in a cornfield. We had been hoping for a flock of snow geese, but up to this point been disappointed, but this mixed goose flock appeared to have several hundred snows in it. Mission accomplished! We then experienced the clown car version of a goose flock. Apparently the bulk of the flock was hidden behind a low rise, because the field began erupting snow geese, and continued doing so for several minutes. A few hundred lifted off, then a few hundred more, and then a few hundred more. By the time the field had given up all its geese, we estimated (conservatively!) that we had over ten thousand snow geese in the air. There were dense clouds of geese in every direction, joined by thousands more Canada/cacklers. It was quite a spectacle, and a fine end to a go