A few friends and I went up the NE Colorado today, spending most of our time at Prewitt Reservoir and Jackson Lake. We had a pretty good assortment of birds, with some notable highlights. I am going to give a quick trip report and link the eBird checklists from each spot we birded.
We started out at the GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN lek near Akron, where the viewing is much better than last year. The grass is much shorter and the birds are visible and close to the road, so it may be worth checking if you are in the area. I will also note that there are noticeably fewer birds than last year, but there could be a myriad of reasons for that. Regardless, please don't get too close to the birds, but park up or down the road from them to view the lek from a distance. (Be careful though because the sandy road is known for swallowing cars.) Two birds actually flew off the lek together and landed in the same spot, before one returned and started dancing with renewed vigor, so one can only imagine what they were doing in the privacy of the bushes.
After freeing the car from the road near the lek, we went to the Logan County side of Prewitt Reservoir to find the continuing EASTERN TOWHEE, which we found almost immediately. It was with a male Spotted Towhee, but was very skulky and hard to see. Overall, the bird looks good for a pure Eastern, but I would love it if someone could get some recordings of the bird! Interesting aside, the bird was also moving across the county line between Logan and Washington, and I think that it represents the 2nd Washington County record for that species. Other highlights at Prewitt were 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, many Aythya, and large amounts of Snow, Ross's, and Canada Geese, with a few Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in, and a single Cackling tying the goose slam together nicely.
On our way out of Prewitt, we stopped at the Hillrose Sewage Ponds, which were pretty birdy. Two Lincoln's Sparrows, a Golden Eagle, migrating male Northern Harriers, territorial American Kestrels, and a couple of Mountain Bluebirds made this quick stop quite enjoyable.
After Hillrose, we stopped at Brush Prairie SWA, where the walk all the way out to the ponds turned out to be a worthwhile venture. Highlights were a SAGE THRASHER, Greater Yellowlegs, and a nice assortment of ducks.
When we finally got to Jackson, it was about 2:30 and we began searching for Long-eared Owl in the russian olives. We were successful pretty quickly, with great, point blank looks at a Long-eared Owl. After a quick look, we backed off and let the owl be, but it was pretty incredible to get such good views in the daytime.
We then checked Andrick SWA, where we got ~75 Sandhill Cranes and 14 Bald Eagles. Right at the entrance to Jackson Lake SP, while scoping the ponds, we picked out 4 Mountain Chickadees working a feeder within the trailer park across the road.
After Andrick, we went to the other side of Jackson to the parking lot at the end of road 305. We spent a good while scoping the water there, with the highlights being Horned Grebe, lots of pelicans, and a Glaucous Gull far out on the water. Another highlight, albeit an unidentified one, was a far gull that we saw a few times in flight. Luke and I got on it at about the same time and we both were incredibly surprised at the extreme darkness of the bird. It was flying with a Ring-billed Gull and was about the same size, but possibly more streamlined in shape, but the flight pattern was the same. The really surprising part was that it was the exact color of a Heermann's Gull. We contemplated jaeger or possibly a really dark Mew Gull, but in the end it just went down as a gull sp. due to the short duration of observation and the distance. But, if anyone is out there birding anyways, it may be worthwhile to scan the gulls and see what you can find!