A total of 213 species of countable birds (one non-countable Mute Swan as well) were found on count day from the 49 Colorado CBCs that were submitted this season (Nunn and Summit County were not submitted), three other count week only species were also found (American Woodcock, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Savannah Sparrow). Warmer weather and open water helped the species totals for some counts. Also, many lingering passerines and water birds were present as well. The weather was mostly okay this year, no blizzards anyway, like last year. There was a push of mountain type birds onto the lowlands that helped some counts get more species than usual.
A total of 741,669 birds were counted on Colorado CBCs, 200,000 less than last year. Mark Peterson’s Penrose CBC, centered near Florence in Fremont County, is always in the running for one of the counts that can get the most species on a count in Colorado. This year was their best count for species ever, with a record high of 134 species on Count Day, with only 21 observers. The old record of 129 species was the state record high for a Christmas Bird Count, by Pueblo Reservoir a couple of times. Other Counts with over 90 species on count day this year: Pueblo Reservoir 124, Boulder 110, Loveland 109, Denver 108, John Martin Reservoir 101, Fort Collins 100, Rocky Ford 99, Fountain Creek 98, Grand Junction 97, Denver (Urban) 96, Colorado Springs 94, Pueblo 93.
Lower numbers of geese were found than last year, which is why the overall totals of birds counted on Colorado CBCs were down. There were 29 Greater White-fronted; 73,912 Snow; 6131 Ross’s; 78,285 Cackling; and 142,306 Canada. A Greater White-fronted x Cackling Goose (hybrid) was at Loveland and Snow x Canada Goose (hybrid) at Denver (Urban) - two and Loveland - one.
Swans are always rare on Colorado counts, a feral Mute Swan was at Greeley (this species doesn’t appear on the official Colorado State List, maintained by the Colorado Birds Records Committee), resident feral Trumpeter Swans were again at Pagosa Springs and Roaring Fork, and likely three wild ones were at Rawhide Energy Station. A Tundra Swan was at Barr Lake and three joined the Trumpeters at Rawhide Energy Station.
A Gadwall x American Wigeon hybrid was found count week at Loveland. Single Mexican Ducks were reported from Boulder and Loveland (may have been Mallard (Mexican intergrade), like the one at Pueblo Reservoir. A single Blue-winged Teal was well described from Weldona-Fort Morgan; reports of other Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal weren’t detailed enough to accept. Six counts found a total of 36 Greater Scaup. Single White-winged Scoters were found at Durango, Lake Isabel, and Rocky Ford, also count week at Spanish Peaks. Surprisingly only one Long-tailed Duck was found, at Pueblo Reservoir. Eleven counts found a total of 74 Barrow’s Goldeneye.
Five Gunnison Sage-Grouse were found on the Gunnison CBC, they are never easy to find in winter. The Steamboat Springs CBC found 14 Sharp-tailed Grouse. Bonny Reservoir CBC was the site of 39 Greater Prairie-Chickens.
Two Pacific Loons were found, one each at Boulder and Denver. More Common Loons were found than normal, 22 total on eight counts, and two at Cortez in southwestern Colorado was a first for that count. Grebe totals: Pied-billed – 329, Horned – 29, Red-necked – 8, Eared – 393, Western – 99, and Clark’s – 1. Red-necked Grebe the rarest Colorado grebe, were found in larger numbers than usual at Boulder (3), Loveland (2), Penrose (1), and Pueblo Reservoir (2). The only Clark’s Grebe on count day was at Penrose.
Six counts found a total of 33 Double-crested Cormorants, and six counts found a total of 12 American White Pelicans. A Great Egret was a surprise at Rocky Ford in south east Colorado. Three counts found a total of 17 Black-crowned Night-Herons.
Bald Eagles were found on 45 counts, with a total of 633 counted. One of the rarer birds seen on a Colorado CBC this winter was a much unexpected Harris’s Hawk, Colorado’s 3rd CBC record, at Fort Collins. A total of 197 Rough-legged Hawks and 120 Ferruginous Hawks were counted.
Twenty-one count circles found Virginia Rails on count day or count week; it is good to check marshes at night for both Virginia Rail and Sora. A total of 148 Virginia Rails were found, and five counts found a total of 20 Soras. Four counts found a total of 1585 Sandhill Cranes.
Killdeer and Wilson’s Snipe are the only regular shorebirds on Colorado CBCs, this year there were several surprises. Colorado’s 1st CBC record of an American Avocet was a shocker for the Durango count, photographs were taken. Spotted Sandpipers seem to appear now most years in winter in Colorado, Denver and Penrose found single birds on count day, and Durango found two. Southeastern Colorado CBCs were the only counts to find Greater Yellowlegs, a high number of ten at John Martin Reservoir and a singleton at Rocky Ford. A Dunlin was photographed at Loveland. A count week American Woodcock graced Loveland, where there has been one or two in winter the last few years.
Counts along the Front Range and plains can be great for gulls, every winter. An unexpected count week Black-legged Kittiwake was reported from Loveland. Three counts found Bonaparte’s Gulls, with a total of 575 counted. Four counts found single Mew Gulls; Boulder, Fountain Creek, Loveland, Pueblo, and count week at Pueblo Reservoir. Seven Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were found this winter, and 21 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were counted. The Loveland count found a very rare Glaucous-winged Gull, the only Glaucous Gull, and a Herring x Glaucous Gull (hybrid). Two adult Great Black-backed Gulls graced Pueblo Reservoir again, at least one has been present here each winter since March 1993!
Eight counts found a total of 190 White-winged Doves. A Greater Roadrunner was at Fountain Creek, and two at John Martin Reservoir, were the only ones this winter.
Owls were found in the following numbers: six Barn, 105 Western Screech-, 41 Eastern Screech-, 365 Great Horned, one Snowy Owl (count day at Weldona-Fort Morgan and count week at Loveland), 18 Northern Pygmy-, 15 Long-eared, five Short-eared, and seven Northern Saw-whet.
A Red-headed Woodpecker was at Bonny Reservoir. Four counts found a total of 41 Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Sapsuckers were found as follows: five Williamson’s, three Yellow-bellied, and three Red-napeds. Seven Ladder-backed Woodpecker and only three American Three-toed Woodpeckers were tallied.
Four counts found a total of four Peregrine Falcons, which are pretty hard to find on Colorado CBCs.
Boulder was the site for Colorado’s 2nd CBC record of Hammond’s Flycatcher, well photographed. Six Black Phoebes were found, the most surprising one, was well north on the Denver (Urban) count, also one appeared in western Colorado, at Hotchkiss, and more normal were four at Penrose. A rarer Eastern Phoebe was at Longmont. Ten counts located Say’s Phoebes, with a total of 26 found.
House Wrens are unexpected in winter, one was at Boulder, one was at Denver (Urban), and three were at Pueblo Reservoir. A few Pacific Wrens were detected, a count week bird at Durango, and count day birds at Longmont (well documented) and Penrose. Only four Winter Wrens were found, one bird each at Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, and Penrose. A Carolina Wren finally was found on count day at Pueblo Reservoir, after a few count week only sightings other years.
Ten Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were found, six at Montrose in western Colorado was a lot for one count, and singles were at Boulder and Delta, and two were at Pueblo Reservoir.
Bluebird totals were, 163 Eastern, 381 Western, and 1653 Mountain. Only four Hermit Thrushes were found, one at Denver (Urban), and three at Grand Junction. Single Gray Catbirds were at Denver, Fort Collins, Fountain Creek, and John Martin Reservoir. Brown Thrashers were only found at Boulder and Crook, one on each count. Five counts found a total of six Northern Mockingbirds.
Steamboat Springs was again the only location for Bohemian Waxwings, with a total of 103 there.
A total of 3428 Lapland Longspurs were found in eastern Colorado, and one Chestnut-collared Longspur was at Flagler. A Snow Bunting was reported from Loveland.
This was one of the most memorable warbler shows ever for Colorado CBCs. Normally, Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only certain warbler species found on Colorado CBCs each year. This year, a crazy total of nine species of warblers were found. Pueblo Reservoir was the site of five species! Single Common Yellowthroats were at Boulder and Penrose. Three Northern Parulas were photographed, two at Colorado Springs and one at Pueblo Reservoir. Colorado’s 1st CBC Record of Chestnut-sided Warbler was found 15 November and lived to count day at Pueblo Reservoir. A photographed Palm Warbler (Western) was at Fort Collins. A Pine Warbler was at Loveland count day and another at Denver (Urban) count week. A Yellow-throated Warbler found 19 November at Pueblo Reservoir stayed to count day, only the 3rd CBC record for Colorado. Penrose and Fort Collins have had them in the past. Colorado’s 2nd CBC Record of Prairie Warbler was found 5 December and stayed to 24 January at least, at Pueblo Reservoir feeding on midges below the dam. A surprising Wilson’s Warbler was at Delta on count day!
A beautifully photographed Le Conte’s Sparrow was at John Martin Reservoir. Three photographed Chipping Sparrows were found at Colorado Springs, Pagosa Springs, and Pueblo Reservoir. Fox Sparrows of unknown race were reported from Boulder (one bird) and Greeley (two birds). A Fox Sparrow (Slate-colored) was again found in Durango. Single Golden-crowned Sparrows were at Crook and Denver. Twenty each of Harris’s and White-throated sparrows were tallied in the state. A rare Vesper Sparrow was at Bonny Reservoir, and a count week Savannah Sparrow was at John Martin Reservoir. It was a big winter for Lincoln’s Sparrows, ten counts found a total of 49 of them! Thirty-four Swamp Sparrows were found, on 12 counts. Penrose again found the only Rufous-crowned Sparrows, with two birds. Green-tailed Towhee was found only at Grand Junction.
Four counts found a total of 15 Northern Cardinals. Only John Martin Reservoir found a single Yellow-headed Blackbird. A count day Rusty Blackbird was at Penrose, and a count week one at Denver were the only ones reported.
Rosy-finch numbers were 462 Gray-crowned, 23 Gray-crowned (Hepburn’s), 84 Black, 670 Brown-capped, and 798 rosy-finch species.
A White-winged Crossbill was a nice surprise at Rocky Mountain N.P. Eight counts found a total of 38 Common Redpolls, 29 at Sterling was the most and one at Denver (Urban) and one at Spanish Peaks were a new bird for those two counts.
Thanks to all the compilers, counters, and landowners who let people count birds on their properties for Colorado Christmas Bird Counts. Also, huge thanks to former Regional Editors Christopher L. Wood and Tony Leukering for helping with reviewing some of the rare birds reported (including the Palm Warbler photo, confirming the subspecies), and to Coen Dexter for his help with reviewing the Western Slope Colorado counts.