There were 51 Christmas Bird Counts in Colorado this past winter. One new count was started in Southeastern Colorado, at Pinon Canyon. Colorado had 203 species during count day, plus six other count week only birds. Pueblo Reservoir led the way with 120 species, followed by Penrose with 118. Other counts reaching 100 species were Denver with 112, John Martin Reservoir with 108, and Boulder and Fort Collins with 103 each. The weather seemed to be okay for most counts. Open water on some counts that usually don’t have much produced more species this year.
Colorado CBC Highlights:
Waterfowl highlights were: Three Trumpeter Swans and three Tundra Swans at Rawhide Energy Station, also a Tundra was at Barr Lake, and also one seen during count week at Penrose. Very unexpected were male and female Cinnamon Teal at Pueblo. A few scoters were turned up, with single White-winged at Durango and Pueblo, and a Black at Denver.
Never easy to find on a Christmas Bird Count, a White-tailed Ptarmigan was seen at Aspen. The only Sharp-tailed Grouse tallied were six at Steamboat Springs. Greater Prairie-Chickens were seen at Bonny Reservoir (60) and Sterling (12).
A Pacific Loon and a Red-necked Grebe appeared at Pueblo Reservoir. A Clark’s Grebe was at John Martin Reservoir. Photos of a grebe at Penrose turned out to be a hybrid Clark’s x Western Grebe.
A few late shorebirds were found. Single Spotted Sandpipers were at Barr Lake, Denver, and Grand Junction. Eight Greater Yellowlegs were at John Martin Reservoir, and a single one was up north at Weldona-Fort Morgan. Three Least Sandpipers were at Rocky Ford in southeastern Colorado.
Gull highlights were: Bonaparte’s at John Martin Reservoir (1) and Pueblo Reservoir (429). The only Mew Gull was at Pueblo Reservoir. A count week Glaucous-winged Gull was at Loveland. Two Glaucous Gulls were in southeastern Colorado at John Martin Reservoir and two were north at Loveland. The only Great Black-backed Gull, which has been returning for many years, was at Pueblo Reservoir.
On a warm early morning on the Penrose count, a Common Poorwill was perched on a dirt road.
A Red-headed Woodpecker was nicely photographed at Fountain Creek. A count week Acorn Woodpecker showed up at Durango in southwestern Colorado. Pretty normal in recent years for Penrose, two Williamson’s Sapsuckers were found, but not expected was a female at Rocky Ford on the plains in southeastern Colorado. Five Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found on eastern Colorado counts, and also a count week bird in southwest Colorado at Durango was more unexpected.
Always a treat in Colorado, a Gyrfalcon was well seen and photographed at Loveland.
Black Phoebes turned up along the Arkansas River, with four at Penrose and one at Pueblo Reservoir. A very lost Black Phoebe was up in the mountains, below Lake DeWeese dam, along the creek there, on the Westcliffe count. A long-staying Vermilion Flycatcher was at Boulder; though not seen on count day, at least it made the count week list. The shocker of the Colorado Christmas Bird Count season happened in Grand Junction, where observers photographed a kingbird (all kingbirds in Colorado in winter should be photographed, as none are expected at all), and the photos were of Colorado’s 3rd ever Thick-billed Kingbird! Another yellow-bellied kingbird was reported at Grand Junction, without photos.
A Carolina Wren was at Loveland. A Varied Thrush was at Colorado Springs, and a count week bird at Loveland. Two Brown Thrashers were at Fort Collins and a count week bird was at Denver (urban). The only Bohemian Waxwings were at Steamboat Springs during count week. It seems like the entire state hasn’t had an invasion of this species in a while.
Two Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found on the new Pinon Canyon count. There were also a few odd warblers; perhaps the best was a Tennessee Warbler at Penrose, but unfortunately no details were provided to the Regional Editor or the Records Committee as far as I know. This would be a first Colorado CBC record. A count week Orange-crowned Warbler was at Longmont. Two Common Yellowthroats were at Fountain Creek. An unexpected Yellow Warbler and a (Western) Palm Warbler were at Longmont.
Details were provided for a few Chipping Sparrows; three photographed at Aspen were surprising for the mountains, and also one at Denver and one at Pueblo Reservoir were a little more expected. A Field Sparrow spent all winter at Colorado Springs. A Lark Sparrow was at Denver (urban). Single Fox Sparrows were at Bonny Reservoir, Boulder, and Rocky Ford. A Golden-crowned Sparrow was at Denver. Two Rufous-crowned Sparrows were at Penrose and one at Pinon Canyon. Green-tailed Towhees normally aren’t found in Colorado in winter, though sometimes they will show up on Christmas Bird Counts, this year singles were at three west slope locations: Cortez, Durango, and Steamboat Springs; the one east slope one was at Fort Collins. A count week Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Steamboat Springs was very lost. Looking through Red-winged Blackbird flocks, can sometimes produce Yellow-headed Blackbirds; two at Bonny Reservoir, one at Colorado Springs, and one at Rocky Ford were the only ones found. Rusty Blackbirds winter in small numbers in Colorado, and a few counts found them this winter; one at Barr Lake, one at Boulder, seven at Denver (urban), five at Penrose, and one at Salida.
A rare Purple Finch was at Boulder. Not much of an invasion of Common Redpolls occurred this winter, since only one turned up at Rawhide Energy Station in northern Colorado.
Thanks to my review team of Chris Wood, Tony Leukering (former Regional Editors for Colorado) for their help with some of the records and photos. Thanks to the all the compilers and participants for their hard work to conduct and participant in Colorado Christmas Bird Counts.