Colorado: Fall 2016

Colorado: Fall 2016

Fall 2016: August 1 – November 30

Dean Shoup

Recommended citation:

Shoup, D. 2021. Fall 2016: Colorado. <> North American Birds.

Statewide temperatures from August to October were much above average, with the eastern half of the state experiencing record warm temperatures in November. August precipitation values ranged from above average in the west to near average in the Front Range and much below average in the northern and eastern parts of the state. September precipitation was near average in the west to below average for much of the central portion, excluding the eastern plains, which was also near average; much of the northern portion of the state was abnormally dry, with small areas in moderate drought status. October had below average and much below average temperatures, with abnormally dry status increased to cover much of the eastern half of the state with north-central pockets of moderate drought slightly increasing. November precipitation finished with near average or below average values, but drought status increased dramatically to cover the entire state except a small northwest corner..

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface):

Susan Allerton, Andy Bankert, David Blue, Debbie Bouricius, Steve Bouricius, Tanja Britton, Kara Carragher, David Chartier, Mark Chavez, Coen Dexter, David Dowell, Bill Kaempfer, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Lisa Edwards, Norm Erthal, Sam Fason, Ted Floyd, David Griffin, Charles Lawrence, Dave Leatherman, Jan Leonard, Forest Luke, Daniel Maynard, Meredith McBurney, Gwen Moore, Tresa Moulton, Brook Nelson, Duane Nelson, Johan Nilsson, Kay McConnell, Tom McConnell, Rich Miller, Steven G. Mlodinow (SGM), Riley Morris, Susan Pellegrini, Brandon K. Percival (BKP), Mark Peterson, Cheri Phillips, JoAnn Riggle, Tim Ryan, Lisa Rawinski, John Rawinksi, Bob Riggle, JoAnn Potter Riggle, Chris Rurik, Gene Rutherford, David Rymal, Ira Sanders, Tammy Sanders, Justin Sharick, Jill White Smith (JWS), Dean Shoup (DSh), Jason St. Pierre (JSP), Dan Stringer (DSt),Tyler Stuart, Jane Stulp, David Suddjian, Nicole Teel, (DSu), Janeal W. Thompson, Anna Troth, Glenn Walbek, David Wade, Sean Walters, Walter Wehtje, Wendy Wibbons, Lisa Williams, Brenda Wright

Abbreviation: “West Slope” denotes locations west of the Rockies.

Waterfowl through Hummingbirds

A lone Brant at Jumbo Res., Sedgwick 27 Nov (SGM) was the only of its kind this fall. Trumpeter Swan was represented with three reports including one near Rifle, Garfield 3 Oct (DR), one northeast of Palisade, Mesa 5-21 Oct (JR, m.ob.), and seven near Silt, Garfield 29 Nov (JR). A great find for the state was an American Black Duck at Woods Lake, Weld 25-26 Nov (SGM); if accepted, this would make for the state’s twentieth record. Scoters had a good showing this fall, with multiple reports of all three species. Surf Scoters were noted in eleven counties, with no more than seven at any one location. White-winged Scoter was found in seven counties, all singles except one report of three at Aurora Res., Arapahoe 26 Oct – 27 Nov (DD, m.ob.). Black Scoter showed up less frequently, with reports coming in from just four counties, and no more than two at any one location. Single Long-tailed ducks were found at Andrew’s Lake, San Juan 7 Nov (TM, KM), Black Hollow Res., Weld 15 Nov (SGM), North Sterling Res., Logan 20 Nov (JK, DD, KMD, DS), and Lake Hasty, Bent 23 Nov (JWT, DN).  A high count of five was seen at Chatfield S.P., Douglas/Jefferson 26 Nov (JK, m.ob.). Red-necked Grebes were noted in eight counties, with the earliest being found at Rueter-Hess Res., Douglas 3 Sep (TR).

Rare for the county, a Greater Roadrunner was reported near Cortez, Montezuma 23 Nov (JS). Ruby-throated Hummingbird had a good showing this fall, with reports from five locations tallying six individuals, many with photographs: one adult male southwest of Fort Collins, Larimer 1 Sep (ph. DW, NK), one female in Palisade, Mesa 3 Sep (DB, SB), one adult male (13-16 Sep) and one immature female (26 Sep) in Las Animas, Bent (DN, m.ob.), one immature male at Stulp Ranch, Prowers 22-24 Sep (JS), and one immature male in Colorado Springs, El Paso 24-25 Sep (MP, ph. BM).


Black-bellied Plover was found in 11 counties including one at Arapaho NWR, Jackson 25 Sep (DD, SGM, SW) and one at 18 Island Res., Jackson 25 Sep (DD, SGM, SW). Other reports came from the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Kit Carson, Larimer, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington, and Weld from 6 Aug – 21 Oct. This represents a typical year for the species. American Golden-Plover was noted only twice, with one at Jumbo Res., Sedgwick 30 Sep (KM, LE, JK, DD, NE) and one at Upper Queens/Neeskah Res. Kiowa 1 Oct (DD). Snowy Plover was seen in the counties of Alamosa, Crowley, Kiowa, and Washington 21 Aug – 3 Sep. The farthest north report for the season was one found at Prewitt Res., Washington 4-9 Sep (DB et al.).  A high count of 15 at Blanca Wetlands NWR, Alamosa 2 Aug (GG, AT) was of interest. With only a handful of fall reports from the last five years, a single Piping Plover at Chatfield S.P., Douglas 6 Aug (ph. JK) was a great find. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found and enjoyed by many at a playa near Byers, Arapahoe 2–5 Sep (CP, m.ob.). A high count of 15 was found near Burlington, Kit Carson 5 Sep (GW), representing the county’s first record. A single bird was seen and photographed at Timnath Res., Larimer 11 Sep (ph. JB, RB), also a county first. Pectoral Sandpipers were widespread in 24 counties, with a high count of 90 at Prewitt Res., Washington 5 Sep (DSh, KMD, JK). Short-billed Dowitcher was detected in four locations: one seen and heard at Timnath, Larimer 25 Aug (SW, AB), up to two juveniles seen, heard and photographed at Haxtun sewage ponds, Phillips 28 Aug – 4 Sep (ph. SGM, DD), one near Craig, Moffat 28-30 Aug (FL, JL) that was a possible first for the county (no eBird records to date), and one near Burlington, Kit Carson 20 Sep (GW).  Also visiting four locations was Red Phalarope: one at Union Res., Weld 27-29 Sep (DD, m.ob.), one at DeWeese Res., Custer 6 Oct (MP), one at Elevenmile Res., Park 23 Oct – 3 Nov (MP et al.), and one at Spinney Mountain Res., Park 8 Nov (SGM).

Jaegers through Terns

Rare to the state, a light adult Pomarine Jaeger put on quite a show for many observers at Chatfield S.P., Jefferson/Douglas 12-19 Oct (IS, TS, ph. JK, m.ob.). Also rare to the state, a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger delighted many observers at nearby Cherry Creek S.P. Arapahoe 15 -23 Sep (GW, m.ob.). An all-time high count for the state were three light adult Parasitic Jaegers well documented and photographed at Jumbo Res., Sedgwick 17 – 21 (ph. DD). An adult Black-legged Kittiwake graced Pueblo Res., Pueblo 30 Oct – 14 Nov (BKP, m.ob.), followed by a juvenile at the same location; but only for one day on 20 Nov (IS et al.). Sabine’s Gull was reported from 18 different locations with high counts of seven at both Cherry Creek S.P., Arapahoe 24 Sep (GW) and Jackson Res., Morgan 7 Oct (SGM, DD) from 13 Sep – 3 Nov. Three reports of Little Gull, all juveniles, were great for the season with one at Chatfield S.P., Douglas 3-5 Sep (JK, m.ob.), one at Adobe Creek Res., Kiowa 4 Oct (DN), and one at North Sterling SP, Logan 7-15 Oct (SGM, DD). Also rare to the state is Laughing Gull with one adult found at Jackson Res., Morgan 27 Sep (SGM) and another adult at Jumbo Res. Logan/Sedgwick, also (SGM). Mew Gull reports came in from seven counties with a total of 15 individuals, including a mix of adults and subadults. With only six accepted records of Western Gull, one was likely the same individual first reported in Costilla 4 Jun (TF) continuing at Blanca Wetlands NWR, Alamosa 22 Jun -23 Aug (LR, JR, SF, m.ob.). Also, a second-cycle bird was first reported at Prewitt Res., Washington 17 Jun -23 Sep (SGM, m.ob.) and then at Jackson Res., Morgan 21-22 Oct (MP. GW, m.ob.). A single first-cycle Iceland Gull (glaucoides/kumlieni) was noted at Barr Lake S.P., Adams (SGM). Other reports of Iceland Gull (Thayer’s) came in from thirteen different counties from18 Oct – 27 Nov. Rare to the state, a first-cycle Glaucous-winged Gull was at Pueblo Res., Pueblo 26 Nov (DC, BKP). With fewer than 10 fall reports in the last five years, two different Glaucous Gull reports were of interest: one adult at Aurora Res., Arapahoe 23-25 Nov (DD, GR) and one at Walker Road Gravel Pond, Douglas 26 Nov (HK). A Herring x Glaucous Gull (hybrid) was found at Douglas Res., Larimer 4 Nov (ph. DW). An adult Great Black-backed Gull returned to Pueblo Res., Pueblo 18-29 Nov (WW, BKP) for its 23rd consecutive season. Caspian Tern reports came in across many counties, eleven in all, from 14 Aug–23 Sep. The only sightings away from eastern Colorado were one from Steamboat Lake S.P., Routt 23 Aug (SP) and one in the Gunnison Basin, Gunnison 15 Sep (JN).

Loons through Hawks

Since being removed from the state review list and slowly becoming more regular, Red-throated Loon was reported from seven different locations in the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer, Logan, and Pueblo, with no more than two at any one location. Aside from multiple reports in 13 different counties of eastern Colorado from 13 Sep+, one West Slope report of a Pacific Loon at Ruedi Reservoir, Pitkin 28 Oct (RL) appears to be a county first (eBird data). Common Loon could be found in most large bodies of water this season, with a high count of 13 being tallied at both Lake Meredith, Crowley 30 Oct (DD, SGM) and Elevenmile Res., Park 5 Nov (JK et al.) A Neotropic Cormorant continued from the previous two seasons in the Montrose area, Montrose 17 Mar – 2 Oct (CD, BW, m.ob.) With less than five fall reports in the last 10 years, a Tricolored Heron was a fantastic find at Walden Res., Jackson 25 Sep (SW, DD, SGM). Rare to the state in any season, Yellow-crowned Night Heron was discovered twice, with one at Neenoshe Res., Kiowa 3 Sep (LE, KC, MP, BKP) and one at Baxter Lake near Berthoud, Weld 12 Sep (SGM). Seldom reported on the West Slope, a Broad-winged Hawk soared over the town of Nucla, Montrose 4 Oct (BW, CD). This makes only the 16th West Slope record (6 spring and 10 fall) of the species. At the end of 2003 there were only two records; now six different West Slope counties have records (fide CD). Fourteen eastern Colorado counties reported Broad-winged Hawk from 26 Aug – 10 Oct. A first county record of Ferruginous Hawk was discovered west of Independence Pass, Pitkin 22 Sep (KMD).

Woodpeckers through Wrens

Williamson’s Sapsucker wandered a bit out of its typical range twice this season, with one at Prewitt Res., Washington 27 Aug (BK); a first for this location, and one at John Martin Res., Bent 24 Sep (DN), also rare for the location. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sightings in the fall are usually few and far between; that trend continued with four reports of singles at Bonny S.W.A., Yuma 15 Oct (AH, MC), Lamar, Prowers 19 Nov (JWT), Roselawn Cemetery Pueblo 20 Nov (IS et al.), and Pueblo City Park, Pueblo 20-29 Nov (IS, m.ob.). Still on the state review list, three reports of Alder Flycatcher were good for the season. All three were well documented with detailed descriptions and photos. One found at St. Vrain S.P. Weld 14 Aug (SGM) the second county record and the second furthest west of all state records. More typical was one found just north of the town of Wray Yuma 21 Aug (SW, SGM) and one at Flagler S.W.A. Kit Carson 10 Sep (DD, KMD). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher near Laporte, Larimer 29 Sep-6 Oct (DD, KMD) was the only of its kind for the season.

White-eyed Vireo was found at Chico Basin Ranch, El Paso 20-22 Sep (TB) and also at South Platte Park Arapahoe 25-26 Nov (BS, CR, TH). Yellow-throated Vireo also was detected just twice this season, with one northeast of Deer Trail, Arapahoe 7 Aug (GR) and another at Grandview Cemetery, Larimer 16 Sep (ph. DL). More common in fall than spring, three reports of Blue-head Vireo were typical: singles at Bethune, Kit Carson 6 Sep (ph. GW, LE, MP), Jackson Res., Morgan 22 Sep (DD), and Lamar Community College, Prowers 7 Oct (DR). Eight reports of Philadelphia Vireo were spread out across the five counties of Adams, Kit Carson, Logan, Phillips, and Weld from 28 Aug–1 Oct, including a banded individual at Barr Lake S.P., Adams 1 Oct (MM) and a nicely photographed bird in Flagler Park, Kit Carson 28 Sep (ph. GW, TS). A casual species in the summer for the West Slope, a Red-eyed Vireo was first documented back in 2004 in the Craig area at Loudy-Simpson Park in Moffat, then again in 2007. For the third time since the 2004 sighting, a single bird was at Loudy-Simpson Nature Trail, Moffat 30-31 Aug (ph. JPR, BR).

A Bank Swallow seen along the Arkansas River below Pueblo Res., Pueblo 18 Nov (BKP) was seen again two days later on 20 Nov (IS, m.ob.) in the same general area, marking the states latest known departure date for this species. Rare to the state, a Sedge Wren was a good find at Van’s Marsh near John Martin Res., Bent 12 Nov (SGM).  Four reports of Carolina Wren in the counties of Arapahoe, Boulder, Prowers, and Yuma 27 Aug–28 Oct (m.ob.) made for a good showing this season.

Thrushes through Blackbirds

The lone Varied Thrush of the season was seen in Falcon, El Paso 18-23 Nov (BN, m.ob.). A Brown Thrasher was well west of its typical range in the southwest town of Durango, La Plata 27 Sep (SA). This appears to be a county first and represents just the second record for the southwest corner of the state (eBird data). An injured Lapland Longspur turned up in the West Slope town of Steamboat Springs, Routt 28 Nov (LW, ph. TM) farther west than typically observed. A cooperative Snow Bunting was discovered at Chatfield S.P., Douglas 23-25 Nov (AH, m.ob.), giving many local birders a chance to see this elusive species in the state. A group of four was seen a few days later at Sand Draw S.W.A., Sedgwick 27 Nov (SGM). A lone Eastern Towhee was the eighth of its kind in the last five years. A female was found in Lamar, Prowers 7 Oct (DL). Fox Sparrow (Red) was found twice, with one at Norma’s Grove, Weld 16 Sep (JK, CL, KMD) and one northeast of Deer Trail, Arapahoe 8 Oct (GR). A Swamp Sparrow in the West Slope town of Nucla, Montrose 5 Nov (CD, BW) was the first and only fall record for this county; only one other record occurs for the county of Montrose, from March 2015. White-throated Sparrow is fairly common in the fall; one report of two individuals from the far north-central location of Cowdrey, Jackson 18 Sep (DG) was of interest. Harris’s Sparrows were well represented with reports from 16 counties (7 Oct-27 Nov), including one West Slope record of a single bird from Nucla, Montrose 12 Nov (CD, BW). The only seasonal report of Golden-crowned Sparrow was found in the unexpected town of Craig, Moffat 18 Sep (FL). This represents a first county record as well as being early. Rusty Blackbirds were present in five counties with a total of 10 individuals.

Warblers through Tanagers

Black-and-white Warbler had numerous reports in nine counties (18 Aug–12 Oct). A single Prothonotary Warbler was banded and also seen foraging west of the banding station at Chico Basin Ranch, El Paso 17 Sep (WW). The fourth fall report for the state of Kentucky Warbler was seen and photographed at Brett Gray Ranch, Lincoln 9-13 Sep (ph. GW, ph. MP, LE). Much rarer in the fall than spring, the only report of Hooded Warbler for the season was found in Ken Caryl, Jefferson 13 Sep (DSu). A Cape May Warbler was found at Pueblo City Park, Pueblo 7 Nov (BKP). Magnolia Warbler had four reports in three counties (17 Sep-29 Nov). Single Blackburnian Warblers were reported at Lamar Community College, Prowers 27 Aug (JWS) and at Prospect Ponds N.A., Larimer 13 Sep (DW). Four Chestnut-sided Warblers were reported (25 Aug-26 Nov) along with five Blackpoll Warblers (19 Aug-26 Sep). As an expected mid-fall migrant, Black-throated Blue Warbler was scarce, with just two reports. An early female was found at Cherry Creek SP, Arapahoe 28 Aug (GR) and a male was seen northeast of Deer Trail, Arapahoe 15-16 Oct (GR, GM, DSh). A first county record Palm Warbler was found at DeWeese Res., Custer 11 Oct (RM). Other reports of this annual fall migrant came in from 10 different counties, mostly along the Front Range and eastern plains areas. Three reports of single Pine Warblers were good at Fairmount Cemetery in Lamar, Prowers 16 Aug-8 Sep (DL), Cheyenne Wells, Cheyenne 3 Sep (DD), and Lamar, Prowers 11-30 Nov (JWT). A Yellow-throated Warbler visited a backyard feeder in Fort Collins, Larimer 30 Sep and 26 Nov (NT). Three reports of single Black-throated Green Warblers were at Prewitt Res., Washington 31 Aug (SGM), southeast of Burlington, Kit Carson 1 Sep (GW), and Brett Gray Ranch, Lincoln 1 Sep (ph, MP). With just over 10 fall reports in the last 10 years, four reports of Canada Warbler were great for the state including one in Las Animas, Bent 8 Sep (DN, JWT), one at Lake Hasty, Bent 8 Sep (DSt), one at Willow Creek Park in Lamar, Prowers 10 Sep (ph. JWS), and one at Brett Gray Ranch, Lincoln 25 Sep (DM). A Summer Tanager was found in Durango, La Plata 4 Sep (RM, JSP, SA), this being one of just three reports in the last 10 years for the southwest corner of the state. The only report of Scarlet Tanager for the season was at Sandsage S.W.A., Yuma 10 Sep (DM).

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to David Dowell for his central role in compiling sightings for the Colorado Birds Journal.

Report processed by Byron Swift, 10 Feb 2021.

Photos–Colorado: Fall 2016

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