Monday, May 22, 2017

Return to Weld & Adams Counties

May 21, 2017

Rebecca and I went to visit a friend's ranch in Weld County this morning.  Mountain Plovers have nested in the past.  Today we could only find one plover.  A pair of Long-eared Owls is nesting in the windbreak 60 yards from the ranch house.

On the drive home, we stopped at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld).  No owls were found; however, we did relocate the Gray-cheeked Thrush and Chestnut-sided Warbler that Terry Michaels and I found yesterday.

In the afternoon, I drove over to Barr Lake (Adams).  My hike was from the Visitor's Center footbridge to the western end of the Niedrach boardwalk, back to the footbridge and continued to mile 8.0, not far from the boat ramp.

None of the birds reported earlier in the day were relocated.  The bird population today was much different from my visit two days ago.  Western Kingbird numbers were significantly lower, as were Western Wood-pewee numbers.

A few interesting birds were encountered.  A male Black-headed Grosbeak was in the cottonwoods at mile 8.85.  A Blackpoll Warbler popped out of the thickets while I watched the grosbeak.

They were the only uncommon sightings recorded to mile 8.0.  On the return trek, I was thinking that all the thrushes found Friday had moved on.  Then a Veery scurried out of the underbrush at mile 8.05.

One Yellow-rumped Warbler and just a couple of Yellow Warblers were the only warblers found today.  Winds picked up around 5:00 pm; fifteen minutes later the skies opened up.  A downpour ensued and I was 1/2 mile from my SUV.

After the rain stopped, I walked from the old stone house (mile 6.0) to the southern end of the dam.  Two Yellow Warblers were the only birds found.  One of the Long-eared Owls was found in the trees along the eastern canal.

Weld County to Lakewood, Jefferson County

May 20, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached the middle 60s today.  Winds were less than 6 mph.

Terry Michaels and I headed to Weld County.  A quick stop at Barr Lake relocated the Gray-cheeked Thrush at mile 8.05 and one of the Barn Owls.

We spent an hour at a friend's ranch in Weld County looking for Mountain Plover.  One was found a week ago; we still did not find a mate or evidence of nesting.

A hike down the southern side of Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) from Ponds four to one was successful.  A Chestnut-sided Warbler fluttered around a Russian Olive Tree.  Farther south a Gray-cheeked Thrush was walking under an evergreen tree.  A Long-eared Owl was again in the western windbreak.

After dropping Terry off, I decided to jump in the traffic and drive to the western side of Denver and Main Reservoir.  It took an hour; finally, the Hooded Warbler was heard briefly singing along the south side of the reservoir.  It stayed low to the ground and in the grove of trees and bushes 50 yards west of the stream & grouse west of the parking area.

I photographed a Red-eyed Vireo at the western side of the same grove.  Several times, it flew to the little cottonwood just to the west.

Many Yellow Warblers, Western Wood-pewees and a Warbling Vireo were also around.

Then I rushed to a Colorado Birding Society meeting where I had tonight's presentation.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stretching My Legs at Barr Lake

May 19, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Again, to stretch my legs after many miles in a car, I walked around Barr Lake (Adams) late in the afternoon.  Few birds were found although Western Kingbirds, Western Wood-pewees, Bullock's Orioles have returned.

The highlight was a Northern Waterthrush off the western end of the Niedrach Boardwalk Trail.

No uncommon warblers or Baltimore Oriole (my target bird) were found.

Southeastern Trip for Migrants

May 16-17, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I headed southeast to explore Colorado's spring migration and do some owling.  A snowstorm hit Colorado in the middle of our trip, delaying our projected return.

May 16
Our trek started eastward along I70 and then turned south.  We again searched for the Lesser Nighthawk (possible first Kit Carson County record) at Flagler Reservoir; without success.  Far lesser consolation sightings included a Northern Waterthrush and Black-headed Grosbeak.  We missed the Eastern Towhee reported May 19, perhaps not yet around today.

We also missed the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Painted Bunting reported a few days earlier at Kit Carson (Cheyenne).  Only a Black-and-white Warbler could be found by us (near school and site of Painted Bunting 5/12).

In the Arriba area (Lincoln), we relocated a Mountain Plover along County Road 3F, west of CR 43.

Our target bird for the day was the Black-throated Sparrow at Setchfield Wildlife Area (first Bent County record to be).

We spent the night camping at the Picture Canyon parking area (Baca)

May 17
A hike down Picture Canyon and North Canyon found the two Painted Buntings, an Eastern Phoebe, two Northern Mockingbirds and two Rufous-crowned Sparrows.  The Vermilion Flycatcher that was reported to us four days ago in North Canyon was not found.  Greater Roadrunners were seen at the entrance to Picture Canyon on our way out.

Nothing uncommon could be found at the Upland Bird Management Area (Baca).

Cassin's and Western Kingbirds have returned to Cottonwood Canyon and Furnish Canyon (Baca).  Inclement weather cut our birding short today.

May 18
We did manage to find the male Vermilion Flycatcher in Furnish Canyon (Baca) today.  Other sightings in Furnish Canyon included a Gray Flycatcher and more surprising a Great Crested Flycatcher.  Owling after dark included two Western Screech-Owls and two Northern Saw-whet Owls. 

May 19
We were up early and added two Northern Saw-whet Owls and three Western Screech-Owls (captured on our "owl listening stations") at a private ranch in Las Animas County.  Another pair of Eastern Phoebes and eight Cassin's Kingbirds were also around.  The highlight was definitely a male Hepatic Tanager inspecting a ponderosa pine tree.

A Day at Castlewood Canyon

May 15, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures reached the high 70s today.  By afternoon, winds were 16-17 mph with gusts to 23 mph.

I arrived at Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County) around 5:00 am and left at 4:00 pm.  The day of hiking was quite enjoyable.

No Northern Saw-whet Owls were found today.  I eventually hiked the Homestead Trail and Creek Bottom Trail to the broken Dam.  From there I turned east and hiked the Inner Canyon Trail to the Canyon View Nature Trail to Hwy 83.

On the return trip, I walked to the northern end of the Rimrock Trail but had to return the same route.  There was no way down to Cherry Creek from the Rimrock Trail.  I had never been on this trail before.  It was interesting but not worth a birding hike.

I returned to Homestead site by way of Castlewood Canyon Road.  Mostly took this route to explore additional habitats.

Highlights were an Ovenbird and Least Flycatcher along the Creek Bottom Trail.

My bird list was 68 species (usually I do not count total species; perhaps I will do so in the future):

Canada Goose, Wood Duck - pair, Mallard - pair, Double-crested Cormorant - (flyover), Bald Eagle - (flyover), Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull , Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove , Common Nighthawk - 1, Black-chinned Hummingbird - (male), Broad-tailed Hummingbird - (male), Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Least Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Scrub-Jay, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Canyon Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ovenbird, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brewer's Blackbird, Common Grackle, Bullock's Oriole, Pine Grosbeak, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Afterwards I drove down to the Winkler Ranch and found Mountain Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys and two male Bobolink.  A Grasshopper Sparrow stopped on a fence post while I was trying to listen for Dickcissel.

Misses: any owls, uncommon warblers such as Prairie Warbler (summered in June 2008).

At 4:30, I parked at Hwy 86 and Castlewood Canyon Road and walked under the hwy 86 bridge.  I turned around at the large cottonwood grove about 1/2 miles north of the bridge.

Nothing uncommon was encountered.  The Great Horned Owl nest was empty.  Was she successful in raising a family or just abandoned the nest, do not know?

On the way back to my car, I observed an Eastern Phoebe in the dark barked cottonwood just south of the hwy 86 bridge.

Walk Along the Barr Lake Trail

May 14, 2017

Richard Stevens:

I hiked at Barr Lake (Adams) to stretch my legs after a long drive this morning.  My broken toe only allowed a walk from mile 0.0 (9.0 Visitor's Center footbridge) to the west end of the Niedrach boardwalk trail, and east to mile 8.6 (Osprey platform nest).

Many common summering birds are back: Say's Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren - (dozens), Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler - (dozen), Yellow-rumped Warbler - (many dozens), MacGillivray's Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole

Misses: no uncommon warblers, although a Northern Waterthrush at the western end of the Niedrach trail was the highlight of the walk; no Baltimore Orioles (usually see one every year in the second half of day, perhaps too early to today).

Last Grouse Trip

May 8-14, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Mike and Linda Stephenson joined my last grouse tour of spring, 2017.  It was their honeymoon.  Quite a way to celebrate, many days of little sleep and hours on the road.  Sporadic weather hit Colorado during the week.  For the most part, we were fortunate to miss major snowstorms and thunderstorms.

May 8
Our first stop was Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan.  It took several hours before one was found.  One Ptarmigan was finally found under the evergreen trees east of Hwy 9 (while we parked at the first pullover south of the summit).

A stop at a friend's home in Silverthorne (Summit) added Rosy Finches (no Black) to our day.  Many mountain species were also there: White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Clark's Nutcrackers and Common Ravens.

The "eastern" route was taken to the Grouse Leks in Jackson County.  A stop at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) found ten Barrow's Goldeneye among a dozen Common Goldeneyes.  A few California Gulls, American White Pelicans and waterfowl that are more common were also seen.  Misses: the Fox Sparrow reported a few days later was not found.

We stopped at the entrance road to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge self-driving tour (Jackson).  Scoping the sagebrush covered hills added a Sage Thrasher to our trip list.

Our birding day ended at the Jackson County Road 26b Lek.  Eventually forty nine Greater Sage-Grouse emerged from the sagebrush and visited the lek.  We all were entertained by their ritual mating dances.

May 9
An hour before sunrise we drove to the 80 Route Leks (Routt).  The male Dusky Grouse did not disappoint.  Just before sunrise, we emerged from the bushes at the 2nd cattle guard and displayed.  Regrettably, no female appeared and he disappeared back into the brush.

Several Greater Sage-Grouse were observed on the hillside farther up north.  Eight Sharp-tailed Grouse scurried around their lek near the old Jimmy Dunn Gulch State Trust Lands.

Then we rushed over to the 20 Road Leks.  Three Sharp-tailed Grouse were displaying across from the old metal gate (see directions on Colorado Birding Society's website: http://coloradobirdingsociety.net)

After breakfast, we headed to the Oxbow State Trust Lands (Moffat).  The lands are closed during grouse nesting season; however, our target birds could be found by scoping from the parking area.  Sage Thrashers sang quite close to us.  Two Sagebrush Sparrows were found within 20 yards of the parking area.  A Black-throated Sparrow popped up on a bush and sang for a bit.

Fortune shined and we saw one Chukar across from the 2nd pipe gate (and parking area) at Coal Canyon.  Half a dozen Black-throated Sparrows, two Pinyon Jays, three calling Rock Wrens and an unidentified flycatcher were added to our trip list.

Then we drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa).  We relocated the Northern Saw-whet Owl that has nested in the same territory for three years now.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl called from the south side of the Powderhorn Ski Area entrance.  Eventually three Boreal Owls were encountered when we drove south to the Visitor's Center.

May 10
We decided to not drive the length of the Colorado National Monument but only visit the southern (eastern) end (Mesa).  Half a dozen Gambel's Quail were running around the subdivision just outside of the entrance. 

We walked down the Devil's Kitchen trail located just inside the entrance.  No Black-chinned Sparrows were found or reported this year.  Our interesting birds included two Black-throated Gray Warblers, three Black-throated Sparrows, a Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, six Pinyon Jays and an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  It was a good stop!

Our next drive was more interesting!  A drive up Brewster's Ridge added a Sagebrush Sparrow, Sage Thrasher and Long-eared Owl.  The highlight of the day was a male Scott's Oriole.  We believed it to be the first reported in 2017.

We ended our birding day with a drive up the Uncompahgre Plateau (Mesa).  Our target bird was a Flammulated Owl.  It was early in the season and the road was not in tiptop shape.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found in one of the nesting boxes shown to me about four years ago.  Not far from there, we heard a Flammulated Owl.  The owl ended a superb day of birding!

After dark, we made the long drive to Cortez.  This time of year, we did not miss much in the way of birding.

May 11
Our birding day started at Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma).  The two hour hike was well worth the effort.  Two Lucy's Warblers, our main target bird, were easily found.  One sang quite nicely.  A male Summer Tanager was a surprise; however, they have been found here in the past.  Other sightings include a Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrows.

On the way back to Durango, a detour to Wildcat Canyon (La Plata) found two Acorn Woodpeckers.  A walk around the Huck Finn Pond in Durango found our Lewis's Woodpecker for the trip!

Our great success so far, made a detour to John James Canyon (Conejos) for Sagebrush Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows and Black-throated Gray Warblers unnecessary.  Instead, we headed back north.  A stop at Haviland Lake Wildlife Area (La Plata) was productive.  A Grace's Warbler fluttered about the parking area.  A pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers also flew by.

About two hours before sunset, we arrived at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  White-throated Swifts flew around below the Visitor's Center.  A pair of Pine Grosbeaks perched in a tree at the northwest corner of the building.  Spotted Towhees, one Slate-colored Fox Sparrow and one Green-tailed Towhee were nice additions to our day.

With time to spare, we hiked to the western overlook.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl called briefly; unfortunately, it could not be found.

Two male Dusky Grouse appeared along the South Rim Road just before sunset.  They confidently walked along the side of the road, just east of the speed limit sign east of the western parking area.  One of them was lucky when a female emerged from the thickets!

May 12
An hour before sunrise we drove to the Waunita Hot Springs lek.  Only one Gunnison Sage-Grouse made an appearance.  One is better than none; the season must be winding down?

We stopped at the Monarch Pass Summit Pullover (Chaffee) on our trek east.  Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers drummed on the pines.  No females were seen.  Four Gray-crowned Rosy Finches flew briefly around the bunker.

Buena Vista was skipped (Pinyon Jay and Lewis's Woodpecker sites) and we continued to Canon City (Fremont).  A quick drive down the Swallows Road (Pueblo West) found a Curve-billed Thrasher and two Scaled Quail.

We had to detour to Mineral Palace Park (Pueblo).  Fortunately, the Yellow-throated Warbler was singing as we stopped!  Beautiful bird, we did not have much time to spend looking at it (only five minutes).

At La Junta, we turned south and headed to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  A Mountain Plover and Long-billed Curlew were observed along County Road 10 between CR R & CR U.  After dark, we found a Western Screech-Owl in Cottonwood Canyon.

May 13
An hour before sunrise, we watched two Lesser Prairie-Chickens at a lek on the Comanche National Grasslands (Baca). Later we walked up the gravel road running north from the Campo Lek off CR G.  It is a great "sparrow" road in spring.  The sparrow count included two Cassin's, one Clay-colored, two Brewer's, more than a dozen Vesper, many White-crowned and one Song.

Our return to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) found three Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a Black-and-white Warbler, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, two Eastern Phoebes and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 

A stop at Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) added a Barn Owl and Yellow-throated Vireo to our trip list.

Lamar Community College (Prowers) added a Red-bellied Woodpecker & two Northern Cardinals.

Venturing into Lincoln County, a Mountain Plover was relocated along County Road 3F, west of CR 43.  A Chestnut-collared Longspur and several McCown's Longspurs were not far away from the Plover spot.

Great-tailed Grackles and Common Grackles were found in Burlington (Kit Carson) behind the Day's Inn.

An hour before sunset we drove in Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area by way of CR 3.  Eight Wild Turkeys and an Eastern Phoebe were seen before reaching Foster's Grove Campgrounds.  An Eastern Screech-Owl responded to a recording played between the Campgrounds and Hwy 385!

May 14
Linda was getting tired as all of us were.  We watched three Greater Prairie-Chickens at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek and decided to head back to Denver.  I believe we had found almost all of our target birds.

Two Eastern Bluebirds fluttered about Stalker Ponds (Yuma).  A male Baltimore Oriole was at the Wray Fishing Unit. No Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was around the Wray Hospital today.

A quick stop at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson) found an Olive-sided Flycatcher. We could not find the Lesser Nighthawk reported yesterday.  It will turn out to be a first Kit Carson County record.  Lesser Nighthawks have been recorded farther north in Yuma County.

That stop ended my last Grouse Trip of 2017!  Great friends and good birds!