Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Day On the Mesa South Trail System

March 12, 2007

I do not know the right adjective to use for today’s weather, splendid, magnificent, awesome? Temperatures reached 72 degrees; little wind was encountered throughout the day!

My trek today encompassed 14 miles and 14 hours on the Mesa South Trail system. I hiked up into Shadow Canyon twice. It was an enjoyable day even if the target bird (Winter Wren) was missed.

At 6:00am I heard an Eastern Screech-Owl along South Boulder Creek.

I thought I had a Northern Pygmy-Owl along Eldorado Spring Drive at 0.8 miles east of Mesa South Trail’s parking area. It flew briefly between some evergreen trees on the south side of the road. Unfortunately, it was on private property and I could not inspect the area closer.

On my first hike up to Shadow Canyon, I took the Towhee Trail to a spur of the Mesa South Trail (first fork, take a right and then left again at Mesa trail) and continued west to the Shadow Canyon trail. This trail was drier than sections of the Towhee trail. Along the Mesa trail spur I encountered dozens of American Robins, a dozen Townsend's Solitaires, Cassin's Finches, Mountain Chickadees, and two Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I spent about 30 minutes in the area where a Winter Wren was reported on Saturday; as stated without success. The brush there was quite thick and offered many places for the bird to hide. It also had plenty of creek to move along. The area is interesting; offering a nice open space with water up a mountain draw for birds and other animals.

On the trip back to the Mesa South parking area, I took the Towhee trail. I had met a couple of other Colorado birders who had come up by way of the Homestead and Towhee trails. They had seen 5-6 Red Crossbills by this route. The Towhee trail was quite muddy and slippery in spots. The Homestead trail was worse and I skipped it. Hiking alone, I am usually pretty careful about avoiding treacherous spots.

On the return trip I ran into 3 Bushtits. They were about 200 yards below the junction of the

Towhee & Shadow Canyon trails. I tried to photography them; previous experience showed me that they seldom stand still. The photographs were slightly blurred. Dozens of Spotted Towhees use the area for nesting also.

I called Stan Roth to accompany me in my afternoon trek back up. While waiting for him, I decided to hike up the Dowdy Trail for a mile and back. Birds were few, however I took the opportunity to photograph and GPS the area for future reference. I also hiked the 2 miles of Boulder Creek trail down to Highway 93 and back. This trail might be productive for owls (Eastern Screech, Northern Pygmy-Owl in winter) closer to dark?

On the second trip up to Shadow Canyon, we again struck out on the Winter Wren. We again spent about 30 minutes in the area; the bird did not show. The trip was not a waste (well, hiking on a beautiful day is never a waste). We managed to GPS a Northern Pygmy-Owl location. Four Red Crossbills were also happened upon.

No hawks were observed all day? I hoped to see at least a Prairie Falcon or Peregrine Falcon; none. No eagles either? Another highlight was the flight north of 16 Sandhill Cranes! What a great day!

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