Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Grouse Trip

April 9, 2007

First light found us at the Gunnison Sage-Grouse Waunita Hot Springs Lek (we arrived an hour earlier and waited in the dark). Eleven Gunnison Sage-Grouse (all males) were observed. Nine of them departed the lek fairly early. Only two lingered to 7:30am. A ranger relayed to us that the day before, he watched two Golden Eagles take 5 of the birds. Guessed that it had made the rest of them rather skittish.

A detour to Crested Butte found Linda Powers leaving for work. She said that only one Rosy Finch had been seen in the past week. We stayed anyway and were rewarded with the appearance of 2 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches and 2 Brown-capped Rosy Finches. No Black, but considering that no Rosy Finches were expected; we considered ourselves fortunate.

In Canon City (Fremont) we hiked the Arkansas River east from Sells Pond in search of the previously reported Black Phoebes and Carolina Wren; without success.

Finding 2 Curve-billed Thrashers feeding 3 young in a nest made up for our lack of finding the phoebes and wren.

We drove south of Beaver Creek Wildlife Area and Brush Hollow Wildlife Area in search of Greater Roadrunners and Scaled Quail; again without success. That ended our birding day.

April 8, 2007

We were up at 5:00am and headed to the Colorado National Monument. Unfortunately it rained most of the morning. We did find 3 Gambel's Quail near the southern entrance to the monument. Three or four Black-throated Sparrows briefly flew to the top of bushes near the entrance and sang away in the rain.

At the old sewage pond at the northern entrance, we saw a Chukar calling from the top of the rocks at the east side. With much effort, we managed to see one of the half dozen Bewick's Wrens that called. It was tough to get binoculars on them as they stayed in the firs and out of the rain. Rock Wrens, Canyon Wrens, another Gambel's Quail, and Pine Siskins were found here.

Our next stop was the Campgrounds and Visitor's Center. Many Juniper Titmice and a flock of Bushtits were observed at the campgrounds. A flock of Pinyon Jays were first discovered at below the overlook east of the Center. They later flew into the campgrounds and gave us better looks. No warblers or flycatchers were around yet.

We stopped at Confluence Park to search for the Northern Pygmy-Owl and Western Screech-Owls previously reported; without success. We did find the 3 Ross's Geese and 4+ Great-tailed Grackles.

We headed down to the Uncompahgre Plateau to search for a previously seen Northern Saw-whet Owl; without success today. We drove as far as the locked gate. Here a Vesper Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker were found. Two Western Bluebirds were also on the Plateau.

The final destination of the day was the Black Canyon Gunnison National Park. A hike 500 yards past the western end of the south rim did not locate the Northern Pygmy-Owl observed last year.

After sunset, Dusky Grouse came out of the woods and displayed on the road!

April 7, 2007

Adrian and Kathy Haywood and I continue our grouse tour. This morning we
visited the 20 road Sharp tailed Grouse Lek near Hayden (Routt). We found
15 STGR and 2 Greater Sage Grouse at the Hayden Lek.

Then we drove over to the 80 Route Lek. Here we found 16 STGR and 1+ Greater Sage Grouse. Back at the "2nd cattle guard" (past location of Dusky aka Blue Grouse) we found no Blue Grouse. However we did find a Northern Saw whet Owl about 100 yards south of the cattle guard.

Our next stop was Oxbow Wildlife Area. We counted over 17 Sage Thrashers and 5 Sage Sparrows near the entrance to the wildlife area!

At Cameo (Mesa) we found a Chukar singing from the cliffs west of the first iron gate. Unfortunately, we did not find any Black-throated Sparrows today.

We headed up to the Grand Mesa just before dark. On the Mesa we found 2 Boreal Owls and a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We returned to our motel super exhausted.

April 6, 2007

Adrian and Kate Hayward and I started out on a Grouse Tour. Although snow
was predicted, the day turned out to be a striking one.

I was hopeful for a little snow to encourage Rosy Finches to move down from
their higher haunts. Our search for Rosy Finches in Clear Creek and Summit
Counties was not successful on this clear, beautiful day. We did discover a
flock of 48+ Evening Grosbeaks, and also 3 male Pine Grosbeaks, Mountain
Chickadees, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches,
Pygmy Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.

Highlights of the morning included 2 Clark's Nutcrackers, 3 gray Jays, and
my first Band-tailed Pigeon of the year.

I called the Georgetown sheriff's office just to find that Guanella Pass is
still closed due to our abundant snowfall this year. The alternative was
Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) and off we went. A hike about 300 yards west of
the parking area was not successful. Winds were incredibly strong. In
spite of that, Adrian was able to set up his scope behind the Loveland Pass
sign on the west side of the highway 9. Congrats, to Adrian who quickly
found a White tailed Ptarmigan! A second bird was observed not far from the

To search for the Ptarmigan, scope the large rock cropping south-southeast
of the parking area. The Ptarmigan were eating among the willows just below
the most southern medium-sized triangular rock.

We rummage around for Rosy Finches for another hour, without success and
continued our trek.

The pair of Osprey has returned to their nest along highway 9 (about 2.5
miles south of I70). The only waterfowl on the Blue River Water Treatment
Plant where 4 mallards and a male Green winged Teal.

We continued north on highway 9 to Kremmling (Grand). Carefully watching
the Blue River on the drive, several American Dippers were found jumping
into the icy cold stream in search of food.

Green Mountain Reservoir's water level was quite low. Few birds were in the
swallow ponds formed by the melting ice. We missed seeing a Golden Eagle on
the drive today, several Red tailed Hawks and American Kestrels were out

The feeders at Grand Avenue and 9th Street were watched for about an hour
while we ate lunch. The only birds that visited were American Robins and
Red winged Blackbirds. We found no Rosy Finches.

I suggested that we try the snow banks west of town so we drove up Grand
County Road 14. We were stopped by snow at about 5.0 miles from hwy 40.
Tried of sitting, we hiked back down CR 14 (which is bordered by a creek,
fir trees, and willows). Perfect habitat for a Northern Pygmy Owl; however,
we could not locate one. Several Townsend's Solitaries and 2 Red Crossbills
were observed.

Looking for another place to bird while we waited for sunset (for a search
for Greater Sage Grouse), we decided to head east on hwy 40 toward Windy Gap
Reservoir and Granby.

Winds were quite robust at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand). The picnic shelters
provided magnificent cover from the winds. We scoped the lake for
approximately an hour and ended up with 40+ Barrows Goldeneyes, 14 Common
Goldeneyes, Ring necked Ducks, Mallards, Gadwalls, and American Coots. A
lone American White Pelican stood on the far southwestern shore. An Eared
Grebe in alternate plumage was quite the sight.

Another surprise was the large (24+) number of California Gulls on the lake.
There were plenty of Ring billed Gulls also.

Instead of continuing east to Granby, we decided to head north on hwy 125
toward Rand. The road parallels a Pine forest where I had found American
Three toed Woodpeckers several times in the past. None were found today; we
did notice that 15-20 percent of the trees have been destroyed by the Pine
Beetle. Let's hope they find a cure for this scourge inflicting our state

North of Rand, the road leaves the forest area, we could again see for
miles. Horned Larks were encountered along the side of hwy 125. Rough
legged Hawks were quite numerous. We came upon 7 during our drive around
Jackson County. We kept our eyes open for the previously reported Gyrfalcon
while driving along the western edge of Arapahoe National Refuge. However,
a sighting was not to be. Many Pronghorn, Mule Deer, and 17 Elk were

It was still about 3 hours before sunset when we reached Rand. So we
continued to Walden Reservoir (Jackson). Many Mallards and a few Green
winged Teal were counted here. Our Killdeer of the trip was also added to
the trip list. The few gulls observed turned out to be Ring billed Gulls.

Delaney Butte Reservoir was devoid of birds. The small lake west of the
reservoir was loaded with waterfowl. Here we found a pair of Canvasbacks, 2
Redheads, and the usual ducks found earlier in the day. The Butte to the
north was scoped for Greater Sage Grouse; without success. We could no
relocate the Sage Thrasher that was found two days ago by David Tannahill
and me.

We returned to hwy 14 by way of CR 9, trying to keep in sagebrush country
and give ourselves further opportunities for a Greater Sage Grouse sighting.

We scoped the Coalmont Lek from County Road 26 (the lek is now under private
ownership and $60 dollar fines are being issued for those who trespass). A
few Greater Sage Grouse can be found by this technique. Do not expect great
views as the birds are rather far in the distance.

We wanders around Jackson County and found several male Greater Sage Grouse
foraging among the Sagebrush. A plan emerged to watch these males and see
if they would go to a lek after sunset.

Brilliant idea! After Sunset, these two birds walked down the road and
started to display at a small clearing (short grassy) area. Eventually 19
males joined in the exhibition.

We headed to Hayden after dark, quite satisfied with our terrific birding

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