Monday, April 16, 2007

Recent Grouse Tours

April 15, 2007

The CoBus trip today included Jeff Palmer, Jeanne Dubi, and Tina Mossberger, and me. What a great day weather-wise! Temperatures reached 71 degrees; winds however got quite strong in the afternoon.

Our first stop was Mt Falcon Park (Jefferson). A Wild Turkey was calling at the upper parking area at 6:30am. The usual suspects (3 species of nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill, and Townsend's Solitaire) were all observed.

A Dusky Grouse was found along the Old Castle Trail. He was on the rocks behind the bench about 0.3 miles east of the old castle.

Next we tried for White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). A White-tailed Ptarmigan was heard on the hill south of Highway 9 and 300 yards north of the summit parking area. We were never able to put a scope on it.

Our next stop was Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson). The park was noisy with bird songs and calls. Many Red Crossbills were found getting a drink at a puddle near the group picnic area. Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Western Bluebirds, Pine Siskins, and American Robins also visited the pool.

A male Williamson's Sapsucker visited a nearby tree that appeared to be a favorite of his. He returned to it half a dozen times during our stay. A second male Williamson's Sapsucker and a male Hairy Woodpecker also seemed to challenge him for the tree.

We later hiked to the top of the park. Here we again found a male Williamson's Sapsucker fending off a male Hairy Woodpecker and a second Williamson's Sapsucker. Unfortunately, no female Williamson's Sapsuckers could be found yet.

Our final stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe). A small flock of gulls fed below the dam (halfway between the dam’s tower and the southwest marina). We did not see the 1st winter Thayer's Gull.

Near sunset, I drove the DIA Owl Loop. Seven Burrowing Owls were observed at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road & 96th avenue.

April 14, 2007

At first light, 7 Greater Prairie-Chickens were dancing on the CR 45 Lek.

After the show, we headed toward Pawnee National Grasslands in search of Mountain Plover and Longspurs. A Mountain Plover was found at CR 51 and CR 90 (east of the house there). The bird eventually flew toward CR 51 and Hwy 14. At that intersection, we observed an additional 3 Mountain Plovers. Another Mountain Plover was found southwest of the Dyers Ranch Driveway (0.7 miles east of Hwy 14 & CR 51).

McCown's Longspurs were found along the dirt track road that runs north from Weld County Road 94 & CR 63. We had to drive to Hwy 85 and CR 114 before finding Chestnut-collared Longspurs. Five or six Chestnut-collared Longspurs were observed while we hiked toward the windmill in the southeast corner of that intersection.

Our next stop was Loloff Reservoir. Here we added Blue-winged Teal, Baird's Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs to our trip list.

A Long-billed Curlew was found at the wetlands along CR 48, south of Lower Latham Reservoir. A Ross's Goose was also observed here.

Our final stop of the day was Beebe Draw Ponds. Seven Long-billed Dowitchers wandered around the southern end of the eastern pond.

April 13, 2007

At first light we watched 20 Gunnison Sage-Grouse at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek east of Gunnison. It was snowing lightly during our visit.

Snow increased as we continued east over Monarch Pass. Several Great-tailed Grackles were observed at Sands Lake Wildlife Area.

A stop at Tunnel Drive in Canon City (Fremont) was quite interesting. We found the Golden-crowned Sparrow near the gate at the parking area. The sparrow wandered along the railroad tracks to the south. A Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow also followed the loose flock which included White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. The snow had continued throughout the day.

We continued East toward Pueblo and Lamar. Scaled Quail were observed along the Swallows Road; however we were not able to locate any Loggerhead Shrikes.

A quick stop at Lake Cheraw (Otero) found 2 Snowy Plover, a Black-necked Stilt, and several American Avocets. Upper Queens Reservoir had 6 inches of snow and zero visibility.

We drove from Lamar to Burlington in a small blizzard in the late afternoon; quite happy to get to Burlington before the roads were closed. Our plans to travel to Springfield to look at the Lesser Prairie-Chickens had been cancelled when the road from Lamar to Springfield was closed.

April 10-12, 2007

Jeff Palmer, Jeanne Dubi, Tina Mossberger, and I started a six day grouse trip around the state. By Sunday we traveled 2081 miles, all within Colorado.

April 10

Snowing was coming down quite heavy when we started our trip. Loveland Pass was closed. We stopped at Silver Plume and were rewarded (snowing quite hard) with sightings of about 50 Rosy Finches (25 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, 24 Brown-capped Rosy Finches, and 1 Black Rosy Finch).

We drove over to a friend’s house and observed another dozen Gray-crowned and half a dozen Brown-capped. A flock of 48+ Evening Grosbeaks visited his feeders as well as Pine Siskin, Mountain Chickadee, 3 species of nuthatches, 2 Gray Jays, and a Clark's Nutcracker.

The drive to Kremmling was done with great care as snow continued to fall. Two Gray-crowned and two Brown-capped Rosy Finches were all the visited the Grand & 9th street feeders during our stay.

We detoured over to Windy Gap where 20+ Barrow's Goldeneyes were still found. A few Common Goldeneyes, Lesser Scaup, and two dozen California Gulls were also observed.

On the drive by Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge were found our first Rough-legged Hawk of the trip. Again we could not locate the previously reported Gyrfalcon.

Our birding day ended at along CR 26 which goes by the now private Coalmont Lek. We observed 12 Greater Sage-Grouse before a tremendous wind and snow storm reduced visibility to zero. After about half an hour, we were able to limp into Hayden for the night.

April 11

At first light, we sat at the 20 road Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek outside Hayden. Eventually 17 Sharp-tailed Grouse were counted. Temperatures were around 18 degrees. Afterwards we rushed over to the 80 route leks. Only 3 Sharp-tailed Grouse (no Greater Sage-Grouse) were found today.

We missed Chukars at Cameo and continued to the top of the Grand Mesa (Mesa County) still in daylight (usually I wait until dark, but thought to try something different).

At the Visitor’s Center we found the bird of the day. A male Northern Goshawk circled low over our heads for at least 5 minutes! Several flocks of Red Crossbills were also watched.

With plenty of daylight, we drove down the south side of the Grand Mesa and traveled over to Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta). It was a good choice as we found a Common Loon in breeding plumage! A large flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in the northeast cattails. A drive down the western side of the reservoir added 2 Lewis's Woodpeckers to our trip list.

Finally at dark we started back up the Grand Mesa. We were not able to relocate the Boreal Owls and Northern Pygmy-Owl found last week. A Northern Saw-whet Owl called from the Spruce Creek Campgrounds. Eventually it flew over our heads several times!

April 12

It was raining quite hard when we got up at 6:00am. A walk around the old sewage pond at the northern entrance of the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) did not find any birds (zero). Birds were scarce at the Visitor’s Center and campgrounds also. A Black-throated Sparrow and one Gambel's Quail were all that we found at the southern entrance.

Escalante Canyon (Delta) was more productive. We found 8 Chukars at between 4.5 and 7.0 miles into the canyon. We did not locate the previously reported Black Phoebes.

A stop at Confluence Park in Delta found the 3 Ross's Geese continuing. No owls could be conjured up.

Our birding day ended at Black Canyon Gunnison National Park. A Clark's Nutcracker was observed flying up the Gunnison River at the campgrounds.

We hiked the trail for 0.4 miles west of the western end of the south rim.

Near dusk we found 3-4 Dusky Grouse and 3 Northern Pygmy-Owls!

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