Thursday, July 31, 2008

End of Western Slope Trip

July 30, 2008

Sue Ehlmann: We are glad to be home after almost two months on the western slope of Colorado. It was great to sleep in our own bed last night.

The last two days of our trip included around Buena Vista, Chaffee County....American Three-toed Woodpecker, Lewis's Woodpecker, Pinyon Jays, Northern Saw-whet Owls and in Park County up Michigan Creek Road we missed any owls but found another Three-toed Woodpecker.

Bryan Ehlmann:

Group A
Fremont County (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Coaldale to Hayden Pass Area
American Three-toed Woodpecker, Flammulated Owl

Group B
Park County (2 birders, 36 birding hours)
Buena Vista Area to Denver
Northern Saw-whet Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker

July 29, 2008

Group A
Gunnison County (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Monarch Pass
(American Three-toed Woodpecker)

Group B
Chaffee County (2 birders, 34 birding hours)
Lewis's Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Pinyon Jay)

July 28, 2008

Group A (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Saguache County
Dome Lake, North Pass, Cochetopa Pass
Northern Pygmy-Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker
(big miss: Flammulated Owl)

Group B (2 birders, 38 birding hours)
Gunnison County
Cumberland Pass, Tincup
White-tailed Ptarmigan, Pinyon Jay, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Boreal Owl

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Owling and Purple Martin Search

July 26, 2008

Late afternoon: We left early enough to search for the Purple Martins and American Three-toed Woodpeckers found yesterday on Kebler Pass. We relocated the Three-toed Woodpecker east of the old cemetery but could not find the Purple Martins.

A Dusky Grouse crossed the road near the "Aspen tree tunnel". We also added a Common Poorwill to our list.

It took about 2 hours, but we finally heard a Flammulated Owl also in the dense Aspen Tree area of the pass. I dropped birders off every 0.5 mile and with the help of radios, Randy Cross found and reported the Flammulated Owl!

Tomorrow is a needed day of rest!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Short Hike Up Neversink Trail

July 26, 2008

Group A & B (6 birders, 18 birding hours)
Curecanti NRA
Least Flycatcher

The six of us wanted a short hike this morning and picked the Neversink Trail. Our highlights included a singing Veery and 2 Least Flycatchers. County birds for most of us.

Randy Cross prepared a great barbecue. After the food settles we plan to look for owls on Kebler Pass.

CoBus Bird Breeding Atlas Counts Continued

July 22 to 25, 2008

CoBus has two groups out conducting BBS Counts. I am putting together trip reports of both groups. Information is partly reported hearsay and partly personal experience. Groups have included Bryan Ehlmann, Sue Ehlmann, Gary Weston, Richard Stevens, Gary Zeeto, Roger Danka, Bill Cryder, Jerry Petrosky, Randy Cross, and at times several others. A few birders have participated in both groups.

July 22
Group C (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Garfield County
Coffee Pot Road
Boreal Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl

Group A (2 birders, 38 birding hours)
Gunnison Gorge area
Northern Pygmy-Owl, Gunnison Sage-Grouse

Group B (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Gunnison County
Paonia SRA & State Park
Northern Pygmy-Owl, Purple Martin

July 23
Group C (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Garfield County
Coffee Pot Road
Purple Martin, American Three-toed Woodpecker

Group A (2 birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Montrose/Gunnison
Black Canyon Gunnison area
Northern Pygmy-Owl, Dusky Grouse

Group B (2 birders, 38 birding hours)
Delta County
McCluskey WLA/Crawford S.P.
Purple Martin

July 24
Group C (2 birders, 40 hours)
Marble/McClure Pass
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Dusky Grouse, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Purple Martin

Group A (2 birders, 38 birding hours)
Gunnison Area
Gunnison Sage-Grouse

Group B (2 birders, 38 birding hours)
Delta County
Gould Reservoir area, Gunnison National Forest

July 25

Group A (3 birders, 54 hours)
Kebler Pass, Crested Butte, Roaring Judy F.S.
American Three-toed Woodpecker, Dusky Grouse, Purple Martin

Group B (3 birders, 60 hours)
Schofield Pass, Taylor Reservoir
White-tailed Ptarmigan, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Northern Pygmy-Owl

CoBus Bird Breeding Atlas Counts

July 1 to July 21

CoBus has two groups out conducting BBS Counts. I am putting together trip reports of both groups. Information is partly reported hearsay and partly personal experience. Groups have included Bryan Ehlmann, Sue Ehlmann, Gary Weston, Richard Stevens, Gary Zeeto, Roger Danka, Bill Cryder, Jerry Petrosky, Randy Cross, and at times several others. A few birders have participated in both groups.

For those who have not heard, CoBus is planning to publish an addendum to the Colorado Bird Breeding Atlas II (Called BBS IIc). Plans are to publish this about 120 days after the BBS II is published.

For the sake of brevity, I will list locations of BBS IIc counts and any uncommon birds reported. A complete list would last for pages and pages. Look for BBS IIc. I will call groups Group A and Group B; rather than label #1 and #2.

And to catch up:

Group A (Bryan & Sue Ehlmann at the time)

June 11: Black Canyon Gunnison National Park (Northern Pygmy-Owl, Dusky Grouse)
June 12: Box Canyon (Black Swift)
June 13: Silverton (Calliope Hummingbird)
June 14: Yellow Jacket Canyon (Lucy's Warbler, Scott's Oriole, Black-throated Sparrow)
June 14: J Road Bridge (Black Phoebe)
June 15: Wildcat Canyon (Acorn Woodpecker); Lake Havilland (Williamson's Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker)
June 20: Uravan (Black Swift, Rufous Hummingbird)
June 23: Dry Creek Basin
June 24: Upper San Miguel Drainage
June 26: Norwood
June 27: Slick Rock (Black-throated Gray Warbler, Black-throated Sparrow)
June 28: Barkelew Draw (Grace's Warbler, Common Nighthawk, Ash-throated Flycatcher)
June 29: Beaver Park (Purple Martin)
June 30: Ouray (Eastern Kingbird)

Note: Recommended hours of birding per section are 20 to 40 hours. Most birders performed 20 hours on their block in one day. It was noted whether additional time would increase the number of species found. Travel time within a block was included in birding time. Birders kept their eyes and ears open for birds during their travel time. Several hours were spent on owling in each block.

July 1 & 2

Group A (Two birders, 76 birding hours):
Birded Eagle & Garfield Counties
Trail Gulch Road back down to Colorado River Road and up Sweetwater Road.
Hack Lake W.S.A., Bull Gulch W.S.A., Willow Lake
Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Calliope Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird

July 1
Group B (Two birders, 36 birding hours)
Birded Dolores County
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Red Crossbill (no White-winged Crossbill)

July 2
Group B (Two birders, 36 birding hours)
Birded Ouray County
Box Canyon area
Black Swift, Flammulated Owl

July 3
Group A (Two birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Eagle County
Sylvan Lake, Spring Park, Basalt WLA
Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Boreal Owl

July 3 & 4
Group B (Two birders, 72 birding hours)
Birded Escalante Canyon
Sage Sparrow, Barn Owl, Chukar, Black Phoebe, Northern Saw-whet Owl

July 4
Group A (Two birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Pitkin County: Dinkle Lake/Mt Sopris, Thompson Creek wsa
Purple Martin, Northern Pygmy-Owl

July 5
Group A (Two birders, 36 birding hours)
Birded Delta County
Confluence Park, Sweitzer Lake
Clark's Grebe, Western Screech-Owl, Barn Owl,

July 5
Group A (Two birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Pitkin County
Independence Pass Road, carter lake, maroon bells
Black Swift, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl

July 7
Group A & B (Eight birders, 304 birding hours)
Birded Garfield County
Douglas Pass, North DeBeque
Flammulated Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Long-eared Owl
Birded Mesa County
Baxter Pass, Brewster's Ridge
Scott's Oriole, Long-eared Owl, Gray Flycatcher, Barn Owl

July 8, 9, & 10
Group A & B (Nine birders, 510 birding hours over 3 days)
Birded Mesa & Delta Counties
Grand Mesa
Boreal Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, White-winged Crossbill, Dusky Grouse

July 11
Group A (Five birders, 96 birding hours)
Birded Mesa County
Bookcliffs, Collbran, & Plateau Creek Areas
Purple Martin, Flammulated Owl, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-throated Sparrow, Chukar, Gray Vireo, Pinyon Jay

Group B (Four birders, 72 birding hours)
Birded Mesa County
Unaweep Canyon
Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Purple Martin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo

July 12
Group A (Three birders, 58 birding hours)
Birded Mesa County
Vega State Park, FR 265 area
Flammulated Owl, Purple Martin, Dusky Grouse

Group B (Four birders, 72 birding hours)
Birded Mesa County
Glade Park, Grand Mesa National Park
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Pinyon Jay

July 14, 15, 16
Group A & B (six birders, 294 birding hours)
Birded Mesa and Montrose Counties
Uncompahgre Plateau
Flammulated Owl, Grace's Warbler, Northern Saw-whet Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker

July 18
Group A & B (six birders, 52 birding hours)
Birded Montrose County
Uncompahgre Plateau
Grace's Warbler, Flammulated Owl, Dusky Grouse

July 19
Group A & B (four birders, 76 birding hours)
Birded Montrose County
Paradox Valley
Flammulated Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Black Phoebe

July 21
Group A (two birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Delta County
Hotchkiss area
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Group B (two birders, 40 birding hours)
Birded Delta County
Paonia Area
Purple Martin

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Birding Douglas & Elbert Counties On a Hot Day

July 21, 2008

Another hot one today, Ed Peters and I birded in Douglas and Elbert Counties. Few birds were moving about.

We searched briefly for the Prairie Warbler at Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas); without success. A few male Bobolinks are still in the fields south of the entrance to the Winkler Ranch (south of the state park).

We struck out on Dickcissels along Elbert County Road. Our visit was not during the best time of day (temperatures in the middle 90s). We skipped waiting around for sunset and cooler temperatures.

The heat and low bird numbers finally ended our birding day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Search for Flammulated & Boreal Owls

July 19 & 20, 2008

Ed Peters and I planned on owling west of Fort Collins.

On the trip up we made the 22 mile side trip east to Highway 14 and County Road 51. We found a Mountain Plover in about 20 minutes and turned back west.

Once we reached Larimer CR 44H, we stopped every 0.2 miles and searched for Common Poorwills. Birds were found along CR 44H, west of CR 63E (0.7 miles, 0.9 miles, & 1.3 miles).

We enjoyed a beautiful night in the mountains. The moon was no longer full (waning gibbous with 88% of the Moon's visible disk); it still provided much light and we were able to walk around without flashlights. Winds were negligible both on Pennock Pass and Cameron Pass.

In my experience, this is quite unusual. The biggest drawback in finding Boreal Owls is picking a night when winds are calm or mild. They just do not call loud enough to hear them over any wind.

Our search for Flammulated Owls on Pennock Pass went well. We found owls at both stops made. It never took more than 10 minutes to find them.

We were amazed at how noisy the woods were at 11:00pm. Chipping Sparrows, Cassin's Finches, and a couple of other birds that we could not quite identify sang constantly.

Our search for Boreal Owls on Cameron Pass did not go quite as well. We stopped at Joe Wright Reservoir, Cameron Pass's Summit, and the Pines Campgrounds. All the places where I had success already this year were not this night.

We must have stopped at 18 places to hike around and listen. My two most successful spots were too far from a road for Ed. (The two spots require hikes of over 6 miles).

Finally at 4:28 am, we ran into a calling Boreal Owl up Ruby Jewell Road in the Colorado State Forest. Twice, we hiked the road from Michigan Creek Road (CR 41) to about a mile east. The second try was successful!

Again the area was quite noisy. We picked out Chipping Sparrows, Finches, a Common Nighthawk, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches.

Tired, we crawled back to Denver, arriving well after sunset.

Late Sunday afternoon (after temperatures cooled down from the 100 degree high), Rebecca Kosten and I drove the DIA Owl Loop. We really hoped to find a Short-eared Owl (did not) but counted 19 Burrowing Owls (this included 4 just west of the closed barrier at Rocky Mountain Arsenal (along Buckley Road, south of 88th avenue).

We also found 1 Ferruginous Hawk (near 114th & Granbay), several Swainson's Hawks, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, and 2 Northern Harriers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Owling in Clear Creek County

July 18, 2008

I returned to the Montezuma Area (Clear Creek County) last night. My owling was concentrated on Argentine Pass Road. The full moon lit up the road quite nice and a spotlight was not needed to hike down the road. Unfortunately, I did not find any owls. My technique was again to stop every 100 yards and play recordings of Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Boreal Owl.

It was such a calm and beautiful night to walk that I hiked up the Hunkidori Trail for about a mile. While I did not find the Northern Saw-whet Owl that we located a few weeks back, a Northern Pygmy-Owl did call. It was not far from the trailhead, perhaps 300 yards.

Being alone and in Mountain Lion and Bear County, I decided not to hike up the nearby Saint Johns Trail where we found a Boreal Owl a few weeks ago.

Birding Clear Creek, Eagle and Garfield Counties

June 29, 2008

Gary Weston and I started on our trek west to conduct BBS counts in Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, and Mesa Counties. Bryan and Sue Ehlmann started out ahead of us by 2 weeks and we hoped to meet up in a week or two. They were suppose to add to these accounts but are hindered by staying in a cabin without electricity. Who knows when they will "wander" into a city?

We departed Denver at 2:00am and arrived an hour later at Montezuma, CO. I have been up the Saints John Trail and Hunkidori Trail many times. These trails lead west from Montezuma and are good cross country ski trails in winter and good owl habitats the rest of the year.

We first hiked the Saints John Trail to above tree line. The effort (and it is a nice elevation gain) was rewarded with hearing a Boreal Owl. I took GPS readings and if I can figure the GPS unit out, should be able to add the length of the hike later.

Our technique was to stop every 0.1 miles, play recordings of Boreal Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, and Northern Saw-whet Owl; then continue. Our hike was at least two miles, so only one owl cannot be considered much of a success.

When we returned to the junction of the Hunkidori Trail we turned northwest and walk about 1.5 miles up the trail. On this leg, both a Northern Pygmy-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl were found!

If the Northern Saw-whet Owl had not called briefly, we never would have located it. Once we narrowed down the tree, it still took 20 minutes to see the bird. The Northern Pygmy-Owl was out on a branch watching the creek and probably quite surprised when we walked up to it.

While our target birds were owls, we did keep track of the other birds encountered. Some of the species included Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Hammond's Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, and Western Wood-pewee. American Three-toed Woodpeckers have been found in the past, none today.

Our trek was timed for a late afternoon 2 mile hike up Spruce Creek Trail (probably listed as Mohawk Lakes on most maps).

This trail is one of my favorite in Colorado. The trailhead to box canyon at the top is 4 miles. One can shorten the hike by 2.0 miles with a 4 wheel drive. 4 Wheel Drive is necessary and then I would not take a new vehicle. On one trip, I ripped a muffler off my year old Mustang.

The first 2 miles are through the spruce fir forest. Interesting, but rather old after hiking the trail many times (this was my 83rd trip up). At the upper parking area, one quickly goes uphill and above tree line. The trail passes Continental Lake, several Mohawk Lakes and follows the creek that runs between them.

Once at the upper Mohawk Lake the land levels off and continues for 3/4 mile to the west end of the box canyon. It's a fantastic view surrounded by Pacific Peak, Crystal Peak, and Mt Helen. All 13,000 foot mountains that fall short up to 200 feet of being 14,000 footers. Gary and I have climbed them all in the past and skipped that "thrill" on this trip.

Pacific Peak at last checking is only 6 feet short of a 14,000 foot mountain. It is also one of the most technical mountains that I have climbed in Colorado (my total is 54/14,000 footers and 82/13,000 or less). The experience of camping around upper Mohawk Lakes makes the effort well worth it.

Of course bird species are limited when up this high. We did confirm Brown-capped Rosy Finch nesting and headed back to our car. We caught a few hours sleep and were woke by a calling Northern Pygmy-Owl!

June 30, 2008

The road to Mt of the Holy Cross was on tap today. We dropped down to Breckenridge before sunrise and started up the Cross's road soon after.

Twice Dusky Grouse were found crossing the road. The second time it was a female with 2 young (nesting confirmed, Eagle County).

We counted and observed birds around the campgrounds and road circling the bottom of the mountain. The idea to climb Mt of the Holy Cross (again) was not entertained.

No surprises were found. We wrote detailed logs of bird activity and moved on. Anyone wanting daily bird counts and lists, just ask.

The highlight of the day for me was the many Broad-tailed Hummingbirds encountered. At least 2 Rufous Hummingbirds were also found. We didn't climb much above tree line which limited our chances of seeing a White-tailed Ptarmigan. No Rosy Finches were found.

We did have another highlight. For the first time I experienced the technique of tapping on a tree and having a Flammulated Owl pop out! I had always heard this was possible, but until today never had any success with the technique. Around the campgrounds we found Willow Flycatchers, Cordilleran Flycatcher, and at least one Dusky Flycatcher.

The second half of our birding day was spent around Homestake Creek where 2 Purple Martins were relocated. Sorry, I can not remember who first reported them here. Will lookup and add later, we would not have searched if it had not been for a previous report.

After dusk we managed to get a Northern Pygmy-Owl to call at Gold Camp.

Return to Pennock & Cameron Passes

June 27, 2008

Gary Weston and I turned north today toward Fort Collins and west. Our target birds were owls further west, but we stopped for a hike at Lory State Park (Larimer).

We hiked to Arthur's Rock and back in search of Northern Pygmy-Owls or Northern Saw-whet Owls; without success in either.

Just after civil twilight we called in a Common Poorwill with our playback recordings. The bird was only about 100 yards inside the entrance and stood on a Miner's Candle.

We then drove up Rist Canyon and stopped at half a dozen locations where Northern Pygmy-Owls have been found in the past. Unfortunately none were heard today.

Our next stop was Pennock Pass (Larimer). We enjoyed better success here. Our Flammulated Owl count was 5!

Our trek continued west and we stopped at a dozen spots where Boreal Owls have been found in the past. Again we enjoyed fair success with 3 Boreal Owls (2 heard and 1 observed).

We hiked most of the night, finding our last and only "seen" Boreal Owl up Ruby Jewell Road at 4:28am.

In my experience, the best times to find Boreal Owls are an hour and a half after sunset and an hour before sunrise. I would have to check my notes, my I seem to remember reading that the owls stay briefly around their nesting areas and then fly away and hunt most of the night?

June 28, 2008

We headed back to Denver after looking for hummingbirds. Both the KOA Campgrounds (outside of the Colorado State Forest entrance) and the Store at Gould enjoyed visits by 3 species of hummingbirds (Broad-tailed, Rufous, and one Calliope Hummingbird each).

A detour was made at Chambers Lake (Jackson). A hike along the east side of the lake was rewarded with an American Three-toed Woodpecker sighting. From the obvious pullover along the highway, we walked directly west to the lake and then north. The woodpecker was approximately 600 yards north of our turn from west to north.

In the past, nesting has been confirmed in this area. We saw nothing that would indicate such today.