Saturday, January 24, 2009

Owl Search Jackson/Larimer Counties

January 20-21, 2009

Bryan Ehlmann:

Three of us returned to Jackson/Larimer Counties around Cameron Pass to search for owls. The weather has been darn good lately. Calm winds have helped in hearing and locating the owls.

Tuesday night we drove up and down Highway 14. We found 3 Boreal Owls and actually got to see one of them. The best locations are the north side of Hwy 14 at the upper parking lot for the Joe Wright Reservoir and the woods west of the restroom area at the top of Cameron Pass.

The owl that we saw was on the south side of Hwy 14 at 0.2 miles west of the Joe Wright Reservoir parking lot mentioned above.

We also cross country skied up Ruby Jewel Road for about a mile. Boreal Owls have been found nesting up this road from 0.5 miles to 1.0 miles east of Michigan Creek Road. This night they were quiet. In summer, Flammulated Owls have also been found nesting up this road.

Wednesday morning we searched for Greater Sage-Grouse up Jackson County Road 26. While plenty of tracks were seen, we could not locate any birds. We figured they were watching us from under the many sage bushes.

We entertained the idea of skiing down to the ghost town of Teller City. Another great owl and Three-toed Woodpecker area. Unfortunately snow blocked roads left us too far from the town for an attempt. We all decided that it might be worth a try later in the winter. It would be a long way, but we could camp overnight and make it a two day trip.

Two hours before sunset, we set out on snow shoes to hike along the Michigan Ditch for five miles. Richard discovered nesting Boreal Owls in this area about 4 years ago. Cross country skiing would be less strenuous and quicker, however the trail is rather steep at several places and beyond our expertise or skills as skiers.

The trek and challenge was worth the effort. Surprisingly we ran into little wind and the trip was very pleasant. The trail goes along the base of Mt. Rickentofen. It was quite a spectacular sight!

A word of caution, we all have taken a course in avalanche danger and conditions. We all carry avalanche beacons. It is not wise to go into this area without that knowledge and equipment! Conditions looked safe and there were no previous indications of avalanches along our route.

We arrived at our destination near dark and played recordings of Boreal Owl. To our surprise, two owls answered! One of them landed in a fir tree within 20 feet of us and allowed fantastic looks! It made our trip!

The trek out which is very much uphill was made much easier by our success!

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