Sunday, March 14, 2010

Exploratory Grouse Trip

March 8 & 9, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

Monday 3/8:

Richard Stevens, Shawn Brooks and I started an exploratory grouse trip with the thought in the back of our minds that the trip could be cut short by inclement weather. This is what happened; but we did get in two great days of birding.

We left Denver in the dead of night and were driving along Yuma County Road 45 before sunrise. Three Greater Prairie-Chickens, all males, were already performing their 2010 mating dances. We hung around to about an hour after sunrise, but saw no additional prairie chickens.

A male and female Northern Cardinal were seen while we stopped by to say "hi" to one of Richard's friends in Wray. A second male Northern Cardinal was found at another Wray yard. Yard #2's Eastern Screech-Owl could not be enticed to come out of its nesting hole.

Sparrows were scarce at Sandsage Wildlife Area and the Wray Fishing Unit. The previously reported Barn Owl was not found.

We wandered east of Wray chasing after two Barn Owl reports. One of which was found east of Laird. A few Lapland Longspurs were found in a flock of about 250 Horned Larks.

We zigzagged Yuma County Roads east and south of Wray. Stops at previous Barn Owl locations were unsuccessful in recording any owls. A few Lapland Longspurs were found. Northern Shrike count was three.

Beecher Island was quiet. Total bird count was two Northern Flickers and two Eurasian Collared-Doves.

Bonny Lake State Park also in Yuma County at least had a few birds to watch. The north side, Yuma County Road 3 was slow. Eight Wild Turkeys walked around Foster Grove Campgrounds. Nothing unusual was found. No Long-eared Owls were found in the nearby windbreak.

Many white geese, Snow and Ross's were at the east end. A Golden Eagle soared over the dam. Birding picked up at Hale. We counted 9+ Long-eared Owls in the windbreak. There were/are probably more. We did not want to disturb any nesting attempts.

A few Song Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows were found along the Republican River from County Road LLL.5 to the western Hale Pond. Three Red-bellied Woodpeckers and nine Eastern Bluebirds were reported in the Wildlife Area.

We drove into Kansas to say hi to another of Richard's friends. He also knew a location of a Barn Owl, which of course was not there when we went to investigate.

Near sunset, we inspected two different Greater Prairie-Chicken leks. No birds were found at Yuma County Lek #2, which last year had about 20 birds at its highest. Of course, it could be too early for their 2010 performance.

Y.C. Lek #3 was not reached until 15 minutes after sunset. Here we did find a Greater Prairie-Chicken walking along the road; none were on the lek, which had 8-10 birds in 2009.

We returned to Hale Ponds Wildlife Area and had two Eastern Screech-Owls respond to our tapes.

From there we again reversed directions and headed to Cameron Pass.

Tuesday 3/9:

We stopped and listened for Boreal Owls at six stops. Boreal Owls responded at two of them. Richard has had these six stops "staked out" for months.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, Richard and I drove Jackson County Road 26. Two Greater Sage-Grouse were walking along eating the Sagebrush. We found no birds displaying or booming.

Mid morning, we found Sharp-tailed Grouse wandering around in Routt County. Rabbit Ears pass was searched unsuccessfully for American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Later we drove over to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge but found no "signs" of additional Greater Sage-Grouse. No Rosy Finches were found in Walden or later at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.

It was a beautiful sunny day in North Park. However,…..throughout the day we heard rumors of snowstorms, which promised 6 inches or more of snow. We decided to return to Denver by noon and birded a few locations along Highway 14.

After dark, we stopped at seven or eight of the Campgrounds and Picnic areas along Highway 14. No owls were enticed to answer our recordings. It was not possible to get up to Pennock Pass from the west side, Prairie Stove Road.

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