Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Grouse Trip!

April 12 to 18, 2010

Richard Stevens:

This morning started another grouse trip. Joining me were Deb (Ohio), Deanna (Canada) and Barbara (Arizona). It was quite successful in spite of the few "kinks" thrown at us.

Monday, April 12

We started out early in the morning with a first stop at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek). Unfortunately, no White-tailed Ptarmigan were found in a two hour search. Later in the trip, we had an extra day and planned to return.

Fortunately, we were able to find Rosy Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, and other mountain species at a friend's feeder in Summit County.

As we left town, we stopped by the Blue River Water Treatment Plant; no Barrow's Goldeneyes were there. However, a quick detour to the Angler Mountain Pond added 2 male and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneyes to our trip list!

Few birds were found in Kremmling where the historical "Rosy Finch house" had taken down their feeders.

With some time to spare, we drove to Johns Lake and Delaney Buttes Wildlife Areas. Another the way we passed Walden Reservoir, which was quite birdy. Dozens of California Gulls and a few Ring-billed Gulls waded around the open water. The highlight was an adult Bonaparte's Gull in basic plumage.

We also found many ducks, two Greater Yellowlegs and a few Pelicans. The lakes at the two Wildlife Areas were frozen and snow covered, no birds were around. The road to the Delaney Buttes Greater Sage-Grouse lek was snow covered and muddy; we did not attempt to get up it.

Our birding day (but not our trip day) ended at the Greater Sage-Grouse leks along Jackson County Road 26, north of Highway 14. In total, 19 male Greater Sage-Grouse were observed displaying. No females were observed.

Unfortunately I did not end our day (should have). We (I) decided to checkout the 80 Route Lek road for grouse (Greater Sage-Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Dusky Grouse) for the next morning. When we reached the second cattle guard, snow was too deep to continue. In the process of turning around, I got stuck. It took an hour to dig the Chevy Suburban. Fortunately, we did get out (seven or eight miles from Hayden and a tow truck, I was not looking forward to walking for help. Of course, no cell phone coverage either).

Tuesday, April 13

At first light, we visited the 20 Road Leks south of Hayden (Routt). Eventually 14 Sharp-tailed Grouse arrived to "do their thing" and gave all great looks!

On the way back to Craig, a stop at the Yampa County Airport added several hundred Sandhill Cranes to our trip list!

We skipped Oxbow Wildlife Area (Moffat) and headed south down Highway 13 to Rifle. Perch Pond (about halfway between Craig and Rifle) offered views of Canada Geese, 2 Eared Grebes, 2 Pied-billed Grebes and several Great Blue Herons.

Our next stop was Cameo (Coal Canyon). No Chukar were around the first pipe gate (usual spot) but we did see many Mountain Bluebirds, a couple of Say's Phoebes and a Black-throated Sparrow.

At the second gate, we walked the gravel road, which heads uphill to the northeast and then drops down to the creek. Again, no Chukar, but we did see four wild horses (breed in the canyon) and a lone Pinyon Jay.

Finally we walked a mile farther down Coal Canyon (from the second pipe gate), again missing the elusive chukars. Mountain Bluebirds, Say's Phoebes, Rock Wrens and a Canyon Wren kept us company but were no consolation for missing chukars (now I was in my twentieth hour of unsuccessful Chukar hunting.

We abandoned the search and drove to the Grand Mesa. A stop at Powderhorn Ski Area did not find American Three-toed Woodpeckers or Northern Pygmy-Owls. A Clark's Nutcracker (lifebird for several) was "hanging around the entrance road".

My technique is to drive to the Grand Mesa Lodge and Visitor's Center to look for birds in the late afternoon, then wait until dark and return north for Boreal Owl searches.

At the Grand Mesa Lodge, dozens of Mountain Chickadees visited the platform feeder. Eventually several Gray Jays (lifebird for all three birders) also visited the feeder.

After dark, we found 7 Boreal Owls at the various pullovers along Highway 65.

Wednesday, April 14

We slept a little longer (getting up at 7:00 am instead of the usual 4:30 am, wow a whole 7 hours of sleep!). None of the three birders was going to find a lifebird at the Colorado National Monument, so I skipped it for the first time in my last 14 trips.

Instead, we went looking for Sage Sparrows up Mesa County Roads 3 and 4. It took several hours, but eventually 2 Sage Sparrow were found up CR 4 at 7.8 miles north of CR 3!

Afterwards, again with time to spare we drove into Walker Wildlife Area. A Turkey hunter had seen 3 Chukar less than an hour before we met him. We however, could not relocate the birds in a 2 hour search.

Once again abandoning a Chukar search, we decided to try Escalante Canyon (unsuccessful Chukar searches now at 24 hours). Another 2 hours was spent unsuccessfully looking for Chukar. Two Black Phoebes were seen near Pinnacle Rock (up Escalante Canyon).

Our next stop was Fruitgrower's Reservoir. Many waterfowl including many Western Grebes were on the lake. Unfortunately, no Clark's Grebes (lifebird for the group). A Common Loon was at the far southeastern corner.

The highlight however was a Sage Sparrow. After searching for hours in Mesa County, this lone sparrow was right in front of us. It was running out of the bushes and scarfing up the road kill insects along this quite busy road. When a car came by the sparrow would scurry back into the bushes and quickly return when the coast was clear. He/she was quite entertaining.

On the way to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose), we stopped briefly at Evelyn Horn's house (below the dam) and watched 5 Lewis's Woodpeckers flying around. Most likely the males chasing females around :-)

Our birding day ended at the National Park with a two hour search for Dusky Grouse; without success. We did hear 2 Dusky Grouse booming. However, they were too deep in the bushes for us to get a look at them.

Thursday, April 15

At first light, 23 male Gunnison Sage-Grouse were displaying at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek. Only three females could be picked out (the birds were a good distance from the county road).

One strange sight was a coyote walking through the lek. He walked within 4 feet of one of the displaying male and we thought for sure the coyote was going to get the bird. Instead, the coyote continued past the bird, not even moving toward the displaying grouse. Quite strange? Why did the coyote not attempt to grab the bird that was so close?

Our tour continued east. A stop at Lake Henry (Otero) found the lifebird Clark's Grebe that we looked for at Fruitgrower's Reservoir.

The many shorebirds at Lake Cheraw (Otero) included 20+ Snowy Plovers, 2 Baird's Sandpipers, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and many Killdeer.

Continuing east four Burrowing Owls were counted along Highway 266 (Otero CR HH) on the way to Highway 194.

One of the birders needed a Virginia Rail for a lifebird, so I stopped at the Marsh at 1.5 miles east of Bent County Roads 16 & JJ. A tape quickly brought a Virginia Rail to the top of the cattails. Several Soras and an American Bittern also called. A Marsh Wren popped up also.

Friday, April 16

At first light 19 male and 2 female Lesser Prairie-Chickens scampered around the eastern Elkhart lek. This was in a pouring down rain, which did not seem to hamper the birds at all.

On the return to Colorado, a flock of Lark Buntings was found along the highway. Grasshopper Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows were also found at the same stop. Seven Long-billed Curlews were found in various cultivated fields along the trek.

Back in Colorado,

Four Burrowing Owls were found along Baca County Road M at 0.4 miles west of Highway 287. A pair of Long-billed Curlews also caught our attention.

A quick detour to Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) did not find many birds. We did see another pair of Long-billed Curlews at the intersection of CR UU and 29.

Many Great-tailed Grackles were found throughout Lamar (Prowers) while we stopped for gas and supplies.

We rushed north to Bonny Reservoir and Hale Ponds for a Long-eared Owl search. Unfortunately, none was found this afternoon.

Our birding day ended at a private lek in Yuma County. Unfortunately, the rancher had decided to plow the field this year (and was doing so when we visited). That ends the lek at least for now.

Saturday, April 17

At first light 8 Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed displaying at the Yuma CR 45 lek. This was a sunrise. Before sunrise we drove farther east on CR 45 and heard at least two or three additional leks that were out of view (on private property).

At the first cattle guard east of the lek that can be viewed from CR 45 (about 1.9 miles east of highway 385) we saw a goatsucker. It was eventually identified as a Lesser Nighthawk!

The day was cold and rainy as we continued north. Jumbo Reservoir (a regular stop on my tour was skipped, no lifebirds for anyone) and we continued to Jackson Lake Reservoir.

It only took about 30 minutes to find 2 Long-eared Owls (lifebird) for our group. Hundreds of Robins were just about all that was seen in the Campground area.

Heading north, we found 2 Mountain Plovers along Morgan County Road 4 at 0.8 miles south of CR GG.

We continued to Crow Valley Campground (Weld) stopped briefly for a rest stop and continued north to CR 77 and CR 96.

A Japanese tour group had just found a Chestnut-collared Longspur at 1.6 miles west of CR 77 (it was not relocate by us). A Mountain Plover was in the same general area.

In the pouring rain, we stopped at the field southeast of Hwy 85 and Weld County Road 114. We walked toward the windmill about a mile to the southeast and found 8+ Chestnut-collared Longspurs.

Our birding day ended at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld). Just after sunset, a Short-eared Owl was observed flying south from the south end of the reservoir over CR 48 and continuing southward.

Sunday, April 18

At first light, we hiked up Reynolds Park (Jefferson) in search of Dusky Grouse. Eventually we heard two birds, however neither allowed us looks. They were along the Elkhorn Trail, just south of the old service road.

The hike was quite birdy. All three nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Chipping Sparrows and Pine Siskins were seen. Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found. A pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers were a surprise.

Instead of returning to Loveland Pass for a Ptarmigan search, we decided to check if the road up to Guanella Pass (from hwy 285 at Grant) was open. This worked out well.

The road is eventually gated but it was only a 1.6 mile hike to the summit. From the summit, I searched for Ptarmigan to the north and east while Deanna and Deb hiked up the 603 trail. They found 3 White-tailed Ptarmigan near the top of the hill south-southeast of the Guanella Pass summit!

Back at the closed gate, I heard a Three-toed Woodpecker.

Returning to Denver, we stopped at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) to see if the Golden-crowned Sparrow was around (did not see it). We did find the pair of Peregrine Falcons on the rocky cliffs south of the amphitheater. The pair of Prairie Falcons were on the cliffs south of the trading post (we observed them from the large parking area below the smaller ones around the trading post).

We returned Barbara and suitcases to the Microtel Motel near DIA airport. Deanna and Deb wanted to see a Boreal Owl so we got the idea to drive up to Cameron Pass (started at 7:30 pm and eventually returned at 3:30 am).

At Cameron Pass (Jackson County), we heard five or six Boreal Owls and got one of them in our binoculars. Another Boreal Owl was heard from the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer County).

I dropped off my fellow birders, but my birding day/night was not over. On the way home, I pass Pena Blvd at 56th Avenue. A Short-eared Owl was flying under the overpass, chasing insects, and harassing the Rock Pigeons. I could not resist and had to watch the owl for 30 minutes. He/she was still circling under the overpass when I left at 4:10 am.

Not to get any sleep in a bed, Bryan Ehlmann picked me up and I slept as he drove to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).

April 10, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Cameron Pass to scout for owls. Again, we could not get up Pennock Pass to explore for an early date for Flammulated Owls (road gated due to snow drifts).

At Cameron Pass and several miles either side, we eventually found 9 Boreal Owls.

April 9, 2010

After searching for and finding the Black Phoebe at Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas) this morning, Rebecca Kosten and I hiked outside of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Buckley Road from 88th avenue to 56th avenue. BTW, we could not relocate the Broad-winged Hawk reported two days ago in Waterton Canyon.

We found 3 Burrowing Owls inside the arsenal fence (Adams County) and 2 Burrowing Owls along the east side of Buckley Road (Denver County). Closest to our cars were 2 in Adams County (west side of Buckley) in the field northwest of the cement barriers across the road (about 1.0 miles south if 88th avenue).

A Sage Thrasher was 5 telephone poles south of the same barrier. It walked along the Denver County side and eventually flew to the Adams County side of Buckley.

We also observed a Prairie Falcon, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 American Kestrels and a Rough-legged Hawk. The late migrating Rough-legged Hawk was directly west of the Microtel Motel (along 56th avenue).

Later we drove the DIA Owl Loop. No Short-eared Owls this evening. We did see 4 Burrowing Owls at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue and 2 Burrowing Owls 0.2 miles north of Tower Road and 56th avenue.

A Swainson's Hawk was near 112th avenue (farther north than the Rough-legged Hawk by about 6 miles. A Ferruginous Hawk was near the Burrowing Owl location along 96th avenue.

1 comment:

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