Saturday, June 12, 2010

Search for Boreal Owls and the Colorado State Forest

May 29-June 1, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

Richard Stevens and I conducted a Boreal Owl survey in the Colorado State Forest. There were about 152 owl boxes put up seven years ago. Richard surveyed these boxes for three years until the study was taken over by the Forest Service. After a couple of years, the Forest Service quit the study. Richard revived the study last year.

Over the last four days, we found 19 Boreal Owls. The surprise was that a Boreal Owl actually used one of the boxes this year!

Obviously, for security reasons, we will not reveal the exact locations of the owls. Richard does point interested birders in the right direction; for those who are interested in seeing a Boreal Owl.

The best times to find the owls were an hour after complete dark and an hour before civil twilight.

May 29th

Our departure from Denver was at Midnight with arrival at Cameron Pass around 2:00 AM. We found 3 Boreal Owls in the Colorado State Forest in the next hour.

Then we drove up to Jackson County Road 26 an hour before civil twilight as our interest in whether Greater Sage-Grouse were still displaying was of interest. Sure enough, four Greater Sage-Grouse came to the lek about 20 minutes before sunrise. They danced for about 15 minutes and then took off!

We hurried over to the Delaney Butte Lakes loop but found no sign that Greater Sage-Grouse were around that lek.

Later Walden Reservoir was scoped. Plenty of Pelicans, California Gulls, several Franklin's Gulls, Eared Grebes and a few American Avocets here. Highlights included a pair of Red-necked Phalaropes and two Willets.

The only hummingbirds at the KOA campgrounds and the Gould Store were Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. All three nuthatches were found.

After dark, we started our Owl count at either side of Cameron Pass with a total of five this night. These then include the three from early this morning.

May 30th and 31st

Slept most of the morning and started a long hike up Michigan Ditch Road. The hike started with a surprise as a Long-eared Owl startled us by flying out of the pines along the first 500 yards of the ditch. This was not a first as it was the third time one was reported here.

Richard found one in 2006 and one of the Ditch "guards" reported one in 2005.

The strenuous hike paid off with a Boreal Owl count of five. We found a nesting tree at one stop a good 4.5 hike up and down the winding road. Camping overnight was fantastic. More stars than I knew were in existence. Moonlight off Mt Richentofen was spectacular. The lack of city noises was fabulous. Satellites zipped by in the sky every 5 minutes or less!

May 31st to June 1st

After checking many owl boxes while thankfully driving today, we had another long hike up North Fork Canadian Road. Fortunately, this road is not as steep as the Michigan Ditch Road. Four additional Boreal Owls found along this hike.

A not so highlight, three of the boxes could only be reached on snowshoes. It was a strenuous hike and not productive.

Five additional Boreal Owls were found today before we headed back to Denver.

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