Sunday, July 11, 2010

Western Slope Bird Trip (part 4)

July 5 to July 7, 2010

Bryan Ehlmann:

Our groups changed again. Jerry Petrosky joined me in Group B and Gary Weston went to Group A that lost Gary Z.

July 5th

Group B
Our first stop was Red Mountain Pass in San Juan County. Two Black Swifts were seen flying overhead.

We continued west to Black Bear Pass and then turned around. At the pass there is a one way sign, if you continue west to Telluride you cannot come back but must circle back around to Ouray.

At Forest Road 822, we detoured to Bullion King Lake. The road ends at 12,466 feet. We hoped to see Ptarmigan and finally found two females wandering around. Another Black Swift was seen flying overhead.

Owl count was zero.

Group A
They started out at 2:00 AM and drove around Dove Creek in Dolores County before sunrise. Their search for Gunnison Sage-Grouse was not successful. They not only missed Gunnison Sage-Grouse at Bug Point but also couldn't find previously reported Burrowing Owls.

Squaw Canyon, Dolores County section of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was very birdy. They recorded Black-throated Sparrows, Gray Vireos, Juniper Titmice and Black-throated Gray Warblers.

Highlights included a male Scott's Oriole and a flock of 10-12 Pinyon Jays. Gunnison Sage-Grouse were again missed as well as the uncommon Cassin's Kingbird.

Farther south they ran into a couple of Sage Sparrows at Cross Canyon. Several Sage Thrashers were seen between Dove Creek and Squaw Canyon.

They had great success with owls: Flammulated Owls at two locations; Northern Pygmy-Owls at three locations; Northern Saw-whet Owls heard at two locations.

July 6th

Group B
Today we drove Ophir Pass Road from Hwy 550 to Ames and back. First, we decided to tackle the Silver Mine Road. No owls responded to our recordings played below tree line. At the end of the road we hiked the 1.2 miles to Columbine Lake (10,464 feet to 12,685). That's a good gain in elevation in just over a mile. A female Ptarmigan and 3 young were found at 0.4 miles east of the lake. It's a difficult hike, but very beautiful and secluded.

The rest of our day was spent driving. Ophir Pass Road is open country and climbs above tree line. We did not find any Ptarmigan in the talus slopes. Bird wise, it was an uneventful trip. It retrospect, we should have taken Black Bear Pass to Telluride yesterday and returned to highway 550 by way of Ophir Pass and avoided backtracking.

We did hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl at one of our stops east of the summit on our descent.

Group A
They visited Lone Dome Recreation Area in Dolores County today. They called their best highlight a Hooded Warbler!

Early in the morning a Flammulated Owl also called in response to their recordings. Other birds included Common Poorwill, Osprey and Black Phoebe.

A drive up to Glade Lake added Grace's Warblers, Lewis's Woodpeckers, Plumbeous Vireos and a Northern Goshawk. After sunset they heard 2 Flammulated Owls.

July 7th

Group B
Today's visits were Molas Pass and Bolam Pass Roads. We started before sunrise with a drive up South Mineral Road to the Campgrounds. Owling was better. We recorded 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls and a Flammulated Owl. We saw a Fox Sparrow at the Campgrounds. We wanted to hike to Clear Lake north of the Campgrounds but decided not to spare the time.

Molas Pass was interesting. An Osprey was seen at Molas Lake. We did take the time to hike the mile to Little Molas Lake! Another Ptarmigan was found just north of the lake! A Three-toed Woodpecker was seen just west of the pass. A pair of Buffleheads and an Eared Grebe were swimming on Little Molas Lake.

A pair of Purple Martins and 4 Red Crossbills were seen at Coal Bank Pass. From here we left San Juan County and entered La Plata County.

Forest Road 578 (Bolam Pass Road) runs west from hwy 550, just south of the San Juan County Line. It passes Purgatory Ski Area and Sig Creek Campgrounds. The Graysill Mine is just southeast of the summit.

While looking for Three-toed Woodpeckers around the ski area we ran into a Dusky Grouse.

The summit to Balam Pass is actually back in San Juan County. The roads runs along Hermosa Creek. There is an unnamed lake just south of the summit to Bolam Pass.

We hung around the summit until dusk and headed back down stopping every 0.5 miles to play owl recordings. A Boreal Owl responded at stop 3. A Northern Saw-whet Owl at stop 17. Northern Pygmy-Owls at stops 21 and 28.

On the way back to Silverton, we stopped at St. Andrews Lake in San Juan County. A Northern Pygmy-Owl called at the trailhead.

Group A
They finally found a Dolores County Gunnison Sage-Grouse by driving the Wilson Draw area north of Dove Creek. The bird was along C.00, east of 8.00 Road.

They detoured to Uravan and found 2 Black Phoebes along the San Miguel River in Montrose County. Then returned south to Paradox Valley in Montrose County.

They didn't find any of the previously reported Burrowing Owls. Buckeye Reservoir was good for Williamson's Sapsuckers and Grace's Warblers. Sage Thrashers and Sage Sparrows were seen on the trip to Buckeye.

Northern Pygmy-Owls were found at 4 locations in the Manti La Sal National Forest.

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