Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Ptarmigan and Pine Grosbeak Search

November 16, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Philip Kline and I returned to Clear Creek County for another search of White-tailed Ptarmigan and Pine Grosbeaks. It was a beautiful day on Loveland Pass and the Continental Divide.

The snow covered mountain peaks and blue skies are a picturesque contrast. Winds were slower than last Monday. In all, we searched over 5 hours for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Our first stop was my favorite search location. East of highway 6, reached by stopping at the first pullover on the west side of the road. Several inches of new snow overnight highlighted the many Ptarmigan tracks. The birds were definitely in the area; however, we could not find any.

Kudos to Philip who lives in warm Tucson, Arizona. He hiked up and down the mountain slope for several hours. Many times sinking almost to his kneecaps in isolated snowdrifts, zigzagging along the Ptarmigan trails. No telling how many Ptarmigan were passed as they hid in the willows.

We scoped most every willow bush and under every evergreen tree (more than once, more than twice). No birds, they were probably watching us walk pass them.

A short lunch break and we drove around Keystone and Dillon looking for Pine Grosbeaks in the forested areas. Few birds were seen and no Pine Grosbeak.

Back at Loveland Pass, we scoped the east side of the summit, no Ptarmigan and decided to make the steep climb up the west side trail. It is an effort, for sure.

At the first "flat area" up the trail, I scoped the grassy hillside to the south (just south of the rocky hillside along the trail). A male White-tailed Ptarmigan hopped up on a rock (or would probably have been missed). A female walked around the rock and into view.

Minutes later, they flew downhill, to the east, crossed the trail, and disappeared in the evergreens just below the highway north of the Continental Divide sign.

We walked down there, however could not relocate the birds.

With a few hours of daylight remaining, we tried Georgetown feeders for a Pine Grosbeak; without success. There was no sign of the Rufous collared Sparrow (it was last reported September 7, 2011).

As a last resort, we drove around Empire. Although several feeders were found, only a few Robins and Mountain Chickadees were seen. Pine Grosbeaks would have to wait for another trip.

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