Monday, May 28, 2012

Short Trip Into the Mountains

May 27, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Rebecca Kosten, Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons, John Wells, Sophia Fuller and I headed up to Mt Evans Byway today.  Our caravan of three cars met at Echo Lake, and then proceeded in one SUV up Mt Evans.

Two Brown-capped Rosy Finches were sighted on the rocks at the northwest corner of Summit Lake.  It took about 20 minutes to find a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan east of the main road across from the pullover just before the turn into the Summit Lake Parking lot.

We did not continue to the top of Mt Evans, instead returned to Summit Lake.  A Red-naped Sapsucker was on a telephone pole on the west side of the lake.  A Green-tailed Towhee and Lincoln's Sparrow were found in the brush at the northwest corner.

Only a few Broad-tailed Hummingbirds visited the feeders hanging on the Echo Lake Lodge.  No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found around the Echo Lake Campgrounds (that's three trips in a row now).

We split up as John and Sophia needed to go the DIA.  Jacob and Ray headed to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek) where later they found a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan (southwest of the Rosalie & 603 trails) and an American Three-toed Woodpecker at the Campgrounds. 

Rebecca and I stopped at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson) on our way to Denver.  We found a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers around the group picnic area.  Another pair was around the flagpole at the top of the park/mountain.

Other birds found included Pine Siskins, White-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches and a male Hairy Woodpecker.

There was not much visiting the feeders behind the Red Rocks Park Trading Post.  Two Burrowing Owls were at 2.3 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue (the DIA Owl Loop).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Two Day Owling Trip to Northern Colorado

May 25-26, 2012

Richard Stevens:

May 25, 2012

Several of us headed up to Pennock Pass (Larimer County) to search for owls.

We stopped at Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld).  The mudflats had received some rain the night before.  Unfortunately, few shorebirds had found the new wetlands.

The Weld County 59 Ponds had a few shorebirds.  A pair of Wilson's Phalaropes, half a dozen American Avocets and 9 Black-necked Stilts searched for food.  Many Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a couple of Great-tailed Grackles were also there.

The water level at Loloff Reservoir was quite high.  A Killdeer and Stilt Sandpiper walked the limited shoreline.

Crow Valley Campground (Weld) was slow.  We found a Red-eyed Vireo in the southwest corner.  Other birds found included a Plumbeous Vireo, Veery, Swainson's Thrushes, Orchard Orioles, Bullock's Orioles, a Common Nighthawk and many House Wrens.

A drive along CR 96 north of the Campgrounds found 5 McCown's Longspurs.  We checked on the nesting Mountain Plover; she was still there.

A walk toward the windmill at the southeast corner of Highway 85 and Weld County Road 114 found only one Chestnut-collared Longspur (the wind had picked up quite a bit).

After sunset, we eventually found 3 Flammulated Owls on Pennock Pass (Larimer).

May 26, 2012

We continued our northern trip by heading east to Jackson Reservoir (Morgan County).  The Campgrounds were filled with people (every campsite, 427 was taken) and few birds.  A few Bullock's Orioles and a pair of Brown Thrashers flew about the Visitor's Center.

The highlight was great views of a Long-eared Owl (see CoBus photo library).

At nearby Andrick Wildlife Area a Forster's Tern flew over the ponds.  A recently fledged Western Grebe was sitting on CR AA.  We stopped, picked it up and returned it to the pond.

Our next stop was Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington).  While winds were calm at Jackson Reservoir, by the time we reached Last Chance Rest Stop winds had increased to 28 mph with gusts to 35 mph.

The few birds there hunkered down in the bushes or held on for their lives in the swinging trees.  The highlights were a Red-eyed Vireo and Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Other birds included several Western Wood-pewees, many Western Kingbirds and Common Grackles. 

Three warblers stayed low in the currant bushes and remained unidentified.

We did not relocate the Band-tailed Pigeon reported along highway 38 at 12 miles west of Last Chance Rest Stop.  Winds 30+ mph by then.

Friday, May 25, 2012

So So Owling Trip

May 22, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I stopped by Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County) at sunrise.  Birding was quite slow.  Winds were calm; temperatures rose quickly.

A 1st year male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was the only uncommon bird found.  It fluttered around the tall cottonwoods on the west side the southern ponds.

Afterwards, we headed to the mountains (Pennock Pass & Cameron Pass) to escape the heat. 

We eventually found (heard) 4 Flammulated Owls along Larimer County Road 44H (Pennock Pass).

No Boreal Owls called at Cameron Pass (Jackson).

May 23, 2012

After a few hours of sleep, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove south of Gould (Jackson County).  We managed to find a Burrowing Owl along County Road 27.  A previous sighting was reported along CR 21.

Later we hiked into the Colorado State Forest to examine owl boxes.  On the way in, we ran across an American Three-toed Woodpecker just north of the closure gate at the end of Michigan Creek Road.

No Boreal Owls found in the 31 owl boxes that were checked.

Night owling was shutdown when it started to snow.  We gave up instead of being stuck out miles our vehicle.  It was snowing quite rapidly and the ground was covered quickly.

May 24, 2012

We woke up to a snow covered ground and high winds.  Our decision to return another day for owl searches was easy to make.

In the late afternoon, Rebecca Kosten and I drove over to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  Winds were 6-8 mph; temperatures were in the high 60s.  The winds did not help any finding any birds among the blowing leaves.  The American Redstart reported a few days ago was not relocated.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Retracing a Douglas County Bird Trip

May 21, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I decided to retrace Jerry, Sue, Amy and Rebecca's yesterday trip to Douglas County.

We relocated the Northern Waterthrush but blanked on the White-eyed Vireo and American Redstart at Hidden Mesa Open Space. If there are any Yellow-billed Cuckoos nesting this year, we were not able to find them.

Over a dozen Yellow Warblers, half a dozen Song Sparrows, two Eastern Kingbirds, half a dozen Western Kingbirds, a dozen American Goldfinches, two Lesser Goldfinches, and a few Vesper Sparrows were also observed.

The American Redstart was relocated along the Cherry Creek Regional Trail at Walker Pit. We blanked on the Summer Tanager and Plumbeous Vireo. Again no Yellow-billed Cuckoos were found.

Here again, we saw Eastern Kingbirds, Western Kingbirds, unfortunately no Cassin's Kingbirds (for the triple crown), Vesper Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Bullock's Orioles, and a MacGillivray's Warbler.

At the field south of the Winkler Ranch on Castlewood Canyon Road, south of the State Park, we counted 9+ male and 2 female Bobolinks.

On the hillside to the west of the Winkler Ranch we had a singing Cordilleran Flycatcher, Spotted Towhees, Vesper Sparrows, Mountain Bluebirds, many Tree Swallows and a Savannah Sparrow.

Several pairs of Western Bluebirds were using nesting boxes to the north (where Castlewood Canyon Road runs east to west).  We could not find any Eastern Bluebirds (have not heard of any this year, as usually there is at least one pair).  A lone Wild Turkey walked the forest edge here.

Back at the Castlewood Canyon State Park, we found a Least Flycatcher below the old Cherry Creek dam.  Bullock's Orioles, Spotted Towhees, and a few Black-headed Grosbeaks were also recorded here.

In the afternoon, I decided to bike around the southern end of Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  The target, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reported last Thursday south of the gun shooting range down to Windmill Creek and Pond.  The bird was never found.

I have heard of Cottonwood Creek and Lone Tree Creek south of the State Park, however never Windmill Creek.  I was not able to find it or a pond either.

Along the way, I stopped and heard a Virginia Rail at the southern end of the 12 Mile Beaver Pond.  An American Redstart was in the cottonwoods just south of the pond (no sign of last week's Tennessee Warbler). 

I zigzagged around the trails south of the main road (and gun range) down to Jordan Road.  Then I rode up Peoria to Bellevue and back into Cherry Creek Reservoir.  A couple of additional Virginia Rails called from the Bellevue Wetlands.

Finally, I rode over to the Prairie Loop.  Having never tried playing a recording for a warbler (I have only used it on owls), I played an American Redstart song.

Half a dozen Yellow Warblers and two Black-capped Chickadees came out of the trees just west of the path down to the bird platform.  Then I heard an American Redstart.  It was enticed into emerging from the trees just east of the path!

No uncommon gulls or terns of any kind were around the southwest marina as the sunset.

Eastern Plains Bird Trip

May 14-20, 2012

Richard Stevens:

May 14

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to Pawnee National Grasslands to check on some nesting birds.  Our caravan of two cars included in the 2nd car; Jim & Lory Sachs, Peter & Angel Zimmerman.

We found 2 Chestnut-collared Longspurs in the field southeast of Highway 85 and Weld County Road 114.  They surely nest here (found all summer); however, we have not been able to find a nest.  We sat for quite a while and watched for possible nesting locations.  None yet found.

After the great reports of the birds at Norma's Grove (east of CR 100 & CR 59) we headed over there.  The only uncommon bird found was a Dusky Flycatcher.

Not to challenge anyone to search, however we have found two Mountain Plover nests with eggs.  We will be keeping tabs on their progress (form a good distance away from the nests).

Crow Valley Campground was also slow.  None of the interesting birds reported recently were found.

The Short-billed Dowitcher continued at the Weld County 59 Pond.  Quite a few shorebirds included Red-necked Phalaropes, Wilson's Phalaropes, Long-billed Dowitchers, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocets, Baird's Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers and a Willet.

A Burrowing Owl was relocated at Weld County Roads 90 and 51.

On the way to Wray, we stopped to stretch our legs at Overland Park in Sterling (Logan).  A short walk found a male Baltimore Oriole and a Green Heron along the South Platte River.

May 15

Our caravan continued to Wray last night.  This morning we visited two Greater Prairie-Chicken leks.  More than half a dozen Greater Prairie-Chickens displayed at both leks (one of which is the Yuma County Road 45 Lek, can be viewed, although quite far away, from a public/county road).

Afterwards we continued south to Bonny Reservoir (now Bonny Wildlife Area, as lake water has been drained, sent to Kansas, and there are no open facilities).

We enjoyed quite a day of birding.  At the old Wagon Wheel Campgrounds and Visitor's Center, we found a male Northern Cardinal and male Baltimore Oriole.  Also seen, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Dark-eyed Juncos.

We scoped the trickle of water in the Republican River and found 2 Whimbrel, 3 Marbled Godwits and a Long-billed Curlew among a few additional peeps.

On the north side of the Wildlife Area, we walked from the old Foster's Grove Campgrounds to highway 385.  Along the hike, we found 2 Great Crested Flycatchers, 3 Red-bellied Woodpeckers and 5-6 Eastern Bluebirds.  Also encountered: Wild Turkey, empidonax flycatcher (2, not identified, although we tried to make one of them an Alder Flycatcher, Pine Siskin!, Bullock's Orioles, another Red-bellied Woodpecker, etc.

Hale Ponds below/downstream of Bonny Wildlife Area added 2 additional Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Common Yellowthroat and a Northern Waterthrush (along the Republican River) to our day list.  No Yellow-billed Cuckoos were found.

Also, found during the day: a Long-eared Owl and Barn Owl.  We prefer not to advertise either location.  Both birds could be nesting in their areas (will monitor as we did find one on a nest).

On the way to Burlington (for a motel), we stopped at the Fairview Cemetery (north Burlington).  Bryan found a beautiful warbler, which turned out to be a Cape May Warbler!

We ended our birding day at 8th Street and Rose Avenue.  This location has provided some interesting sightings over the years.  Today a male Summer Tanager was flying around!

Well it was not quite the end.  The six of us headed back to Bonny Wildlife Area where we found Eastern Screech-Owls at both Hale Ponds and the west end of the Wildlife Area.

This was the end of the trip for our cohorts; they headed back east in the morning.  Bryan and I headed up north to a friend's ranch.

May 16

Bryan Ehlmann, Roger Danka and I were at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) about an hour before sunrise.  Our first bird(s) of the day was a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls.

Eventually we would cover most of the seven mile eastern section of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area and quite a bit of the western sections.

Highlights included:

At Tamarack Pond area:
Roger found the "warbler of the day" a male Black-throated Green Warbler on the north side of the pond.  Bryan found a Nashville Warbler on the east side and I added a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the south side.

Eventually we found 5 Northern Cardinals.  Two male and a female around Tamarack Ponds to the maintenance building to the west and two male Northern Cardinals at 1-2 West sections.

As usual, sections 6 & 7 East were the most productive.  Both a male Baltimore Oriole (singing) and 2 Field Sparrows (singing) were the highlights here.

Sections 1-2 West are the best locations to search for Bell's Vireos and Eastern Towhees.  Today we found only 1 Bell's Vireo (better than zero).

Red-bellied Woodpecker count today was 7.  Five in the east sections and two on the west sections.

In the afternoon, we walked the windbreak at Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan).  A molting male Summer Tanager was on the east side of the Little Jumbo Reservoir.  Later we found a male Red-bellied Woodpecker in the windbreak along highway 138 (from the southern parking area, to east).

As we drove away, Roger pointed out an Upland Sandpiper on a fence post along highway 138 (about 20 yards to west of CR 95).

A stop at Duck Creek Wildlife Area added a Bell's Vireo and Eastern Bluebirds to our day list.

Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area was even more interesting.  Another Upland Sandpiper, Black-and-white Warbler and Red-bellied Woodpecker were found here.

We ate dinner at Roger's ranch while listening to a couple of Eastern Screech-Owls hooting and Common Poorwill calling.

May 17

Bryan Ehlmann and I were back on our own today.  Our first stop was Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick Counties).  At civil twilight, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl on the north side of the lake.

There was very little exposed shore as we drove around the reservoir.  A pair of Black-bellied Plovers was found on the west side of the lake.  An American Golden-Plover was walking the southeastern shore.

Hundreds of swallows flew around the northeastern side.  Unfortunately, no Purple Martins were among them.  The Campgrounds were slow.  A few Bullock's Orioles, Western Kingbirds, and an Eastern Kingbird were just about all that was found.  The usual ducks swam around the lake, nothing uncommon was found.

Our next stop was the Pony Express Wildlife Area (Sedgwick County).  A Dickcissel was found in the field south of the property.  The Wildlife Area is not very big and we covered it in less than 1.5 hours.  Highlights included a male Baltimore Oriole and a male Red-bellied Woodpecker.  A few Bullock's Orioles, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers were also found.

Later we stopped at Julesburg Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).  Here we found a male Northern Cardinal singing west of the parking area.  A White-throated Sparrow was in the field east of the parking area.  A male Bobolink was found as we drove out of the property.

The rest of our day was spent at a private ranch.  Our friend has seen an American Woodcock last week.  Unfortunately, we never relocated the bird.  This ranch was once Dan Bridges favorite birding location in Sedgwick County.  I was fortunate to have "inherited access" when Dan "retired".  Today we found 2 Black-and-white Warblers, a Blackpoll Warbler, a Black-throated Green Warbler, a Blackburnian Warbler, a Tennessee Warbler, a Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastegration were found.

Sand Draw Wildlife Area was also slow.  A male Lazuli Bunting was the most interesting bird found here.  No Field Sparrows could be found today.  Bryan saw 2 Red Crossbills, which could not be relocated later.

We searched for Eastern Screech-Owls at several riparian areas at dusk.  None was found.

May 19

Today Bryan and I were back at Bonny Wildlife Area (Yuma County).  We again heard an Eastern Screech-Owl between Highway 385 and the old Foster's Grove Campgrounds (camping is currently not allowed).

Along the walk, we found a Great Crested Flycatcher, male Baltimore Oriole, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.  A Northern Cardinal flew around the old camping area.

A second Baltimore Oriole and another Red-bellied Woodpecker were found during a walk along the "closed to vehicles" road on the south side of the lake.

A fortunate stop at a friend's ranch added a Prairie Warbler to our trip list.  Bob had seen the warbler on two previous days.

We also visited friends in Kansas (just across the border from Hale) and in Goodland and St. Francis.  We hoped to find an Eastern Meadowlark or Whip-poor-will.  Neither of which was found.

A finally stop at a friend's home in Wray found that her eastern Fox Sparrow had not been seen in a week to ten days.  She still had two pairs of Northern Cardinals visiting her feeders.

May 20

Bryan and I woke up to a Common Poorwill calling south of Hale Ponds.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called briefly north of the ponds (before civil twilight).

We hurried to a nearby Greater Prairie-Chicken lek to catch four male Greater Prairie-Chickens still displaying, then returned for one last look around Bonny & Hale Wildlife Areas.

We made the 4 mile walk that I have around the Hale Ponds & Republican River.  Highlights included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo northwest of the most western pond.

A small loose flock of birds included Black-capped Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, an Orange-crowned Warbler and a male Magnolia Warbler.  The flock was along the Republican River and just inside the Colorado border and Yuma County (later, the Magnolia Warbler was recorded as being in Cheyenne County, Kansas).

Two stops on the way back to Denver were not productive.

Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington) did not have any uncommon birds.  Two Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet were the "highlights".

The rest stop at Byers was also slow.  Again several (3) Yellow-rumped Warblers were the "highlights".

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Day In the Foothills

May 13, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann, Jim & Lory Sachs, Peter & Angel Zimmerman and I sat at Reynolds Park (Jefferson County) at first light.  No Northern Pygmy-Owls called this morning.  A Common Poorwill was heard north of South Foxton Road.

We took the less steep route to the top of the park and descended the steep trail (Eagle's View to Raven's Roost to Oxen Draw).  Maps available at the parking area.

A Williamson's Sapsucker was several hundred yards south of the old service road.

A male Dusky Grouse displayed along the edge of the woods and clearing at the top of Eagle's View.

A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was downhill (north) of the intersections of the three trails.

Other birds found included: 3 species of nuthatches (Red-breasted, White-breasted & Pygmy), Mountain Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Pine Siskin, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, a pair of Western Bluebirds and Common Ravens.

A Summer Tanager and Least Flycatcher were seen during a walk around the Welchester Tree Park in Littleton (Jefferson).

Bryan and I dropped the group off downtown and drove the DIA Owl Loop.  Several Burrowing Owls stood around the prairie dog town at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue.  A pair of McCown's Longspurs was north along the road after it turned from north to eastward.  No Upland Sandpipers or Short-eared Owl appeared tonight.

A Day In the Mountains

May 12, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I took four out of state birders to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek).  Over the next three hours we criss-crossed the hill southeast of the parking area.

Finally, we found a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan about 50 yards south of the top of the hill (mountain, by flatlanders' standards).

We managed to put binoculars on a male American Three-toed Woodpecker at the Guanella Pass Campgrounds.  No Dusky Grouse or Hermit Thrush was seen today.

After a late and long lunch in Fairplay, we drove to Kenosha Pass (Park County).  A Dusky Grouse was seen just before the gate along the road heading east from Highway 285.

Williamson's Sapsuckers and Red-naped Sapsuckers were seen in the Aspen Grove about a mile southeast of the gate.

At dusk and dark, I managed to draw in a Flammulated Owl (east of the Twin Cone Peaks trailhead).

Weld & Adams County Birding

May 11, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I birded Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) at first light.  The windbreak along the southern ponds was quite interesting.

Highlights were a male Northern Parula, male Summer Tanager (all red) and a Least Flycatcher!  The usual waterfowl American Coots and other ducks wandered from the northern ponds (access closed until July 15).

Next, we visited a nearby friend's ranch.  He has Mountain Plover on his ranch.  They are possibly nesting and we want to keep an eye on them.  A Palm Warbler fluttered about the windbreak on his ranch.  He hears Common Poorwill at dusk; we could not find any.  Are they also nesting here or just in migration.

Burrowing Owls were found at Weld 24.5 and 75.5!

Later we searched unsuccessfully for the Summer Tanager reported yesterday at Barr Lake (Adams).  Birds seen included: Bullock's Oriole, Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Western Wood-pewee, House Wrens, Yellow Warbler and Hammond's Flycatcher.

Last Grouse Trip of Spring 2012

May 4-10, 2012

Richard Stevens:

May 4
My last grouse trip of 2012 started with clear skies and mild winds.  Roger & Jean Staples from the UK and I headed to the mountains.  The interesting construct of this trip was that it was their first visit to the United States.  Many of the birds we will see will be lifebirds for them!  That was exciting for them and for me (many of their target birds would be easy to find)!

Our first stop was Lowell Ponds Wildlife Area (Adams County).  The male American Dipper was "standing guard" outside of the nest.  The female and several young could be seen inside the nesting cavity.

On the way to Loveland Pass, we stopped at Genesee Mountain Park (Jefferson).  We heard a Williamson's Sapsucker at the group picnic area.  However being unable to see the bird, we made a leisure hike to the top of the park (Mountain).

A male Williamson's Sapsucker was drumming on his favorite tree just below and north of the flagpole.  Another male flew in to "challenge" for the territory.  Eventually, a female Williamson's Sapsucker flew through perhaps to survey the commotion?

We saw White-breasted Nuthatches, a small flock of Pygmy Nuthatches, American Crows, Common Ravens, and a few Pine Siskins.

Several hours were spent on Loveland Pass (Clear Creek).  I was surprised by the lack of snow.  Our record high temperatures had taken its toll on the snow pack.  No White-tailed Ptarmigan were found.  It is much easier to find them when searching and following their tracks in the snow.

A few American Pipits flew about the tundra.  Many American Robins searched around for food.

No Rosy Finches could be found in Silverthorne (Summit).  Clark's Nutcrackers, Band-tailed Pigeons, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, many Pine Siskins and Mountain Chickadees were nice to see.  However, they were not a substitute for our target birds (Rosy Finches).

Before the trip, I had looked online for any Rosy Finch sightings within 100 miles of Colorado borders (New Mexico, Wyoming & Utah).  It appeared that no one was finding Rosy Finches in the warm weather.  Access to nesting sites higher in the Colorado Mountains were hampered by snow blocked roads.  In several cases, fallen trees needed to cleared before anyone was driving up the roads.

No Barrow's Goldeneyes were found at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit) or Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) and our trip continued to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center (Jackson).

A male Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskins, Red-winged Blackbirds and Mountain Chickadees, regulars came to the feeders behind the building.  Several male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds stopped by for a drink of sugar water.

The highlight was a 10 minute visit by a White-throated Sparrow that has been here for several months.

We still had several hours before having to be at the Greater Sage-Grouse Leks and we detoured to Walden Reservoir (Jackson).

A lone Willet walked along the northern shore.  A Bonaparte's Gull was picked out of several dozen Franklin's Gulls.  A small flock of small terns appeared to be only Forster's Terns.  Many American White Pelicans and ducks (including Redheads, Canvasbacks, Buffleheads, Lesser Scaups, and more common) swam around the lake.  At least two Greater Scaup continued from the eight observed last week.

Finally, we parked at the Jackson County Road 26b Lek.  The sun started to set and no grouse appeared.  I always wonder if they will show (in spite of never missing them in 129 previous spring visits).  Shortly after sunset, they started to come out of the sage.  Thirty seven males and several female looking birds finally put on quite a show for us!  A nice ending to our first day!

May 5
Grouse trips required early risings and late bed times.  An hour before sunset, we drove the 80 Route Road (Routt) in search of grouse.  The male Dusky Grouse that "hangs out" at the second cattle guard did not disappoint.  He was out looking around for a female.  Light was still too low for photos, however, all got a great look from 20 feet away.

While parked here, we could here many Greater Sage-Grouse off in the distance.

We continued to the entrance to the Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands and waited for our target.  Eventually twelve+ Sharp-tailed Grouse appeared and performed their version of "let's find some females". 

Unlike the Greater Sage-Grouse with their elaborate displays and dances, Sharp-tailed Grouse run through the sage like mice.  They stick their heads up and look around for their "prey".  When not finding any, they duck back down and again scurry through the sage.  Every now and then, they stick their tails up and shake them like rattle snakes.  It is quite a humorous sight.  However, as long as the female like it, that is all the matters.

While waiting for the Sharp-tailed Grouse to "wake up", several Sandhill Cranes flew over our heads.  Vesper Sparrows sang from the sage and fence posts, filling the airwaves with delightful sounds to announce the start of another beautiful day in the rolling hills of North Park.

A drive 17 miles west of Maybell, Colorado (Moffat), 30 miles west of Craig, provides a good chance to find one of Colorado birders nemesis birds.  While Sage Sparrows are not uncommon spring through fall, they are sulky birds and difficult to find.

A flooded field just west of Maybell was a great stop.  Ninety six White-faced Ibis fed in the field.  I was able to pick out an adult Glossy Ibis with its bright blue facial skin.

Jean Staples pointed out a Dickcissel not far from a flock of four Long-billed Dowitchers we tried to "turn into" Short-billed Dowitchers (not to be).  Yellow-headed Blackbirds screamed their raucous wails from the willows.

Several years ago, I found that Oxbow S.T.L. was one of the better locations to search.  It took us an hour; we finally found several singing atop the rabbit brush.  Sage Thrashers on the other hand were quite numerous.  More than a dozen were heard singing and observed in the rabbit brush.

Several Brewer's Sparrows also made an appearance.  Pinyon Jays were heard off in the distance.  A couple flyovers gave us a glimpse of this fine-looking blue bird.

Our trip back tracked to Craig and headed south to Rifle.  A stop at Perch Pond (Moffat) found a few Common Mergansers, American Coots and White-cheeked Geese.

A pair of Great-tailed Grackles wandered around the picnic area at the Rifle Rest Stop (Garfield).

My agonizing drought of 58 hours (over 9 days) of unsuccessful Chukar searches ended last week in Coal Canyon (Mesa).  Roger continued the successful streak to two in a row by finding another within 15 minutes hiking at the second gate (horse trailer parking area).

Black-throated Sparrows were numerous here and added their musical song to the airwaves.  Rock Wrens, Vesper Sparrows and Brewer's Sparrows also sang away.

We opted to skip a Boreal Owl search and the jet-lagged birders retired early.

May 6
No leks to visit this morning, birders manage to get a couple of hours of extra sleep (six instead of the usual four).

Shortly after sunrise, we drove around the subdivision of homes outside of the eastern (southern) entrance to the Colorado National Monument (Mesa).  Gambel's Quail could be heard everywhere.  Several allowed us superb opportunities for photographs.

Our first stop inside the Monument was fantastic.  Within a short 400 meter hike at Devil's Kitchen trail, we saw two Black-chinned Sparrows!  Several Gray Vireos sang from the junipers.  An Ash-throated Flycatcher joined the Vireos and woke up the morning with their songs.

Across the road at the Devil's Kitchen picnic area, both Rock Wrens and Canyon Wrens were singing.  Another Ash-throated Flycatcher came by.  A male Black-chinned Hummingbird surveyed the area from top of a juniper tree.

I stopped at two of the pullovers along the 22 mile drive through the canyon.  The Colorado National Monument drive is always worth the time at least once in a lifetime.  Views are spectacular, however, back to birding.

Only one Pinyon Jay was found at the Campgrounds.  However, he provided good photograph opportunities.  Half a dozen Juniper Titmice chattered among the junipers.  White-throated Swifts "zoomed" below the overlook.  It appeared to be too early for any Black-throated Gray Warblers to arrive in the Campgrounds (nest here each late spring).

After leaving the Monument, we stopped at Connected Lakes State Park (Mesa).  The resident Western Screech-Owl was not out of his hole this morning.  A Great Horned Owl with two young were using a make shift nest (basket put up by rangers) just outside of the entrance.

An hour walk around the park did not find a Western Screech-Owl.  However, a singing Plumbeous Vireo was found and photographed.

Escalante Canyon was skipped (another Chukar location) and we headed to Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta). 

At least three Willets were observed.  Two were rather clamorous; they performed their mating flight over our heads for what we suspected was a female.  Interesting at first, after an hour, it became irritating.

No Clark's Grebes were recognized among the dozens of Western Grebes.  Several of the grebes performed their mating dance (running across the water).  All three teal (Cinnamon, Blue-winged & Green-winged) were in the swallows north of the reservoir.

A highlight was the landing of two Whimbrel in the same shallows.  One Sandhill Crane vanished into the clouds overhead.

Two Lewis's Woodpeckers flew around the cottonwoods below the dam (Evelyn Horn's front yard).

Finally, we motored to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) to search for Dusky Grouse.  Our arrival about an hour before sunrise allowed us to inspect several overlooks.  A couple of Clark's Nutcrackers stopped by one of them.  White-throated Swifts flew below.

At sunset, we found several Dusky Grouse displaying along the south rim drive (between the Visitor's Center and the Campgrounds).  Another brilliant ending to our birding day!

May 7
Another trip to a lek, we arrived about an hour and a half early at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek outside of Gunnison (Gunnison).  Gunnison Sage-Grouse numbers are down this year and they are leaving the lek early.

This morning was not an exception.  I could pick out two Gunnison Sage-Grouse displaying in the darkness.  Shortly after it was possible to see, they flew off.  It was not good looks for Roger and Jean Staples.

The weather finally did not cooperate (we had been fortunate so far).  It was snowing quite hard on Monarch Pass (Gunnison/Chaffee).  The goal was to get off the pass as quickly as possible (no search for American Three-toed Woodpeckers).

It was raining at lower elevations for most of the trip from Salida to Pueblo.  A few breaks in the rain allowed us to search for thrashers.  Swallows Road added a Curve-billed Thrasher and several Scaled Quail sightings to our trip list.

Our next stop was Lake Cheraw (Otero) which is always good for a few shorebirds in spring.  The highlight was good looks at a Piping Plover!  It contrasted much with the nearby Snowy Plovers.  Other birds observed included Willet, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Baird's Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs and a Lesser Yellowlegs.

A stop at the Fort Lyons Wildlife Easement (Bent) saw windy conditions.  Two Black Rails called at the marsh (1.5 miles east of Bent County Roads 16 & JJ).  We heard a Virginia Rail and Sora saw neither.

Our birding day ended at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  Lifebirds for the English birders included Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Red-headed Woodpecker, Lewis's Woodpecker, Chihuahuan Raven, and Bewick's Wren.  Unfortunately, I could not find a Western Screech-Owl this afternoon.

Our bird sightings were down as it was a moving day.  The 450 mile drive to Elkhart, Kansas took most of the day.

May 8
Another early rise, we sat at the blind at the Eastern Elkhart Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek an hour before sunrise.  It was late in the season, however a dozen Lesser Prairie-Chickens were still displaying.  We could hear another half dozen surrounding the blind.

Cassin's Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows and Brewer's Sparrows sang along the roads back to Elkhart.  A couple of Ring-necked Pheasant were also found.

Great-tailed Grackles were found around the gas station back in Elkhart; then we returned to Colorado.

Today we had a 320 mile drive to Wray; birding was again limited.

We did stop at the Lamar Community College Woods (Prowers).  Three Mississippi Kites flew back and forth above the woods.  We missed our target bird, Northern Cardinal.  Northern Mockingbirds, a Sage Thrasher singing high from the cottonwoods, and Chimney Swifts were the highlights.

The ultimate highlight however was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  The male hummingbird perched on top of a short willow for about 5 minutes.  We obtained great looks at its forked tail, long tail (projects well beyond wingtips), bright red throat and white breast.  No rufous (like Broad-tailed Hummingbird) or black and purple throat (Black-chinned Hummingbird) or short tail projection.

Our only other stop was Tempel Grove (Bent).  It was not as birdy as I had hoped.  A few American Goldfinches, several Swainson's Thrushes, many American Robins and an Eastern Phoebe were around.

The highlight was a Gray-cheeked Thrush.  It allowed several decent looks.  Grayish flanks, grayish face with no buffy color, heavy spots on breast, and no rufous color on gray-brown bird.  Hermit Thrush would show olive gray flanks, rufous tail and no contrast on face.  Swainson's Thrush has rufous olive flanks and distinctive spectacles.

Highway 387 north of Burlington (Kit Carson) seemed to be lined with Ring-necked Pheasants.  We rolled into Wray about 10:00 pm.

May 9
At civil twilight, we sat near the Yuma County Road 45 Lek.  Six to ten Greater Prairie-Chickens could be seen displaying in the distance.

They tend to display until 9:00 am or so.  We decided to visit a second lek, which I had never been before.  The CR 42 Lek had a dozen or so Greater Prairie-Chickens calling.  However, we only got binoculars on one of them.

After breakfast in Yuma (great restaurant), we motored to Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld).

McCown's Longspurs were found along Weld County Road 96.  I took Roger and Jean to a Mountain Plover nest (with eggs).  The female had wandered off but did return and sit on the eggs (we did not approach anywhere close to the nest).

I took them up to the field southeast of highway 85 and Weld County Road 114.  This is the most productive location to find Chestnut-collared Longspur.  Our search lasted 30 minutes and was rewarded with a male and female Chestnut-collared Longspur sighting.

Back at Crow Valley Campgrounds, birding was slow.  We found no warblers but added Brown Thrashers to our trip list.

Turning south, we stopped at the Weld County 59 Ponds.  Many shorebirds wandered around the ponds.  Black-necked Stilt, American Avocets, Willets, Wilson's Phalaropes, Red-necked Phalaropes, Least Sandpipers, and Killdeer.

The highlight was finding a Short-billed Dowitcher among (loosely associated with) six to eight Long-billed Dowitchers.

Beebe Draw Ponds was slow.   A few additional Long-billed Dowitchers, a Willet and a couple of Red-necked Phalaropes were about it.

Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld County Road 48) was also slow.  The mudflats had dried up.  Dozens of Marsh Wrens sang and a few came out of the cattails.  A Virginia Rail was heard, but never showed.

May 10
Our final day on the Grouse Tour.  Snow was predicted and we chose between first visiting Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson, for American Three-toed Woodpecker) or Guanella Pass (Clear Creek, White-tailed Ptarmigan).  The White-tailed Ptarmigan won out (sort of).

We walked around the Rosalie and 603 trails for about 3 hours.  No Ptarmigan were found.

Fortune was better at the Guanella Pass Campgrounds (Clear Creek).  A Dusky Grouse fluttered its wings.  An American Three-toed Woodpecker was heard drumming.  We eventually found a Hermit Thrush that sang from a nearby Douglas Fir.

Mt Evans Byway was closed.  Few birds few around Echo Lake.  Only a few American Goldfinches flew around the Echo Lake Campgrounds.  A few Broad-tailed Hummingbirds visited the Echo Lake Lodge feeders.

Our concluding stop was Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe).  I played a recording at the Bellevue wetlands (new wetlands, east of the model airplane field).  No respond, we started to leave when two Virginia Rails called.  Finally, one of them peeked out of the cattails.  Roger and Jean ended their trip with a final lifebird!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Search for Northern Pygmy-Owls, Reynolds Park

May 1, 2012

Richard Stevens:

I was contacted around midnight by Aaron Payner.  What the heck, I took him up to Reynolds Park (Jefferson County).

Aaron Payner and I searched for Northern Pygmy-Owls at Reynolds Park about an hour before sunrise. Unfortunately, none called this morning.

We did hear a Common Poorwill while standing at the larger parking area.

A Williamson's Sapsucker was found along the Raven's Roost Trail south of the old service road. We could not find any Dusky Grouse. A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was north of the intersection of the three trails (Raven's Roost, Eagle's View & Oxen Draw).

Other birds found included; three species of nuthatches, Pine Siskins, 4 Red Crossbills, a Virginia's Warbler (along creek), a Hermit Thrush, and several Townsend's Solitaires.

Grouse Trip April 26 to 30, 2012

April 26, 2012

Bill Lotz, Dan ? and I started on a grouse trip.  Fortunate for me, they did not want to see White-tailed Ptarmigan.  Love the bird, sometimes hate searching for them.

Rosy Finches were elusive; none was found anywhere around Summit County.  We did find Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Band-tailed Pigeons, and a few other mountain species.

No Barrow's Goldeneyes were found at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand).  A lone American White Pelican was joined by Eared Grebes, Horned Grebes and Common Goldeneyes.

Walden Reservoir (Jackson) did not have any shorebirds.  It was quite windy and raining when we arrive.  A Bonaparte's Gulls was picked out of 3 dozen Franklin's Gulls flying around. 

Ducks included Red Headed and at least six Greater Scaup. 

We stopped at one of my favorite Wildlife Areas, Seymour Lake Wildlife Area to wait for sunset.  Two male Red-naped Sapsuckers were the first of our trip!  Twice I have found Northern Saw-whet Owls in the willows to the north of the lake. 

Fortunately, the rain stopped about 30 minutes before sunset.  At least 18 Greater Sage-Grouse males danced on the Jackson County 26 Leks.

April 27, 2012

We waited at the second cattle guard for sunrise.  A Dusky Grouse called briefly.  Another two Dusky Grouse were 80 yards south of the cattle guard.

After sunrise, we found 12+ Sharp-tailed Grouse near the entrance to the Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands!  Still no Golden Eagles.

Perch Pond (Moffat) on the way from Craig to Rifle added a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers to our trip list.

Rifle Rest Stop (Garfield) added two Great-tailed Grackles and not much else.

Finally, my streak of 58 hours (over 10 days) of no Chukar sightings was broken.  Bill found one Chukar over the hill north of parking area near the closed gate at Coal Canyon (Cameo, Mesa County).

Several Black-throated Sparrows sang repeatedly from the Sagebrush.  Rock Wrens preferred the boulders on the hillside.  A few Mountain Bluebirds fluttered about.  No Golden Eagles were on their nest this year?

Bill and Dan did not want to search for Boreal Owls, instead we continued to Colorado National Monument (Mesa).

The Black-chinned Sparrow was cooperative.  We found him within ten minutes of walking down the Devil's Kitchen trail.  Search around the first creek/draw at the bottom of the trail.  A Gray Vireo sang almost constantly in the same area.

A brief stop along highway 50 did not find the Burrowing Owl at mile 61-62.2 (Delta).

Male Dusky Grouse were out in force along the south rim drive at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  We found five birds with little effort when we drove from the Campgrounds to the Visitor's Center (an hour before sunset).

A pair of Clark's Nutcrackers squawked at us at the Painted Rock overlook.  I believe that was the overlook?  It was the overlook where the guy drove into the canyon several years ago (accidentally).

We did not have to wait until sunset and headed to Gunnison.

April 28, 2012

Our day started at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.  Twelve male and two possible female Gunnison Sage-Grouse visited the lek.  However, the birds are leaving the lek quite early.  Their departure was not much after it was light enough to see them.

We stopped at the Monarch Ski area to search for Rosy Finches, which had been eluding us.  None was around; an American Three-toed Woodpecker was near the entrance.

Returning to the Monarch Pass Rest Stop added a male and female American Three-toed Woodpecker to our trip list.

We had several choices for a route to the Elkhart, Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken leks.  A route through the Wet Mountains to search for Flammulated Owls was chosen.  There is not much chance of finding Flammulated Owls during the day.  We gave the St. Charles trail and Spring Creek Trails a try.  No Flammulated Owls, we did add a Red-breasted Nuthatch to our list.

Along Highway 160 between Trinidad and Cottonwood Canyon, we found my first Lark Buntings of the year.  A small flock of 10 males perched on a fence.  A Prairie Falcon and several Red-tailed Hawks were also seen.

Cottonwood Canyon is always a nice place to bird.  Birds seen included Canyon Towhee, Lark Sparrows, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebes, Chihuahuan Ravens and Western Kingbirds.  Unfortunately, the Western Screech-Owls did call this night.  We did hear five Common Poorwills.

Our target bird, a Golden Eagle was surprisingly not found.

April 29, 2012

After seeing 20+ Lesser Prairie-Chickens at the eastern Elkhart Lek, we headed back to Denver.  Weather was fantastic, cool temperatures and little wind.

We had a meeting in Wray (Yuma) at 5:00 pm, which limited our stops.  Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca County) was slow.  Few birds were found in the 20 minute stop.

In Wray (while Bill & Dan) went to their meeting (Greater Prairie-Chickens), I walked from the Sandhiller Motel to Stalker Ponds.

I met a British birder at the Wray City Park.  He put me on a Northern Parula.  On the way over, I found a female Summer Tanager along the road that runs south along the railroad track.

Stalker Ponds was birdy.  A male Northern Cardinal was singing.  An Eastern Phoebe perched at the top of a miner's candle.

Would have liked to walk to Sand Draw Wildlife Area, it was a little too far to reach on foot (not much daylight left).

April 30, 2012

We skipped watching Greater Prairie-Chickens again in the morning and headed to Pawnee National Grasslands.

Our first stop was along Weld County Road 96, north of Briggsdale.  McCown's Longspurs were few.  I usually detour at CR 63 and head to CR 94.

A Mountain Plover was found and many McCown's Longspurs nest along here.  A bonus was a Mountain Plover nest with three eggs.  (I almost stepped on the nest, location to remain unnamed and difficult to relocate).

We missed the one pair of Chestnut-collared Longspur along CR 96 and went to Highway 85 and Weld County Road 114.

In perhaps 48 trips, I have only walked all the way to the windmill to find a Chestnut-collared Longspur.  Five were found before going halfway to the windmill.

Norma's Grove (east of CR 100 & 57) did not have any uncommon birds but did add a House Wren, White-crowned Sparrows and two Lincoln's Sparrows to our trip list.

Crow Valley Campground was slow also.  The Palm Warbler reported yesterday was not relocated.  In fact, no warblers were seen.  Several Northern Mockingbirds, many Brown Thrashers, several Blue Jays and White-crowned Sparrows were found.

The highlight; finally a Golden Eagle was just outside of the northern fence.  He stood on an unfortunate rabbit.

Time for shorebirds, we headed to Beebe Draw Ponds (Weld).  Our count included: 36 Willets, 24+ American Avocets, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Baird's Sandpiper, 24+ Least Sandpipers, and 6+ Black-necked Stilts.

We circled over to Lower Latham Reservoir and were glad to have stopped at Beebe Draw Ponds first.  No shorebirds were here.  However, dozens of Marsh Wrens called from the cattails south of Weld County Road 48.

Three+ Virginia Rails and two Soras also came out of the cattails.  We skipped waiting for sunset (Short-eared Owls come out?) and headed for Denver.

A drive by the prairie dog village at 3.4 miles east of Tower Road and 96th avenue found at least one Burrowing Owl.  The final search for a Ferruginous Hawk ended without success.