Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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.

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