Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Owling in Summit and Park Counties

June 17-19, 2012

Richard Stevens:

June 17

After a few hours sleep, Bryan Ehlmann and I headed south to Summit County.  Our goal was to go owling around the town of Montezuma at dusk.

We drove through the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge (Jackson).  Nothing uncommon caught our eyes.  We did see a Peregrine Falcon zoom quickly through the area.  Nothing uncommon bird-wise was around the Visitor's Center/Ranger's Office.  Several Moose wandered along the streams.

The drive south along Highway 125 is amazing for the multitude of trees killed by the Mountain Beetle.  If this area is hit by lightning (or a man made fire) thousands of acres will go up in smoke.

No Barrow's Goldeneyes were still on Windy Gap Reservoir.  A few American White Pelicans are staying the summer.

Many Ospreys are north of Silverthorne.  Probably offspring of the pair that have nested for years at the huge nest around the golf course.

We walked for an hour on the west side of Loveland Pass (Clear Creek) without spotting a White-tailed Ptarmigan.  Birds were scarce; nine Horned Larks were counted.

Two hours before sunset, we set out to walk to above tree line up the St Johns Trail.  Then after dark, we returned toward the trailhead.  One Boreal Owl responded to our recordings (later determined to be about 1.1 miles from the trailhead.

Once at the intersection with the Hunkidori Trail we detoured back up that trail for about a mile.  Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were heard on the first half of the trail!

Finally, we hiked up the Argentine Pass Trail.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl was along the southern side of the trail at about 0.7 miles from the trailhead.

June 18

After getting a couple of hours sleep, Bryan Ehlmann and I hit Mt. Evans Byway again.  This time we had four Brown-capped Rosy Finches flying around the rocks north of the northwest corner of Summit Lake.

Then we decided to criss-cross the field east of the pullover just north of the entrance to the Summit Lake parking area.  We have found adults on past visits; this time we hoped to find a nest or young wandering around.

Again, we only found a pair of adults (perhaps too early for fledglings and we did not approach close enough to find a nest).

Later we hiked up (south) Mt. Evans Road for about a mile and then returned along the western side of the road (steep hill to west).  A second group of Ptarmigan was encountered (not far from the southeastern end of Summit Lake)!

After dark we drove Guanella Pass Road (Clear Creek), making many stops and listening for owls.  Eventually 3 Northern Pygmy-Owls were found in a 10 mile stretch.  The closest to Guanella Pass Campgrounds was perhaps 800 yards north.

No Flammulated Owls were found (the several "patches" of Aspens along the road appear to be quite young, no old growth Aspens that I know).

June 19

Bryan Ehlmann and I camped at Guanella Pass Campgrounds (well stopped for about an hour to listen for owls in the early morning), then hiked up the Lost Silver Dollar Trail.  It was an all-nighter (never got any sleep).

About 1.5 miles up the trail, we heard a Boreal Owl in the early morning (about 4:00 am).  Unfortunately, it was never spotted.

At sunrise, we were back at Guanella Pass Campgrounds.  Male and female American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found deep in the woods at the northwest corner of the Campgrounds.

The hike up Guanella Pass (parking area to 603 trail, to top of hill to south, then down the south side for 1000 yards, then back up and around the Rosalie Trail, returning to the intersection with 603 trail, down to the parking area) was a good effort combined with our lack of sleep.

Sixty year olds now, it crossed our minds that all-nighters should be behind us instead of reoccurring events.

We did find two "groups" of White-tailed Ptarmigan.  One adult accompanied by five young (300 yards southwest of the Rosalie & 603 trails); another adult had 2 young following "her" (40 yards south of the top of the southern hill at 603 trail).

After setting up tents at the Duck Creek Campgrounds (Park County) around 2:00 pm, neither of us had a problem flying asleep.

Not to be "spoiled", we were up at 8:00 pm and ready to go owling.

This time we hiked along Guanella Pass Road from Burning Bear Campgrounds to Whiteside Campgrounds.  Whiteside is one of my favorite places to camp in the area.

Eventually we found 3 Northern Pygmy-Owls and a Northern Saw-whet Owl during the 12 hike trek.

It was quite an enjoyable night.  Winds were mild; temperatures were in the 50s.  Forest sounds could be heard for long distances with the calm winds.  It was an enjoyable experience (as always).

It was nice to get back home by noon (back to my own bed)!

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