Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eastern Plains of Colorado

August 9-12, 2012

Richard Stevens:

August 9, 2012

Bryan Ehlmann and I spent most of the day birding within a 12 mile radius of Holyoke, Colorado.  Phillips County is only 22 miles in height.  We covered it from Nebraska to west of Frenchman Creek Wildlife Area.  Temperatures were in the high 90s; winds of 12+ mph made it quite warm.

One of our target birds was an Eastern Meadowlark, which was not found.  We did find a pair of Mountain Plovers along CR 61, north of CR 36.  A Long-billed Curlew was found on the State WIA west of CR 61, north of CR 26.

Sparrows were scarce also.  Frenchman Creek Wildlife Area was probably our best chance at a rare "Ammodramus" sparrow (bairdii, leconteli or henslowii); they were not found either.

We did find Grasshopper Sparrows ("Ammodramus savvanarum") at two stops.  Cassin's Sparrows ("Aimophila cassinii") were found at three spots.

Frenchmans Creek did not disappoint us.  A Bell's Vireo fluttered about (quite rare for Phillips County).

On the way to visit a friend's ranch in Yuma County, we stopped at Beecher Island.  It was our most birdy stop of the day.  Wandering around the cottonwoods were a 1st year Summer Tanager and Great Crested Flycatcher.  A Field Sparrow was found south across the creek.

My friend's ranch added 2 Eastern Screech-Owls and 2 Great Horned Owls to our day list.

August 10, 2012

An hour and a half before sunrise, Bryan Ehlmann and I drove around the sand hills north of Wray.  The early start paid off.  We found a Short-eared Owl along Yuma County Road 45 (about 3 miles east of highway 385).  Eventually we found two Greater Prairie-Chickens wandering around.

Then our search went to the west side of highway 385 where we found Greater Prairie-Chickens (2 adults, 5 young) on two private ranches.  After saying "Hi" to friends, we went to Wray to checkup on several other friends.

While no uncommon birds were found, we did find 5 Northern Cardinals (3 yards), a Gray Flycatcher and Eastern Phoebe.

Our trek then turned south.  At Bonny Lake Wildlife Area (Yuma), we walked along the north side of the Republican River from highway 385 to Fosters Grove. 

A Pine Warbler was definitely the highlight (located about 400 yards west of Foster's Grove.  Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were also observed during the hike.

We crossed over and returned to highway 385 on the south side of the Republican River.  Another Red-bellied Woodpecker and a female Baltimore Oriole were highlights.

While wandering below the Bonny Dam, we saw a flock of 4 Eastern Bluebirds.  A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was at Hale Ponds.  No uncommon sparrows, warblers, vireos or dickcissels were found.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called at dusk (northwest of the eastern end of Hale Ponds).  No Common Poorwills (or better yet a Whip-poor-will) could be coaxed into responding to our recordings.

August 11, 2012

Instead of sleep, Bryan Ehlmann and I hiked the Republican River from Kansas to Yuma County Road LL.5 and back to Hale Ponds.  (Eastern Screech-Owl count was 2, possibly 3).

Then we hiked from highway 385 to Foster's Grove and back.  Winds were calm; temperatures in the high 50s.  The hikes were quite pleasant.  We added another 2-3 Eastern Screech-Owls at this end of Bonny Lake Wildlife Area.

No Long-eared or Short-eared Owls responded to our recordings (at Fosters Grove, Wagon Wheel or Hale).

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was found after sunrise at Wagon Wheel.  The resident Northern Cardinals could not be found.

Having covered Bonny as much as possible (legs were tired, lack of sleep), we headed to Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson).  Along the way, we found a Great Horned Owl at the Burlington Cemetery and Great-tailed Grackles at the park at the northeast corner of highways 385 and 70.

We struck out on uncommon sparrows (it was probably a little early for migration) at half a dozen stops.  A Great Crested Flycatcher was heard but never seen in the leaves (winds 18 mph) at Seibert.  We believed a pair nested in town this year.

A Field Sparrow was in the grasses off the southeast end of Flagler Reservoir.  A juvenile American Redstart was the only uncommon bird below the Flagler Reservoir dam.

We stayed until dark.  No Short-eared Owls were found tonight.

Missed Trip species: Eastern Meadowlarks, any Ammodramus sparrows, any Nightjars?

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