Saturday, December 8, 2012

Southern Owling Trip

December 3-7, 2012

Richard Stevens:

December 3, 2012

Bryan and I had wanted to search for Spotted Owls in Fremont County for months.  Finding the time was difficult.  The added bonus of "collecting" a first El Paso County Dunlin sighting for both of us started this trip.

One of my favorite routes to Peyton/Falcon is Elbert County Road.  It bypasses the traffic of I25 and Highway 83.  An uncommon bird sighting is always a possibility. 

The Dunlin was still at the "Falcon Pond" and easy to spot when we arrived.  We continued into Colorado Springs and tried unsuccessfully for the Pine Warbler reported four days earlier (too long to wait for a search, for sure).

Later we scoped Big Johnson Reservoir (El Paso) for about an hour and eventually both the Long-tailed Duck and Barrow's Goldeneye were relocated. 

Next, we wandered around Victor, CO searching for Rosy Finches.  Our weather has just been too good.  Rosy Finches seem to be still at higher elevations.  None were in Victor or Cripple Creek.

After dark, we drove down the Phantom Canyon Road in search of Spotted Owls.  None was found tonight.

December 4, 2012

After a late start (due to owling all last night), Bryan and I checked several locations around Canon City (Fremont County).

Several previous locations of wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were checked.  At our third stop, Centennial Park, we found a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the west end.

Florence River Park was searched for Black Phoebes and Swamp Sparrows.  One Swamp Sparrow was our prize. 

Not having much luck around town we headed up to Temple Canyon State Park.  A few Mountain Bluebirds were just outside the eastern entrance.  A Juniper Titmouse was a surprise at the western entrance.  A flock of 6-8 Pinyon Jays flew along the creek below the western entrance.

At dusk, we headed back up Phantom Canyon.  We enjoyed better fortune tonight.  A Spotted Owl was heard and way points taken.  Location to be kept undisclosed.

Just before dawn, we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl near Oro Juno (Fremont).

December 5, 2012

Another late start, Bryan and I again stopped at several parks and Lakeside Cemetery in search of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  Our only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sighting was again at Centennial Park. 

While missing Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at the old Holy Cross Abbey, a female Williamson's Sapsucker was found.  She flew about the pines at the western side of the property.

We decided to see if any Northern Saw-whet Owls could be found on the BLM Land up the Shelf Road.  On the trip north, we stopped at Red Canyon Park.  The highlight was a flock of 8+ Pinyon Jays!

We set up our three "owl listening stations" on the drive up the road.  No Spotted or Northern Saw-whet Owls were observed during the all night trek.  Later: one of the "listening stations" (search for "listening stations" on previous blog posts) picked up a Northern Saw-whet Owl! 

The Technology is cool!  We could have sat at one location all night and never heard an owl.  The stations definitely expand our reach.

The night was young; we were wide-awake and headed to Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont).  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings played at the most northern parking area.

December 6, 2012

Another late start, we continued west to Salida and Buena Vista.  The resident Western Screech-Owl(s) were not to be found.

A flock of 20+ Pinyon Jays was in the pinyon-junipers along Highway 285 (at 3 miles south of Buena Vista).

Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were found along North Pleasant Street, south of Brookdale Avenue.

The KOA Campgrounds east of Buena Vista and Ruby Mountain Recreation Area southeast of town were checked for birds (especially Pinyon Jays).  While none was found at either location, a flock of 30+ Pinyon Jays was observed along Chaffee County Road 301.

After dark, we set up our three "listening stations" for Northern Saw-whet Owls on the BLM Land east of Buena Vista.  Regrettably, none was encountered this night.

December 7, 2012

Predictions that winter is finally coming (snowing farther north) lured us back to Denver a day early.  Sunday Bryan is to lead a trip to Guanella Pass for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Winds were outrageous today.  Anemometer readings were "steady" at 19 mph with gusts to 31 mph.  Holding our scopes steady to view Eleven Mile Reservoir and Spinney Mountain Reservoir was quite difficult to impossible.

A couple of scoters were found on each reservoir.  Tentatively, we were 90 percent sure that Spinney Mountain Reservoir: Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter & 2 Surf Scoters.  Eleven-Mile Reservoir: Surf Scoter.  A Common Loon was at Spinney Mountain Reservoir.

We are sure that neither reservoir had a swan.

Owling at Kenosha Pass was a bust.  High winds, occasional snow hampered any serious attempt.  We did hike up the eastern Kenosha Pass trail to the Twin Cone Peaks trailhead.

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