Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Owl and Ptarmigan Search

February 12, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Jim Oliver, Matt Spencer and I got an early start to a long birding day.  We left Denver at 3:00 am for Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas County).

One Northern Saw-whet Owl was heard along the western side of the State Park.

Then we rushed to Reynolds Park (Jefferson) to search for Northern Pygmy-Owls.  Regrettably, none was found.

Instead of heading to nearby Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson), we decided to rent snowshoes and try Guanella Pass (Clear Creek) for White-tailed Ptarmigan.  The decision was advanced because of reports of a pending oncoming storm later in the week.   In addition, I belong to a scientific organization that predicts wind speeds (rather accurately) and winds were to be mild today (by mild, 10-20 mph on Guanella Pass).

The trip definitely required first a 4 wheel drive.  We had to dig our jeep out of the snow twice.  Fortunately, a third time, which we determined would turn us around, was not required.  Secondly, snowshoes were a must.  The snow is quite deep and being fresh, quite soft.

Luck was with us.  After a 2.2 mile snowshoe trip (over 2 hours), we arrived at the top.  Five White-tailed Ptarmigan were under the small firs just north of the upper parking area (our first locations searched!).

On the way back to the jeep, we saw a flock of 14+ Red Crossbills and a pair of Pine Grosbeaks. 

Winds were as predicted, 12 mph, gusts not more than 18 mph.  I have mentioned before, how can they predict wind speeds four or five days in advance, and NOT predict precipitation (sometimes for the next day).  Will have to look into that in the future!

No comments: