Friday, March 29, 2013

Drive Around Pawnee National Grasslands Areas

March 29, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I spent most of the day searching for Mountain Plovers in Weld County.  Temperatures maybe reached 60 degrees; winds were not cooperating at 8-10 mph, gusts to 16 mph.

Unfortunately, we only found one Mountain Plover in six hours+.  It was in a field where they have nested in past years (and will remain unnamed).  No Mountain Plovers were found in fields with public viewing access.

Four McCown's Longspurs were found along Weld County Road 69.  Regrettably the only sparrows found were White-crowned Sparrow.  Our target Brewer's Sparrows continue to elude us (not unexpected, early in the year).

An hour before sunset we ran into the flock of Bohemian Waxwings in Fort Collins (Larimer County).  They were two blocks west and one north of Loomis and W. Laurel & S. Meldrum Streets.

We are now headed into the mountains and Cameron Pass.

Passing Through Cherry Creek State Park

March 28, 2013

Richard Stevens:

While replenishing supplies for my next grouse trip (next week) I passed through Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe County).

Two Killdeer and a Greater Yellowlegs were wandering around the Prairie Loop mudflats (off the bird observation platform).

As I returned to my car, a Great Horned Owl buzzed perhaps 10 feet over my car (do not know if it had a problem with me, although it came quite close).  He landed in a nearby tree and we watched each other until all I could see was a silhouette. 

The Second Half of a Grouse Trip

March 24-27, 2013

Richard Stevens:

March 24, 2013

Jeff Palmer, John Murphy and I sat at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek about an hour before sunrise.  We could hear the Gunnison Sage-Grouse booming.  Temperature was 4 degrees; winds were mild.

When civil twilight rose, we could see dark spots moving on the snow covered hillside to the east.  Just before sunrise, we picked out sixteen males and four female Gunnison Sage-Grouse displaying and wandering around.

An added treat was enjoyed when the birds walked across the snow field and up on the road just in front of us.  They crossed the road perhaps 20 yards in front of our car!

The rest of our day was spent driving 400+ miles to the Elkhart, Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek for viewing tomorrow.  There was little time for birding along the way.

Our major stop was Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) in the late afternoon.  On the way to Cottonwood Canyon (driving along Highway 160, route Hwy 109 south of La Junta) we stopped and John got great looks at his Ferruginous Hawk lifebird!  Eventually we counted nine Ferruginous Hawks along the drive.

Once at Cottonwood Canyon, we hiked an hour around the "camping area".  Nine Eastern Phoebes were found.  Other birds included a Spotted Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Chihuahuan Ravens, Downy Woodpeckers and one possible Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

The target bird finally came out of the woods shortly after sunset.  A Western Screech-Owl flew across the campgrounds and landed in a scrub oak.  He called and gave us superb looks in the waning light!

March 25, 2013

We sat at the Elkhart, Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek about an hour before sunrise.  Temperatures were 7 degrees, winds mild. 

Although we could hear Lesser Prairie-Chickens booming on the distance hills, only two males showed up at the Lek.  They displayed several times, giving us good looks at the mating dances.  Unfortunately, they disappeared shortly after sunrise.

As we returned to Colorado, our route was chosen to increase chances to see sparrows (especially our target Brewer's Sparrow).

Baca County Road G (road to the old Campo Lek) has always been quite birdy (especially for sparrows).  It was early in the season and I did not expect much (however a few).  No sparrows were found, however, nineteen Sage Thrashers were seen in the two mile stretch of G Road, east of Baca County Road 36.

Our next stop was Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca).  Again, no Mountain Plovers or Long-billed Curlew was found.  Quite a few sparrows were below the dam (all White-crowned or Song).

Our first Turkey Vulture was circling overhead.  A Brown Thrasher creped in the deep brush.  A couple of Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers rounded out the bird count here.

Lamar Community College Woods (Prowers) was slow also.  A Towhee (labeled by some as an Eastern, appeared more to be a hybrid than a full blown Eastern).

A male Northern Cardinal was across from the tennis courts.

Driving North toward Wray, we saw a few additional Ferruginous Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, three Rough-legged Hawks and a Swainson's Hawk.

March 26, 2013

Our target bird this morning was a Greater Prairie-Chicken.  It was an interesting morning as temperatures were 4 degrees, winds 6-8 mph.  Fourteen inches of snow (two days earlier) did not help in driving the backcountry roads.

When we arrived at Yuma County Road 45, there were snowdrifts of several feet along the road.  We (I) did not even consider driving up the road.  Yesterday, I had us stuck briefly (30 minutes to dig out the car) at the entrance to Pasture G in Baca County.  Those 30 minutes taught me a lesson about the county roads in spring.

While Jeff stayed nice and warm back at the Sandhiller Motel, John and I decided to walk the 1.7 miles east to the lek.  (Sorry John, as I told him it was only a mile or so, which he eventually figured out during the trek).

We could hear Greater Prairie-Chickens cackling somewhere is the distance (over the hills) during our hike.  We arrived at the Lek to find no Greater Prairie-Chickens.  However, perhaps 20 minutes later, two Greater Prairie-Chickens flew onto the lek.

During the next 30 minutes or so, they displayed briefly.  Mostly they stood around looking over the snow covered landscape.

As John and I hiked in, I said that I heard voices.  John convinced me that it was cows so I let it go.  However, two birders from Idaho Springs popped up over the hill when we stood on the Lek (not going crazy yet!).

The hike back to our car was much more pleasant with the successful sighting of the Greater Prairie-Chickens.  In addition, temperatures had risen to a warm 8 degrees (we will ignore wind chill; it was nippy as we Minnesotans say). 

I do not believe the temperature rose above 28 degrees this day.  We drove several roads on the Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) in search of Mountain Plovers and Brewer's Sparrows.  Not one sparrow was observed in three or four hours of driving (of course avoiding many of the muddy roads, did not want to be stuck again).

Our birding day ended in Fort Collins (Larimer) searching for Bohemian Waxwings.  A search from the public library to CSU did not turn up any waxwings.

March 27, 2013

John, Jeff and I enjoyed a better day of birding today.  Temperatures reached the highest during our seven day trek (almost 50 degrees at one point).

Shortly after sunset, we drove over to W. Laurel and S. Meldrum Streets and found 500+ Bohemian Waxwings in the trees.  They flew down for a drink of water in a small puddle at the northwest corner (allowing for some great photos).

After getting our fill of Bohemian Waxwings, we drove over to the Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center where 30+ Common Redpolls were coming to the feeders behind the building.

As we headed to Woods Lake to look at geese, we saw 100+ Cedar Waxwings at College and Prospect Roads!

Thousands of Cackling Geese were on Woods Lake when we arrived.  They were smaller than the five Ross's Geese also swimming around the lake.  Many additional Cackling Geese flew in during our 30 minute stay.  The sighting and sound of wave after wave of geese coming was quite an experience.

I received a text that yesterday, two Brewer's Sparrows had been seen in the brush around the Weld County Roads 39 and 46 and that was our next stop.

Six Tundra Swans were still on the pond.  John counted 26 Bald Eagles in the cottonwoods on the far side of the lake.  A first year Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the near shore.  Other gulls included Ring-billed, Herring and one Franklin's Gull (in crisp new alternate plumage).

We walked the weedy fields to the east for an hour, no Brewer's Sparrows.  Two flocks of Sparrows (40+ and 50+) included White-crowned, Song and Chipping), but no Brewer's Sparrows.

Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld) was searched briefly with only one Song Sparrow found.

Our final search for a Brewer's Sparrow was at Barr Lake State Park (Adams).  We walked below the dam for about 1.5 hours without seeing one sparrow.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grouse Trip Day 4, Search for Chukars and Dusky Grouse

March 23, 2013

Rebecca Kosten (cell phone message from Richard Stevens):

While Denver was receiving some nasty winter weather, snow and high winds, Richard Stevens, Jeff Palmer and John Murphy continued their grouse trip.

While they saw no snow, high winds and cold temperatures were seen throughout their day.

Several hours were spent walking Coal Canyon, Mesa County without seeing or hearing a Chukar.  A few flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos were the total birds encountered.  (This is not quite accurate.  Richard found one Chukar within 10 minutes of getting out of the car.  Every bird guides nightmare, the birders with him were not able to put their binoculars on the bird before it hid in the rocky cliffs.)

Another couple of hours driving Escalante Canyon, Delta County also did not produce a Chukar sighting.

The Western Screech-Owl did not come out of his tree at G50 road.  Winds were 14 mph, gusts to 23 mph at noon.  The previously reported Swan on the G50 pond was not found.

A Franklin's Gull and California Gull both in alternate plumage was found at Fruitgrower's Reservoir, Delta County. 

A final Chukar search along Payne's Siding Cutoff east of Fruitgrower's Reservoir was also not successful.

Their birding day ended at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Montrose County.  A Clark's Nutcracker, Townsend's Solitaire and several Spotted Towhees were found.  No Dusky Grouse displayed in the 14-degree temperature and 12+ mph winds.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another Grouse Trip

March 20-22, 2031

Rebecca Kosten (transcribed cell phone message):

March 20, 2013

Richard Stevens, Jeff Palmer and John Murphy started a grouse trip with a stop at Loveland Pass.  Skies were clear, winds mild, unfortunately no Ptarmigan could be found.

After searching for Rosy Finches in Summit County, they stopped at the Blue River Water Treatment Plant.  Twenty plus Barrow's Goldeneyes were still there.

A stop in Kremmling, Grand County found 30+ Common Redpolls and 24+ Rosy Finches along Gore Street.

They ended their birding day at Jackson County Road 26.  Six male and eight female Greater Sage-Grouse were found.

The drive to Steamboat Springs after sunset was met with snow showers.

March 21, 2013

The grouse trip continued under blizzard conditions today.  No Sharp-tailed Grouse visited the 20 Road Leks.

They attempted to get up 80 Route to the leks there.  Snow prevented any drive up to the 2nd cattle.  Instead, they hiked the last mile.  By the time, they reached the 2nd cattle guard, snow and wind produced blizzard like conditions.  Visibility was poor; the Dusky Grouse was not seen.  They did not continue to the Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Sage-Grouse leks.

They did not escape the snowstorm until reaching Rifle, Garfield County.

A ranger at Jerry Creek Reservoirs, Mesa County had seen forty-two Chukar two days early.  They searched for about four hours without finding Chukars.

March 22, 2013

Stevens, Palmer and Murphy returned to Jerry Creek Reservoirs, Mesa County at civil twilight.  Chukar were missed in another 2-hour search.

They hoped to change their fortune at Cameo, Coal Canyon, Mesa County.  Richard briefly saw a Chukar but unfortunately, it could not be relocated.  At least three Chukar were heard calling near the 2nd iron pipe gate.

A drive up Mesa County Road 4 which turns into Garfield County Road 201 (about 7.1 miles north of the south end of CR 4 added three to five Sage Sparrows to their trip list.  The flock was 40 yards south of the old corral at Baxter Pass Road (CR 4) and Prairie Canyon Road.

No Long-eared Owls were found at their traditional location.

They skipped driving the whole length of the Colorado National Monument, Mesa County.  From the western entrance to drove to the Campgrounds and found several Juniper Titmice and eight+ Bushtits.

Winds had picked up by 4:00 pm; temperature was 48 degrees.  Nothing moved about the Devil's Kitchen, eastern entrance to the Colorado National Monument.

Western Screech-Owls were missed at Connected Lakes State Park and several private yards.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Eastern Plains Scouting Trip

March 18 and 19, 2013

Richard Stevens:

March 18, 2013

Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to eastern Colorado to scout for future gallinaceous bird trips. 

Along the trip, we stopped at Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson County).  Two Common Redpolls were with some American Goldfinches at the northeast corner.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was a little farther south along the eastern cottonwood tree line.

Nothing was happening in Siebert and we continued to Bonny Reservoir and Hale Ponds (Yuma).

At dusk, we listened for Common Poorwills at Hale Ponds.  None was found or expected; it is a few weeks early for their arrival.

We did find two Eastern Screech-Owls north of the Hale Ponds.

March 19, 2013

Bryan Ehlmann and I checked on several Greater Prairie-Chicken leks in Yuma County.  The Greater Prairie-Chickens are displaying on their leks.

Four+ birds were at the Yuma County Road 45 lek.

Six birds at Lek # 2 and Seven+ birds were at Lek # 3.  It is time to go on gallinaceous bird trips!

Late in the afternoon back in Denver, Rebecca and I stopped at the Triple Bar CCC Park (Douglas County) on our way to dinner.

A male Barrow's Goldeneye was still on the pond.  No Barrow's Goldeneyes were at nearby McCabe Meadows Park (where a Barrow's Goldeneye had been for many weeks).

The Triple Bar CCC Park Barrow's Goldeneye was not the same Barrow's Goldeneye as the McCabe Meadows Park bird different ages).

A Rare Day of No Birding!

March 17, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Wonders?  We took the day off and did not bird.  My poor feet did not have to go into hiking boots today!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wandering Weld County

March 16, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I enjoyed a cool winter day on the eastern plains (26 degrees cooler high than yesterday).  Mostly we visited several friends’ ranches.  One (my new Snowy Owl friend, found the Snowy Owl last year) has Mountain Plovers nesting on his ranch every summer.  He emailed that there was a Mountain Plover on his land yesterday; of course, we had to check it out.

We searched about three hours and never found a Mountain Plover.  Perhaps yesterday’s bird was just migrating through to northern nesting areas.  We did find a pair of Long-eared Owls!  Burrowing Owls also nest on the ranch; however, none was around yet.

Long-eared Owls are probably more common on the eastern plains than predicted.  We found a second pair at another ranch.  And, a third pair was found at Banner Lakes Wildlife Area (Weld County).  Access to Banner Lakes Wildlife Area closes on April 1st and does not open again until July 15th (closed during nesting season).

Thanks to my friends for a great lunch/barbecue and valuable information for future searches!

NOTE: Prospect Valley has an Eurasian Collared-Dove problem.

After dropping Bryan off at home, I picked up Rebecca.  We stopped at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) on our way to dinner.  Hundreds of gulls were on the sandbar near the southwest marina.

The 1st cycle Iceland Gull was among dozens of Ring-billed and California Gulls.  A few Herring Gulls filled out the mix.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pleasant Drive Around Weld County

March  15, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan & Sue Ehlmann, Rebecca Kosten and I enjoyed this record breaking temperature winter day with a drive to Pawnee National Grasslands and surrounding area (Weld County).

Our main target bird was a Mountain Plover.  None was found as we checked half a dozen traditional nesting sites.  No migrating or summer resident sparrows were found either.  All should be arriving any day now.  Nothing exciting was found today, still it was a warm pleasant day to drive around Colorado.

Birds counted today included: American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, a Rough-legged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles, a Prairie Falcon, Northern Shrike, Loggerhead Shrike, White-crowned Sparrows and regulars (Northern Flickers, European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared-Doves).

We stopped at several friends' ranches and caught up their winter bird lists.  Gray-crowned Rosy Finches again made it to eastern Weld County this winter!

Crow Valley Campgrounds was slow.  A search around the windbreak at the Washington Work Center did not find any owls.

One McCown's Longspur was observed flying around Weld County Road 93, south of Highway 14.  We ran across Lapland Longspurs twice (total of only 5 birds).

No Short-eared Owls were found around the Lower Latham Reservoir area at dusk.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Search for Owls in Douglas County

March 14, 2013

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I got a late start after mostly staying up for over 38 hours the past two days.  

We continued to search for Northern Pygmy-Owls for our gallinaceous bird tours.

Waypoints were taken on two calling owls in Douglas County.

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at their traditional location at Rampart Road and Highway 67 (Douglas County).

As we passed through Castlewood Canyon State Park (Douglas) we listened for Northern Saw-whet Owls at their traditional Locations; without success.

First Gallinaceous Bird Trip of 2013

March 1-13, 2013

Richard Stevens:

March 1, 2013

Bryan Ehlmann and I started on our first gallinaceous bird trip of 2013. 

We detoured through Gunbarrel (Boulder County) and found eight Bohemian Waxwings along White Rock Circle, east of Spine Road.

Then we connected with Interstate 25 and drove north to Highway 14.  Another detour east on Highway 14 took us past the North Weld County Landfill.  Bring a scope because unless the gulls are in the field south of Hwy 14, they are quite difficult to identify when flying over the private landfill.  We did manage to pick out an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Nothing interesting was at Crow Valley Campground (Weld) and we decided to return south to Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld) and wait for the Short-eared Owls to come out.  Shortly after sunset, two Short-eared Owls flew over the cattails along the north side of Weld County Road 48.

We pressed our luck and drove south to CR 46.  Looking north, we found a second pair flying over the field.  We do not believe it was the same pair that had disappeared at the northeast corner of Lower Latham Reservoir.

March 2, 2013

Our course was reversed again and we headed up Highway 14 to Cameron Pass.  A stop at the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer) found a Boreal Owl calling.  Surprisingly, there was little wind tonight.  Many birds were calling from the fir trees.

A stop at the Cameron Pass Summit (Jackson) found another Boreal Owl calling (about 0.1 miles west of the restroom pullover).

We caught a few hours of sleep and drove to Jackson County Road 26 about an hour before sunrise.  CR 26b was quite muddy.  Instead of taking a chance of being stuck in the mud, we walked CR 26b from CR 26 to the oil Tank. 

No Greater Sage-Grouse were observed.  On the return trip, several Greater Sage-Grouse were heard just over the hill to the north of the road (about 500 yards from CR 26).

We drove to Steamboat Springs (Routt) and found two Sharp-tailed Grouse on private property.  Two dozen Common Redpolls were along Hillside Parkway.

On the return trip to Gould, several stops were made.  No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found today along the side road to the maintenance equipment shed for Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand).

We walked about a mile either direction of the side road in search of Crossbills (specifically White-winged Crossbills), which were also not found.

We ended our birding day early with a visit to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center (Jackson).  About fifty-two Rosy Finches were behind the building (60 percent Gray-crowned, no Black, the rest of course Brown-capped).

It was another beautiful day.  Instead of predicted snowstorms we ran into mild temperatures and for the North Park area, mild winds (8-10 mph).

March 3, 2013

Bryan and I visited the 20 Road Leks (Routt) outside of Hayden just before sunrise.  There is little need to arrive earlier.  20 Road (27 Road on maps) is quite busy; any grouse coming to display have never been observed wary of traffic (cars, trucks or people).

Note: I also recommend visiting this lek in the morning.  In my experience (about 10-12 trips in the afternoon), the Sharp-tailed Grouse do not come to the lek until it is too dark to see them.

It was snowing lightly at our arrival.  About 20 minutes after sunrise, two Sharp-tailed Grouse flew from the east side of 20 Road to the hills just west of the road.  They did not put on a display, however, did look around (perhaps for a female?).

Afterwards, we explored the 80 Route to see the condition of the road in order to get to the leks along it.  As expected, snow drifts over the road (at the 2nd cattle guard for those familiar) were high enough to prevent driving farther north.

Parts of 80 Route do not experience direct sunlight until way into May.  This prevents exploration of the road and leks most Springs until May.  We may try and walk down the road next trip. 

While Greater Sage-Grouse often are heard from the 2nd cattle guard, the two or three visible leks I am aware of, are two miles down the road.  The Sharp-tailed Grouse display about another 0.5 miles north at the Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands (round trip of at least five miles on rolling hills with snow drifts, really not as bad as it sounds).

If one arrives at the 2nd cattle guard before sunrise, I suggest driving down another 10 yards and turning around (when possible).  A pair of Dusky Grouse have come out around the cattle guard several times each of the last five years.

A Northern Saw-whet Owl has been heard the past two years another 80-100 yards south of the cattle guard.

The rest of our birding day was spent driving around Craig (Moffat) looking for birds.   We did find six+ Bohemian Waxwings along South Ranney Street, just south of the Yampa River (just south of Loudy Simpson Park).

March 4, 2013

Today we woke up to a snowstorm.  Instead of sitting in the motel all day, we slowly drove north on Highway 13 to the leks near the Wyoming border.

In heavy falling snow, we found six Greater Sage-Grouse displaying on the Timberlake Lek (off CR 3).  Winds were 10-12 mph, gusts to 19 mph.  The temperature was only 22 degrees at 0800.

The thirty-six mile trip from Craig was quite interesting on icy and snowy roads.  The return trip was timing and energy consuming.

Eventually our birding day was cut short for some needed rest.

March 5, 2013

To explore new territory, Bryan and I decided to drive to Brown's Park National Monument (Moffat) today.  We started late to allow time for yesterday's snow to melt off the roads.

Oxbow Wildlife Area (Moffat) was passed on the drive up, of course, we stopped.  There was not Sage Sparrow or Sage Thrasher activity.  Several Pinyon Jays were heard somewhere north of Highway 318.  They were not observed.

At the National Monument we drove down to the Green River.  As expected, two Trumpeter Swans were swimming not far from the parking area.

After taking in some of the history of the National Wildlife Refuge, we followed directions give to us by a ranger and checked several BLM lands.

At one stop along Moffat 10N Road, we found two Greater Sage-Grouse wandering yards off the road.

March 6, 2013

It was time to get serious again (about our gallinaceous bird searches) and we headed south to Rifle.  A quick stop at the Yampa River (and highway 13) found a dozen or so Barrow's Goldeneyes swimming on the river.

Unfortunately, the Tundra Swans reported a few days earlier were not to be found.

Nothing was on Perch Pond (Moffat) and our next stop was the Rifle Rest Stop (Garfield).  A pair of Great-tailed Grackles was west of the Visitor's Center (always a good place to pick them up).

We did not expect much to be down Coal Canyon (at Cameo, Mesa County).  Our target bird was a Chukar.  I have not enjoyed the best success in finding them the past three or four years.

However, today was a lucky day.  At the second pipe gate (after many stops), we walked over the hill to the north.  Just over the hill, Bryan pointed out a Chukar (they are not extinct).  Birders who have been on my trips the past few years, they know what a pain it has been to find one.

A Golden Eagle flew over the old power plant at the entrance to Coal Canyon.  We stopped to see if one was on the nest (cliff to east) and then continued to Mesa, CO (on the Grand Mesa).

No Common Redpolls were found around this small town (it was late in the day).  At Powderhorn Ski Area, we missed Common Redpolls and Three-toed Woodpeckers.  Our consolation was a Northern Pygmy-Owl who called at the southeast corner of the property.

The next couple of hours were spent stopping at the various pullovers south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds; our target bird was a Boreal Owl.

Eventually, we heard two Boreal Owls within five miles of the Campgrounds!

March 7, 2013

Another late start after getting to the motel early in the morning,   Bryan and I have been in the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) many times.  There was no need for us to drive the 26+ miles. 

We did drive around the subdivision just outside of the eastern entrance.  It is a good place to find Gambel's Quail (and we found a dozen or so).

No Black-throated Sparrows were calling at the entrance (were not expected at this early day).

We did walk the Devil's Kitchen trail down to the dry creek.  If the Black-chinned Sparrows are returning again this year, they had not yet (were not expected).

For other birds found in the Colorado National Monument, search previous Colorado National Monument Trips in this Blog.

The rest of our day was spent visiting various Locations/stops exploring for later trips.  It is a few weeks early for most.

No Black Phoebes, Chukar, Bluebirds, or Sage Sparrow was found in Escalante Canyon (Delta).

The highlight was the resident Western Screech-Owl on G50 Road (Delta)!

Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta) was slow.  No shorebirds yet, we missed Lewis's Woodpeckers on the way out (at Evelyn Horn's home below the dam).

We arrived at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) about two hours before sunset.  The road is closed at the Visitor's Center.  They only plow the road to the Visitor's Center.  I believe the western end of the South Rim Drive is another 14 miles to the west.  Unfortunate, as that is the best location for Dusky Grouse and Northern Pygmy-Owls.

Twenty-eight mile round trip, I have not gotten the hankering to try that adventure yet (hopefully, never will).

A pair of Clark's Nutcrackers squawked behind the Visitor's Center.  We drove from the Visitor's Center to the entrance twice.  On the second attempt, a male Dusky Grouse was observed along the road (about 100 yards east of the road to the Campgrounds)!

Snow, cold, high winds, predicted additional snows, Bryan and I decided to skip staying in Gunnison and a visit to the Waunita Hot Springs (Gunnison Sage-Grouse) Lek and head to Elkhart, Kansas (for warmer and more pleasant weather).

We took turns driving and sleeping and made the 400 miles (7+ hour) trip to Elkhart, Kansas.

March 8, 2013

Of course, our planned route took us through Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  A fifteen minute stop at the camping area added another Western Screech-Owl to our trip list.

We arrived at the Elkhart, Kansas Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek just about an hour before sunrise.  Lesser Prairie-Chickens were already cackling!  Only half a dozen were observed from a distance (did not get close to lek, scoped from 1/4 to 1/2 mile away, then took off).

Our return trip to Colorado was along Highway 287/385 into Baca County.  While none was expected, we did not find Cassin's Sparrows, Mountain Plovers, Long-billed Curlews, etc at their usual Locations (search previous trips).

The previously reported Golden-crowned Sparrow below the Two Buttes Reservoir dam (Baca) would have been a new county bird for both of us.  Regrettably, it was not found.  We did see a Harris's Sparrow, two White-throated Sparrows, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a Barn Owl!

A Carolina Wren and three Northern Cardinals were found at the Lamar Community College Woods (Prowers).  The resident Red-bellied Woodpeckers were not.

Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) was skipped (too early for passerine migration, we have found Eastern Screech-Owls many times before, the windbreaks that protected wintering Long-eared Owls has been destroyed by high winds).

A quick stop to say "Hi" to a friend in Wray (Yuma) added a pair of Northern Cardinals to our day list and we headed to the Yuma County Road 45 Leks.

Two Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed displaying at the Lek as the sun went down.

Our long day was not over.  A major snowstorm was coming to Colorado and we did not want to be trapped in a small eastern town.  However, instead of heading back to Denver (it was already snowing there, Bryan and I drove north to a friend's ranch in Sedgwick County and not a bad place to wait out the storm).

March 9, 2013

Snow accumulation in northeastern Colorado was 4-5 inches.  High winds produced some interesting snowdrifts.  Bryan and I played poker with Roger Danka who is recovering from a broken leg.  A few completed chores were traded for our room and board.

Two Harris's Sparrows visited the feeders outside of his kitchen windows.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called after dusk.

March 10, 2013

In daylight, the snow did not look as bad as last night.  Bryan and I ventured out and drove to the southern end of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area.  Along Logan County Road 46 (between 95 and 83), we ran into a flock? of Ring-necked Pheasant.  Two Greater Prairie-Chickens were among them.

This was an old "trick" told to me by the Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area Ranger back in 1992.  It has worked on several occasions (more than four).

We swung by Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).  Nothing uncommon was found.  No owls moved about the western windbreak (probably sought shelter at the thicker windbreaks at the nearby ranches).

We circled back to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan) to wait for Short-eared Owls; none did today.  Seventy five+ Greater White-fronted Geese were the highlight of the drive.

March 11, 2013

The weather improved today.  Warmer temperatures and mild winds cleared most of the roads of snow.

Two hours before sunrise, Bryan and I were at the northern sections of Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan).

We played recordings at several Locations and eventually received responses from three Eastern Screech-Owls in the taller cottonwoods along the South Platte River.

Picking our favorite spots, we took waypoints on three Northern Cardinals, five Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Spotted Towhees and a couple of Blue Jays.

Nothing unexpected has yet arrived at the Wildlife Area.  It was a little strange that no sparrows were found.

Red Lion Wildlife Area (Logan) was slow (just too early in the spring).

Our next stop was more exciting.  Sterling Reservoir (Logan) offered hundreds of gulls to shift through.  We probably missed a good one or two, eventually finding two Lesser Black-backed Gulls (dark backs easy to id) and two adult Thayer's Gulls (much harder to id).

A Barn Owl for some unknown reason was in a bare tree at the picnic area.  Ten+ Common Redpolls flew around the Campground area.

A text message informed us about some swans in Weld County and we continued west.  The swans (originally four, then ten) now numbered 16 swans.  They were quite far from the road.  Even through a scope, identification proved difficult.  We thought there to be 15 Tundra Swans and one Trumpeter Swan (larger, more elongated, sloped forehead).  Other observers agreed while several others disagreed. I have not heard the final decision on their identification.

Bryan and I had been out birding so long, that we decided to extend the trip a few more days.

March 12, 2013

We started to run into snow about 10 miles east of Cameron Pass (Jackson).  A Boreal Owl again called around the upper parking area for Joe Wright Reservoir (Larimer).

Later in the morning we found last night's snowstorm had caused the lock of Rosy Finches at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center to increase to 160+ birds.  This time all three species were represented (with two Black Rosy Finches).

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at the Visitor's Center or Ranger Lakes (Jackson).

It was going to be a long couple of days. Our plan was to hike/snowshoe up Pennock Pass (Larimer) in a search for Flammulated Owls.  Early dates for this bird are difficult to nail down.  Most of their nesting sites do not have access due to snow and mud well into May or June.

We timed our "adventure" to arrive at the Summit of Pennock Pass just before sunset (achieved)!  We wandered another mile east of the Summit before returning to our car.

The trip while only a little over seven miles round trip is quite strenuous.  Good health and snowshoeing experience a necessity.

Unfortunately, we did not find any Flammulated Owls.

March 13, 2013

We traded off driving, sleeping and listening for owls along highway 14 (Bryan was knocked out by the exhausting snowshoe trip and I admit was quite tired).  Mostly I stopped at the many Campgrounds and picnic areas along highway 14.  No Northern Pygmy-Owls were located.

At first light, we stopped at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and Science.  Several dozen Common Redpolls were visiting the feeders.  We could not pick out a Hoary Redpoll.

We continued east to Black Hollow Reservoir (Weld) where several interesting gulls were reported year.  Our count was four+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Thayer's Gulls.  The private reservoir is quite far from the road.  Identifying gulls was frustrating. 

Note: we heard that later in the day, a Mew Gull was reported.  Several possible gulls we observed could have been Mew Gulls, distance field marks were not conclusive enough for us.

Other stops added some interesting birds to our long trip.

The Red-necked Grebes at Firestone Ponds (Weld) were new county birds for both of us.

Several Greater Scaup were at Luna Reservoir (Weld).

One birder called the swans along Weld County Road 108, Trumpeter Swans.  Other called them all Tundra Swans.  Jury is still out (we thought, 15 Tundra Swan and 1 Trumpeter Swan).