Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Few Days of Owling In Jackson County

October 5-9, 2013

Richard Stevens:

October 5

It was a typical Colorado fall day.  Winds were 6-8 mph, sometime gusts to 19 mph. 

I rode my bike around Aurora Reservoir (about 8.7 miles along the bike path).  Most of the 200+ gulls were Ring-billed Gulls; only a Lesser Black-backed Gull was uncommon.  California Gull count was around two dozen.

The highlight was a Red Phalarope in the cove at mile 4.0!  Whether this was the Cherry Creek Reservoir or Chatfield Reservoir bird, there is no way to determine.

A flock of Sandhill Cranes (about 10-14) called overhead as they continued south.  No scoters or loons or uncommon birds were on the lake.  A few Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and a Blue-winged Teal were mixed in with common ducks (Mallards, Gadwall, etc).

October 6

I headed up to Gould for a couple of days of owling and solitude.  At dusk I hiked about two miles up the road south of the Crags Campgrounds (Jackson County).  On the trip back, my torch lit up the eyes of a Boreal Owl about 20 yards south of the Campgrounds.

October 7

I rose early enough to drive Jackson County Road 26 about 30 minutes before sunrise.  No Greater Sage-Grouse were encountered.

Continuing west, I scoped Walden Reservoir from the south, east and north sides.  A lone Surf Scoter was the most interesting bird on the partially ice covered lake.

After lunch in Steamboat Springs, I checked several of the locations where Bohemian Waxwings have been found in past falls.  Unfortunately, none was found.

Steamboat Lake State Park was quite, bird wise.  Forest Road 550 was devoid of birds.  In past years, White-winged Crossbills are sometimes found in the Mountain Park.

Rabbit Ears Pass did not offer any White-winged Crossbills either.  The resident American Three-toed Woodpeckers were not found along the Pass' County Maintenance Road.

A dusk I drove to Michigan Road and Ruby Jewell Road and hiked about 3 miles east.  Regrettably no Boreal or Flammulated Owls called tonight. 

(For those reading past posts, I set up my three "owl listening stations" on the walk into the Colorado State Forest and picked them up four hours later.  The stations picked up no owl sounds).

October 8

For a change of pace, I drove down to the Teller City Ghost Town south of Gould.  Beware; that this road requires a 4-wheel drive to get to the ghost town (even then, much care is required not to damage your vehicle).

Before heading down there, a quick drive to the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center to look for Rosy Finches (none found) did find a White-throated Sparrow beneath the feeders behind the building.

The ghost town has well established paths between the broken down buildings of this old historical silver mining town (and a self-guided tour).  Now and then, we have found American Three-toed Woodpeckers or Northern Pygmy-Owls in the area.  Today, only a male American Three-toed Woodpecker was encountered.

The trip was quite birdy; the list included three species of nuthatches, Red Crossbills, Hairy & Downy Woodpeckers, Pine Siskins, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays and a few more I am probably forgetting.  The self-guided tour is a pleasant walk for those able to get to the area.

After enjoying a leisure morning at the ghost town, I continued south toward Baker Pass.  Along the way I set up the three "owl listening stations" and proceeded to Jack Creek trailhead (CR 21 EE).  Nothing uncommon was found in a short walk around Jack Creek and I continued to Forest Road 758.

While the owl listening stations failed to pick up an owl, I did get a Northern Pygmy-Owl to respond to my recordings (about 1/2 mile south of Teller City).

October 9

A final day to enjoy the sights and birds below Mt Richtohfen near Cameron Pass (Jackson County).  I arrived back at the cabin about an hour after sunrise and got a late start to my day. 

The White-throated Sparrow did not appear at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center.  Only a few of the usual suspects came to the feeders (and no Rosy Finches).

Today I hiked down the Michigan Ditch trail (below Mt. Richtohfen) for about six miles.  The unusual birds passed the trail, nothing uncommon.

The Boreal Owls that had used one of my nesting boxes were long gone.  A Dusky Grouse ran across the trail at about 4.2 miles from highway 14.

While the 12 mile trip was quite enjoyable, winds less than 4 mph, temperatures in the 50s, few birds were encountered.

On the trip back, I did hear Boreal Owls at two locations; neither birds were picked up in my spotlight.

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