Saturday, November 16, 2013

Continued Southeast to South Central Trip

November 12-15, 2013

Richard Stevens:

November 12, 2013

At first light, we checked for owls and Harris's Sparrows at Mike Higbee Wildlife Area (Prowers County).  While neither was found, a pair of Rusty Blackbirds walking along the Fort Bent Canal was a superb consolation prize.

A quick stop at Lamar Community College added only one Northern Cardinal to our trip list.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was flying around as we drove through Willow Creek Park.  Fairmount Cemetery was void of birds (do not know why, perhaps a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk had flown through)?

Our group continued south to visit a friend's ranch in Furnish Canyon (he has reported a Vermilion Flycatcher for several days).

A quick detour to Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca County) found a Barn Owl and Common Yellowthroat below the dam (carefully watch access).

A Surf Scoter was with many common waterfowl on the lake itself.

We arrived at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) with several hours of daylight left.  One of the resident Rufous-crowned Sparrows perched on the rocky hillside at 1.4 miles southeast of Baca County Road 5 & Carrizo Creek.

Several Canyon Towhees were not far from the same spot.  A lone Lewis's Woodpecker hung on one of the old cottonwood snags as we continued toward Carrizo Creek.

After sunset, we managed to conjure up one of the resident Western Screech-Owls (near Carrizo Creek)!  Carrizo Creek Picnic Area was very quiet.

November 13, 2013

We arrived at my friend's ranch only to find that the Vermilion Flycatcher has not been seen in two days.

It was another beautiful fall day in Colorado and we celebrated with a hike at Picture Canyon (Baca).  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow popped up on the short rocky hillside just south of the parking area.

Nothing moved about the cliffs with Indian pictographs.  We then hiked south and west to North Canyon.  Along the way, a Curve-billed Thrasher was observed on the cliffs near the old stone cabin.

Unfortunately, only a few birds were around the spring at North Canyon.  Vermilion Flycatchers have been reported here at least three times in the last 20 years.  A Northern Mockingbird was probably not migrating, but a resident bird.

Our trek passed through Cottonwood Canyon and stopped again at Carrizo Creek and Baca County Road 5.  This area once had many Bewick's Wrens around the evergreen trees.  I can only remember seeing one in 2013 (on my nine trips through the area).

We also hiked the draw south of the old stone house (we found a Tufted Titmouse here on 11/2/1996).  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker, nine Cedar Waxwings, a Bewick's Wren and Dark-eyed Juncos were found.

A dusk we arrived at a friend's ranch in Las Animas and joined 30+ ranchers for dinner.  Afterwards we set up our "owl listening stations" and walked around his expansive ranch.  While we did not find a Northern Saw-whet Owl on our own (four Great Horned Owls were found), Jerry put a spotlight on one hanging around one of the "listening stations".  In my experience, Northern Saw-whet Owls seldom call in fall; however, they are attracted to recordings.

November 14, 2013

At first light, we returned to the Northern Saw-whet Owl spot found last night.  Unfortunately, the owl did not stick around.

I received a call about six Tundra Swans at Trinidad State Park (Las Animas County) and we continued in that direction.

The Tundra Swans were not found, however, we did see a Surf Scoter, Pacific Loon and 1 or 2 Common Loons.  Several Northern Shrikes, a Say's Phoebe and Canyon Towhee were encountered on the drive around the reservoir.

We stopped at Lathrop State Park (Huerfano) on our way to do some owling in Custer County after dark.  Lathrop State Park had few birds of interest (a couple of Mountain Bluebirds and a Vesper Sparrow).

The drive up Greenhorn Road was quite productive.  One Lewis's Woodpecker and two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were run across when we stopped at several of the previous GPS waypoint spots from previous years.

Our "Owl Listening Stations" were set up along the South Creek Trail, Ophir Creek Campgrounds and Davenport Campgrounds.  We eventually located two Northern Saw-whet Owls (continuing our quest to indicate where they winter in Colorado; future "Colorado Field Notes" articles).

November 15, 2013

Our plan today was to go up Slumgullion Pass and search for Boreal Owls at the Campgrounds (Hinsdale County).  These plans were later abandoned when we heard that it was snowing in Lake City (possible 6-12 inches to 5 feet expected).

Instead, we stopped off at DeWeese Reservoir (Custer County).  A White-winged Scoter and Common Loon swan around the reservoir.  A hike below the dam and along Grape Creek found a wren that sounded like a Winter Wren.  The call was brief and we never found the bird (left as one that got away).

With a trip to Lake City out and snow predicted for much of the mountains and possibly Denver, we decided to owl in Fremont County and head home afterwards.

We drove up Phantom Canyon and planned the return trip toward highway 50 after dark.  No Spotted Owls made a sound this night.

On the way into Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont County), we set up our three "Owl Listening Stations" and continued to the end of the road.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl was hit with a spotlight as we scanned the riparian area around the parking area!

One of our "Owl Listening Stations" (see "Colorado Field Notes") was effective.  We found one of the tiny Northern Saw-whet Owls in the Juniper trees near Oro Juno (one of my favorite locations to search for them).

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