Thursday, March 13, 2014

Search for Gallinaceous Birds On the Eastern Colorado Plains

March 10, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Bryan and I started our day back at the Yuma County Road 45 Greater Prairie-Chicken Leks.  At least five male birds displayed this morning.  No females were picked out.

Afterwards we drove CR 45 to CR 42 near the Kitzmueller Ranch.  Another male Greater Prairie-Chicken was observed crossing the road (near the Wray Museum Lek).

Passerines were again few today.  Temperatures reached the low 50s while winds were steady at 15 mph.

A White-throated Sparrow was at the eastern end of the motel parking area (Clay & North Railway Streets).

A search for the Barn Owl(s) at the Wray Fishing Unit/Stalker Ponds did not find them.  However, a Northern Cardinal was seen flying around Stalker Ponds.

A Harris's Sparrow was among many White-crowned, Song, and American Tree Sparrows at Sandsage Wildlife Area.

We stopped at a friend's ranch south of Yuma and were informed that Greater Prairie-Chickens had returned to his property (six to eight for a week or so now).  When in the area, I have to stop at the Main Event Bar & Grill in Yuma.  They have a fantastic breakfast burrito.

Beecher Island had no uncommon birds.  The history here is interesting and worth the stop (if you are into Colorado western history, it is the site of the last Indian battle of the west).

Once we arrived at Bonny Reservoir/Hale Ponds, three species of owls were found (and little else).  Long-eared Owls near Hale, later a Short-eared Owl flying over the field south of the maintenance area and Eastern Screech-Owl called during the night.

March 11, 2014

Bryan Ehlmann and I walked part of the Republican River (both east and west of the old Bonny Reservoir) this morning.  Temperatures today reached the low 50s; unfortunately, winds were 30 mph with gusts to 44 mph (seeing birds other than perched owls were quite difficult).

Two Eastern Screech-Owls called north of Hale Ponds (before sunrise).  A Short-eared Owl flew (or was blown) over the rolling hills south of the old wagon wheel Campgrounds area.  Long-eared Owls were found at Hale and the north side of Bonny Reservoir.

We looked for Barn Owls at their traditional nesting spots and Northern Saw-whet Owls at their wintering spots; without success.

Few passerines were found at the several old Campgrounds.  The draining of Bonny Reservoir has definitely harmed this once fantastic birding area.

We eventually found another Eastern Screech-Owl between highway 385 and the old Foster's Grove Campgrounds.  Six Wild Turkeys wandered along Yuma County Road 3.  For a brief time we thought an Eastern Meadowlark was singing just east of highway 385 & CR 3.  Once we put our binoculars on it, identification was a Western Meadowlark (singing the "wrong" song).

Moving South into Kit Carson County, we stopped at Fairview Cemetery in Burlington.  Unfortunately, no warblers were there today.  A Great Horned Owl was watching us from one of the pine trees.

Great-tailed Grackles were making racket at the McDonald's Restaurant.  Our first Red-headed Woodpecker of 2014 was seen at Parmer Park (northeast corner of hwy 385 & I70).

The rest of our day was uneventful.  Lapland Longspurs and two McCown's Longspurs were found on the drive to Lamar.

March 12, 2014

Bryan Ehlmann and I explored Lamar, CO (Prowers County) early in the morning.  While temperatures started around freezing, the day warmed up to the low 50s.  Winds were steady at 10 mph, gusts to 21 mph.

Two male and a female Northern Cardinals were found at the south end of Lamar Community College Woods.  While a male Red-bellied Woodpecker moved about the northern half.  Misses included White-winged Doves and Carolina Wrens.  I have not heard if the Carolina Wrens have been spotted this year (late May, 2013 is the last report I can find).

Great-tailed Grackles continue to harass people's ears at the Lamar Walmart.  No uncommon sparrows were found at the Mike Higbee Wildlife Area east of town.

We skipped Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca County) as construction has shutoff most access (it is possible to walk about the rocky cliffs and peer down into the area).

We took my favorite route to Cottonwood Canyon (Highway 160 to Baca CR 10, then south).  Soon in spring, Long-billed Curlews and Mountain Plovers may be seen between Hwy 160 and CR M (especially around CR R to T, if past years are repeated).

At M, we detoured eleven miles east to CR 18 and then south to Picture Canyon.  After Cottonwood Canyon, this is one of my favorite birding and camping places in Colorado.

Besides the Pictographs, birding can be quite good.  Today we found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow in the short rocky hills south of the parking (Picnic) area.  A Curve-billed Thrasher was calling from the short rocky hills west of the Pictograph area.  Misses, no Greater Roadrunners were around today.

Then we headed to Cottonwood Canyon (with a short stop at the Carrizo Creek Picnic area, no Greater Roadrunners along this road today).

Cottonwood Canyon is a superb location for Canyon Towhees, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Lewis's Woodpeckers, possible Red-headed Woodpeckers, Bewick's Wrens, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Chihuahuan Ravens, Greater Roadrunners (some years), and Western Screech-Owls.  Later in spring, Eastern Phoebes, Lark Sparrows, House Wrens, Lazuli Buntings, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Common Poorwills, and with luck Painted Buntings and/or Northern Cardinals will visit.

Today we found six Chihuahuan Ravens, two Rufous-crowned Sparrows (1.4 miles southeast of camping area at CR 5 and Carrizo Creek), one Eastern Phoebe and a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker (last two along Carrizo Creek).  After dark, two Western Screech-Owls were found.

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