Thursday, May 29, 2014

Owl Survey, Jackson County

May 18-25, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Three friends accompanied me in inspecting "my" Boreal Owl nesting boxes in Jackson County.  Most of the time, we escaped the rainy weather hitting Denver.  However, a couple of times, we walked around in light snow.  One night, Bryan and I camped 7 miles from a highway and saw a couple of inches of snow by daybreak.

For the last eight years, I have been monitoring 157 owl boxes in the Colorado State Forest and surrounding area.  Winter snowstorms and summer heat is taking a toll on the boxes.  In addition, approximately 20 percent of the boxes have been destroyed by deforestation. 

In spite of the conditions and long hikes, it was a successful survey.  We ended up with a Boreal Owl count of eleven birds.  Included it this were two great highlights.  Two of the boxes are being used by Boreal Owls!  Used boxes were at 9358' and 10521'.  Another box had an American Kestrel; two additional had two squirrels.

On one "rest day", we circumvented snowdrifts on wet, muddy roads and made a slow trip to the Teller Ghost Town.  No Northern Pygmy-Owls were found but we did see a male American Three-toed Woodpecker at the northern end of the self-walking tour of this old silver mine town. 

Snowdrifts were higher southeast of the Ghost Town and we were not able to survey the Owl Mountain area for owls.  We were a long distance from any help if our jeep was stuck.  A 4-wheel drive vehicle is a necessity to drive these roads even in mid-summer.

Another morning we watched three Greater Sage-Grouse at the Jackson County 26b Leks.  Later the same day, we caught a Caspian Tern flying over Delaney Buttes Wildlife Area and two additional Greater Sage-Grouse at a nearby lek!  It is/was late in the season to see birds at either lek.

One final highlight, a Flammulated Owl was found at 9358 feet elevation up Ruby Jewell Road.  It is generally stated that Boreal Owls are found 9000-10500 feet and Flammulated Owls reside 8000-10000 feet (a liberal generalization to be sure).

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