Saturday, August 9, 2014

Continued Birding In the Mountains

July 27-31, 2014

Richard Stevens:

July 27

Coaldale and Hayden Campgrounds hold great birding memories for me.  When I first stopped here twenty years ago, I enjoyed a fantastic spring day.  In the half-mile walk between the Campgrounds, I found 100+ Evening Grosbeaks, 50+ Western Tanagers and 25+ Black-headed Grosbeaks.  The road was lined with Wild Plum bushes; the aroma was intoxicating.

We managed to find the common birds, Western Tanagers, Evening Grosbeaks, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Warbling Vireos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  A pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers was down the dirt track running south, just before the main road turns west to Coaldale Campgrounds.

Bryan and I continued our successful trip and decided to enter Gunnison County by way of Marshall Pass.  Another pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers was found near the Summit of Marshall Pass. 

We checked on a Purple Martin nesting tree (6/20/2010) and found no activity (Saguache County).  A past Northern Pygmy-Owl nesting tree (8/4/2008) was also quiet.  One of four Flammulated Owl nesting sites was a success.  An owl called briefly in response to our recording.  Unfortunately, it started to rain, which made setting up our "owl listening stations" a waste of time.

July 28

Everything was wet from last night's thunderstorm; skies were clear and temperatures in the 60s.  Bryan and I drove up Cumberland Pass.  Pinyon Jays were once again found along the road.  Two White-tailed Ptarmigan were encountered along our hike at the top of the pass.

Five American Three-toed Woodpeckers were observed around Mirror Lake.  After dusk, we relocated a Northern Pygmy-Owl that has nested near Tin Cup (Gunnison County) four of the last seven years.

July 29

Another break in the weather was predicted, Bryan and I drove back to Old Monarch Road (Gunnison County).  I had always wanted to explore this road for owls and of course other birds.  Lack of time and a 4-wheel drive vehicle (a must) limited my opportunities.  Weather conditions were predicted to be favorable.

Several pairs of American Three-toed Woodpeckers, flocks of Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, and other mountain species were observed.  A pair of White-winged Crossbills was above the Monarch Valley Ski Resort (at N 38 29.835, W 106 22.559).

When we reached the Monarch Ski Area Rest Stop along Highway 50, we found another three male and a female American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

Late in the afternoon, we made a major hike into the Gunnison National Forest.  Regrettably, no owls were encountered.  Our three "owl listening stations" did not pick up any owl calls tonight.

July 30

We stayed up owling all night and drove Gunnison County Road 38 before heading for some shuteye.  Five Gunnison Sage-Grouse were observed on the west side of the road just north of CR 38a.  We continued south down CR 38 into Saguache County; no additional Gunnison Sage-Grouse were found.

Early in the afternoon, we stopped by a friend's ranch and found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest that he had staked out.  At a stop at another friend's ranch, Bill informed us that no Yellow-billed Cuckoos were heard or seen this year.  He also had not heard the Western Screech-Owls, which had nested for half a dozen years on his ranch.

At a third private ranch, we did succeed in seeing a Western Screech-Owl.

July 31

Today, Bryan and I traveled down Cimarron Road (Gunnison County).  It is a good road to find American Three-toed Woodpeckers.  Six Three-toed Woodpeckers total at three of our stops.

Another pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers was along the road to Fish Creek Reservoir.

Our birding day ended after midnight (8/1) back at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose County).  The walk to the overlook at the west end of the South Rim Drive was quite productive.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl called along the trail (at approximately just short of halfway). 

We were able to find and see a second Northern Pygmy-Owl west of the overlook.  They have nested here many years.  Several Common Poorwill were on the road as we drove to the Eastern Campgrounds.  The night was still but filled with bird sounds when we settled down for some needed much needed sleep.

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