Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birding and Owling In Park County

September 17-21, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Sept 17
Bryan Ehlmann and I headed to Park County for a few days of birding and owling.  Driving South on Highway 285 toward Park County, we made a detour at Grant and continued to Guanella Pass (Clear Creek).  It took about two hours, we finally found two White-tailed Ptarmigan up the Rosalie Trail (80 yards south/uphill of the 603 trail).

A few White-crowned Sparrows continued to flutter about the clumps of willows.  A Prairie Falcon made a rapid trip across the partly cloudy sky.  It is almost time for them to fly to lower wintering grounds.  A female/young Wilson's Warbler was a little bit of a surprise in the willows along the boardwalk to the lake below the parking area.

After setting up camp at the Guanella Pass Campgrounds, we wandered around and up the Lost Silver Dollar Trail.  An adult and young male American Three-toed Woodpeckers were near the intersection of Guanella Pass Road and the L.S.D. trailhead.

After dark, we set up our three "owl listening stations", then drove north down the road and searched for owls.  Unfortunately, none was found (we have not had time to check the owl recordings yet).

Sept 18
After a few hours sleep (after sunrise), our trek continued south into Park County.  While nothing exciting was found at the three Park County reservoirs, a few interesting birds were encountered.

The Parasitic Jaeger reported two days earlier was not found at Antero Reservoir.  A Common Loon swam at the north end of the lake.  Two Sabine's Gulls flew along the eastern shore.  Killdeer, a Least Sandpiper, two Western Sandpipers, and half a dozen Baird's Sandpipers were the only shorebirds that were found.

Vesper Sparrows, a few White-crowned Sparrows and a couple of Song Sparrows flew about the native grasses surrounding the reservoir.  A couple of Common Nighthawks buzzed overhead.

An "ammodramus" sparrow kept our attention for about 30 minutes before we had to settle that it was a Grasshopper Sparrow (hoped for a Baird's Sparrow).

A Common Tern was observed flying along the Spinney Mountain Reservoir shore as we approached.  It turned (no pun intended) out to be the only interesting bird here.  A couple of American Avocets and three Baird's Sandpipers completed the shorebird count.

Eleven Mile Reservoir was slow also.  We did find another Common Tern and two Sabine's Gulls.  Shorebirds were scarce.  Sparrows were mostly Vespers.

We detoured over to Buffalo Pass Campgrounds where a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers was observed flying around the Aspens.  On the way to Rough and Tumbling Creek, several Pinyon Jays flew by.  Rough and Tumbling Creek added four Red Crossbills, a Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Plumbeous Vireo to our day list.

A stop at Trout Creek Pass was uneventful.  No Pinyon Jays were around the Buena Vista Overlook or KOA Campgrounds (Chaffee).

After dark, we set up the "owl listening stations" on BLM land northeast of Buena Vista.  A first listening, no owls were recorded this night.  Meanwhile we headed south to Ruby Mountain.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was drawn to our recordings (about 0.2 miles north of the parking area).

Sept 19
After another late start, Bryan and I headed back into Park County.  A couple of stops along Highway 24, found a Golden-crowned Kinglet and three species of nuthatches in sparse pine forest habitat.

It had been a few years since I drove up Weston Pass.  The afternoon and night proved quite interesting.  A Dusky Grouse walked around the Weston Pass Campgrounds.  A male Three-toed Woodpecker was also found there.  Later we heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl calling.

As we drove to the Summit, we set up our "owl listening stations".  Two of which did pick up Northern Pygmy-Owls responses.  When we played a recording at the "upper Campgrounds", a Boreal Owl called to us!

At sunrise, we set up our tents back at the lower Campgrounds and caught a few hours of sleep.

Sept 20
This day we headed up Michigan Creek Road.  A couple of Red-naped Sapsuckers, a male Williamson's Sapsucker and a Dusky Grouse were found at the Campgrounds.

Then we walked around the "traditional" Three-toed Woodpecker spot (4.1 miles west of the W.P. Campgrounds).  A pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers worked the trees here.  A dusk, we played our recordings at the end of the undefined trail/road; without getting any response.

We hiked up Michigan Creek Road to the first set of switchbacks.  A Dusky Grouse was seen crossing the road.  Back at the "parking area" a Northern Pygmy-Owl did call in response to our recordings.

Sep 21
We ended up setting up our tents in a pouring rain (just before sunrise).  The rain finally stopped around noon; however, more was predicted for the late afternoon, which made our decision to return to Denver an easy one.  Both of us were exhausted from the downpour last night.

A stop at Kenosha Pass Campgrounds added another American Three-toed Woodpecker to our trip list.  The rest of the day was described in an email to the "cobirders" listserve:

Bryan Ehlmann and I birded in Park County the last five days.  We enjoyed success in finding a few uncommon birds and owls.  Most were reported to the Colorado Birding Society's RBA.  I hope to find time to update the CoBus Trip Blog later tonight.

On the way back to Denver today (Sunday) we made several stops.  The Red Phalarope was not far off the eastern side of the marina sand spit at Chatfield Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).  The phalarope was in Douglas County.  If it moves west, I will think about returning for a Jefferson County sighting.

While we scoped the lake for the Red Phalarope, two Sabine's Gull were observed flying below the dam, just north of the Plum Creek Delta.

We hurried to Cherry Creek Reservoir (Arapahoe) hoping to get a second Red Phalarope for the day.  While we never found it, one Sabine's Gull was found flying around below the dam.

A greater surprise was three terns on the poles outlining the southwest marina.  The smallest had a black bill, reddish legs, uniform neck, breast and belly of a Forster's Tern.  The larger were an adult Caspian Tern (large reddish bill and streaked black crown) and a juvenile Caspian Tern (slightly less reddish bill, spotted back).

Dark overtook us before we were able to explore the rest of the park.

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