Monday, March 16, 2015

Second Half of First Grouse Trip 2015

March 9-13, 2015

Richard Stevens:

March 9

Bryan Ehlmann and I continued our first "grouse trip" of 2015 today.  Weather improved greatly with temperatures in the 50s and winds less than 8 mph.

We departed Denver about 4:00 am and arrive at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek thirty minutes before sunrise.  Eventually three Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed dancing, jumping and booming on the lek.

Later another Greater Prairie-Chicken was observed on a fence post near the entrance to the Kitzmueller Lek.

Birding east of Wray (Yuma) was quite good today.  At Stalker Lake, a male Northern Cardinal flew around the trees at the west end of the property.  A White-throated Sparrow was in the brush between there and the southwest end of the picnic area.

A Barn Owl and Red-bellied Woodpecker were found in the windbreak along the road into the Wray Fishing Unit.  Two White-throated Sparrows were in the brush along the road going east of the entrance road (across Yuma County Road FF).

Rainbow Park was quiet.  We stopped at two friend's homes and found a pair of Northern Cardinals at one and two male Northern Cardinals at the other.

Then we turned south.  A detour to Beecher Island (Yuma) added another Northern Cardinal and a Red-bellied Woodpecker to our day list.  It was still quite early in the season; no flycatchers, warblers, vireos, etc were around.

At dusk, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl north of Hale Ponds.

March 10

Bryan and I returned to Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) about 2 hours before sunrise.  A walk along the Republican River found four Eastern Screech-Owls between Highway 385 and Foster's Grove Campgrounds.

A "flock" ten Wild Turkeys walked one of the clearings just west of the Campgrounds.  A male Northern Cardinal added color to the drab winter landscape.

Two Long-eared Owls were well hidden in the windbreak east of the Campgrounds (I guess not that well hidden since we found them).

Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were along the gated road running along the southern side of the old Bonny Reservoir.  We hiked to the fenced area with many trees; however found no additional Long-eared Owls.

A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found in the evergreens east of the Dam.  Six Eastern Bluebirds fluttered about below the dam and just west of Yuma County Road LL.5.

Hale Ponds kept our interest with sightings of four Red-bellied Woodpeckers, another seven Eastern Bluebirds, a Marsh Wren (unfortunately not a Winter Wren) and a Spotted Towhee.

A Harris's Sparrow was encountered in the brush along Yuma County Road 4, just east of the entrance road to the last house before the road enters Kansas.

At dusk, we relocated two Eastern Screech-Owls.

Neither of us was tired and we drove to Lamar (Prowers County).

March 11

We had a nice sighting this morning at Lamar Community College (Prowers).  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was observed in the southern section of the woods behind/east of the School.  A pair of Northern Cardinals was also in the area.

While a Red-bellied Woodpecker was found flying from cottonwood to cottonwood in the northern woods.

Below the Two Buttes Reservoir dam, we missed the Rusty Blackbird that has been reported several times.  A Barn Owl and Ladder-backed Woodpecker were consolation sightings.  Several Wild Turkeys were at the eastern edge of the property.

We stopped at the entrance to the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek and walked the road heading north.  A Cassin's Sparrow sighting about 75 yards up the road beat the earliest sighting by five days (3/16/2002, two locations & 3/17/2012 south of CR G, the old Lek Road).  It was only the ninth March Cassin's Sparrow sighting in the past twenty years.

On the way back to Highway 287/385, a Burrowing Owl was observed along Baca County Road G, east of CR 36.  A real surprise was a Short-eared Owl out in the middle of the day along CR M, west of CR 23.  A Greater Roadrunner ran across CR M, just west of CR 7.

Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) is always an interesting place to visit.  We found Chihuahuan Ravens flying overhead, Canyon Towhees fluttering about the brush, Wild Turkeys walking along the road.  It proved too early for Eastern Phoebes, Lark Sparrows, Kingbirds, etc.

We found two of my once nemesis bird.  Two Rufous-crowned Sparrows flew around the rocky hillside at 1.7 miles east of the Campgrounds (primitive site at CR M & Carrizo Creek).

After dusk, two Western Screech-Owls were found around the primitive Campgrounds!

Then we headed to Elkhart, Kansas.

March 12

A trip to Elkhart, Kansas was considered a waste of time since Lesser Prairie-Chickens appeared to abandon the two leks last year.  Bryan and I had to check it out.

We arrived at the eastern lek about an hour before sunrise.  No Lesser Prairie-Chickens were observed on the lek.  Several Lesser Prairie-Chickens were heard booming to the north of the lek. 

Eventually while we checked on a prairie dog town/Burrowing Owl site, we found a Lesser Prairie-Chicken about 200 yards west and then south of the lek.  A lone Burrowing Owl was also here. 

We headed back to Colorado and would not recommend a visit/detour to the lek unless sightings are reported in the spring.  Since someone (government?) trapped Lesser Prairie-Chickens on the eastern lek two springs ago, I believe the birds have abandoned the primary lek.  A primary lek may exist in the area (as stated we could hear Lesser Prairie-Chicken calling).  The eastern publicized lek may now be a secondary lek and infrequently visited?

Bryan and returned to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) by way of Picture Canyon.  A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was found about 30 yards south of the parking area.  We walked down to the hieroglyphics without seeing another bird other than American Kestrels and Western Meadowlarks.

Then we continued to the Oklahoma border, turned west to the springs where Vermilion Flycatchers have nested in the past; none today.  A Northern Mockingbird was seen around the springs (they may also nest in the area).

Back at Cottonwood Canyon, we walked the draw south of the "Campgrounds" without finding a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  A hike down the draw south of the old stone building (1/2 mile or so west of the Campgrounds) was more productive.

Here we found a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker about 50 yards south of CR 7.  A better sighting was an adult Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  What was he (it was a male) doing here?  He seemed quite out of place.

Several detours were taken off Highway 285/387 on the trip back to Lamar.  A White-throated Sparrow was found at Burchfield Wildlife Area (Baca).  Only White-crowned Sparrows were found a Turk's Pond (Baca).

Ferruginous Hawks appeared often along our drive today.  Our count was seven before the day was over.  Common Ravens were encountered several times.  We saw our first Swainson's Hawk of 2015 just east of Walsh.  Later we would find another east of Holly.

The brush around the Holly Rest area had many White-crowned Sparrows; no uncommon sparrows were found.

Our birding day ended with a walk around at Mike Higbee Wildlife Area (Prowers).  Again, no uncommon sparrows were encountered.

March 13

Bryan and I began the final day of our "grouse trip".  Lake Hasty (Bent) was quiet.  No rails were found along Bent County Road JJ (far north side of John Martin Reservoir).

A quick detour to Blue Lake (Bent/Kiowa) found little to add to our bird trip list.  We did not find the Rusty Blackbirds reported along the outlet canal.

The Swamp Sparrow reported by Steve Mlodinow at the Las Animas Fishing Unit On 3/5 was still there.

Lake Cheraw (Otero) has no shorebirds.  The Greater Scaup (Nick Moore, 3/5) were still on Lake Henry.  No Burrowing Owls were around yet.

We cut over to highway 71 and headed north to Interstate 70.  A couple of Great-tailed Grackles were found at the south end of Limon (Lincoln County).

The I70 Rest Stop at Byers (Arapahoe) is now closed.  No birds appeared to be around.  Possibly one could still walk around the area.

1 comment:

Terry Michael said...

I am looking forward to going on the grouse trip tomorrow 3/24/2015.

Best of luck to other birders! Maybe we will run into you?