Saturday, April 11, 2015

Another Grouse Trip

March 31 to April 7, 2015

Richard Stevens:

March 31 to April 7, 2015

March 31

Mark Foresman, Dale Casey and I started on a Grouse Trip today.  I found twelve Burrowing Owls along the DIA Owl Loop when driving over to the Airport to pick them up.

One of their target birds was a Flammulated Owl.  I could only think of one possible location to try for one.  They were up for anything and we drove to the western side of Pennock Pass.  Muddy roads close down the Summit until late May or June.

We hiked up the road about 1.6 miles before finding a Flammulated Owl.  They usually migrate into Colorado the last week of March or first week of April.  Unfortunately, most access roads are closed leading to few early spring records.

April 1

Continuing west to Walden, we stopped and listened for Boreal Owls once we reached Cameron Pass (Jackson County).  Two Boreal Owls were heard and one seen along Highway 14 (between mile markers 61-62).  The owls were calling on their own; we played no recordings.  Too many birders search this area for Boreal Owls; I suspect the owls are disturbed much.

At first light, sixty+ Greater Sage-Grouse entertained us with their mating dances at the Jackson County 26b Lek!

We stopped at Rabbit Ears Pass (Grand) to look for Crossbills and Woodpeckers.  A female American Three-toed Woodpecker was along the road to the maintenance shed.  Two flocks (28 birds) of Red Crossbills did not have a White-winged Crossbill with them.

Sharp-tailed Grouse visited my friend's home in Steamboat Springs early in the morning.  They were gone before our arrival.

We ended our day at the 20 Road Leks.  No Sharp-tailed Grouse appeared before it was too dark to see them.  We could hear one or two.

April 2

At first light, we parked at the infamous cattle guard up Routt 80 Route (actually 20 yards north).  The male Dusky Grouse came out of the brush, looked around and disappeared back into the tangles.

It was to say the least, an interesting drive up the 80 route.  Several snowdrifts forced us to dig out our jeep.  We had anticipated this and brought along two shovels.  Past experience helped as I still have nightmares from the time I had to dig out with an ice scrapper at 10:00 pm.

Eventually we found seven Sharp-tailed Grouse at the old Jimmy Dunn State Trust Land lek.  Five Sharp-tailed Grouse were observed at their lek (farther south).

After searching Loudy Simpson Park in Craig (Moffat), no birds, we continued to Oxbow State Trust Lands (Moffat).  Two Sagebrush Sparrows and a Sage Thrasher were just east of the parking area.

No Barrow's Goldeneyes could be seen on the Yampa River (from Hwy 13).  Perch Pond south of Craig had no birds.

A Great-tailed Grackle was observed at the Rifle Rest Stop along I70 (Garfield County).

We next drove up Coal Canyon at Cameo (Mesa).  Two Chukar were found on the hillside southwest of the parking area at the second pipe gate.  Two Black-throated Sparrows popped up from the brush and sang.

We then drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa).  A stop at Powderhorn Ski Area found an American Three-toed Woodpecker in the trees at the eastern end of the upper parking area.

Then we drove to the Visitor's Center and waiting for dark.  A Clark's Nutcracker was seen around the Grand Mesa Lodge. 

We stopped at the various pullovers along Highway 65 on our return trip to Powderhorn.  Boreal Owls were heard at two stops; observed at one!

Back at Powderhorn Ski Area, a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings played near the entrance road (up the semi-loop road).

April 3

At first light, we drove around the subdivision just outside the southern (eastern) entrance to the Colorado National Monument (Mesa).  More than a dozen Gambel's Quail wandered around the homes.

A Black-throated Sparrow sang from a bush just outside of the entrance.  A walk to the Devil's Kitchen trail did not find any Black-chinned Sparrows, flycatchers or vireos.  None was expected, too early in the season.

To save time, we drove to the northern (western) entrance to the Monument and continued to the Campgrounds.  Four Pinyon Jays flew around the Campgrounds.  Juniper Titmice and Bushtits were easy to find.

No Western Screech-Owls or Barrow's Goldeneyes were found at Confluence Park in Delta (Delta County).

Few birds were on Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).  No Lewis's Woodpeckers were below the dam near Evelyn Horn's home.  Fortunately, a Lewis's Woodpecker was in the cottonwood next to the Eckert Post Office.

We continued to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) and drove the South Rim Drive to the Visitor's Center (road closed farther west for season).

A few Clark's Nutcrackers and two White-throated Swifts flew below us.  A drive through the Campgrounds did not find a Dusky Grouse so we parked at the intersection of the road to the eastern Campgrounds and the main road.

Just before sunset, a male Dusky Grouse walked out onto the road.  Regrettably, he did not display.

April 4

Thirty minutes before sunrise, we drove Road 884, north of the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.  Eight Gunnison Sage-Grouse were observed several hundred yards farther north than the old lek.

Note: Later we heard that they could be seen from the old lek parking area (although, quite far away).

We stopped at the Rest Stop/parking area for Monarch Ski Area on the south side of Highway 50.  Male American Three-toed Woodpeckers were observed on both the north and south sides of Hwy 50.

Continuing along Highway 50 through Salida to Canon City, we saw few birds.  It took only ten minutes to find a Rufous-crowned Sparrow down Tunnel Drive in Canon City. 

A drive south down the Swallows Road (Pueblo West) found two Curve-billed Thrashers, two Scaled Quail and a Loggerhead Shrike.

It was still early in the day; we decided to detour to Beulah (Pueblo) for Acorn Woodpeckers and owls.  Only one Acorn Woodpecker was found at Pueblo Mountain Park.

Armed with GPS waypoints, we found a Northern Pygmy-Owl and two Northern Saw-whet Owls around Beulah.  This made the detour quite worthwhile!

April 5

Our troop continued to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca County) arriving at 2:00 am.  A Western Screech-Owl was found around the primitive Campgrounds, and then we set up camp in Comanche National Grasslands (slept in car).

At first light, we found three male Lesser Prairie-Chickens at a "lek" that Bryan Ehlmann and I had discovered earlier this year.  The old campo lek is closed; we have been told only one bird goes to it.  We are interested in seeing if additional birds come to "our new lek".

Afterwards we stopped at the entrance road to the old Campo Lek and walked the dirt road heading north from Baca CR G.  A Cassin's Sparrow was performing his mating flight at 300 yards north of CR G and 200 yards east.

At Picture Canyon, we found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow on the eastern rocky ridge about 250 feet south of the parking area.  Few birds were at the rocky cliffs with the hieroglyphs.  As we walked to the springs near the southern Colorado border, a Curve-billed Thrasher walked the rocks along the ridge south of the gated tunnel.

No uncommon birds were visiting the spring area this day and we returned to our vehicle.  From Picture Canyon we drove back to visit Cottonwood Canyon during daylight.  Another Rufous-crowned Sparrow was found at their usual location 1.4 miles east of the Campgrounds at Carrizo Creek.

Two Eastern Phoebes were up the draw south of Carrizo Creek and the Campgrounds.  A Ladder-backed Woodpecker was seen down the draw south of the old stone house.

A Long-billed Curlew was along Baca County Road M, just west of highway 385.  We drove through Pasture G (west across Highway 385 from the Washington Work Center.  No Mountain Plovers were in the field today; however, one Burrowing Owl was 0.2 miles into the field.

Nothing uncommon was found when we walked around Two Buttes Reservoir for an hour.

Our birding day ended at Lamar Community College (Prowers).  A Northern Cardinal was at the south end of the woods.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was found at the north end.

April 6

After spending the night in Lamar, we detoured to the west end of John Martin Reservoir (Bent County).  One Black Rail was heard along Bent County Road HH, east of CR 13.  We also found a Virginia Rail and Sora.

We turned north and headed to Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  No Mountain Plovers were found at their traditional field near Eads (Kiowa).  Sheridan Lake (Kiowa) was dry.  No Grasshopper Sparrows have yet shown up in the grasses north of the lake.

Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area and Hale were explored the rest of the day.  A Long-eared Owl was relocated in the windbreak east of Foster's Grove.  A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was along the gated road along the south side of the dry reservoir.

Eastern Bluebirds were below the dam (off Yuma County Road zLL.5.  We hoped for an uncommon sparrow or Sprague's Pipit (too late or early in the season?).

Another pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers was along the west side of the western Hale Pond.  At dusk, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl north of the Hale Ponds.  After dark, we heard another Eastern Screech-Owl while we drove CR 3, east of Highway 385.

April 7

Thirty minutes before sunrise, we stopped at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek.  Four male Greater Prairie-Chickens called and displayed.  Afterwards, we drove to the Kitzmueller Ranch.  Another Greater Prairie-Chicken was perched high on a telephone pole!

Inclement weather was predicted for Denver and east.  Quick stops at Stalker Ponds and the Wray Fishing Unit (Yuma) found a few birds before we headed for home.

At Wray Fishing Unit, we found a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe (along creek) and two White-throated Sparrows (east of CR zFF.5).  Missed the Barn Owl.

At Stalker Pond, another Red-bellied Woodpecker was observed flying around the picnic area.  No wrens could be coaxed out of the marshes.  Missed the Northern Cardinal today.

No comments: