Sunday, July 26, 2015

Western Slope Trip

June 14 to July 16, 2015

Summer 2015:

Richard Stevens:

A long summer trip to the western slope saw many thunderstorms most late afternoons.  These did not aid in our nightly owling trips.  I have found that even if the skies clear, owls are not very vocal after a lightning storm.  We set up our "owl listening stations" most nights and then went owling.  Our counts were not as high as past summers.

I took notes during the long trek.  Access to computers was quite limited.  I chose not to carry a computer with me (hours left alone in a car, tends to tempt break-ins, high temperatures heat up the car during the day).  Since the account is dated, I will only summarize our experiences so that I have a record for myself.  Whether this is interesting to others, I doubt.

Bryan and I started our long "Western Slope" trip today.

June 14

Bryan and I arrived at Rouse Road (Santa Clara Creek area, Huerfano County) before sunrise.  Eventually we found one Grace's Warbler and one Hepatic Tanager.

Two Eastern Phoebes were relocated just past Wahatoya Creek on the north side of CR 358.  We heard the Black-billed Cuckoo on the east side of Wahatoya Creek, however never did see it.

Our birding day ended at Lake Dorothy (Las Animas).  Two Northern Saw-whet Owls were found after dusk.

June 15

Our morning at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) was quite productive.  Birds found included: a Painted Bunting (Mlodinow, 5/18), two Yellow-billed Cuckoos, four Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a Lewis's Woodpecker, three Eastern Phoebes, two Mississippi Kites, a Long-eared Owl (southern draw), Bewick's Wrens and Ladder-backed Woodpecker (pair).

We slowed our hectic pace and took time to barbecue a hot meal.  In the afternoon, we drove to nearby Carrizo Mountain.  The highlight of our trip, a Lesser Nighthawk was flying around with five Common Nighthawks!

Later we found two Western Screech-Owls back at Cottonwood Canyon (near Carrizo Creek).

June 16

This morning Bryan and I hiked the Picture Canyon area, North and Sand Canyons (Baca).  Highlights included: Painted Bunting (Kaempfer, 5/9), Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrasher, Greater Roadrunner (Picture Canyon), Vermilion Flycatcher (North Canyon) and Scott's Oriole (Sand Canyon).

The day was overcast; temperature remained in the low 80s.  The day was quite enjoyable with some superb bird sightings!

June 17

Bryan and I spent the day on a friend's ranch in Furnish Canyon (Baca).  We enjoyed quite a few uncommon and common bird sightings.

The Vermilion Flycatcher pair successfully nested   Two young birds were about to fledge!  It was a treat to see four Vermilion Flycatchers together in Colorado!

Other birds included: Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Bewick's Wrens, Eastern Phoebes, Cooper's Hawk, Common Nighthawks, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Chihuahuan Ravens.

After dark, we relocated a Northern Saw-whet Owl on my friend's ranch!

June 18

Bryan and I returned to Cottonwood Canyon before sunrise and heard a Western Screech-Owl calling near Carrizo Creek.

A detour to Carrizo Mountain relocated the Lesser Nighthawk first found on 6/15!

Back at Cottonwood Canyon, the usual sightings were a repeat of 6/15: Painted Bunting, Northern Cardinal, two Yellow-billed Cuckoo, three Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lewis's Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebes, Mississippi Kite and Bewick's Wrens.

Our southern trip ended as we turned north.  A male Hooded Warbler was a great surprise at Burchfield Wildlife Area (Baca).

We entered Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) from the south side of the dam.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Ladder-backed Woodpecker were on the north side of the outlet.  A Barn Owl peeked out of the rocky cliff south of our vehicle.

A stop at Lake Hasty on our trip west found a Greater Roadrunner on the rocks just below the road drops down to the Campgrounds (Bent).

June 19

Bryan Ehlmann and I searched Blue Lake (Bent/Kiowa Counties) for shorebirds.  Regrettably, none was found.  No Least Terns or Mountain Plover were encountered either.

A call from a friend in Pueblo got us to detour to her home.  Two young male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were visiting her feeders.  Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are recorded as nesting along the Arkansas River in Pueblo.

Continuing west, we stopped at Valco Ponds (Pueblo) and relocated the Bell's Vireo that has been around for almost a month.  Search around pond # 3.

No uncommon gulls were found at either the southern or the northern marina at Pueblo Reservoir.  A Curve-billed Thrasher ran around at the north marina.

A trip down the Swallows Road added Scaled Quail and another Curve-billed Thrasher to our day list.  A drive to the Swallows cemetery was a disappointing bust.

The rest of our day was spent searching for Spotted Owls up and down Phantom Canyon (Fremont); without success.

June 20

Bryan and I camped at Beaver Creek Wildlife Area (Fremont) and heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl about an hour before sunrise!

In several hours at Temple Canyon Park (Fremont) we found a Gray Vireo, two Gray Flycatchers, a flock of 10 Pinyon Jays and a Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Misses in Fremont County on our way to Chaffee County included the Western Screech-Owls along the Arkansas Riverwalk, the Black-throated Sparrows along Hwy 120, the Black Phoebe at Florence River Park, the Green Heron at the Holcim Marsh, and any owls at Red Canyon Park.

June 21

Bryan and I birded mostly Chaffee County today.  We started several hours before sunrise and relocated two Northern Saw-whet Owls on the BLM Land north of the Buena Vista overlook.  Our "owl listening stations" picked up another two east of the overlook.

Four Black-throated Gray Warblers were at the Buena Vista Overlook.

Lewis's Woodpeckers were relocated at North Pleasant Street in Buena Vista.  One of the Eastern Phoebes was still hanging around the Sands Lake Wildlife Area.

Gray Jays and an American Three-toed Woodpecker were found at the closure gate (opened during summer) up Cottonwood Pass.

Twenty Pinyon Jays were relocated at Pinyon Hills.

The highlight was relocating the Grace's Warbler first found by Christian Nunes up Chaffee County Road 250!  After dark, we briefly heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Owling around Poncha Pass (Chaffee) was a bust as a thunderstorm blew through around 10:00 pm.

June 22

Bryan and I started our day about two hours before sunrise at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument (Alamosa).  A Western Screech-Owl responded to our call while we hiked around the northeastern Campgrounds.

After sunrise, we found Juniper Titmouse and four Pinyon Jays.  Then we headed to Zapata Falls (just outside of the park).  Only one Black Swift was seen flying around the falls.  Perhaps we arrived too late; they tend to fly off in search of food as the day progresses.  Several Pinyon Jays were also in the area.

Our trip continued south to John James Canyon (Conejos).  Sagebrush Sparrows were numerous (10).  Black-throated Sparrows (6) and Sage Thrashers (9) were not far behind in numbers.

Again, we had to deal with late afternoon Thunderstorms.  Owling produced no results.  We did not put out our "owl listening stations" which are too expensive to expose to rain.

June 23

We drove the Forest Roads north of Del Norte (Rio Grande) before temperatures rose.  On several stops, we hiked around looking for Bendire's Thrashers; without success.  Our excitement rose when a Curve-billed Thrasher was spotted; it took awhile to distinguish it from the rarer Bendire's.

An American Three-toed Woodpecker was spotted during a stop on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass (Mineral).  Two Black Swifts were observed flying around Treasure Falls.  Most likely, they nest behind the falls.

After dark, two Boreal Owls responded to our recordings played on the west side of the Pass.  A Dusky Grouse ran across the road as we pulled into Park Creek Campgrounds.  Later we heard a nearby Flammulated Owl.

June 24

We had to deal with thunderstorms off and on today.  In no particular order, we recorded in Mineral County:  Northern Saw-whet Owl (1) at West Fork Campgrounds; a Northern Pygmy-Owl at Wolf Creek Campgrounds; a Flammulated Owl at Big Meadows Campgrounds.

In Hinsdale County: a Dusky Grouse at Cimmarrona Campgrounds and an American Three-toed Woodpecker at Williams Creek Reservoir.

June 25

Highlights today included three American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a Dusky Grouse along Lime Creek Road and Ivy Campgrounds (Mineral).

Northern Pygmy-Owl, Warbling Vireo and Cordilleran Flycatcher at Palisade Campgrounds. (Mineral).

Another Dusky Grouse at North Clear Creek Campgrounds and two Grace's Warblers and a Flammulated Owl at South Clear Creek Campgrounds (Mineral).

June 26

More thunderstorms, won't they ever stop?  It has been quite a wet spring and summer.

Bryan and I birded one of my favorite places today; Slumgullion Pass and Campgrounds (Mineral).  We walked a couple of miles either side of the Summit and found a male White-winged Crossbill west of the Pass.  A Dusky Grouse was seen 1.2 miles east of the Pass's Summit.

After dark, we saw three Boreal Owls at the Campgrounds and may have heard another three (which were quite far from the Campgrounds).

June 27

Back in Hinsdale County, Bryan and I found an American Three-toed Woodpecker at Nellie Creek Trail.  After dark, we heard a Boreal Owl at Yellowstone Gulch (north of Capitol City).

Much hiking resulted in few uncommon bird sightings.  No seeing any vehicles or other people the whole day was a treat!

June 28

Bryan and my trek along Engineer Pass (Hinsdale/San Juan/Ouray Counties) was quite interesting today.  A 4-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to make this trip.  The scenery alone is worth the trip.  Birds are a nice bonus.

Today we birded from Capitol City to the North Fork Cutoff.  Highlights included:

Hinsdale County: two American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a Boreal Owl.

San Juan County (North Fork Cutoff): Northern Pygmy-Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker and four Brown-capped Rosy Finches.

Ouray County: Northern Pygmy-Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, two Brown-capped Rosy Finches.

Fantastic trip, no people, no cars, sounded by bird songs and clear air!

June 29

Today Bryan and I birded Cinnamon Pass from the North Fork Cutoff toward Lake City.

We made several long hikes.  I always wanted to add a White-tailed Ptarmigan to my Hinsdale County list.  Today we did it; however, it required a strenuous four mile hike to succeed!

To wind down afterwards, we walked around Burrows Park town site.  An American Three-toed Woodpecker was added to our day list.  Owling was again a bust as rain and some snow felt after dark.

June 30

Bryan and I turned around today and birded Animas Forks Ghost Town (San Juan).  A Long-eared Owl was a surprise (although I had one here a few years ago).

Our trip lead us south from the Ghost Town toward Silverton.  We found an American Three-toed Woodpecker while walking down Eureka Gulch Road. 

The long hike up Minnie Gulch Road added another White-tailed Ptarmigan to our trip list and our San Juan County list!

Owling was again a bust tonight.

July 1-3, 2015

Bryan and I were joined by Jacob Washburn, Ray Simmons, Rebecca Kosten, Sue Ehlmann, Dave & Mary King; we went to the Uncompahgre Plateau (Mesa).

Several unique habitats are found on the Plateua and they attract many birds. 

Over the three days we enjoyed some great birding and companionship, found:

Grace's Warblers (3) --Divide Forks
Williamson's Sapsucker (2) --Divide Forks
Lewis's Woodpecker (2) --Divide Forks
Flammulated Owl (2) --Windy Point to Columbine Campgrounds
American Three-toed Woodpecker (4) --Windy Point to Columbine Campgrounds
Northern Saw-whet Owl (1) --Jacks Canyon
Northern Pygmy-Owl (1) --Jacks Canyon
Flammulated Owl (1) --Jacks Canyon
Grace's Warbler (2) --Jacks Canyon
Williamson's Sapsucker (2) --Telephone Trail
Grace's Warbler (3) --Telephone Trail
Purple Martin (2) --north of Telephone Trail
Northern Pygmy-Owl (1) --north of Telephone Trail

July 4, 2015

The CoBus group celebrated the 4th in Delta with a huge barbecue and a rest from birding!

July 5-8, 2015

The CoBus group switched to the Grand Mesa (Mesa/Delta Counties) for these four days and nights.

Highlights included:

White-winged Crossbill (male) --Mesa/Delta County Line
American Three-toed Woodpecker (2) --Visitor's Center
Boreal Owl (2) --Visitor's Center
Boreal Owl (2) --Grand Mesa Lodge area
Northern Saw-whet Owl (1) --North of Island Lake
Dusky Grouse (adult, 3 young) --Skyway trail
Boreal Owl (1) --Spruce Grove Campgrounds
Boreal Owl (2) --south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds
Northern Saw-whet Owl (1) --Spruce Grove Campgrounds
Northern Pygmy-Owl (2) --Powderhorn Ski Area
American Three-toed Woodpecker (2) --Powderhorn Ski Area
Northern Saw-whet Owl    (2, locations) --north of Powderhorn Ski Area

July 9

Several birders returned to Denver while Bryan and I continued north with Douglas Pass (Garfield) as a goal.

We spent most of the day in Mesa County around Vega Reservoir and Collbran.  Vega Reservoir was slow.  We relocated a Black Phoebe and Least Flycatcher along Pe 3/10 Road.  However, we could not find the Purple Martins reported up Buzzard Divide (CR 71 4/10).

Jerry Creek Reservoirs were also slow.  Not finding any Chukar, we continued north to Coal Canyon (Mesa).  Three Chukar and two Pinyon Jay were found over the hill at the second pipe gate parking area.  Black-throated Sparrows and Rock Wrens were numerous.

A Townsend's Warbler was at a pullover just south of the Summit.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found at an owl box used in previous years.

After dark, we found two Flammulated Owls near the Summit.  No Boreal Owls were encountered.

July 10

One of the Flammulated Owls was not found until after midnight of 7/9.  We went back for photos of the Northern Saw-whet Owl at sunrise.

Continuing north again, we searched unsuccessfully for the previously reported Scott's Oriole and Sharp-tailed Grouse along CR 123 and the road to Deer Lodge Park (Moffat).

We found no place to owl and retired early for a change.

July 11

Gray Vireo and ten Pinyon Jay were encountered along the Dinosaur National Monument Service Road (Moffat).

We thought about going for Ruff Grouse at Wild and Hoy Mountains.  Several inquiries led us to believe that with all the rain this spring/summer the area would be difficult to maneuver.  The plan was abandoned.  They were a lifebird for Bryan, but not for me.

Instead we explored Black Mountain (Moffat), perhaps the reported Black-backed Woodpecker could be relocated?  In reality, birding was quite slow.  We found one Dusky Grouse and a slate colored Fox Sparrow.  It was disappointing to find zero woodpeckers.

A thunderstorm quenched any idea of owling.

We searched the infamous "owling spot" near Maybell, found no owls.

July 12

At first light we drove Moffat County Road 3 searching for grouse and sparrows.  On two separate occasions, we observed Greater Sage-Grouse crossing the road (near the Timberlake Lek area).

A greater surprise was a Sharp-tailed Grouse perched on a fence post along Moffat County Road 2.  Other surprises included a pair of Grasshopper Sparrows along CR 2 and the most northern Sagebrush Sparrow that I have seen along 101 Road.

Vesper Sparrows were numerous along both roads.  Our count was well over 200 birds.

A brief stop at Loudy Simpson Park (Moffat) found few birds.  Least Flycatchers have been reported here in the summer.

Our birding day extended into Monday with owling near De Beque (Garfield).  We found single Northern Saw-whet Owls at two locations.  Our "owl listening stations" picked up a third one.

July 13

A drive up the Colorado River Road (Eagle) found Juniper Titmouse and Bushtits.  We turned off at CR 600 and took it to White Owl Lake (Garfield).

American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at three stops (one in Eagle County, two in Garfield County).

Two Barrow's Goldeneyes were on White Owl Lake when we arrived.  After dark, two Flammulated Owls and three Boreal Owls responded to our recordings.

July 14

Bryan and I continued east and headed to Mt of the Holy Cross.  Four American Three-toed Woodpeckers were come across along Eagle County Road 707.  A Dusky Grouse was about a mile north of the Campgrounds.

For a change, no thunderstorms rolled in this evening.  We went owling after dark and found a Northern Pygmy-Owl north of the Campgrounds.  Two Flammulated Owls were observed (!) along Notch Mountain Creek.

July 15

Birding was quite interesting in Eagle County today.  An adult and three young Dusky Grouse were encountered along Gold Park Road.  A pair of Purple Martin (most likely nesting) were discovered along Homesteak Creek.  A rare daylight sighting of a Northern Pygmy-Owl was also along Homesteak Creek.

After dark we heard two Flammulated Owls along Missouri Creek Road.

The idea of finding a White-tailed Ptarmigan along the trail to the top of Mt Holy Cross was tempting.  In the end, the lack of time squelched the idea.  I had found a White-tailed Ptarmigan when climbing Mt Holy Cross years ago.  It would have been a new county bird for Bryan.  Photographs would have been nice.

July 16

Bryan and I ended our long western slope trek with a drive up Shrine Pass Road (Summit County).  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to a recording.  American Three-toed Woodpeckers (2) and a pair of Pine Grosbeaks were also observed along the road.

The highlight was definitely a male White-winged Crossbill flying overhead at one of the stops!

Owling was again a bust.  A thunderstorm rolled in shortly after dusk.  Shrine Pass Road became a mess of mud and water.

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