Friday, November 20, 2015

Trip Into the Mountains of Park, Chaffee & Gunnison Counties

November 14-17, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I made a short trip to Park, Chaffee and Gunnison Counties.  We encountered a variety of weather as is expected this time of year.  High wind speeds, blowing snow at times while at other times it was calm and sunny.  That is Colorado!

November 14
Terry Michaels and I headed down Highway 285 into Park County.  We stopped at various locations where Northern Pygmy-Owls have been reported in the last month.  Unfortunately, the only uncommon bird found was an American Three-toed Woodpecker at the Kenosha Pass Campgrounds (Park).

Detours to Spinney Mountain Reservoir & Eleven Mile Reservoir were not exciting.  No scoters were found.  A couple Common Loons (one each at both reservoirs) was the highlight.

A few Pinyon Jays were found around the Ruby Mountain parking lot (Chaffee County).

After dark, we set up two of our "owl listening stations" along County Road 300, and then drove north to the Buena Vista Overlook and the BLM Land north of there.  Eventually we found two Northern Saw-whet Owls north of the overlook.

The "owl listening stations" were ineffective.  Northern Saw-whet Owls are usually quiet during migration.  We would have been surprised it one had called.

November 15

Our birding day started late after staying up most of last night owling.  We drove around Buena Vista in search of Lewis's Woodpeckers and such.  Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were found along North Pleasant Street. 

The ice pond was a bust and we turned south.  Eight Pinyon Jays were observed flying around the west side of Highway 285 at approximately 3.0 miles south of Hwy 285 & Hwy 24.

At Hwy 285 & Hwy 50, we headed west to Monarch Pass.  We walked around the eastern side of the summit and found an American Three-toed Woodpecker both on the west and east sides of Hwy 50.  A flock of Rosy Finches (seventeen Gray crowned & four Brown capped) flew around the rest area.

Another flock of five Gray-crowned Rosy Finches flew around the Monarch Valley Ski Resort (Gunnison County).  Somewhere in this area, there probably are feeders that attract them all winter; we could not find it.

Late in the afternoon, we drove Gunnison County Road 804 (road to the Waunita Hot Springs Leks).  Regrettably, no Gunnison Sage-Grouse were found.

 November 16

Terry and I got up an hour before sunrise and drove Gunnison County Road 38.  Unfortunately, no Gunnison Sage-Grouse could be found.

Then we drove up Highway 135 to CR 730 to CR 7.  A snowshoe trip of less than 0.75 miles found two Gunnison Sage-Grouse at the Miller Ranch Wildlife Area.  This is a fantastic snowshoe trip for those birders with energy to burn.  The quietness of no traffic, only the wind blowing through the trees is mesmerizing.

Later we went owling up Highway 135 (along Gunnison CR 742 north of Almont).  Stops at four Campgrounds/picnic areas did not find any owls this night.

November 17

Early in the morning, Terry & I searched unsuccessfully for Rosy Finches in Crested Butte (Gunnison County).  Only a couple flew overhead, not landing anywhere.

The "Rosy Finch spot" north of Gunnison also did not provide looks at Rosy Finches today.

Forecasted approaching snowstorms made our decision to return to Denver an easy one. 

A quick detour to Spinney Mountain Reservoir & Eleven Mile Reservoir did not add new birds to our trip list.

We missed finding the resident American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls up Michigan Creek Road.

The Kenosha Pass American Three-toed Woodpecker was not found again today.

We tried to get up Guanella Pass road from the Grant side.  Road conditions were too slippery and snow started to fall.  High winds, cold temps and blowing snow canceled our owling for the night.

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