Monday, March 14, 2016

Abbreviated Grouse Trip

February 29-March 4, 2016

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I made an abbreviated Grouse Trip.

February 29

Terry Michaels and I headed up to Cameron Pass shortly after midnight.  Boreal Owls were heard within 0.2 miles east and west of the Summit.

At first light, we were parked at Jackson County Road 26b.  Three Greater Sage-Grouse finally walked from the south side of the road to the lek on the north side.  It was our first display birds of 2016.

Later, we stopped at a friend's home in Steamboat Springs and observed two Sharp-tailed Grouse lingering in her yard.  Eventually they crossed Anglers Drive and walked down to Spring Creek.

No Waxwings or Barrow's Goldeneyes were found along the Yampa River trail during a three hour hike.

We backtracked to Rabbit Ears Pass (Routt); unfortunately, no American Three-toed Woodpeckers or Crossbills were found this afternoon.

No Boreal or Northern Pygmy-Owls called after dark.

March 1

After a couple of hours sleep, Terry and I drove to the 20 Mile Road Leks (Routt).  About 10 minutes before sunrise, four Sharp-tailed Grouse flew from the east side of 27 road to the leks just west of the road!

Note: We have not been able to understand why the leks are "20 Mile Road" leks when they are located along 27 Road?

After looks at the Sharp-tailed Grouse, we headed to the 80 Route Leks.  Birds usually display for quite a while after sunrise; this allows time to visit both areas.

Snowdrifts did not allow us to drive north to the old Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands.  We scoped the hills from the 2nd cattle guard and could see Greater Sage-Grouse in the distance.

Sharp-tailed Grouse were never observed; however, we could hear quite a few performing their "mating dance".

While watching the Greater Scaup, Terry turned around and whispered, Dusky Grouse.  The resident Dusky Grouse popped out of the bushed near the 2nd cattle guard and boomed!

After breakfast in Craig, and a detour to the Yampa River & Hwy 13 (no Barrow's Goldeneyes or Long-tailed Duck around), we continued West to Oxbow State Trust Lands.

The Trust Lands close after February 28/29.  However, we scoped the land to the south of the parking area and found both a Sagebrush Sparrow and two Sage Thrashers.

No Black-throated Sparrows were found, or expected this early in the year.

We returned to Craig and searched Loudy Simpson Park (Moffat).  Few birds were around.

Then we headed north to the Timberlake Leks.  Shortly after sunset, two Greater Sage-Grouse walked out of the sage and displayed.  We did not hang around until dark; instead drove toward Rifle (Garfield).

March 2

Terry caught from sleep while I drove to the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  Today was one long day, but quite successful.

We found Boreal Owls at two pullovers south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds (Mesa).  Our trek was from Powderhorn Ski Area to the Grand Mesa Visitor's Center.

While playing Boreal Owl recording at the Spruce Grove Campgrounds, a Northern Saw-whet Owl called.  Unfortunately, we could not locate it even though the owl appeared to be close.

An hour before sunrise we walked around the Powderhorn Ski Area.  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings.  No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found after sunset.  It could be that it was too cold and we did not wait for the day to warm up.

Our next stop was Coal Canyon (at Cameo).  Luck was with us here.  A Chukar was calling when we stepped out of the car!  We finally saw it by scoping the hillside southwest of the big parking area at the second pipe gate!

Still no Black-throated Sparrows were found.  March is too early to expect them.

We decided to skip the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) and instead drive the Brewster's Ridge area.  Armed with GPS waypoints from previous birders, we eventually found three Sagebrush Sparrows from the Colorado State Line and Brewster's Ridge proper.

Later, we relocated the Long-eared Owl that the Vollmars had found on 2/28! (They were at their traditional nesting spot).

We detoured down Escalante Canyon (Delta/Mesa) to search for additional Chukar and Black Phoebe.  One Black Phoebe was along Escalante Creek (near Pinnacle Rock).

Again with the help of GPS waypoints, we relocated two Lewis's Woodpeckers (Escalante Forks) and four Pinyon Jays.  No additional Chukar was found.

We detoured over to Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).  No shorebirds or Sandhill Crane was around yet.  We hoped for an early swallow (none found).  Two Lewis's Woodpeckers were found along M Road when we drove back to Delta.

The Western Screech-Owl was not around at its G50 Road nesting.  We headed to Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).

The South Rim Road was closed at the Visitor's Center.  It appears that it will continue to be closed for weeks.  The western end of the drive is the most successful location to find Dusky Grouse.

Instead, we parked at the intersection of the South Rim Drive and the road to the ranger's home.  About 5 minutes after sunset, one male Dusky Grouse walked down to the main road.  He walked around for 10 minutes, however, never displayed.

March 3

Terry Michaels and I drove CR 887.  Two Gunnison Sage-Grouse were observed north of the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.  More birds should appear later in the season.  We could not determine if they will use the old Waunita Hot Springs Lek this year.

We stopped at the Monarch Summit Pullover (Chaffee).  The area is always a great location to find American Three-toed Woodpeckers.  It did not disappoint today.  Male American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found drumming on both the north and south side of Highway 50!

While we were running down the Three-toed Woodpecker on the south side, a flock of seven Gray-crowned Rosy Finches flew overhead.

The Curve-billed Thrashers that nest in Canon City were not found today.

Fortunately, we did find a Curve-billed Thrasher on the road into Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont).  Other birds observed included a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Juniper Titmice and half a dozen Bushtits.

After dark, we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl at Juno Oro (Phantom Canyon Road).  Then we relocated the Spotted Owl farther north up Phantom Canyon.  It was calling when we stopped.  NOTE: recordings are not allowed to be played for this species).

March 4

After a couple of hours sleep in Canon City, Terry & I explored Beaver Creek Wildlife Area.  Highlight was a calling Northern Pygmy-Owl.  A flock of six-eight Wild Turkeys walked around the northern parking area.

We returned to Canon City for breakfast.  Afterwards we stopped at the Arkansas Riverwalk (Fremont).  The Western Screech-Owl near the Raynolds Avenue parking area was sunning itself when we arrived.

We decided to skip the drive to Pueblo and instead returned to Denver by way of Highway 115.

Big Johnson Reservoir (El Paso) was too far to the east.  We continued to Denver to avoid as much traffic as possible.

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