Monday, March 14, 2016

Brief Grouse Trip to the Eastern Plains

March 9-10, 2016

Richard Stevens:

Marcus Lane and I started out for a short eastern plains' Grouse Trip.  He had to be back in Denver on Friday night for a wedding rehearsal dinner.

March 9

We arrive at the Yuma County 45 Road Lek about an hour before sunrise.  Shortly after sunrise, three Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed dancing on the lek.

This lek is on private land and observed from a County Road.  The birds are quite far from CR 45.  They can be identified with a good scope.

Later birding around Wray, we found a few nice birds.  A male Northern Cardinal and a Marsh Wren were found at Stalker Pond.

The resident Barn Owl was observed in the windbreak along the road into the Wray Fishing Unit.

Sparrows were scarce.  Song Sparrows were the only species encountered on this trip.

Beecher Island was slow.  No uncommon birds were found.

Bonny Reservoir (now Republican Wildlife Area, Yuma County) was a little more interesting.

Our second male Northern Cardinal of the day was in the firs around the old boat ramp at Wagon Wheel.

Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers wandered along CR 4 at Hale Ponds.  Eastern Bluebirds were below the Bonny Reservoir dam.

I managed to entice an Eastern Screech-Owl out of his tree north of the Republican River at Hale Ponds.

We had a long drive to Springfield and Comanche National Grasslands (Baca). 

We arrived at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) at 2 A.M.  A calling Western Screech-Owl surprised us at the Carrizo Creek Campgrounds.

March 10

Marcus and I continued to Comanche National Grasslands southeast of Campo.  We parked and caught a couple of hours of sleep.  Terry Michaels and I discovered this Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek a few weeks ago.

Marcus and I were fortunate to see two male Lesser Prairie-Chickens performing their mating dance (just before sunrise).  They could be heard a good 30 minutes prior.

Afterwards we stopped at the gravel road that goes north across Baca County Road G from the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek.  A Burrowing Owl had been seen about 0.1 miles east of here.

We scoped up the entrance road to the old lek; however, no sparrows were observed.  Then we hiked the field on the north side of CR G for about an hour before finding our target bird.

A male Cassin's Sparrow performed its mating flight!  It beats the old "first date sighting" by two days.  the 3/12/2015 sighting was in the same field (Stevens & Ehlmann).

Other early dates include: 3/16/2002 at the Campo Lek (Andrew Spencer); 3/17/2012 at the Campo Lek (Bryan Ehlmann).

Marcus and I returned to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) and hiked from the Campgrounds to 1.4 miles east and back.  The highlight was an Eastern Phoebe along Carrizo Creek.

Other birds found included 4 Rufous-crowned Sparrows (rocky hillside at 1.4 mile mark), half a dozen Canyon Towhees, Chihuahuan Ravens, one Lewis's Woodpecker, Spotted Towhees, Greater Roadrunner (heard only), Wild Turkey (20+), Wood Ducks, Bewick's Wrens, and Canyon Wrens.

A male and female Ladder-backed Woodpecker were found up the draw at 0.8 miles west of the Campgrounds.

Misses: no warblers, buntings or goatsuckers.

We returned to Denver by way of Highway 71 and Hwy 70 (not many birding spots along the way).

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