Thursday, March 17, 2016

Western Half of My Grouse Trip

March 14-16, 2016

March 14

Marcus Lane and I finished the western half of my Grouse Tour.  Itinerary was based on current weather conditions across Colorado.  We were quite fortunate to miss several snowstorms blowing across the State!  Winds were 18-28 mph most days.  As luck would have it our target birds stayed put.

Marcus had to return home on Thursday.  We skipped many good birding locations to use our time efficiently.

Our trip was timed to be at Cameron Pass four hours before sunrise.  We located a Boreal Owl just west of the Summit and continued west.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, we arrived at the Jackson County Road 26 Greater Sage-Grouse Leks.  Temperatures were in the high 20s.  Two Greater Sage-Grouse walked across CR 26b.  They did not display; perhaps discouraged by the cold and snowy morning.

A stop at the Maintenance Shed Road on Rabbit Ears Pass added both a female American Three-toed Woodpecker and eight Red Crossbills to our trip list.  Unfortunately, no White-winged Crossbills were encountered.

We continued on to Steamboat Springs (Routt) and Anglers Drive.  Eventually one Sharp-tailed Grouse was observed crossing the road and dropping down to the western draw.

Two Barrow's Goldeneyes were found on the Yampa River (north of the library).

A drive up Routt County Road 44 did not find any Rosy Finches.

We rushed out of Routt & Moffat Counties and down to Rifle, then Grand Junction.  A major snowstorm was predicted for both counties.  Note: we missed the storm by a few hours!

March 15

We arrived on the Grand Mesa (Mesa) just before midnight.  Shortly thereafter, we heard Boreal Owls at Spruce Grove Campgrounds and the first pullover to the south.   A Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard at the Powderhorn Ski Area.  We were able to get a brief look at it.

After a few hours of needed sleep, Marcus and I hit many birding locations around Grand Junction today.  Winds again were 20+ mph.  At least, it did not snow.

Our first stop was Coal Canyon.  Two Chukar were again found on the hillside southwest of the large parking area at the second pipe gate.

The Western Screech-Owl was out of his tree when we made a brief stop before continuing to Baxter Pass (Mesa).

Baxter Pass added two Sagebrush Sparrows (near the old corral) and a Long-eared Owl near the major road intersection.

We continued by way of Brewster's Ridge to return to Interstate 70.  Another Sagebrush Sparrow and two Sage Thrashers were found along the way.

Finally we left Grand Junction (skipping the Colorado National Monument) and ended driving west up Escalante Canyon.

While additional Chukar were a possibility, none was found.  The Black Phoebe was relocated near Pinnacle Rock (Stevens:Michaels, 3/2). 

We continued to the Captain Smith camp to view a little history.  Rumor has it the Butch Cassidy gang had their hidden camp here.  Three Lewis's Woodpeckers were found at Escalante Forks. 

An hour before sunset we drove to the Visitor's Center at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  The south rim drive is closed here (unfortunately as the best Dusky Grouse sites are near the west end of the drive).

We drove back and forth to the entrance kiosk and Visitor's Center twice.  On the second return trip, a male Dusky Grouse was found walking along the road perhaps 200 yards west of the Campgrounds entrance.

March 16

Marcus and I were at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek an hour before sunrise.  Instead of parking we continued north up the road.  On the drive back to the Lek, we found two Gunnison Sage-Grouse crossing 887 road (about 100 yards north of the Lek parking area).

We continued to Canon City with a detour to Buena Vista.  A flock of 40 Pinyon Jays was west of Hwy 285, just south of the City.  A Lewis's Woodpecker was found along Brookside Avenue in Buena Vista.

A quick stop at the Monarch Pass pullover found a male American Three-toed Woodpecker drumming on the south side of Hwy 50.

When we arrived in Canon City, the Western Screech-Owl was out of his tree at Raynolds Avenue (Fremont).  A Black Phoebe was later found east of the Sells Pond parking area.

We could not find any Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at Lakeside Cemetery or Rouse Park.  A friend of mine has nesting Curve-billed Thrashers in his yard.  We were lucky to see one of them on a nest.

We ended our birding day and trip with a drive up Phantom Canyon.  Regrettably, no Spotted or Northern Saw-whet Owls called this night.  Winds were over 20 mph.

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