Monday, April 11, 2016

Yet Another Successful Grouse Trip

March 30-April 4, 2016

Richard Stevens:

March 30

Carl Grant, Kevin Sandstrom and I took off on a grouse trip.  I picked them up at DIA Airport late in the afternoon.

Our first stop was Loveland Pass where we found two White-tailed Ptarmigan below the west side of the Summit (Clear Creek County).

We found three species of Rosy Finches in Silverthorne (Summit).  Surprisingly no Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit) as we passed.

Snow was falling rapidly when we arrived at the Jackson County Road 26b Greater Sage-Grouse Lek.  No birds appeared this evening.  We had to stay in Walden in order to attempt another search tomorrow.

March 31

We sat at the Jackson County Road 26b Lek about 60 minutes before sunrise.  It was quite cold; fortunately, the skies had cleared after yesterday's snowstorm.

Eleven Greater Sage-Grouse came out of the snow covered sage and walked to the lek.  No females appeared this morning.

Our good fortune held.  When we drove the Angler Drive loop in Steamboat Springs (Routt) we spotted a lone Sharp-tailed Grouse walking down to the western draw.  The sighting satisfied by birding companions and we decided to not stay around to visit the Hayden Sharp-tailed Grouse Leks tomorrow morning.

We also decided to skip the long detour to Oxbow State Trust Lands.  The plan was to pick up Sagebrush Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows and Sage Thrasher later in our trip.

Sixty minutes before sunset, a lone Chukar called for us at Coal Canyon (Mesa).  A Black-throated Sparrow popped out of the gulch running along side of the road to the big parking area at the 2nd pipe gate!

Good fortune again on the Grand Mesa (Mesa).  Eventually we would find a Northern Pygmy-Owl (Powderhorn Ski Area), a Northern Saw-whet Owl (north of Powderhorn, at the switchbacks) and two Boreal Owls (first two pullovers south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds).

April 1

The three of us enjoyed a long and quite successful birding day.

Good birds for me included the Red-throated Loon at Highline Lake State Park (Mesa) and Long-tailed Duck at Redlands Parkway Ponds (Mesa).

The Western Screech-Owl was sunning himself when we stopped at Grand Junction Wildlife Area (Mesa).

We relocated the Burrowing Owls found by Ronda Woodward on 3/31 near Highway 50 and old Highway 6!

A drive along Baxter Pass Road (Mesa) was a success.  Two Sagebrush Sparrows, three Sage Thrashers and the Long-eared Owl were all relocated.

While driving through the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) Juniper Titmice, Pinyon Jays and Bushtits were all seen.

The detour over to Glade Park (Mesa) added three Lewis's Woodpeckers to our trip list. 

On the way to Montrose, we detoured again and found a Black Phoebe in Escalante Canyon (Delta).

Our birding day ended when we found a male Dusky Grouse displaying along the south rim drive at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).

April 2

An hour before sunrise, we visited Waunita Hot Springs (Gunnison).  Three Gunnison Sage-Grouse were displaying shorted after civil twilight.  We could hear them long before it was light enough to see them!

A detour to Buena Vista (Chaffee) found a Lewis's Woodpecker along Brookside Avenue.  On the drive along Highway 285 back to Highway 50, a flock of 10+ Pinyon Jays was found about 2 miles south of Buena Vista.

We stopped at the large pullover at the top of Monarch Pass (Chaffee).  Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were rather easy to find.

The Curve-billed Thrashers at a friend's home in Canon City (Fremont) were not around today.

We had to drive down the Swallows Road, Pueblo West (Pueblo).  Two Curve-billed Thrashers were in the yard of the gray house.  Two Scaled Quail walked along the west side of the road.

A visit to Pueblo Reservoir was skipped.  Our next stop was to be Blue Lake in Bent/Kiowa Counties.  On the trip in, a Mountain Plover was found along Bent County Road 10 (across/west of CR TT.

We scoped John Martin Reservoir (Bent) from the northeast corner and found nothing uncommon.  Hasty Campgrounds was quiet.

An early dinner in Lamar ended out birding day.

April 3

Our birding day started at a Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek on private land in Baca County.  Only three males appeared; however, that was better than none.

It took about 45 minutes to relocate a Cassin's Sparrow in the field north of the entrance to the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek.  A couple of Vesper Sparrows and a Brewer's Sparrow were also there.

South in Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) we found two Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a pair of Eastern Phoebes, Canyon Towhees, Rock Wrens, Chihuahuan Ravens, and a Bewick's Wren.

While driving North on Baca County Road 23, we saw two Mountain Plovers and two Long-billed Curlews.  Not quite as good as the 11 Mountain Plover and 16 Long-billed Curlew found by Kellner & Dunning the day before, however, we were happy to see any.

At Lamar Community College (Prowers), a Northern Cardinal was found at the southern end of the woods.  A Red-bellied Woodpecker was near the northern end.

We rolled into Bonny Reservoir and Hale Ponds with a couple of hours of daylight.  A Long-eared Owl was in the Foster's Grove Campgrounds windbreak.  Eight Wild Turkeys wandered the Campgrounds.

Four Red-bellied Woodpeckers were at Hale Ponds.  At dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl called from north of Hale Ponds.  We briefly put a spotlight on it!

April 4

Thirty minutes before sunrise, we sat at the Yuma County 45 Lek north of Wray, CO.  Five male Greater Prairie-Chickens were eventually observed dancing.  As far as we could tell, no female were among them.

Later we returned to the gas station across/west of the Sandhiller Motel.  The burritos there are fantastic.

A stop at Wray Fishing Unit (Yuma) added an Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird and a Barn Owl to our trip list.

A male Northern Cardinal was in the trees on the north side of Stalker Pond.

We had found all but one of our target birds.  Missing Short-eared Owls, I suggested driving north to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).

A Red-bellied Woodpecker wandered around the eastern Campgrounds. 

At dusk, we spread out (armed with radios) and scoped the fields east, south and west of the reservoir.  Around dusk, I spotted a Short-eared Owl flying back and forth across the field south of the reservoir!

Later, we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl in the woods along the north side of the reservoir.

Then we steered back to Denver.

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