Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Grouse Trip of 2016

May 18-23, 2016

Richard Stevens:

Jon Harris, Bill Monroe and I started out on my last Grouse Trip of 2016.  We missed most of the inclement weather experienced.  At times, we ran into high winds.

May 18

Our first stop was Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties).  After not finding White-tailed Ptarmigan below the east and west sides of the Summit and at the various pullovers to the south, we had to climb up the western trail.

Finally, we discovered two Ptarmigan south of the trail at approximately 0.6 miles up the steep mountain.

We found Brown-capped Rosy Finches and a few Gray-crowned Rosy Finch at a friend's home in Silverthorne (Summit) and continued to Jackson County.

A dozen male Greater Sage-Grouse appeared shortly after sunset at the Jackson County Road 26b lek.

May 19

We skipped the 20 Road Leks and for maximum results drove the 80 Route thirty minutes before sunrise.  The Dusky Grouse was out displaying when we got to the "infamous" cattle guard.

Three Greater Sage-Grouse displayed at on their lek farther north up the road.  It is getting late in the season; we were quite fortunate!

Four Sharp-tailed Grouse ran around their lek at the old Jimmy Dunn State Trust Land gate!

We passed some good birding spots in Craig and drove to Coal Canyon (Cameo) in Mesa County.

Only one Chukar was found (better than zero).  He was calling on the hillside southwest of the parking area at the second pipe gate.  Other birds included Black-throated Sparrows, two Pinyon Jays, Say's Phoebes and a few Mountain Bluebirds.

Two hours before sunset, we drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa).  The Northern Saw-whet Owl was again at its hole on our way up.

We missed American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Northern Pygmy-Owls at the Powderhorn Ski Area and continued to the Visitor's Center.

Two Boreal Owls were heard east of the Visitor's Center.

On the drive back down, (northward) we stopped at pullovers along Highway 65.  Boreal Owls were found at two stops south of the Campgrounds.  One of these we finally were able to see!

May 20

The three of us enjoyed a long and exhausting day of birding.

Our first stop was the Colorado National Monument (Mesa).  Black-throated Sparrows were heard just outside the southern (eastern) entrance.  An Ash-throated Flycatcher was at the Devils Kitchen picnic area.

Eventually we found a Gray Vireo at North 16.5 Road.  Black-throated Gray Warblers and Pinyon Jays were seen at the Campgrounds.

One of the two Black Phoebes was around "phoebe rock" near the Audubon Nature Center!

At Rabbit Valley just east of Utah, a Scott's Oriole was in the first grove of trees encountered south of I70.

A drive up Baxter Pass Road found 2+ Sagebrush Sparrows, 3 Sage Thrashers and the continuing Long-eared Owl.

Later we headed to the Uncompahgre Plateau (Mesa) and found a Grace's Warbler across from the Telephone Trail.  After dark, we enticed two Flammulated Owls to come within 10 yards of us (Telephone Trail).

A long drive was made to Cortez (Montezuma).

May 21

Just before sunrise, we drove to Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma).  We were fortunate again to find one Lucy's Warbler and another Gray Vireo.

We turned north to reach Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) before dark.

A quick stop at Huck Finn Pond area in Durango (La Plata) found a Lewis's Woodpecker.  We missed the Black Phoebes.

A short stop at Coal Bank Pass (San Juan) added an American Three-toed Woodpecker to our bird list.

We reached the National Park about an hour before sunset.  Eventually three male Dusky Grouse were found along the South Rim Drive.  No females appeared.

May 22

An hour before sunrise our troupe drove down Gunnison County Road 887.  Two Gunnison Sage-Grouse crossed the road and we caught in our headlights.  My birding companions were satisfied and we did not stop at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek (required waiting hours for birds, if any, to leave before we could).

Two American Three-toed Woodpeckers were observed drumming at the Monarch Pass pullover.  We only stopped for 20 minutes and continued east.

Our good fortune continued at Pueblo County Road IL.  We found both a Curve-billed Thrasher and a Mountain Plover not far up the road.  We have no idea if the Mountain Plover stays in the area, as it seemed to be late to be so far south?

A call from Jacob Washburn informed us that no Lesser Prairie-Chickens were found at the Baca County Lek or the Elkhart, Kansas Leks.  The decision to skip the 300+ mile drive was made, we continued back to Denver.

I talked Jon & Bill into a short detour once reaching south Denver.  It was only short 7 mile drive west to Dekoevand Park (Arapahoe).  The White-eyed Vireo was singing when we reached the spot it had been first found on 5/18.

After picking up some fast food, we continued to Wray (Yuma).

May 23

Just before sunrise, the three of us watched three Greater Prairie-Chickens dancing and jumping at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek.  It was the second latest date I have found them (latest: 5/26).  The late date maybe because birders seldom look for them after the middle of May.

A quick stop at Stalker Pond (Yuma) did not find the Caspian Tern or Bell's Vireo reported on 5/20.  We did see Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Phoebe & Eastern Bluebirds.

I rushed my birding friends to Denver International Airport.

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