Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yet Another Grouse Trip

May 1-7, 2016

Four of us set out on another Grouse Trip.  We only had a couple of different sightings from my previous 2016 Trips.  Weather was a little better than the last trip; however, we did see some snow and rain.

May 1
Bob Kraft (Minnesota birder), Terry & Liz Rodgers (Wisconsin) and I took off before sunrise to beat the Sunday traffic into the mountains.

On the way to my favorite White-tailed Ptarmigan spot on Loveland Pass (hillside to east of Highway 6 at first pullover on west side of Highway 6), Bob pointed out a White-tailed Ptarmigan. 

One of the easier Ptarmigan searches (for a change), the bird walked the ridge on the north side of Hwy 6, about 300 yards before the pullover.  Later we found another across from the pullover below the ridge.

Back at the Summit, we scoped for additional Ptarmigan, without success.  About 100+ Brown-capped Rosy Finches circled overhead.  What a bonus treat that was.

Later we found three species of Rosy Finches at a friend's yard in Summit County.   No Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit).

At Kremmling we detoured east to Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand County).   At least 20 Barrow's Goldeneyes swam near the northern end.  Some Common Goldeneyes were also in the mix.

Our birding day ended while we watched 50+ Greater Sage-Grouse at the Jackson County Road 26b Lek.

May 2
Just before sunrise we parked at the 20 Road Lek (Routt).  Eventually ten Sharp-tailed Grouse flew from the east side of the road and displayed on the western side!

Next we drove over to the 80 Route.  A male Dusky Grouse was displaying near the second cattle guard (its usual spot).

The road had a few spots with drifted snow; our Ford Expedition had no problem getting through them.

About fourteen Greater Sage-Grouse danced around their lek (see Colorado Birding Society's website for directions:

Seven Sharp-tailed Grouse were spotted running around the sage at the old Jimmy Dunn State Trust Lands lek.  A Golden Eagle flew by while we watched the Sharp-tailed Grouse.

Nothing uncommon was found on Perch Pond (Moffat) while we drove between Craig and Rifle.  Our next stop was Coal Canyon (Cameo, Mesa County). 

Several Black-throated Sparrows and a Gray Flycatcher were around the large parking area at the second iron pipe gate.  I played a Chukar recording and a Chukar hopped up on a large rock southwest of the parking lot.

We then headed to the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  My usual route is to drive to the Visitor's Center, wait until dark and backtrack toward I70.  Then we stopped at several pullovers looking for Boreal Owls.

On the trip up, we stopped at a Northern Saw-whet Owl nest I had found on previous trips.  A stop at Powderhorn Ski Area did not find any Northern Pygmy-Owls or American Three-toed Woodpeckers.

After dark, we drove back from the Visitor's Center and eventually found a Boreal Owl at the second pullover south of the Spruce Grove Campgrounds.

A stop at the Grand Mesa Lodge did not find any Boreal Owls or previously reported Western Screech-Owl.

May 3
A "day of rest", we did not get up until just before sunrise.

Black-throated Sparrows were found along the Devil's Kitchen trail, Colorado National Monument (Mesa).

Black-throated Gray Warblers, four Pinyon Jays, three Juniper Titmice and White-throated Swifts were around the Colorado National Monument Campgrounds.

A stop at Connected Lakes State Park added a Western Screech-Owl to our trip list.  The Long-tailed Duck was still on the Redlands Parkway Ponds.

The "famous" Phoebe Rock area added a Black Phoebe to our bird list.

The Black-bellied Plover and Bonaparte's Gull found yesterday by Jason Beason were not found by us today.

We had to drive down Baxter Pass Road (Mesa) to find two Sagebrush Sparrows, half a dozen Sage Thrashers and the resident Long-eared Owl.

Then we turned south to Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).  The only Lewis's Woodpecker found was along Meyer's Road.  None was at Evelyn Horn's yard or Eckert Post Office.

Our birding day ended at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  Unfortunately the gate was still closed at the Visitor's Center.  Best Dusky Grouse locations are farther west.  However, we did find one male Dusky Grouse walking along the South Rim Road at 200 yards west of the Campgrounds entrance.

May 4
Our birding day started at the Waunita Hot Springs area (Gunnison).  Four Gunnison Sage-Grouse eventually wandered near the lek.  Bird numbers are definitely down from early in 2016 and past years.

A stop at the pullover at the top of Monarch Pass relocated two male American Three-toed Woodpeckers. One was drumming on the north side of Highway 50, another the south side.

We found our Curve-billed Thrasher along Pueblo County Road IL.  Then continued east and south to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).

A Long-billed Curlew was found along CR 10 as we drove to Cottonwood Canyon.  Just after sunset, a Western Screech-Owl was found around the camping area.

May 5
We watched two Lesser Prairie-Chickens come to a lek in Baca County.  See previous posts about this "lek".

A stop and walk along the gravel road leading north from the old Campo Lek added 2 Cassin's Sparrows as well as Clay-colored, Brewer's, Vesper, Grasshopper and White-crowned Sparrows to our trip list.

Then we returned to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  In several hours we found:
Tennessee Warbler, Gray Flycatcher, 2 Mississippi Kites, 4 Eastern Phoebes, 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows and a male Northern Cardinal (Planer:Trainer, 5/2).

Other birds found included: Canyon Towhees, Bewick's Wrens, Chihuahuan Ravens, Rock Wrens, Ladder-backed Woodpecker (pair), Say's Phoebe and Lark Sparrows and Song Sparrows.

Unfortunately we had an appointment in Wray (200 miles to the north).  It hurts to pass so many great birding spots along the drive.  Time did not allow for any lengthy stops.

May 6
While my birding companions went to a private Greater Prairie-Chicken Lek, I walked around Wray.  Nothing uncommon was found.  I did walk to three friend's homes to say "hi".

The reward was three male and a female Northern Cardinals (spread over two yards), a Broad-winged Hawk and a red form Fox Sparrow.  Nothing uncommon was found at Wray City Park.

After reuniting with my birding friends the four of us explored around Wray (Yuma).

At the Wray Fishing Unit we found two Eastern Phoebes, two Eastern Bluebirds a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Barn Owl.

At nearby Stalker Pond we added a Baltimore Oriole and two Northern Cardinals to our trip list.

Then we headed north to Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  An Upland Sandpiper was on a fence post along Highway 138 (Logan). 

Not much was on Jumbo Reservoir; the highlight was a Common Tern that flew by several times.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker rattled in the Campgrounds.  A Long-eared Owl was found while scoping below Logan County Road 95 (northwest corner of Jumbo).  We hoped to find a Least Bittern or Green Heron (did not).

A Short-eared Owl flew over the fields south of Jumbo Reservoir at dusk.  The resident Eastern Screech-Owl called from north of Jumbo Reservoir.

The guys insisted on a rest so their birding day ended.  We continued on to Sterling.  I went out by myself and did some owling.   No owls were found at Overland Park (Logan).  I did coax an Eastern Screech-Owl to call at Pioneer Park.

May 7
While the others ate breakfast, I wandered over to the South Platte River at Highway 6.  A few Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Tree Swallows and one Violet-green Swallow hawked insects over the river.  No Purple Martins appeared.  I checked the parks and cemetery for Mississippi Kites; none was found.

Our trek continued west to Briggsdale (Weld).  A Mountain Plover was in the field west of Weld County Road 79 when we drove down it for about a mile.

Crow Valley Campgrounds (Weld) was interesting.  We eventually found a Least Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe and the lingering Red-bellied Woodpecker.  More common Brown Thrasher, House Wrens and White-crowned Sparrows were scattered around.  No warblers were found.

A quick detour to Weld County Road 96 (three miles north of Crow Valley Campground) found one Chestnut-collared Longspur and many McCown's Longspurs east of County Road 69.

Our plan had been to look for shorebirds at Lower Latham Reservoir and Beebe Draw Ponds (Weld).  A radio report of the tornado 20 miles southwest of Lower Latham Reservoir and moving northeast changed our plans.  We headed south as rapidly as possible.

One final stop, Barr Lake (Adams) ended our birding trip.  We encountered:
    Black-and-white Warbler --mile 8.8
    Cassin's Kingbird --mile 8.9
    Barn Owl --banding station
    Eastern Bluebird (3 male) --southwestern end of the Niedrach Trail

Oh, we did pick up two Burrowing Owls at 3rd Creek & West Cargo Road on the way to the airport (not literally :-)

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