Sunday, June 19, 2016

Boreal Owl Count and Successful Detours

June 14-18, 2016

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I drove up to Jackson County to conduct my 2016 Boreal Owl count.  Temperatures were not much cooler in Jackson County.  The 80s up there were hot; however, not as bad as the low 90s on the plains.

June 14

Terry Michaels and I headed up to Jackson County by way of Pennock Pass (Larimer County).  A stop at a friend's ranch near Loveland found one Northern Saw-whet Owl.  They have nested on his property for the past six years.

Eventually we found two Flammulated Owls along CR 44h.

One Boreal Owl was 0.2 miles east of Cameron Pass in Larimer County.

June 15

Four hours before sunrise, we heard a Boreal Owl while we walked along highway 14, 0.1 miles west of the Cameron Pass summit.

A couple of hours before sunrise we walked up Ruby Jewell Road in the Colorado State Forest.  A Flammulated Owl was heard around the clearing approximately 0.2 miles east of Jackson County Road 41.

A Boreal Owl was found about another 0.5 miles up (east) the road.

Back at the Colorado State Forest Visitor's Center, we relocated the male American Three-toed Woodpecker on the north side of highway 14.  His distinct drumming gave his location away.

While we would not find Boreal Owls at Ranger Lakes, we did see an American Three-toed Woodpecker about 30 minutes before sunset.

During the day, we checked 38 owl boxes.  All were empty.

At one time, I had 154 owl boxes in the Colorado State Forest.  Regrettably, tree harvesting has greatly reduced that number to a little over 100.

June 16

Terry and I continued our Boreal Owl count.  The boxes closer to roads were checked yesterday.  Today owl box inspections required longer hikes into the forest.

Eventually we checked 31 boxes.  None was occupied by an owl.  We did have one American Kestrel family and one chipmunk.

To rest our legs, we walked the Crags Campgrounds after dark.  One Boreal Owl was heard along the fire road south of the Campgrounds.

June 17

Our plan today was to drive highway 14 back toward Fort Collins and search for owls at the many picnic areas and Campgrounds along the route.

Our count was two Northern Pygmy-Owls, one Flammulated Owl and four Great Horned Owls (three may have been one family).

We had planned to stay around the Larimer County Road 5 area and search for Baird's Sparrows late in the afternoon. 

However, hearing about a Western Gull at Prewitt Reservoir (Washington County), we rushed to the reservoir.

On the trip over, we detoured at Washington County Road 56 and CR Q.  Two Dickcissels were singing along CR Q, only a few hundred yards east of CR 56.  Temperatures were in the 90s; we were surprised to see the Dickcissels so active.

At Prewitt Reservoir, the 2nd year Western Gull was standing on logs not far off the shore at the cove west of the Campgrounds.  We also found the reported Lesser Black-backed Gull.  A Thayer's Gull was our own find!

Photos of the Western Gull are posted on the Colorado Birding Society's photo library:

Mosquitoes were not bad and we decided bird the large reservoir.  Quite a few interesting birds were scattered around the surrounding riparian area.

Eventually we found one Baltimore Oriole, one Great Crested Flycatcher, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Yellow-billed Cuckoos (calling around dusk), and a Dusky Flycatcher.

After sunset, an Eastern Screech-Owl responded to our recording played near the western inlet.

We drove to Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) in the cool evening.

June 18

Just before sunrise, Terry and I drove the northern section of Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) in search of Sharp-tailed Grouse.  None was found this morning.

Eventually we did run across a Chestnut-collared Longspur and two Burrowing Owls along CR 96, east of CR 69.  We could not find the Black-throated Sparrow reported in the area the day before.

A Mountain Plover continued to roam the field along CR 79, south of Highway 14.

A female Mountain Plover and two young were observed at a nest we had been monitoring for a month! 

We scoped the field at Highway 14 & Weld County Road 114 and counted at least two male Chestnut-collared Longspurs displaying quite far from the road.  The Upland Sandpiper reported yesterday was not found.

Several hours were spent driving the northern Larimer County Roads (CR 5, CR 92, etc).  Eventually the effort was rewarded with a Baird's Sparrow sighting in the previously reported CR 92 location. 

Then we headed for Denver and home.

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