Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Southeastern Colorado Trip

July 23-27, 2016

We considered today the end of our Western slope trip and the beginning of a Southeastern tour.  Most afternoons we experienced short rain storms and winds 12+ mph.  During these storms it was oddly calm.

July 23

Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area in Sugarite Canyon is entered by way of New Mexico Road 526 which turns into Las Animas CR 85.5.  Lake Dorothey is filled by Schwachheim Creek.

Our target bird was a Black-billed Cuckoo that had been reported a few days earlier.  It was not found; however, we did encounter a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  As in most cases, if it had not called, its presence would not have been detected.

An Eastern Phoebe was near the southern parking area.  Two Lewis's Woodpeckers flew about the northwest corner of the lake.  Late in the afternoon we discovered a Northern Saw-whet Owl along the west fork of the Schwachheim Creek.

Other birds recorded included Cordilleran Flycatchers, Bewick's Wren, Plumbeous Vireo, Willow Flycatcher, nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and House Wrens.

After dark, we continued east to a friend's ranch in Baca County.

July 24

After late thunderstorms, the morning was fantastic.  Clear skies and calm winds greeted us at Picture Canyon (Baca).  We hiked down Picture Canyon to the Oklahoma border than west to North Canyon.

Highlights for the 4 mile hike included: one pair of Painted Buntings continues, 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers, 2 Eastern Phoebes near the Indian pictographs, many American Kestrels and Western Meadowlarks.

We could not confirm a report of a male Vermilion Flycatcher near the spring in North Canyon.  Several Northern Mockingbirds were encountered between Picture and North Canyons.

Our birding day ended at the Upland Bird Management Area.  Several Cassin's Sparrows were within a quarter mile of the parking area.  No Short-eared Owls appeared this evening.

July 25

We stayed overnight at a friend's ranch in Baca County.  In the morning we visited Cottonwood Canyon and found the usual suspects: 4 Eastern Phoebes, 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos, 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows, 4 Mississippi Kites, Bewick's Wrens, Cooper's Hawk, Downy, Hairy & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers and Chihuahuan Ravens.

We planned to stay the night in Las Animas County.  Bill Meyers and I returned to Cottonwood Canyon in the late afternoon.  He wanted to see a Western Screech-Owl.  Fortunately the bird cooperated and Bill enjoyed satisfying looks.

The highlight for me however was a singing male Kentucky Warbler near my favorite Rufous-crowned Sparrow spot (1.4 miles east of East Carrizo Creek & CR J).  We spent the night at a ranch in Las Animas County.

July 26

Today we decided to explore Las Animas County Road 177.9.  Two Scott's Orioles were reported along it in June.  Unfortunately, we did not find any today.

We did find four Pinyon Jays, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow and 4 Chihuahuan Ravens at the Scott's Oriole location.

I had to give a bird talk at a nearby dude ranch; it cut our birding day short.

July 27

Bill Meyers and I returned to Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area (Las Animas) today.  The Black-billed Cuckoo was again missed; however, one Yellow-billed Cuckoo was relocated.

Bill and I hiked the four+ miles into James M John Wildlife Area (accessed through Lake Dorothey) and continued to Fisher's Peak.  Nothing uncommon was found until we entered Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area on the return trip.

A young first year male or adult female Hepatic Tanager searched for food on a Ponderosa Tree.

We also found a Northern Saw-whet Owl (not the same bird as 7/23.

On the drive to Trinidad, Rebecca and I observed a Greater Roadrunner run across Highway 160.  While trying to get a photo, we noticed a Mountain Plover about 20 yards into the field.  We had stopped just east of Highway 160 & San Francisco Creek.

July 28

We spent the night in Trinidad and visited the State Park (Las Animas) in the morning.  Not much was on the lake itself.

Highlights were a Black-throated Sparrow (our first for the county) and two Pinyon Jays; all located at the western Wildlife Area end of the property.

As we headed toward Denver and home, a detour into Custer County seemed beneficial to our trip list.  A Dusky Grouse was walking across Highway 165 when we arrived at the parking area for the South Creek trail.

A hike up the St. Charles trail for about a mile found an American Three-toed Woodpecker drumming on a snag.

On the trip down, a Flammulated Owl responded to our recordings.

Back east across Highway 165, we wandered down the South Creek Trail.  A Northern Saw-whet Owl responded to our recordings.  We were not able to see him.

Nothing responded to our recordings played at Davenport Campgrounds (Custer).

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