Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First Grouse Trip of 2017

March 2-6, 2017

Richard Stevens:

March 2
Three of us started on my first grouse trip of 2017.  Our first stop was Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County).  A White-tailed Ptarmigan was observed walking along the east-west ridge north of the first pullover south of the Pass and on the west side of Hwy 9.

We then stopped at a friend's home in Silverthorne (Summit) where 3 species of Rosy Finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and Clark's Nutcrackers were added to our short trip list.

On the trip north, Kremmling was searched unsuccessfully for Redpolls and Rosy Finches.  A Rough-legged Hawk and Golden Eagle were observed during the drive along Hwy 14 between Hwy 40 & Jackson County Road 26.

Our birding day ended at the Greater Sage-Grouse Leks off Jackson County Road 26b where three birds were found!

March 3
We sat at the Twenty Road Leks (Routt) at sunrise.  About ten minutes after sunrise, two Sharp-tailed Grouse flew to the leks (from the west side of the highway).

The trip to Oxbow Wildlife Area (Moffat) was skipped.  The thinking was that it was too early in the season to find Sagebrush Sparrows, Sage Thrashers or Pinyon Jays.

Instead, we drove south to Rifle and then west to Coal Canyon (Mesa).  Nothing uncommon was found along the way at the Yampa River & Hwy 13, Perch Pond or the Rifle Rest Stop.

It took about an hour to find one Chukar up Coal Canyon.  It was heard a good 20 minutes before finally being spotted on the hillside southwest of the huge parking area at the second pipe gate.

We then headed up the Grand Mesa.  I prefer to get up there about three hours before sunset, make a quick stop at the Powderhorn Ski Area and then head to the Visitor's Center.

No American Three-toed Woodpeckers were found at the Ski Area.  A few Clark's Nutcrackers and Gray Jays were at the Grand Mesa Lodge.  Nothing uncommon flew around the Visitor's Center.

We waited at the Visitor's Center until dark and then returned north stopping at the various pullovers along hwy 165.  Eventually we heard and saw one Boreal Owl at a pullover south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds.

March 4
We slept until sunrise and drove to the southern (eastern) entrance to the Colorado National Monument (Mesa).  The subdivision of homes is a great location to find Gambel's Quail; we found five.

No Black-throated Sparrows appeared at the entrance (too early in the season).  A walk down the Devil's Kitchen trail found two Pinyon Jays.  A Canyon Wren was at the picnic area on the north side of the road.

Two stops to take in the scenery were made while we drove north to the Campgrounds.  Two Juniper Titmice and a flock of Bushtits were found during a thirty minute stop.  It was too early for any Black-throated Gray Warblers; none was found.

A Bewick's Wrens was around the old pond at then northern (western) entrance to the Monument.

We then drove up Mesa County Road 4 (north of Interstate 70) to search for Sagebrush Sparrows.  Finally, two Sagebrush Sparrows were found about 7.8 miles up the road.  A check of the traditional Long-eared Owl location did not find any today.

Nothing uncommon was found at Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta), again too early in the year.  One Lewis's Woodpecker was discovered west of the reservoir.

Back in Delta, a search of Confluence Park did not find any Barrow's Goldeneyes.  The resident Western Screech-Owl was at the G50 Road Wildlife Area.

Our birding day ended at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose).  Only one male Dusky Grouse was found on the drive to the Visitor's Center.

March 5
Our birding day started with a drive down Gunnison Road 887.  Two Gunnison Sage-Grouse walked across the road for us and allowed nice views.

A stop at the Monarch Pass rest area (Chaffee) added two American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a small flock of Brown-capped Rosy Finches to our day list.

We search unsuccessfully for the Tundra Swans in Salida.  Two Barrow's Goldeneyes at Sands Lake Wildlife Area was a fair consolation.

A Lewis's Woodpecker was found in Buena Vista (Chaffee).  It was along West Brookdale Avenue, west of Pleasant Avenue. 

A Curve-billed Thrasher was found at the cattail crossing in Pueblo West (Pueblo County). 

We rushed to get to Comanche National Grasslands (Baca) an hour before sunset.  Two Lesser Prairie-Chickens were eventually found.

Shortly after dark, a Western Screech-Owl called and allowed us nice looks back at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).

We then made the long drive toward Wray (Yuma).  A stop at Hale Ponds (Yuma) found one of the resident Eastern Screech-Owls; we missed the Long-eared Owls.

March 6
At first light, we sat along Yuma County Road 45.  Three Greater Prairie-Chickens visited the lek about five minutes after sunrise!

Two Long-eared Owls were found at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) on our way to the Pawnee National Grasslands.  A few Lapland Longspurs flew with flocks of Horned Larks along Morgan County Road 4 (north of Jackson Reservoir).

The early date for Mountain Plovers on the Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld) is 3/11, then 3/16.  We searched anyway, without success.

Then we headed back to Denver by way of Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld).  One Short-eared Owl flew south of Weld County Road 48 just after sunset!

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