Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Another Grouse Trip

April 5-9, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Tom Jenkins, Marcus Meyerotto and I made the grouse tour in a clockwise direction.  Heading west would have forced us to deal with snowstorms.

April 5

Temperatures eventually reached 64 degrees.  Winds were 5-6 mph with gusts later in the day at 14 mph.

At first light, we sat at the Yuma County Road 45 Greater Prairie-Chicken lek.  Only five males and no females were observed this morning.

The highlight of the day was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Wray Community Hospital.  At least one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been recorded here in 3/31/2015 and 4/3/2014 (10/2/2012 & 10/15/2015 also).

An Eastern Phoebe was fluttering about at nearby Wray City Park.  Another Eastern Phoebe was relocated at Wray Fishing Unit.  While a male Northern Cardinal was to the south at Stalker Pond.

A stop at Beecher Island as we drove south added a Field Sparrow and yet another Eastern Phoebe to our day list.

Our birding day ended at dusk while we listened to an Eastern Screech-Owl call at Hale Ponds.

April 6

Temperatures reached 65 degrees today.  Winds were 9-11 mph with gusts to 14 mph.

Lamar Community College (Prowers) added another Northern Cardinal and a Red-bellied Woodpecker to our trip list.

A detour to Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) found an uncommon Bonaparte's Gull flying below the dam. However, it is the third year in a row for a Bonaparte's Gull sighting. 

Yet another Eastern Phoebe was found.  We missed the resident Barn Owl today; however, a Brown Thrasher was found singing below the dam.  No warblers or vireos have shown up yet.

We stretched our legs with a walk around the field north of the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek.  Tom relocated a Cassin's Sparrow that I first found on 3/24.

Just before sunset, we parking at a friend's ranch and watched two Lesser Prairie-Chickens do their mating thing!

While driving west on Baca County Road M near CR 32, a Short-eared Owl was caught in our headlights.

Our birding day ended at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  Two Western Screech-Owls were heard and seen!

April 7

Temperatures only reached 51 degrees in the Gunnison Valley today.  Winds were mild at 3 mph with a few gusts to 12 mph.

We drove Gunnison Road 887 just before sunrise and found two Gunnison Sage-Grouse just north of the Waunita Hot Springs Lek.

A day was "saved" when we relocated a male Dusky Grouse displaying well after sunrise (mid morning) at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose County).  A slate colored Fox Sparrow, several White-throated Swifts and two Spotted Towhees were an added bonus.

One Lewis's Woodpecker was relocated along Meyers Road near Fruitgrower's Reservoir (Delta).

A drive up Escalante Canyon (Delta) relocated a Black Phoebe and found several Pinyon Jays.  No Chukars could be relocated during a two hour drive up and down the canyon.

We retired early, a welcomed rest from the long recent drives.

April 8

Temperatures reached 66 degrees.  Winds were stronger today at 8 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

Our birding day started at the Colorado National Monument (Mesa County).  Two Black-throated Sparrows were found just outside the eastern entrance.  A drive around the subdivision near the entrance found a dozen Gambel's Quail.

We decided to skip driving through the Monument, however did hike the Devil's Kitchen trail just inside the eastern entrance.  We hoped a Black-chinned Sparrow had returned; none was found.  Eight Pinyon Jays flew over the rocky cliffs.

From Fruita we drove up Mesa County Road 4.  Several Sagebrush Sparrows were relocated (about seven miles up the road after its southern terminal at S Road. 

If the "resident" Long-eared Owls have returned to nest again, we were not able to find them.

We stopped at the second pipe gate up Coal Canyon.  Fortune shined, a Chukar was heard as soon as we stepped out of our vehicle.  However, it took another 30 minutes actually to see the bird.

Half a dozen Pinyon Jays flew over the hill to our north, Black-throated Sparrows and Rock Wrens called nearby.

Then we drove up the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found close to where I had found it last year.  We continued to the Visitor's Center.

A Dusky Grouse crossed highway 65 to the west in Delta County.

Few birds moved around the Visitor's Center parking area.  However, a great bonus, a Northern Goshawk made a brief appearance!

At dark, we backtracked to I70 and stopped at the many pullovers along highway 65.  Eventually two Boreal Owls were heard south of the Spruce Grove Campgrounds.  One of which allows us nice views of this elusive bird!

Misses: Northern Pygmy-Owl could be found around the Powderhorn Ski Area this night.

April 9

Temperature today in Steamboat Springs was 56 degrees.  Winds were calm, 1 mph with a few gusts at 9 mph.

Sharp-tailed Grouse seldom visit their leks before sunrise so I decided to checkout the 80 Route Leks (Routt County) first.   We parked at the second cattle guard up 80 Route about an hour before sunrise.

The "resident" male Dusky Grouse emerged from the leaf-less willows, looked around and walked back.  Greater Sage-Grouse could be heard booming in the distance.  We managed to get a scope on two!

We hurried to the Twenty Road Leks south of Hayden.  Five Sharp-tailed Grouse were still performing their mating rituals at 9:00 am!

The Trumpeter Swan was no longer on Stagecoach Recreational Area Lake; one Common Loon was however.

We drove around Steamboat Springs in search of Bohemian Waxwings; none was found.

A stop at the Rabbit Ears Pass maintenance shed road did not find any Crossbills.  The female American Three-toed Woodpecker did fly to a telephone pole on the south side of the road.  Later she ended up in the pines just north of the road.

No Rosy Finches or Common Redpolls could be found in Kremmling (Grand).  We detoured over to Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand) and observed twenty Barrow's Goldeneyes swimming around.  A few Common Goldeneyes were also on the lake.

We returned to Denver by way of Granby and Highway 40 to avoid the traffic along I70 (between Silverthorne and Georgetown).

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