Monday, May 29, 2017

Owling Trip

May 22-25, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I went back out for some additional owling.  Along the way, we hoped to add some uncommon birds to our county lists.  Owling outlooks were up in the air; rain was predicted for most afternoons.

In my experience, thunderstorms cause owls to be quiet even after the rain and thunder stop for the afternoon.  Fortunately, storms did not arrive every night.

May 22

We started south and stopped at Fountain Creek Regional Park (El Paso).  Several birders had zeroed in on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  After several nice looks, we continued south.

Clear Spring Ranch (El Paso) was quiet.  None of the eight Northern Waterthrushes that had been banded this spring could be found.  A Red-headed Woodpecker was our consolation.

The Grace's Warbler at Cheyenne Mountain Park (El Paso) was singing when we arrived at the gps waypoint.  So far, our luck was quite good.

A detour to Green Mountain Falls (Teller) added two Band-tailed Pigeons to our trip list.  The yards just north of the falls are one of the better locations to find them in late spring.

A great bonus surprised us.  A storm rolling in from the west brought low clouds.  A lone Black Swift flew below the clouds and over the falls.

Rain was quite heavy when we arrived in Woodland Park (Teller).  Owling appeared to be nonexistent this evening and we retired early.

May 23

Getting up about two hours before sunrise, we headed north to Manitou Experimental Forest.  In the past, Flammulated and Northern Pygmy-Owls have been found around the Campgrounds.  Regrettably, none was there this morning.

We enjoyed better success at the Experimental Forest.  Two Flammulated Owls responded to our recordings.  After sunrise, we returned to the Campgrounds to pick up the "owl listening stations" that were planted.  Note: the stations did not pick out any owls this morning.

To escape another thunderstorm rolling in from the west, we continued up Rampart Range Road to Highway 67.  A two hour hike around the intersection found a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers. 

A Red-eyed Vireo just east of the intersection was a surprise. I made a note to investigate if there is a possibility that they nest in the area.

Note: No Red-eyed Vireo nesting records are shown for southern Jefferson & Douglas Counties in the "Colorado Bird Breeding Atlas" 1998.  Northern Custer County to the south and southwestern El Paso County to the southeast have confirmed records, as do northern Jefferson & Douglas Counties.  Accessibility and studies in the southern areas are perhaps quite limited.

After sunset, we found a Northern Pygmy-Owl southeast of the Hwy 67/Rampart Range Road intersection (Douglas).   Two additional Northern Pygmy-Owls were picked up by two of our three "owl listening stations" that were placed along Hwy 67.

May 24

Our plan today was to make a series of stops along Hwy 67 to look for nesting records.  Then after sunset, set up "owl listening stations" and continue owling along the South Platte River.

Late in the afternoon and again after a rain shower we found three Northern Pygmy-Owls (Sugar Creek & Hwy 67) and two Northern Saw-whet Owls (one each Sugar Creek & Hwy 67).  Flammulated Owls should have been in the area; none was found.

May 25

Getting a few hours sleep after dawn, our birding day started late.  Our daylight birding centered around Cheesman Reservoir (Jefferson/Douglas).

Eventually three American Three-toed Woodpeckers, a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers, and another Red-eyed Vireo were found in Jefferson County.  One Three-toed Woodpecker and an Olive-sided Flycatcher were found in Douglas County.

Another Three-toed Woodpecker was found along Stony Pass Road near Wigwam Campgrounds.  In past years both Lewis's Woodpeckers and Red-headed Woodpeckers have also been found in the area however not today.

We left the rest of Stony Pass Road and Goose Pass Road for another time and drove north up Deckers Road (Hwy 97).  Instead, we detoured over to Pine Valley Ranch Park set up several "owl listening stations" and walked Buffalo Creek.

Northern Pygmy-Owls were found along Buffalo Creek and at the lower parking lot for Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).

Two hours before sunrise, we parked at the larger parking area for Reynolds Park (Jefferson).  Two Northern Pygmy-Owls were eventually found while we hiked Foxton Road.  One Northern Saw-whet Owl briefly responded to our recordings.  Just before sunrise, a Common Poorwill called from the northern side of Foxton Road.

After a couple of hours of sleep, we hiked the six mile loop at Pine Valley Ranch Park (Jefferson).  Western Bluebirds, Western Wood-pewees, a couple of empidonax flycatchers and Common Yellowthroats have returned to the park.

We set up our "owl listening stations" around Wellington Lake.  We then hiked back down CR 560.  A Northern Goshawk was a nice surprise about 1/4 mile south of the Lake.

Later we explored both Green Mountain and Meadows Campgrounds.  One Dusky Grouse was at Green Mountain.  No owls were detected. 

After midnight, our final owl of the trip was a Flammulated Owl encountered along CR 560.  They have nested in the area for the past six years since I found the spot (most likely many years before).

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