Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Search for Long-tailed Jaeger Turned Into Swallow-tailed Kite Search, then Hepatic Tanager Search

August 8-13, 2017

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I started out to search for the Long-tailed Jaeger reported August 6 at Prewitt Reservoir.  The trip was extended because of a couple of additional bird reports.

August 8
We stopped at Jackson Reservoir (Morgan) on the drive to Prewitt Reservoir.  No jaegers or uncommon gulls were seen.  One Long-eared Owl was found in the southwestern Campgrounds.  At least one or two stayed since last winter or even before.

The Jaeger was not found in our three hour search of Prewitt Reservoir (Logan/Washington).  Two Red-headed Woodpeckers were not much of a consolation. 

Our birding day ended at Jumbo Reservoir (Logan/Sedgwick).  A lone tern turned out to be a Common Tern.  We watched the fields south of Jumbo Reservoir at dusk.  One Short-eared Owl came out just before sunset and flew back and forth for five minutes or so.  No Eastern Screech-Owls were found at the north side this evening or Long-eared Owls along the western side.

August 9
Terry and I spent about four hours at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) after sunrise.  Before sunrise, we did relocate two Eastern Screech-Owls (eastern sections).  The Wildlife Area is still quite birdy this late in summer.  In the western sections, we found one Yellow-billed Cuckoo, three Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and an Eastern Screech-Owl (unusual location).  Misses: No Bell's Vireos, the Eastern Wood-Pewee or the Eastern Towhee could be detected.

In the eastern sections, we came across two Northern Cardinals, five Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Field Sparrows and a lingering Great Crested Flycatcher.

In the afternoon, we drove Highway 138 searching unsuccessfully for Upland Sandpipers.  No Upland Sandpipers were found at Sedgwick Bar Wildlife Area (Sedgwick) where a lingering female or juvenile Baltimore Oriole flew around the cottonwoods.

After dark, we relocated two Eastern Screech-Owls on Roger Danka's ranch (Sedgwick).

August 10
We started out at Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).  No owls were discovered before (or after) sunrise.  A Great Crested Flycatcher and two Loggerhead Shrikes were the highlight of an hour or so walk around the property.  Misses: no uncommon sparrows could be found.

Holyoke area (Phillips) was slow.  Nothing uncommon was found at the Holyoke Fishing Pond or woodlots northeast of town.  A Least Flycatcher hawked bugs at the Holyoke Cemetery.

We left Phillips County and headed to Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area (Yuma).  Two immature or female Baltimore Orioles were along the "closed to cars" road that runs along the south side of the now defunct lake.  Six Wild Turkeys walked along CR 3 (north side of property).  Nothing uncommon could be found at Foster's Grove Campgrounds area.

Our plans were to look for owls (Eastern & Long-eared) and Common Poorwills (or possible Whip-poor-wills) after dark.  Instead, a report of a Swallow-tailed Kite in Lamar caught our attention.  We rushed south.  It was not found in the fading light.

August 11
Terry Michaels and I drove every possible road in Lamar (Prowers) at least three times.  There was no sign of the Swallow-tailed Kite.  We had encountered a tremendous thunder and hailstorm between Burlington and Lamar.  The marble/golf ball sized hail surely did not aid our Kite search.

Eventually we counted thirty two Mississippi Kites around Lamar, no Swallow-tailed Kite.  A male Northern Cardinal was observed at the south end of the Lamar Community College woods.

With no reports of the Swallow-tailed Kite, we decided to continue south.  No kites were at Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca).  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker was a highlight. 

At Cottonwood Canyon (Baca), we encountered two Rufous-crowned Sparrows and Eastern Phoebes east of the primitive Campgrounds area.  Eight Mississippi Kites were perched in cottonwoods between the Campgrounds and 1.6 miles to the east.  Ten Common Nighthawks circled around Carrizo Mountain (during our search for Lesser Nighthawks).  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called briefly (responded to our recording) in the draw south of the Campgrounds.  Two Western Screech-Owls called after civil twilight!

We drove to Picture Canyon for the night.  A Short-eared Owl hovered over CR 18

August 12
Five hours were spent exploring the Picture Canyon area (including Sand Canyon & North Canyon).  Highlights included a Painted Bunting and two Rufous-crowned Sparrows in Picture Canyon.  Curve-billed Thrasher in Sand Canyon. 

We saw an Oriole in Sand Canyon that could not be identified with the brief looks given to us.  It most likely may have been a female Scott's Oriole with darkish gray head and grayish breast and belly.  It had no yellow color on the breast.  We "chased" it for 30 minutes before it mysteriously disappeared. 

A male Vermilion Flycatcher was come across in North Canyon (near the old spring that has produced several sightings over the years).

A Greater Roadrunner crossed the road as we left Picture Canyon and drove to the Upland Bird Management Area (Baca).  This area is close to abandoned now days.  I believe the Forest Service once used the area to reintroduce sage ground and prairie chickens.  I have not seen any tracks for a dozen years now.  A Short-eared Owl was observed at dusk!

August 13

Our target bird today was a Hepatic Tanager.  We stopped at five previous nesting locations in Las Animas County; none was found. The few highlights included many Cassin's Kingbirds, a lonely Dickcissel along CR 10.8, six Mississippi Kites (still no Swallow-tailed Kite), eight Red-headed Woodpeckers, one Greater Roadrunner, and a Pinyon Jay, which seemed way out of place.

We entered New Mexico by way of Highway 389 and continued west to Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area (Las Animas).  Finally the highlight of the day.  An adult female Hepatic Tanager at the northwest corner of the lake.  A Townsend's Warbler was also in the area.  The tanager had a bright orange red throat (could it have been a first year male?).

After civil twilight, we searched for owls.  None was heard.  One of our three "owl listening stations" attracted a Northern Saw-whet Owl!

End of a great trip, in spite of missing the Swallow-tailed Kite.  Would be only the sixth state record (2nd Prowers County).

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