Sunday, March 11, 2018

Eastern Half of Our Grouse Trip

March 6-8, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Terry Michaels and I conducted the eastern side of our grouse trip.  

March 6

Temperatures only reached 44 degrees today.  Winds were ridiculous at 21-22 mph with gusts to 38 mph.  One gust was measured at 52 mph, wow!

Terry Michaels and I arrived at the Yuma County Road 45 Leks about an hour before sunrise.  Three male Greater Prairie-Chickens started their mating dances about 20 minutes later.  If you go, be sure to stay until after sunrise.  Some days they do not start until sunrise.

Later we stopped at Sandsage Wildlife Area (Yuma).  One White-throated Sparrow was among dozens of White-crowned Sparrows, four Song Sparrows and one Lincoln's Sparrow.

Stalker Pond was slow.  We did see a male Northern Cardinal in its red glory far off at the west end of the pond.  Nearby Wray Fishing Unit hosted the resident Barn Owl, however not much else.

Friend's yards in Wray added two male Northern Cardinals, one female, an Eastern Screech-Owl and one red race Fox Sparrow.

Beecher Island (Yuma) had a male Red-bellied Woodpecker and not much else.

No Eastern Phoebes found yet in Yuma County.

Our birding day ended at Bonny Reservoir Wildlife Area.  Birding was slow.  One Long-eared Owl was found in the Foster Grove windbreak.  Two Eastern Screech-Owls called along the Republican River east of Highway 385.  Another called at Hale Ponds.

March 7

Temperatures reached 58 degrees in Lamar.  Winds were only 5 mph with gusts to 10 mph.  It was quite pleasant after yesterday.

We chase reports of Lesser Prairie-Chickens at the Leks along the River Road between Coolidge and Syracuse, Kansas.  We hoped this new location for us would pan out; unfortunately, we found none. 

A Field Sparrow was along the old Hwy 50 just west of the Holly Rest Stop.  No Burrowing Owls had arrived at the huge prairie dog village north of the road.

One male Northern Cardinal was the only interesting bird behind Lamar Community College (Prowers).  The red race Fox Sparrow had not been reported for a couple of weeks.

We did not find the resident Barn Owl at Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca).  The Winter Wrens, which spent the winter, appeared to have moved on.

Two Western Screech-Owls were found at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca).  It was a little after midnight so 3/8.

March 8

Richard Stevens:

Temperatures in southeastern Colorado were up to 66 degrees.  Anemometer readings were 6 mph with gusts to 19 mph in the afternoon.

We were quite happy to find two Lesser Prairie-Chickens on a private lek in Baca County.  Lesser Prairie-Chickens are becoming quite scarce anywhere in Colorado and southwestern Kansas.  We decided not to visit the Elkhart, Kansas leks this trip.

A survey of the old Campo lek did not find any birds.  None has been reported for the past three years.  The only sparrows fluttering about were White-crowned Sparrows.

A Cassin's Sparrow surprised us in the field north of the old Campo Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek along Baca County Road G.  It beat the early arrival date by two days. 

We hiked several hours at Picture Canyon (Baca) and relocated a Rufous-crowned Sparrow on the short rocky hillside just south of the parking area.  A Curve-billed Thrasher walked along the short rocky hill south of the old cave/mine.

On the drive out Terry spotted a Greater Roadrunner atop the hill at the entrance.

A return to Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) added three additional Rufous-crowned Sparrows (1.4 miles east of the rustic Campgrounds at Carrizo Creek and Baca County Road 7.  A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Eastern Phoebe were south up the draw at the Campgrounds.  Other birds included Bewick's Wren, Canyon Towhees, Chihuahuan Ravens, and another Greater Roadrunner.  Nothing uncommon moved about the draws to the west.

Our return to Denver was by way of hwy 109.  We hoped to run across the Snowy Owl reported last month, did not.  A Chihuahuan Raven was found at Pritchett.  Perhaps the one Jim Dennis reports now and then.

A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was relocated at Vogel Canyon.  Our third Greater Roadrunner of the day ran across the entrance road.

Higbee Cemetery and CR 884 lacked any interesting bird.  Although we did see a Northern Mockingbird west of the Cemetery.  No Black-throated Sparrows have returned yet.

At La Junta, we drove west to Hwy 71 then north to I70.  That section of the trip was uneventful.

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