Sunday, April 22, 2018

Highly Successful Grouse Trip

April 14-19, 2018

Paul Barry, John Peterson and I enjoyed a successful Grouse Trip with a couple of bonus birds this week.

April 14

Temperatures in Silverthorne only reached 20 degrees; it was cold!  Winds were 20-21 mph with gusts to 31 mph!

Our first stop was Loveland Pass.  Paul held the tripod while I scoped the eastern side of the Summit.  Two White-tailed Ptarmigan were hunkered down by the ragged rocks (Summit County).

A stop at a friend's home in Silverthorne added 3 species of Rosy Finches, Mountain Chickadees, White-breasted & Pygmy Nuthatches, Gray Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, Pine Siskins, Pine Grosbeak (male), Evening Grosbeak (pair), Downy, Hairy and Three-toed Woodpeckers, and one Band-tailed Pigeon.  As always, a great stop to visit my friends.

We chose the eastern route from Kremmling and got bonus sightings of fourteen Bohemian Waxwings in Hot Sulphur Springs (Grand).  Half a dozen Barrow's Goldeneyes were on Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand).

Two Rough-legged Hawks and a Golden Eagle were along Highway 125, north of Rand.

Our birding day ended with watching 44+ Greater Sage-Grouse on the Jackson County Road 26b Lek.

April 15

Hayden: Temperatures reached 55 degrees, quite warm of this area.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 12 mph.

We parked at the 2nd cattle guard up 80 Route.  Shortly after civil twilight, the Dusky Grouse walked out of the willows on the east side of the road!  We scoped the hills and found both Greater Sage-Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse.  They were too far away for photos; we headed to the Twenty Road Leks.

Twelve Sharp-tailed Grouse ran around the Twenty Road Leks.  A Vesper Sparrow popped out of the grass behind our car (parked at the pipe gate, see CoBus website for directions:

A detour to the Oxbow State Trust Lands added two Sage Thrashers and three Sagebrush Sparrows to our trip list.

We then rushed to the Dinosaur National Monument.  The California Quail was called just before sunrise!  While not on the Colorado Bird checklist, California Quail have been reported for many years in the Monument.

Our route took us over Douglas Pass (Mesa County).  A stop at one of the old owl boxes found a Northern Saw-whet Owl!

April 16

A warm 74 degrees in Grand Junction, almost hot!  Winds were 17-18 mph with gusts to 36-37 mph.

We arrived at Coal Canyon (Cameo, Mesa County) just before sunrise.  A Chukar ran across the open area just north of the parking area (at the 2nd pipe gate up the canyon).  Other birds observed during the hour stop included Black-throated Sparrows, Rock Wrens, two Pinyon Jays, and Say's Phoebes.

A drive down G Road in Palisade found the previously reported Lewis's Woodpecker.

Back at the eastern (southern) entrance to the Colorado National Monument, we found another Black-throated Sparrow.  No Gray Vireos, Gray Flycatchers or Black-chinned Sparrows lurked about the Devil's Kitchen Trail.  Rock Wren and Canyon Wren were around the Picnic Area.

We relocated one of the Black Phoebes near Phoebe Rock at Connected Lakes State Park.

After a late lunch, we headed up the Grand Mesa.  Nothing uncommon was found in the Town of Mesa and we continued south.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl at the switchbacks popped out of its hole when we scraped the tree with a tree limb.

We then continued to the Grand Mesa Visitor's Center to wait until dark for a Boreal Owl search.  

A Northern Goshawk flew across the road when we checked for White-winged Crossbills at the Campgrounds south of the Visitor's Center.

The Boreal Owl near the Visitor's Center last week was not cooperative this night.  We stopped at five pullovers along Hwy 65 during the drive north.  A Boreal Owl was finally found at the first pullover south of the Spruce Grove Campgrounds.

April 17

Switching drivers several times, we drove most of the night to Dove Creek. (Montezuma County).  At first light, we found a Gunnison Sage-Grouse near Coalbed Canyon Wildlife Area.  See May 2018 "Colorado Field Notes" 

Cortez: temperatures reached 59 degrees.  Winds were 14-15 mph with gusts to 30 mph.

Later, we walked Yellow Jacket Canyon.  It took over an hour to find one Lucy's Warbler.  If Paul had not heard it, we would not have found it.  Paul's hearing/ears were amazing!  What a great gift for a birders!

On the way to Durango, we drove through Wildcat Canyon.  The Acorn Woodpeckers are always a reliable find here!

Getting a text message about a Semipalmated Plover at Pastorius Reservoir, we took another detour.  It was a new La Plata bird for me!

April 18

Another long drive we stopped at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca) just after midnight.  Two Western Screech-Owls called back and forth at the primitive Campgrounds near Carrizo Creek.

Springfield: 61 degrees, winds 15 mph with gusts to 36 mph
Lamar: 65 degrees, winds 13-14 mph with gusts to 32 mph

An hour before sunrise we stopped at my friend's ranch in Baca County.  Two Lesser Prairie-Chickens are still coming to the Lek on his ranch.  On the drive out of Cottonwood Canyon, a Short-eared Owl was observed on a fence post along Baca County Road M.

A short drive up the old Campo Lek Road found three or more Cassin's Sparrows performing their mating flight!

A return to Cottonwood Canyon added Eastern Phoebes, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon Towhees, Greater Roadrunner, Chihuahuan Ravens, Bewick's Wrens, Cooper's Hawk, Lark Sparrows, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker to our trip list.

Misses: Northern Cardinal, Mississippi Kite (too early for them), Canyon Wren

A Long-billed Curlew was observed walking the field north of Baca County Road M, 0.5 miles west of Highway 385.  MIsses: no Burrowing Owls

Great-tailed Grackles were along Hwy 385 as we passed through Springfield.

Two Buttes Reservoir (Baca) added Wild Turkey, another Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a Brown Thrasher to our trip list.  Misses: Winter Wren, Eastern Phoebe, the previous reported Northern Mockingbird, any vireos or warblers (too early)

We skipped Lamar Community College (Prowers) and reached Bonny Reservoir (Yuma) in late afternoon.  Birds encountered included Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebirds, one Northern Cardinal, Wild Turkey, and one Long-eared Owl!

After sunset, an Eastern Screech-Owl called at Hale Ponds.

April 19

At first light, we parked at the Yuma County Road 45 Lek.  Five male Greater Prairie-Chickens appeared.  No female birds visited.

We continued east along the loop looking for Short-eared Owls, none found.  A Northern Bobwhite did run across CR P.

Briggsdale: 59 degrees Winds were 13-14 mph with gusts to 26 mph

About the only birds left on our target list were to be found near the Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld)

One Mountain Plover was found south of Briggsdale.  We then drove to Keota and found another Mountain Plover along CR 100, west of CR 390.  While we did not find the 150 Chestnut-collared Longspurs reported by Bertrands on 4/18, we did see two Chestnut-collared Longspur near CR 100 and CR 89.

We then took Weld County Road 89 north to Grover and drove the roads east in search of Sharp-tailed Grouse (Plains species).  Wanted to add them to our trip list in case they are added to the Colorado State Bird Checklist, all indications are that this will happen soon.

After striking out along CR 136, we drove Weld County Road 111 from CR 136 to CR 124.  We missed on the drive south, turned around and went back north.  The second attempt was successful.  Two Sharp-tailed Grouse were encountered near CR 134.

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