Sunday, May 19, 2019

Last Grouse Trip of 2019

May 11-17, 2019

Richard Stevens:

A group of five made up the CoBus Group on the last grouse trip of the season.  Weather was cooperative with most of the inclement weather staying farther east.  The third week of May is getting late for a successful trip; however this one turned out spectacular! 

May 11

High temperature today in Kremmling was 59 degrees.  Winds were 3-4 mph with afternoon gusts to 14 mph.

The trip started at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties).  It took about an hour before two White-tailed Ptarmigan were spotted along the western trail at approximately 0.7 miles from the parking area.

In Silverthorne (Summit) the trip list added Rosy Finches (no Black),  White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Evening Grosbeaks, a Pine Grosbeak, Clark's Nutcrackers, Pine Siskins and a surprise Band-tailed Pigeon!

Nothing uncommon was found in Kremmling.  Five Barrow's Goldeneyes were among twice as many Common Goldeneyes at Windy Gap Reservoir (Grand).

Walden Reservoir (Jackson) added Marbled Godwit and Willets to the day list.

The birding day ended at the Jackson County Road 26b Leks.  Twenty seven Greater Sage-Grouse still were visiting the Leks.

May 12

High temperature in Hayden was 61 degrees.  Winds were 6-7 mph with gusts to 18 mph.

Just before sunrise, seven Sharp-tailed Grouse stomped around the Twenty Road Leks (Routt).  Phil thought he heard a Greater Sage-Grouse on the opposite side of the Road.  Earlier in the spring, several other birders reported the same experience.  

A drive west of Maybell (Moffat) to the Oxbow State Trust Lands provided sightings of a Sagebrush Sparrow and two Sage Thrashers.  The area is closed until August 15; however, the birds could be found with a scope.  Both species can be found later in the trip and the detour to Oxbow is long.  As a bonus, a Ferruginous Hawk was observed flying over the Snake River.  They are uncommon in Moffat County.

The next stop was Coal Canyon (Mesa).  A Chukar responded to a recording played at the large parking area at the second pipe gate.  With patience, it was found standing on a large boulder on the hill to the southwest of the parking area.

Then the group headed to the Grand Mesa (Mesa County).  Owling was quite successful this evening.  The Northern Saw-whet Owl was relocated along the switchbacks to the Powderhorn Ski Area.

An American Three-toed Woodpecker drummed in the small grove of trees behind the maintenance shed.  While Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to a recording played near the Ski Lodge entrance.

Finally two Boreal Owls were heard along highway 65, south of the Ski Area.  The first was heard south of Spruce Grove Campgrounds.  The second was seen at the third pullover south!

May 13

Temperatures reached 68 degrees with winds of 6-7 mph.

A drive through the Colorado National Monument (Mesa) is always worth the time as least once.

Gambel's Quail were running around the subdivision outside of the eastern entrance.  A Black-throated Sparrow sang south of the road at the eastern entrance.

Devil's Kitchen trail is a good stop.  Today a Gray Vireo fluttered about.  Unfortunately, no Black-chinned Sparrows are around this year.

The Campgrounds added four Pinyon Jays, two Juniper Titmice, and two Black-throated Gray Warblers to the trip list.

A drive down Escalante Canyon (Delta) found two Black Phoebes.  One was near the Gunnison River and the other below Pinnacle Rock.  No Chukars were encountered.

Fruitgrower's Reservoir did not have any shorebirds or Sandhill Cranes.  A Lewis's Woodpecker was spotted below the dam.

The rest of the day was taken for a leisure drive to Cortez.

May 14

Temperatures reached 81 degrees with hot winds of 11-12 mph with gusts to 25 mph.

The hike down to Yellow Jacket Canyon (Montezuma) was quite successful.  Two Lucy's Warblers, the prize of hike, were fluttering about the cottonwoods near the open gate.

A male Summer Tanager was also spotted.  It has been confirmed that they nest here.  Other birds included Gambel's Quail, Plumbeous Vireo, a Juniper Titmouse and a few Bushtits.

Three Acorn Woodpeckers were observed at their usual location at Wildcat Canyon (La Plata).  While a Grace's Warbler was found along Junction Creek Road on the way to the Campgrounds (a spot that has been good most years since 1999).

A text message informed that a Neotropic Cormorant was found at Pastorius Reservoir (La Plata).  A Red-necked Phalarope and the Neotropic Cormorant were great bonuses for the trip list!

The Group rushed to the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (Montrose) and arrived an hour before sunset.  Eventually three male and one female Dusky Grouse were observed.

Most were just east of the first speed limit sign east of the western end of the South Rim Road.  Joey heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl way off in the distance toward Warner Point (most western point of the South Rim).

May 15

Hot temperature today was 70 degrees.  Winds were 10-11 mph with afternoon gusts to 31 mph.

A drive down Gunnison County Road 877 an hour before sunrise added two Gunnison Sage-Grouse for our grateful troop!  

A rest stop at the large pullover at Monarch Pass (Chaffee) found two male American Three-toed Woodpeckers drumming along the south side of the road.

A quick stop at Tunnel Drive in Canon City (Fremont) found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow on the rocky hillside at the trailhead.

A Curve-billed Thrasher at a private yard in Canon City avoided a later drive down Swallows Road.  A Greater Roadrunner was observed on the trip into Brush Hollow Wildlife Area (Fremont).

Birds encountered below the dam at Brush Hollow included a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, two Juniper Titmice and Bushtits.

A text message informed about a Black-billed Cuckoo at Carrizo Creek Picnic Area.  Sure enough, it responded to a recording, which made the long drive well worth the effort!

The birding day ended at Cottonwood Canyon (Carrizo Creek and Baca County Road M).  Two Western Screech-Owls flew around south of the primitive Campgrounds.

May 16

Temperatures continued to be hot with a high of 89 degrees.  Winds of 12-13 mph with gusts to 18 mph brought the warm temps.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, two Lesser Prairie-Chickens flew into a Lek that is located on private land in Baca County!

Later a drive down Baca County Road G found Cassin's Sparrows at the old Campo Lek Road, a Burrowing Owl west of the entrance and farther west a Curve-billed Thrasher.

Back at Cottonwood Canyon (Baca), the usual birds were added to the trip list: Eastern Phoebes, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Gray Flycatcher, Canyon Towhees, Cooper's Hawk, Chihuahuan Ravens, Wild Turkey and Bewick's Wrens.

The birding day ended 220 miles north at Bonny Reservoir (Yuma).  A Lewis's Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and Wild Turkey were found at Fosters Grove Campgrounds.

A Northern Waterthrush walked along the Republican River at 0.3 miles west of the Kansas border.  At dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl called at Hale Ponds.  Misses: no Common Poorwill was enticed into calling this evening.

May 17

It was a little cooler with a high of 76 degrees.  Winds were quite strong at 18-19 mph with gusts to 28 mph.

A drive down Yuma County Roads 45 & P did not find any Short-eared Owls hunting this morning.  Shortly before sunrise, three male Greater Prairie-Chickens were observed on the CR 45 lek.  No females made an appearance.

Wray Fishing Unit and Stalker Pond were skipped and the Troupe headed to the Pawnee National Grasslands area (Weld).

One Mountain Plover was relocated along CR 100, west of Hwy 390.  While searching for McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs a second Mountain Plover was encountered on a traditional nesting ground.

McCown's Longspurs were easy to find, while Chestnut-collared Longspurs not so much.  Finally, one was located in the field southeast of Highway 85 and CR 114 (a permit maybe required to bird here).

With some time left in the afternoon, the Schware unit of the Wellington Wildlife Area was scoped.  The Common Gallinule made a brief show!

No Short-eared Owls appeared around Lower Latham Reservoir (Weld) at sunset.  Two Great-tailed Grackles were not a good consolation.

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