Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Couple of Days Alone on Colorado's Eastern Plains

May 28-29, 2019

May 28

High temperature in Burlington was 78 degrees. Winds were 8-9 mph with afternoon gusts to 29 mph.

I headed to eastern Colorado for a few days of alone time and hiking after leading six grouse trips this spring.  Today (Tuesday) and Wednesday it rained almost all of the time.  Several times, I left birding areas to avoid hailstorms.  I escaped hail damage at least three times with a quick exit.

It was raining when I stopped at Last Chance Rest Stop (Washington).  Therefore, I stood in the rain for an hour watching the pond below the parking area.

Eventually two Veeries, one Northern Waterthrush and a Nashville Warbler emerged from the surrounding vegetation.  Not wanting my camera exposed to the rain, photos were not taken.  A hailstorm forced by departure.

Flagler Reservoir (Kit Carson) was not very birdy.  Presently, the reservoir has almost no water in it.  A male Blue Grosbeak and two Great-tailed Grackles were among the few birds observed.  Another hailstorm pushed me out of there.  The storm(s) appeared to be moving out of the northwest, heading south, and west.

The highlight of the detour was finding two Mountain Plover in the fields northeast of the Wildlife Area.

It was raining when I reached the South Republican Wildlife Area (formerly Bonny Reservoir, Yuma County).

The Eastern Meadowlark reported a week earlier at Highway 385 and Yuma CR 3 was not relocated.  Photos of the four Red-headed Woodpeckers were captured.  A Great Crested Flycatcher was heard and located with some effort in the thick cottonwoods.

Fosters Grove Campgrounds (now closed to camping) added an Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal and Bell's Vireo to my trip list.  Another Great Crested Flycatcher was heard calling from behind the restrooms.

The rain let up a bit and I walked the old south gated road.  It really cannot be called a road anymore as vegetation has taken it over.  The deer have kept a narrow path open.  

Two male Baltimore Orioles, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker, two Warbling Vireos and two Brown Thrashers were run across.

My second Bell's Vireo of the day was seen back at the turn where CR 2 goes from east off highway 385 and turns sharply south then east again.

After dark, I walked CR 3 close to Fosters Grove and back.  Two Eastern Screech-Owls were heard south of the road.  A walk to Hopper Ponds did not add any additional owls.

May 29

High temperature today was only 66 degrees.  Winds were 10-11 mph with gusts to 23 mph in the afternoon.

The previously storms produced a great birding day.

I woke up to an Eastern Screech-Owl calling northeast of the western Hale Pond.  When I hiked through the wet field searching unsuccessfully for it, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was perched above in a cottonwood.

Additional birds found included two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and two Eastern Bluebirds.

I continued to Wray for what turned out to be a fantastic day.  A light drizzle fell as I walked around Wray City Park searching for a Mourning Warbler reported yesterday.  At least 52 Turkey Vultures were roosting in the Park.

It was not found, but I was able to photograph a Northern Waterthrush, a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a Blue-headed Vireo.  The Waterthrush was at the bridge at the south end of the Park while the other birds were along the stream between the hospital and the Park.  

Next, I looked for yesterday's reported Alder Flycatcher at now Stalker Lake.  They put up a new sign, replacing the Stalker Pond sign.

The first bird exiting my car was an "empidonax" flycatcher.  Whether it was an Alder Flycatcher, I am not certain.  I do know what it was not (Cordilleran, Least, Hammond's, Dusky or Gray).  Perhaps later inspection of my photos will clear the id up?

Baltimore Orioles seemed to be everywhere.  I watched two males harass a female at the northeast corner.  Another male chased a female at the southwest corner.

A male Northern Cardinal flew around the thicker evergreens at the western end of the Wray Fishing Unit entrance road.  

The section east of Yuma County Road FF was more interesting.  First, I watched a male hybrid Baltimore X Bullock's Oriole chase a female Bullock's Oriole near the green gate at CR FF.  

An Eastern Phoebe flew back and forth along the Creek below CR FF.  Then I walked along the creek to the eastern end of the property.  A first year American Redstart flew around the taller cottonwoods.

The highlight however was a longish "Oporornis"/"Geothlypis" warbler popped out of the willows lining the stream.  Once Kentucky, Connecticut, Mourning and MacGillivray's Warblers were all "Oporornis" warblers.  Now have joined Common Yellowthroat as "Geothlypis" leaving Connecticut Warbler the lone "Oporornis" warbler.

While the whole bird did not coming out at one time, eventually I was able to see the whole bird in bits and pieces.  The light gray hood, complete eye-ring, pale yellow under parts and long undertail coverts revealed a Connecticut Warbler!

Later I wandered to Yuma (Yuma County) however, few birds were found.  My birding day ended back at the Yuma County Road 45 Leks.  No Greater Prairie-Chickens appeared this evening.

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