Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CFO Convention Day 3 Saturday May 18th

Today was a fantastic day. We saw many amazing interesting birds, and our groups had some really great individuals and the leaders  Joe Roller and Bill Schmoker, also our group included John Vanderpoel the famous big year birder from Colorado.

We drove about 45 minutes from our hotel to the entrance of McElmo Canyon where we drove two miles on a organ jumbling high clearance dirt road. We were surrounded by Pinyon-Juniper habitat with singing Grey Vireos, Plumbeous Vireos, Rock Wrens and Black-throated Sparrows. We pulled up to a preplanned stopping point marked by some blue flagging in a dead tree. From this point the road was too difficult to drive so we walked down to a riparian area where we hoped to coax out a Lucy's Warbler. Yesterday's group heard two singing so we felt we had a good chance at finding them. Lucy's Warblers were only discovered to be breeding here 10 years ago and they only seem to be breeding in the lower riparian areas of Yellow Jacket Canyon.

No warblers where singing when we arrived so one of our leaders whistled a Western Screech Owl call to bring out some birds. (Using tapes or recordings or mimicking is considered unethical by some birders and it is usually left up to the group leader whether it will be used). It worked this time and brought in several Lucy's Warblers and we got great views. The red on the head was a little difficult to see but after watching them flit around for a while it became more and more obvious.

Several minutes later a man in the group walked up to Bill and said he heard a response from a screech owl so then we listened. We played the call a few more times and listened for the owl. It responded and almost everyone in the group heard it. While we were listening for the owl a pair of very agitated Hairy Woodpeckers flew around between two trees. They skidded up and down the trees occasionally stopping by a hole to feed their screaming young.

We continued to the end of the trail listening the whole way. We had singing Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinches, Blue Grey Gnatcatchers, and many many many Yellow Warblers. At one point we all stopped when a bird flew to the top of a bush on the right side of the trail. We all got our binocs up and realized it was a Grey Vireo! It flitted around in a large circle and alighted atop a Pinyon Pine and sang. This was a great bird for the trip and a Pinyon Juniper habitat specialist.

At the end of the trail we stopped for a snack a drink and to spend some more time listening to the things around us. We decided to play a Bewick's Wren recording and it answered in warbling chatty gusto. The bird wasn't ever seen though.

On our way back we stopped to look for a singing Plumbious Vireo, when suddenly a small yellow-headed bird with white wing bars appeared bellow the Plumbious. It was a Yellow-throated Vireo! a rarely seen and never recorded in this area species! It was quite the find and almost everyone got great looks at it.

Black-throated Sparrow

Collared Lizard

Spiny Desert Lizard

Grey Vireo

Lucy's Warbler

Tiger Whiptail

Western Screech Owl
The last find for the trip was an especially exciting one. On our way back to the cars we stopped at the Hairy Woodpecker nest again and discovered several other smaller holes about ten feet bellow the Hairy's nest. We decided to whistle the screech owl again to see if anybody would pop out, and to our absolute amazement a tiny little head peaked out of the hole and watched us wondering why, once again, we were disturbing him from his afternoon nap. Screech Owls are cryptic and difficult to find so it was a great opportunity to actually see one!

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