Saturday, April 30, 2011

Colorado: Day 6 (Apr 7) - Craig to Grand Mesa to Denver

This morning's big target bird was the last of the lekking chickens and last of our 8 big target species: Sharp-tailed Grouse. We felt pretty good about this one having scouted the location the day before, plus awaking to dry weather this morning. We sat in the car and waited until a few SHARP-TAILED GROUSE flew into their lek site on a grassy knoll. It took them a while to warm up and start displaying, but eventually they got going. Our max count was 7 birds. Of the five lekking grouse, this dance is the most bizarre.


the grouse lek on one of the grassy knolls on the left (west) side of the road











At this point we all exchanged handshakes and high-fives at the completion of our quest for the lekking chickens and rosy-finches. We thought we might need all week to do it, but we still had nearly three full days left to bird Colorado. Time to focus more on secondary targets.

We drove further west to Oxbow State Trust Wildlife Area to see SAGE SPARROWS. We weren't sure if we'd be too early in the season or not, but there were a couple territorial sparrows singing away. Also on site were many more SAGE THRASHERS and stunning MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS.














Sage Sparrow


Mountain Bluebird


sage habitat at Oxbow

From here the plan was to head SW toward the Grand Junction area for at least one full day's worth of birding. Our first stop was Coal Canyon primarily for a try at Chukar (introduced). No sign of Chukar there, but we did find some more PINYON JAYS plus ROCK WRENS and a BLACK-THROATED SPARROW.




Coal Canyon

Next we headed for another drastic change in scenery: from the southwest-like Coal Canyon up to elevation at Grand Mesa. Here the wind really started to pick up, making the birding very difficult. Grand Mesa was incredibly unbirdy. We had designs on staying until dark and trying for Boreal Owl, but it was apparent that wasn't going to be an option with the wind. We were able to pull out a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER on territory in the aspens at the Powderhorn Ski Area. Otherwise all we had were some more PINE GROSBEAKS and CASSIN'S FINCHES (not that we were complaining about them).


Grand Mesa - skies not looking very friendly!


At this point we had a big decision to make. Should we stay in the Grand Junction area as planned, or actually head back to Denver a couple days early? Since we had just gotten Pinyon Jay for everyone we didn't have a reason to stay in the area. We laid out a plan for two full days of birding in the Front Range area, then drove back to just outside Denver for the night.

- NB

2 comments:

  1. Love the photos of the birds and the mountain scenery! Fantastic!!!!

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  2. I spent a week in Grand Junction this summer visiting relatives. One of those days was spent on the Grand Mesa, which I fell in love with because it's absolutely beautiful in the summer. Unfortunately you are right, the Mesa is not birder-friendly. I think the entire time we were up there we saw a total of two birds.

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