Showing posts from April, 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 b

Colorado: Day 5 (Apr 6) - Walden to Craig

We awoke to snow showers (but zero wind) and started the 20-minute drive back to the Greater Sage-Grouse lek we had visited the night before. We took a wrong turn that set us over 15 miles in the wrong direction (chalking it up to sleep deprivation at this point), but we had started early enough to get to the lek site before it got too late. Still, not the way you want to start your day when you're worried you might actually miss this species! Even though we were admittedly nervous, we were comforted by the fact that we were ahead of schedule at this point thanks to getting all our big targets quite easily thus far. We could theoretically spend 2 or 3 days trying for Greater Sage-Grouse if we had to. But I digress. We arrived at the Coalmont lek to a steadily falling snow. We got out of the car to walk up the muddy road (which was now mostly frozen and solid at the surface). We slowly advanced up the road, well short of the lek site, peering over the snow banks. Bill spotted two GR

Colorado: Day 4 (Apr 5) - Wray to Walden

After again witnessing the spectacular Greater Prairie-Chicken lek at dawn (see previous day's post ), we set out to the west in the direction of the Pawnee National Grasslands. Since we had done so well with grassland species the prior two days, we only had two targets for the Pawnee: McCown's Longspur and Mountain Plover. view of the Rockies from the Pawnee Pawnee National Grasslands We didn't have to work hard for either species. First we came across a few skylarking McCown's Longspurs on CR 96 (0.5 miles west of CR 77). The in-flight views were stunning. I couldn't help but admit that a digital SLR would have come in very handy to capture some nice flight shots. Views on the ground were tough due to vegetation and heat shimmer, but we got some decent looks. McCown's Longspur We pulled ourselves away from the displaying longspurs on a search for Mountain Plover. We soon found a pair in a prairie dog town on CR 96 (2 miles west of CR 77). The views were again

Colorado: Day 3 (Apr 4) - Lamar to Wray incl. Greater Prairie-Chicken videos

We started the day well before dawn as we met Fred Dorenkamp (of Arena Dust Tours ) in Granada. Fred would escort us to a small private LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN lek near the small town of Holly. We arrived before we could see anything, but it didn't take long to hear the cackling of the chickens. As the sun slowly rose, we enjoyed distant views at about a half-dozen birds as they jumped, fluttered, and cackled. On our way back to Granada we came across two FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, a young light morph and an unaged dark morph. A nice light adult SWAINSON'S HAWK also made an appearance. From Granada we hoped to intercept some migrant CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS in the Lamar area. We followed up on a couple of recent eBird reports. Sure enough we stumbled across a small flock of four, including a couple adult males. The birds proved elusive, so we had to settle for scope views of only a single female. An equal highlight, and very possibly our favorite mammal of the trip, was