18 - 27 April 1997
by Joan Weinmayr
The following is a description of a
mid-April birding trip to Colorado and western Kansas. The Trip
was led by Bill Drummond of the Brookline Birding Club in
Massachusetts; thirteen members participated. The main focus was
to locate displaying grouse on their breeding grounds. We
identified ten Gallinaceous species: five, the Lesser and Greater
Prairie Chickens, Sage, Sharp-tailed and Blue Grouse were on their leks
and one, the White-tailed Ptarmigan, flew across the road and landed
nearby. Other great experiences included coming across a large,
mixed flock of all three Rosy-Finches, and locating two species of
Longspurs and a Mountain Plover at Pawnee National Grasslands.
Not only did we see these species, but we got long, leisurely looks at
all of them. We saw a total of 148 birds and traveled 1,854 miles
in four vehicles, each in contact with CB radios. A complete list
is included at the end of this report. I have capitalized the
species at each initial sighting and usually did not notate the bird
again unless it was significant in some way. All errors and
omissions are mine.
DAY 1. Friday, April 18
Thirteen of us arrived on different
flights in Colorado Springs, CO, where we stayed at the Rodeway Inn
(2409 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Colorado Springs, CO, 719-471-0990).
DAY 2. Saturday, April 19
Our group met at 5:30 am in the lobby for
coffee and introductions. We received our car assignments, packed
the cars and were off, heading towards Pueblo where we made a quick
breakfast stop at a MacDonald's. We took U.S. 50E to 96E,
towards Ordway where we were able to bird from the car and spot many
common species: COMMON and GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES, AMERICAN ROBIN, BLUE
JAY, HOUSE FINCH, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD, HOUSE SPARROW, WESTERN
MEADOWLARK, COMMON RAVEN, AMERICAN KESTREL, MOURNING DOVE, EUROPEAN
STARLING and ROCK DOVE. One car also saw three Foxes along the
side of the road.
Our first destination was Lake Henry. Just before it, we spotted a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER land on a telephone pole, a number of KILLDEER, and a GREAT HORNED OWL on a nest with two owlets. We stopped and put the scopes on the owls. We also came across the first of many SWAINSON'S HAWKS, this one perched. A nice surprise was a pair of CHUKARS on a ridge close to the road just out of Ordway. The male was sunning on a stone. Everyone was able to great views from the cars. We now started seeing HORNED LARKS, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. At Lake Henry, we viewed DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, BONAPARTE'S GULL, AMERICAN COOT, and flocks of AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS.
At Lake Meredith, we located WESTERN and CLARK'S GREBES. Two of the Western were "dancing" and bobbing their heads. In amongst the reeds and brush, there were many YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS and a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON. In the water were COMMON GOLDENEYE, BUFFLEHEAD, MALLARD and EARED GREBE. Flocks of AMERICAN PIPITS crossed the road as we drove off. We left Lake Meredith for Lake Cheraw, which turned out to be a wonderful spot yielding AMERICAN AVOCET, BLACK-NECKED STILT, FORESTER'S TERN, CINNAMON TEAL and GREEN-WINGED TEALS, AMERICAN WIDGEON, SNOWY EGRET, NORTHERN SHOVELER, RUDDY DUCK, WESTERN SANDPIPER, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, LESSER SCAUP, REDHEAD, COMMON SNIPE, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, CANVASBACK and GADWALL. We hoped to find a Snowy Plover at this location but did not.
We then drove to the Bent National Historic Site, also known as the "Black Rail Marsh". It is so named because rails have been heard here during the 1990's. The only new bird we added was a SAY'S PHOEBE. The most common bird that we heard and saw all morning was the Western Meadowlark. Here we were able to enjoy one perched close, singing; the great light made the yellow vivid. The weather for this day and the others as we traveled through Colorado and western Kansas was sunny and very warm.
We made a lunch stop in Las Animas and had extra keys made for the cars. We took Rt. 100S and made a turn onto RD TT where, after driving a short distance, we came across about fifty BURROWING OWLS and over a hundred Prairie Dogs. We returned to Rt. 100S and headed towards Kansas, birding along the way from the cars. This afternoon, the most common birds were Horned Larks which crossed the road as we drove by. Other birds were RED-TAILED HAWK, GOLDEN EAGLE, and CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN. We drove towards Springfield where we took US 287S/385S through the Comanche National Grassland, then RD M east towards Kansas. In the fields, two LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, SCALED QUAIL, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE and a drake RINGED-NECKED PHEASANT were spotted. I have never seen as an intensely colored pheasant as this one; the iridescent black and purple contrasted dramatically with the crimson and white.
At 5 p.m., we crossed into Kansas and headed to Elkhart, stopping at the Cimarron National Grasslands to look for new sparrows but it was too windy to be productive. We checked into the El Rancho Motel (Hwy. 56 East, Elkhart, KA, 316-697-2117) where we would stay for two nights and then made a scouting trip to the Elkhart, Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek. On the way, one of the trip participants, who is an Astronomical Physicist (Ast. Phy.), gave us an interesting "lecture" about clouds and pointed out an anvil-shaped one.
We quietly approached the lek with the thought that there might be some LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS visible this early evening. Two, then another, were flushed by our approaching cars and flew past us. We rehearsed positioning our cars so we would be ready the next morning. On the way out, we checked the pond at the windmill and found two BLUE-WINGED TEAL and heard CASSIN'S SPARROW. Since it was still very windy, we could not find may birds. On the main road, we saw a NORTHERN HARRIER hunting. We arrived back at the El Rancho Motel and had dinner at their restaurant. Everyone went to bed early because we would have to be in the cars at the lek before the Prairie-Chickens the next morning.
DAY 3. Sunday, April 20
We left the motel at 5:30 a.m. and
drove out to the site of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek. The moon
was just past full. Our Ast. Phy. pointed out
Scorpion in the sky and told us that the summer constellations were
starting to arrive. As we drove into the dirt road, marked by two
signs reading "Chicken Blind" and "College Pasture", we saw two
Kangaroo Rats cross the road. We drove past the windmill and
parked next to the lek to wait for the grouse to appear. We were
approximately fifty feet away in our cars. When it was still
dark, at 5:48, we heard the first calls. As the day lightened, we
could see dark shapes moving and heard lots of chattering, which
sounded like water gurgling. With good light, we observed the
males fan their neck feathers and spread their tail feathers, making a
snapping-like sound. Sometimes the birds lifted off the ground
and landed a short distance away. A Jack Rabbit moved through the
Lessers who did not seem bothered by it. By 6:40, the light was
good enough to see all details and colors on the birds. The area
above the eye was a bright orange; on the back of the head were stiff
plumes. At 7:00, something startled the grouse and they flew
off. We waited until 7:30, but they did not return, although we
could hear some in the distance.
In total, we viewed six male Lesser Prairie-Chickens. Bill discussed the fact that these birds are in serious danger- when he visited this site in 1988, he saw 42 Lesser Prairie-Chickens; 24 in 1974; and only 6 this year. We left the lek and birded nearby, concentrating on sparrows and found Cassin's, VESPER, SAVANNAH and GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS and a LARK BUNTING in the strong wind. It was interesting to watch the Cassin's behavior of skylarking up, calling and then flying on to a perch.
We returned to the motel to have breakfast and get ready for a full day of birding. After a trip to the supermarket to purchase supplies for the day, we left for the Comanche National Grasslands, traveling on 27N and 5W. Just after we left Kansas, the roads became dirt again. Most of the roads we birded in this part of Colorado were dirt and were very dusty. On the way, we saw our first TURKEY VULTURE and came across three Long-billed Curlews, one of which was soaring like a hawk. On the grasslands, we spotted our first Pronghorn Antelope. We also waited and watched while a 92-car train crossed the road.
We arrived at the Carrizo Canyon Picnic Area where we walked down into the canyon. Added birds were a flock of PINE SISKINS, CANYON WREN, LINCOLN'S SPARROW and a young kestrel on the cliff. It was almost 80F. We left Carrizo and headed for the Cottonwood Canyon. On the way we stopped for CANYON TOWHEE and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.
Cottonwood Canyon was very productive. We found two LEWIS WOODPECKERS, which was one of the day's targets. The woodpeckers were visible the two hours we were there. All scopes were pointed towards these beautifully colored birds. Bill indicated that the number of the Lewis Woodpeckers were also down because in 1994 he saw over twenty. Other new species were COOPER'S HAWK, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, WOOD DUCK, singing SONG SPARROW, EASTERN PHOEBE, ROCK WREN, SPOTTED TOWHEE, DARK-EYED JUNCO and a Porcupine sleeping in a tree.
We left Cottonwood to check Carrizo out again and found a BELTED KINGFISHER at the North Fork River and two Big Horn Sheep on a hillside. At Carrizo, we found TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, BEWICK'S WREN, BEWICK'S WREN, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH and red-shafted NORTHERN FLICKER.
At 5 p.m., we left the Comanche National Grasslands to drive back to Elkhart, birding along the way. The most abundant bird today was the White-crowned Sparrow. One interesting sighting was a pair of NORTHERN BOBWHITES "hunkered down" in the shade next to a telephone pole which was very close to the dirt road. At this point, our Ast. Phy. pointed out lenticular clouds which are not found on the east coast because our mountains are not high enough.
We arrived back at Elkhart at 7:00 p.m. Most of the group went for dinner; the leader and his car of birders went on a scouting trip to another Lesser-Prairie Chicken lek for the next morning. When he returned, Bill decided that this would not be a good spot for our group because one had to park the vehicles and walk in instead of birding from the cars and the blind could only accommodate only three birders. The decision was made to return to this morning's lek.
DAY 4. Monday, April 21
We were in the cars again at 5:30 a.m.,
drove and positioned our cars next to the lek. At 5:40, we heard
the Cassin's Sparrow calling, then a Grasshopper Sparrow and, at the
6:13, the Lessers. This time I had the head of my spotting scope
in the car to get even better looks; yesterday I did not see the
sacs. This morning, with the sun rising, I was able to see the
plum-colored sacs being inflated and the distinct, light barring which
was continuous from the neck to breast to belly. Today we saw
seven birds which included one female. We left at 7:30 when
something flushed the Lesser-Prairie Chickens, after having enjoyed the
rarest of the grouses.
On the way out to the main road, we found a SAGE THRASHER, LARK SPARROW and NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD perched. There also was a LEAST SANDPIPER at the edge of the pond. As we approached the center of Elkhart, we saw a flock of CANADA GEESE flying in the distance.
We returned to the motel to have breakfast, pack, and leave at 9:15 a.m. We made a stop at the Cimarron River and found EUROPEAN STARLING, and DOWNY and LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS. Robins filled this little rest stop. The plan for a major part of day was to drive on Rt. 27N through western Kansas, into Nebraska for about eight miles, and to Wray, CO, looking for hawks. We did not have the number of species our leader had had in other years. It was very windy which probably kept the number of hawks down. We did see about five Swainson's and two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS. It was fun to see a tree full of migrating, male Yellow-headed Blackbirds. It looked like a Christmas tree full of bright yellow decorations. A short while later, we came across another tree full of migrating Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds.
We did a lot of driving through western Kansas stopping only for gas and a lunch stop at Stephen's Restaurant at Sharon Springs. We headed north and entered Nebraska where we stopped at some silos to tick off some Nebraska birds (mine was a Western Meadowlark). After twenty minutes, we were back in Colorado. At 4 p.m., we checked into The Sandhiller Motel (P.O. Box 401, Wray, CO, 970-332-4134). We then headed to the office of a cattle rancher who would take us to a Greater-Prairie Chicken lek on his property later that day. In the interim, we went to a FERRUGINOUS HAWK's nest where we could see only a head and some tail feathers. One of the cars went on a scouting mission found two HARRIS SPARROWS sitting on a pasture fence along with a flock of White-crowns. All cars converged on this location when we heard the report on the CB.
Then it was time to go to the lek. The Owner of the 200,000 acres led us to one of his irrigated alfalfa fields (184 acres) surrounded by sandhills and grasslands. We could see nothing else in any distance- it was magical to be there. Then we saw antelopes and about 30 GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS. He took us right next to lek where we parked and watched the Greaters for over an hour. When we arrived, we flushed most of them, but in a short time the ones remaining started displaying and others returned. The Owner mentioned that the grouse are more active in the morning. We returned to the motel and enjoyed a dinner with the rancher at the Sandhiller Restaurant which is next to the motel.
DAY 5. Tuesday, April 22
Since we lost an hour heading into
Colorado from Kansas, we left the motel at 4:20 a.m. in order to
be positioned at the lek while it was still dark. When we
arrived, we could hear a dove-like cooing. At 5:20, we started to
hear the squawky, chicken-like chatter along with the constant
"cooing". I had read the sound described as "booming", but I felt
that it was more a humming or a low, murmured chant. As the day
lightened, we could see the Greaters all around us, some as close as 20
feet from the car. The birds had a little ritual in their
display- fanning their tail, erecting the plumes on their head and
inflating their tangerine sized, orange-colored sacs. On some of
the birds I could detect a little red edge around the sac. The
color of the combs above the eyes was the same orange color. The
head plumes seem longer than the Lessers and the horizontal banding on
the chest was darker and bolder. As part of its display ritual,
the bird would stamp its feet and turn around. When two birds
approached each other, they got close then turned away. Sometimes
one lifted into the air. The birds did not seem to defend a
specific territory but would wander about displaying. One grouse
even came right up to the car. It appeared the Lessers were more
territorial and aggressive than the Greaters. Someone commented
that the Lesser were type A personality while the Greaters were Type
B. In all we counted 23 Greater Prairie-Chickens, including two
females in view.
At 6:30 a.m., we left the lek and stopped to thank the Rancher for graciously allowing us to bird his land. He told us that there are about 110-150 leks on his property. Near his office we found a BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD. We returned to the Ferruginous nest and were able to get a better view than the day before. Most of the group had breakfast in town with a reporter from The Wray Gazette who Bill had met several years earlier when she had joined his group for a day to gather material for an article. After packing the cars, we were on our way on Rts. 34W to Brush and 71N to the Pawnee National Grasslands; one new species added was a GREAT BLUE HERON. The land was flat with occasional grain silos or grain elevators. Along the way, we passed a huge feeding yard where thousands of cattle on acres and acres were being fed before going to market. Our Ast. Phy. pointed out some fair-weather cumulus clouds that were very low in the sky and formed "cloud streets" in a linear array. Today was very, very windy.
We arrived at the Crow Valley Camp Ground of the Pawnee National Grasslands for a rest stop at noon and then took the auto birding route. We had great success in getting excellent scope looks at our targets of the day- McCOWN'S and CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS, and MOUNTAIN PLOVER. We spent a lot of time chasing these birds so we could study them on the ground and flying. To give you a sense of what can be seen in an afternoon at this time of year at Pawnee, we identified the following: PRAIRIE FALCON, numerous Horned Larks, two Sage Thrashers perched, Vesper Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Northern Harrier, American Robin, Western Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike, Killdeer, American Kestrel, Swainson's Hawk and a 13-Striped Ground Squirrel that looked like a small organ-pipe cactus. Back on Road 124, we came to an area of ponds and marshes where we found PIED-BILLED GREBE, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and WILLET.
We stopped at Crow Valley again before we heading to our motel in Evans, driving on Rts. 14W and 85S. In Ault, we read a sign identifying the town as "An Unique Little Town" (A.U.L.T.). The town of Easton highlighted "Beef, Beets & Beans". This ended the eastern portion of our trip. We had driven 1083 miles in four days. We stayed at the Motel 6 (3015 8th Ave., Evans, CO, 970-351-6481) and most of the group had a dinner at the Western Sizzlin which was a short walk from the motel.
DAY 6. Wednesday, April 23
We left the motel at 6:00 a.m. and
drove to Fort Collins. After breakfast, part of the group went to
meet a Boston friend to obtain some recent scouting reports on Colorado
birds. While at her house, a FRANKLIN'S GULL was added to the
list. Another group visited the Colorado Division of Wildlife
(970-484-2836) to learn the locations for viewing the Sage
Grouse. The staff at the office was very helpful; we were given a
handout describing two self-guided Sage Grouse tours. While we
were fueling the cars outside of town, we had the good fortune to meet
an C.D.O.W. Area Biologist who was hauling a camouflage-painted
trailer to a Sage Grouse lek for an organized tour the coming
weekend. He kindly offered to take us to the lek on private land
the next morning.
Just after 9 a.m., we approached the Rocky Mountains. We scanned portions of the fast moving Poudre River until we located two AMERICAN DIPPERS. It was fun to watch them "dip" and then go completely into the water to feed. Further up the road, we had two COMMON MERGANSERS fly by. We saw our first snow as we passed through the Cameron Pass and arrived at Rustic just after 11:00. We stopped to bird in the small village of Rustic and added the following species: VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH and RING-BILLED GULL. On the way out of Rustic, we stopped at some active feeders off the main road and found STELLARS'S JAY, CASSIN'S FINCH, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, a mixed group of Dark-eyed Junos (Gray-headed and Oregon), a flock of EVENING GROSBEAKS, and another Dipper collecting nesting material.
Just before 2 p.m., we arrived in Walden and checked into one of the two motels in town, the Chedsey Motel (P.O. Box 396, Walden, CO, 970-723-8201). We looked at the local feeders (nothing new), the Reservoir, and then the Illinois River where we found a good assortment of waterfowl and other birds. New birds included WHITE-FACED IBIS, BARN SWALLOW and CALIFORNIA GULL.
At 4:30, we were off to the traditional Coalmont lek, by way of Rt. 14W and County Road 26. Since Bill had birded this lek before, he knew where to park the cars to wait for the grouse. The weather was cold with light rain and wind. We arrived there at 5:00 and waited one half hour until we spotted three SAGE GROUSE making their way towards the lek. All around our car were sage and depressions in the ground; it was easy to see how the huge grouse could hide. In the time we were there, we counted 22 male Sage Grouse. They are massive birds with very dark mottling on the back, a dark head, and a white chest with a black throat. The yellow-green sacs on their chest are huge when inflated. When the tail is spread, the feathers look like sharp spikes. The grouse moved around slowly, quietly, stately with their wings held out their side. Occasionally they would approach each other then walk away. There was no any overt aggression or frenetic behavior. Even from our distance of about 100 yards, we could hear their cooing. At 7:00, we quietly left the lek without flushing any birds, and returned to Walden for dinner.
DAY 7. Thursday, April 24
At 5 a.m., we met the Area Biologist, who
took us to another lek, this one leased by the state for hunting and
fishing. He discussed how the population of Sage Grouse is
declining due to over-grazing by cattle which exposes the nests to
Ground-Squirrels who then prey on the eggs. He did not believe
hunting had any effect on the Grouse population.
At 5:45, it was getting light and we could see the grouse flying past us to the lek. Many were already there. It was fascinating to watch them strut. We were told that many of the males (weighing up to nine pounds!) spend the night on the lek while the females fly in the morning. The weather conditions again were very windy and cold. This morning we saw 29 Sage Grouse, including 3 females. By 6:50, all of the Sage Grouse either had flown or walked off the lek.
We returned to Walden for breakfast and a visit to the Sportsman's Store. At 9:40, we left for Steamboat Springs via Rt. 14W and added a NORTHERN PINTAIL along the way. For the past couple of days, we had been hearing reports of a severe snow storm that was making its way from north to south though the Rockies. Fortunately, we seemed to be about 12 hours ahead of the storm, and were not affected by it.
We reached Steamboat Springs at 11:00 and checked the feeders in the residential areas. They were very active; our birding was most productive around Grant, Spruce, Laurel and Short Streets. The species found were RED-CROSSBILL, PINE GROSBEAK, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET along with many Cassin Finches and Evening Grosbeaks. Our next destination was Hayden. En route, we spotted two SANDHILL CRANES and a MERLIN flying.
At some ponds in Hayden, we saw a RINGED NECK DUCK along with many other waterfowl and a large flock of migrating TREE SWALLOWS. We checked into the A Bar Z Motel (2609 West U.S. Hwy. 40, Craig, CO, 970-824-7055) where some decided to catch up on their sleep while others went to check out another Sage Grouse lek and do general birding. As I was part of the former group, I don't have detailed notes on what the other birders found other than a report of a BREWER'S SPARROW identified. Dinner was at the Signal Hill Restaurant just opposite the motel.
DAY 8. Friday, April 25
We were in the cars at 5:00 a.m.
and met the District Wildlife Manager, Jim Haskins, in Walden where we
collected into three cars. We drove Rt. 40W to Rt. 26
and arrived at the site at 5:50. We got out of the cars and
immediately saw the movement of SHARP-TAILED GROUSE on their lek which
was right next to a busy road. The traffic and our activity did
not seem to bother the grouse. We set up our scopes and got as
close as 100 feet.
The Sharp-tailed Grouse are big, dark birds with strong markings- white spots on dark feathers and dark spots on light. The head was also dark with a bright yellow combs above the eyes; when inflated, light purple sacs on the side of the neck were visible. When displaying, the bird would lower its head, stick its wings straight out to the side and its triangular tail up, resembling an airplane. Then it would stamp its feet and move quickly straight ahead for a short distance. It is said that the American Indians incorporated the display behavior of this and other grouse into their ceremonial dances. At 6:50, a Red-tailed Hawk flew over and flushed about 32 grouse, approximately half of which were females.
At 7:00, we left the lek and drove to another Sharp-tailed lek where Bill had birded in past years. On the way, we spotted a flock of approximately fifty Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields; two were doing their graceful dance. We had decided yesterday afternoon that we would not attempt the old location this morning for our only chance to get the bird because the mud was so deep that the road was not passable. But now the road was driveable because the cold night had hardened the mud. We drove up Rt. 70 to about 6720 feet elevation and came across one male BLUE GROUSE on the side of the road. The first feature I saw on this big dark, grayish bird was a white crescent area on its neck (none of the guide books portrayed this sub-species). Although Steve told us that it might be early for the Blue Grouse to be displaying, the grouse put on a scaled down version of its behavior. It would quickly lift its wings and tail making a "clapping" sound and fly off the ground a short distance. When it lifted its tail one could see black splotches on the big white tail.
We returned to Hayden for breakfast at the Food Mill Restaurant and were on the road at 9:30 to head back through Steamboat Springs on Rt. 40E. We made a stop at the Country Seat Cafe in Sulphur Springs. At 2:00 p.m. we crossed the continental divide through the Berthoud Pass. One half an hour later, we checked into the Super 8 Motel (1600 Argentine St., Georgetown, CO, 303-569-3211).
Georgetown was a wonderful, old ski town with architecturally interesting houses. We spent some time checking the feeders and came across two GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES in the company of siskins, juncos and grackles near 11th and Main Streets. At this location, I got my best view of the red coloration under the wings of a Northern Flicker. We left the town and drove to Guanella Pass to try to locate a ptarmigan. After driving up to the hydro-electric dam, we learned that the road was closed due to the recent heavy snow fall. It was 4:30 and we knew we did not have much daylight left, but we decided to try Loveland Pass for the bird anyway.
Just as we reached the sign indicating that we had arrived at the Pass (altitude 11,990 feet), a WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN crossed the road in front of the first car. We quickly got out of our cars and spotted the white bird on snow about 100 yards from us. It was quite thrilling to view the bird through scopes, seeing the black eyes, bill and toe-nails. After a short time, it started slowly moving down a snowy hill, one foot after the other foot, the feet looking like snow shoes, until it moved out of view behind a mound. We waited, but it did not reappear. We were very excited to get this bird. On the way back to Georgetown we stopped at the Loveland Ski Area parking lot to look for Gray Jays, but found none. After a great day of birding, we had the best meal of our trip at the Swiss Inn Restaurant, which was a short walk from our motel.
DAY 9. Saturday, April 26
On this, our last day we had Pinyon Jay
as our target. At 7:00 a.m., we first birded around Georgetown
again, looking for finches. Each car took a different
route. Then one car announced on the CB that they had a flock of
Rosy-Finches in the vicinity of 2nd and Rose Streets. All cars
converged on this location and we saw the birds but they were too high
up in a tree to distinguish between them. At this point it was
snowing very hard. We waited for the birds to come to the feeders
but they were not cooperating. The owner of the house spread out
more seed and invited us in. We accepted, entered her house, and
took turns looking through her dining room window at all three species
of Rosy-Finches- BLACK ROSY-FINCH, BROWN-CAPPED ROSY-FINCH and
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, including the Hepburn's race of the
Gray-crowned. They were so close and so numerous that sometimes
we had all three in view at one time. There were over 100
Rosy-Finches- mostly equal numbers of Brown-capped and Gray-crowned,
with fewer Blacks. Our host pointed out a Abert Squirrel which
was also enjoying the feeders. We were very grateful to the
generous woman who had allowed all 13 of us to enter her home with our
snowy boots just to look at these great birds. At 9:00, we
returned to the Super 8 Motel that provided a do-it-yourself
continental breakfast of English muffins, orange juice and hot drinks.
We were back in the cars at 9:40. Our first stop was at Loveland Ski Area to look again for Gray Jays; we would not find them here or anywhere else on this trip. Our route from Georgetown to Colorado Springs was Rts. 70W to 91S through Leadville. Just before entering Buena Vista, Bill spotted a PINYON JAY. We set up scopes but were not able to get adequate views of the bird. We drove a little further and, just at the city sign, we found more jays that were closer. I was particularly pleased to finally see this bird because it had been my nemesis.
We lunched on great sandwiches and fruits from the City Market in Buena Vista then took Rt. 24E to Florissant where we stopped at the Fossil Beds National Monument. Around the area, we found CLARK'S NUTCRACKER, WESTERN and EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, HAIRY WOODPECKER and CHIPPING SPARROW. There were two Golden Eagles soaring; we were told that there was an eagle nest close by. At Fossil Beds, we were offered birthday cake to commemorate National Park Week and to celebrate the dedication of two stump shelters erected to protect some fossilized tree trunks.
We spent our final night at the Rodeway Inn in Colorodo Springs, where we had stayed the first night. Before dinner, we compiled the Trip List and voted for our favorite birds. The top five were as follows:
1. White-tailed Ptarmigan
2. Lesser Prairie-Chicken
3. Sharp-tailed Grouse
4. The Rosy-Finch Experience
5. Greater Prairie-Chicken/Sage Grouse (tie)
DAY 10. Sunday, April 27
Some of us had to leave for early morning
return flights. Before their flights later in the morning, a
small group spent an hour and a half at The Garden of The Gods in
Colorado Springs. As soon as they arrived, Bill heard the call of
a Prairie Falcon and unpacked his luggage for his spotting scope.
A female falcon was found on a nearby cliff nest. She left the
nest and flew, much to the delight of all. The sighting was so
impressive that some group members wanted to change their vote for the
trip's top bird.
Colorado & Western Kansas Trip List
Grouse Grand Slam
April 18 - 27, 1997
In the following of the 148 species seen
and heard, E represents birds seen on the eastern
side of the Rockies, W, birds seen on the western side, and B,
had personally hoped for nine new birds on this trip and was fortunate
enough to get great looks at all nine; they are indicated by a *.
Pied-billed Grebe, B
Eared Grebe, B
Western Grebe, B
Clark's Grebe, E
American White Pelican, B
Double-crested Cormorant, B
Great Blue Heron, B
Snowy Egret, E
Black-crowned Night-Heron, E
White-faced Iris, W
Canada Goose, B
Wood Duck, E
Green-winged Teal, B
Northern Pintail, W
Blue-winged Teal, B
Cinnamon Teal, B
Northern Shoveler, B
American Wigeon, B
Ring-necked Duck, W
Lesser Scaup, B
Common Goldeneye, B
Common Merganser, B
Ruddy Duck, W
Turkey Vulture, B
Northern Harrier, B
Cooper's Hawk, B
Swainson's Hawk, B
Red-tailed Hawk, B
Ferruginous Hawk, E
Rough-legged Hawk, B
Golden Eagle, B
American Kestrel, B
Prairie Falcon, E
Ring-necked Pheasant, E
Blue Grouse, W
White-tailed Ptarmigan*, W
Sage Grouse, W
Greater Prairie-Chicken*, E
Lesser Prairie-Chicken*, E
Sharp-tailed Grouse*, W
Northern Bobwhite, E
Scaled Quail, E
American Coot, B
Sandhill Crane, W
Mountain Plover, E
Black-necked Stilt, E
American Avocet, B
Greater Yellowlegs, E
Lesser Yellowlegs, B
Long-billed Curlew, B
Western Sandpiper, E
Least Sandpiper, E
Long-billed Dowitcher, E
Common Snipe, B
Franklin's Gull, E
Bonaparte's Gull, B
Ring-billed Gull, B
California Gull, W
Forster's Tern, E
Rock Dove, B
Mourning Dove, B
Great Horned Owl, E
Burrowing Owl, E
Belted Kingfisher, B
Lewis' Woodpecker, E
Red-napped Sapsucker, E
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, E
Downy Woodpecker, B
Hairy Woodpecker, W
Northern Flicker, B
Eastern Phoebe, E
Say's Phoebe, B
Horned Lark, B
Tree Swallow, B
Violet-green Swallow, E
Barn Swallow, B
Steller's Jay, W
Blue Jay, E
Western Scrub Jay, B
Pinyon Jay*, W
Clark's Nutcracker, W
Black-billed Magpie, B
American Crow, B
Chihuahuan Raven, E
Common Raven, B
Black-capped Chickadee, B
Mountain Chickadee, W
Red-breasted Nuthatch, B
White-breasted Nuthatch, B
Rock Wren, E
Canyon Wren, E
Bewick's Wren, E
American Dipper, E
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, W
Eastern Bluebird, E
Western Bluebird, B
Mountain Bluebird, B
Townsend's Solitaire, B
American Robin, B
Northern Mockingbird, E
Sage Thrasher, E
American Pipit, B
Loggerhead Shrike, B
European Starling, B
Yellow-rumped Warbler, E
Spotted Towhee, E
Canyon Towhee, E
Cassin's Sparrow, E
Chipping Sparrow, W
Brewer's Sparrow, W
Vesper Sparrow, B
Lark Sparrow, E
Lark Bunting, E
Savannah Sparrow, E
Grasshopper Sparrow, E
Song Sparrow, E
Lincoln's Sparrow, E
White-crowned Sparrow, E
Harris's Sparrow, E
Dark-eyed Junco, B
McCown's Longspur*, E
Chestnut-collared Longspur*, E
Red-winged Blackbird, B
Western Meadowlark, B
Yellow-headed Blackbird, B
Brewer's Blackbird, B
Great-tailed Grackle, E
Common Grackle, B
Brown-headed Cowbird, E
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, W
Black Rosy-Finch*, W
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, W
Pine Grosbeak, W
Cassin's Finch, B
House Finch, E
Red Crossbill, W
Pine Siskin, B
American Goldfinch, E
Evening Grosbeak, W
House Sparrow, B