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16 - 25 April 2001

by Joseph Morlan

Dan Singer, Robbie Fischer and I (all from the San Francisco, California area) did a "Chicken Run" to Colorado two weeks ago.  Here is a brief summary of highlights.

April 16th - Loveland Ski Basin - No Rosy Finches at the feeders.

April 17th - Guanella Pass - An all-morning search produced two WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN. Many RED CROSSBILLS were along the road up to Guanella including a few showing narrow, but distinct, white wing-bars.

Hayden Area - We watched two adult GOLDEN EAGLES on an active nest.  A displaying WILSON'S SNIPE seemingly showed mostly white wing linings in flight.  Has anybody else noticed white wing-linings on these birds?  Is this normal in this population or was it a light illusion?

April 18th - Hayden Area - SHARP-TAILED GROUSE on a lek at close range.  There were about 25 birds at dawn and the displays and noises were amazing. Even more amazing is that every few minutes the entire group would  simultaneously stop motionless for about 30 seconds before starting up again.  It was as though time stopped for them.  The synchronization of the
stopping and starting was fascinating.  Nearby, a male BLUE GROUSE displayed to two females on a small snow field.

Gould - About 15 BROWN-CAPPPED ROSY-FINCHES and one BLACK ROSY-FINCH visited the State Park visitors center feeders.  We also identified several "Pink-sided" Juncos with the many "Gray-headed" Juncos, and a couple of birds we identified as hybrid types (intergrades?).

April 19th - Colorado National Monument - Two RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS may be of interest as they are not on the checklist for the park.  We also saw two PINION JAYS and a singing male RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (shown as "rare" in the checklist).  We also saw a SAGE THRASHER west of the park.

April 20th - Gunnison - GUNNISON SAGE GROUSE were on the Lek, but the birds left quite early.  Views were distant, not very satisfying and the viewing area quite crowded.

Blue Mesa Reservoir - Several GREATER SCAUP among many ducks and a GREAT EGRET.

Black Canyon - we had great views of at least one, probably two, male AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKERS along the Warner Nature Trail between markers 8 and 11.  This species is not on the bird checklist for the park.  Interestingly a HAIRY WOODPECKER was following the Three-toed Woodpecker around apparently taking advantage of the recent bark scaling.  This is the 2nd time I've noticed this association between these two species.  The first time was in British Columbia.  TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES were singing beautifully and a WILD TURKEY surprised us near the parking lot.

North of Gunnison we lucked out with the GLOSSY IBIS in a flooded field with 3 WHITE-FACED IBIS found the day before by a VENT tour.

April 21st - Gunnison - We went back for GUNNISON SAGE-GROUSE again.  Today we had much better views.  The light was better and there was less wind so we could actually hear them and see the tail pattern.  They stayed about 10 minutes later than yesterday and when they flew, they landed on the far hillside where they were still visible.  We watched as they walked to the top of the hill where they continued to display, tossing their full tassels until a PRAIRIE FALCON strafed them.

Pueblo - We probably walked past the Pine Warbler at Pueblo City Park, not knowing about it at the time.

April 22nd - We found a HARRIS'S SPARROW in a flock of White-crowned Sparrows at Rocky Ford SWA near La Junta.  Shorebirds were in abundance at Holbrook Reservoir.  We had good views of BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS and nice close comparisons of SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS with WESTERN SANDPIPERS. At Lake Cheraw, we saw two white geese at a distance that we identified as SNOW GEESE.

Comanche Grasslands - We saw a nice flock of LARK BUNTINGS, two EASTERN PHOEBES, several SCALED QUAIL and BURROWING OWLS. While enjoying the Rock Art we found a dark-lored WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Oriantha?). We flushed a couple of EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES off the road just east of Campo.  As a storm was rapidly approaching, we headed to the LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN lek in the late afternoon where we saw 7 birds aggressively displaying and calling.  We used the car as a blind; about five other cars were doing the same.

April 23rd - We opted out of Lesser Prairie-chickens in the morning because of heavy rain and wind.  We checked Bonny Reservoir where we were treated to a displaying pair of PEREGRINE FALCONS at the dam. Then we headed up to Wray where we enjoyed GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS at a small lek in a cornfield.

April 24th - Wray - We went out again for Greater Prairie-chickens in the morning, but the rain seemed to keep them down.  We only saw about 7 birds, and only two were displaying.

Then we headed out for Pawnee Grasslands where we enjoyed displaying MCCOWN'S LONGSPURS, and CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS.  The McCown's were particularly fun as they would skylark over the grasslands,
then raise their wings up high and parachute downward with their mostly white tail spread wide, gliding somewhat like a nighthawk. We found a BURROWING OWL and a beautiful adult male MOUNTAIN PLOVER in a Prairie Dog

April 25th - We found another HARRIS'S SPARROW in a flock of White-crowned Sparrows at Beebe Draw.  Two adult BALD EAGLES flew into a nest at Barr Lake.  We also saw a GREAT HORNED OWL nest with chicks and quite a few
SOLITARY SANDPIPERS around the lake.

It was a very successful trip for us with many memorable experiences.  All target birds were seen well.  Many thanks to those who provided advice and helped facilitate access to private property in a couple of places.

A very helpful web site which I used in planning is:

Recommended restaurants:

In Georgetown - Raven Hill Mining Company
In Craig - River Ridge Prime Rib and Lobster House (bring binoculars; we saw flocks of White-faced Ibis from the dining room).


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