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24 June - 8 July 1995

by Don Henise

Robyn and I completed two weeks in Colorado at the end of June and beginning of July.  Our course took us from Denver counterclockwise through the western part of the state.  Towns that we visited included Greeley, Loveland, Grandby, Dillon, Aspen, Montrose, Gunnison, Ouray, Cortez, Durango, Silverton, Alamosa, Canon City, Colorado Springs, Woodland Park and Castle Rock.  We visited the following parks and natural areas; Pawnee National Grasslands, Rocky Mountain Park, Maroon Bells, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Russell Lakes State Wildlife Area, Temple Canyon Park, Colorado Springs State Wildlife Area (Hanna Ranch) and Bear Creek Park.

This was our second trip to Colorado, but the first time on the western side of the Continental Divide in that state.  In 15 days we drove 2500 miles and recorded a total of 168 bird species, 8 of which were life birds.  Below, I've composed an annotated list of the interesting species we saw (from an easterner's viewpoint of course).

Eared Grebe,  Podiceps nigricollis
     2 distant birds at Lower Latham Reservoir, Greeley
     Several at MonteVista NWR

Western Grebe,  Aechmophorus occidentalis
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Timnath Reservoir, Fort Collins
     Lake Grandby
     Blue Mesa Reservoir

Clark's Grebe,  Aechmophorus clarkii            * Life bird
     Timnath Reservoir, Fort Collins
     Thanks to BIRDCHATter Todd Tracey who suggested Timnath and then met us
     there for a day of birding in the Pawnee Grasslands. We had close looks
     at the grebes, with great comparisons with the Western's.

American White Pelican,  Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
     2 circling over Lower Latham Reservoir

White-faced Ibis,  Plegadis chihi
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR
     Russell Lakes SWA

Cinnamon Teal,  Anas cyanoptera
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Timnath Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR

Swainson's Hawk,  Buteo swainsoni
     Rocky Mountain Arsenal (Barr Lake Loop in Lane)
     Pawnee NG
     Monte Vista NWR
     Hanna Ranch

Ferruginous Hawk, Buteo regalis
     possible immature bird at Pawnee NG
     Hanna Ranch - another immature - we're still waiting for a good look at
     an adult

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
     Black Canyon - adult soaring and then landing at nest
     Poncha Pass - adult
     Near Woodland Park - adult

Prairie Falcon, Falco mexicanus
     Pawnee NG - poor look at a bird flying away
     Castle Rock - nesting on Castle Rock!

Blue Grouse, Dendragapus obscurus       *Life bird
     Early one morning along the south rim road at the Black Canyon Monument
     we saw three different males, each sitting up on a rock at the edge of
     the road as if ready to display.  On of them even partially inflated
     his throat sacks and gave a few hoots - This was on July  1st!

White-tailed Ptarmigan,  Lagopus leucurus
     Our number 1 Colorado nemesis bird.  I include it here because we did
     HEAR one.  We spent several hours on the Ute trail in RMNP without any
     sign. The next day we went to Loveland Pass and had a ptarmigan respond
     to our tape.  As we were scanning across the tundra trying to locate
     the source, Robyn caught it out of the corner of her eye fly up and
     over a ridge never to be seen or heard again, despite several more
     hours of searching.  In light of the recent thread on tape use, I might
     add that the alternative to using a tape is to tramp all over the
     fragile tundra attempting to flush a bird.  We stayed on existing
     trails and periodically played the ptarmigan call.  Colorado had
     experienced unusually high snowfall and a cold spring, so there was
     still quite a bit of snow on the tundra.  Maybe most of the Ptarmigan
     were still at lower elevations.  At any rate we didn't count this bird
     even though ABA will now let us.  Somehow hearing a ptarmigan just
     wasn't satisfying to us.  Robyn's not even counting the glimpse that
     she got of the flying bird.

Gambel's Quail, Callipepla gambelii
     Peach Valley southeast of Delta while following (unsuccessfully) Lane's
     directions to Sage Sparrow.

Virginia Rail, Rallus limicola
     As we drove up to Timnath Reservoir, Todd Tracey, who was waiting for
     us there, signaled us to look in front of his car.  There on the road
     was a Virginia Rail, Todd's lifer!

Sora,  Porzana carolina
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Manitou Lake

American Coot, Fulica americana
     South of Durango
     Monte Vista NWR

Mountain Plover, Charadrius montanus
     Pawnee NG along road 122 on the western loop described by Lane (page 20)

American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR
     Russell Lakes SWA

Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa
     Lower Latham Reservoir

Wilson's Phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR

Franklin's Gull, Larus pipixcan
     Lower Latham Reservoir

California Gull, Larus californicus
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Manitou Lake

Barn Owl, Tyto alba
     Hanna Ranch - we had been directed to this nest in a dirt bank in 1990
     and checked it out again and there they were five years later,
     still using the same hole.

Burrowing Owl, Speotyto cunicularia
     Sitting on the fence a t Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Common Poorwill,  Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
     Temple Canyon Park, Canon City - 3 birds calling at dusk

Black Swift, Cypseloides niger     *Life bird
     Ouray - this was supposed to be an easy bird in Ouray, but the weather
     didn't cooperate with us.  It was unusually cool and damp throughout
     our trip, but the morning we first went to Ouray it was overcast and
     raining.  Needless to say, very few White-throated Swifts were even
     flying that morning.  We spent several hours in the vicinity of Box
     Canyon Falls and saw at most 5 White-throated Swifts.  The next day we
     decided to try Ouray in the evening (we were staying in Montrose about
     40 miles to the north) since swifts are more active in the evening.
     When we arrived in Ouray in the afternoon it was raining again so we
     decided to do our laundry.  Finally sometime after 6 pm, it started to
     clear and swifts started flying.  Eventually we were able to pick out
     the different flight style of the Black Swifts and were even able to
     follow them in the scope for a good view. The Black Swifts have more of
     a fluttering flight - you can actually seen the wingbeats - compared to
     the quick flight of the White-throated Swifts.

White-throated Swift, Aeronautes saxatalis
     Common near any rock cliffs
     Black Canyon
     Mesa Verde NP etc.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus
     Common everywhere except in the grasslands and scrub land of the

Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus      *just as good as a life bird
     In Durango, we stayed for three days with some friends we had met 3
     years ago on a birding trip to Southeast Arizona.  On July 4th their
     first Rufous of the season - a male - arrived just in time for us to
     see it.  The only Rufous we had seen before was a female that was in
     northeast Maryland 2 winters ago.

Lewis' Woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis
     Durango, coming to our friends' feeder - I was surprised that this was
     the only Lewis' we saw on the trip

Red-naped Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis
     Endovalley Picnic Area - RMNP

Williamson's Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus thyroideus    *Life bird
     Along Bear Lake Road RMNP - again thanks to directions from Todd Tracey
     we were able to observe a male and female feeding their young at a
     nest hole.  Later we saw a male just beyond the alluvial fan at
     Endovalley at the edge of the aspen grove.
     McClure Pass - a female

Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker, Colaptes auratus
     Fairly common in the western part of the state.

Olive-sided Flycatcher, Contopus borealis
     Loveland Pass
     North and South rims of the Black Canyon

Western Wood-Pewee, Contopus sordidulus
     Crow Valley Park

Hammond's Flycatcher, Empidonax hammondii
     RMNP near the Williamson's Sapsucker nest
     McClure Pass

Dusky Flycatcher, Empidonax oberholseri
     Endovalley Picnic Area RMNP - at the willows along the stream
     Black Canyon

Gray Flycatcher, Empidonax wrightii       *Life bird
     Mesa Verde NP
     Temple Canyon Park

     Gray Flycatcher finishes off our list of regularly occuring US
     flycatchers with the exception of our nemesis birds - Alder and Yellow-
     bellied - which have to pass practically through our backyard twice a
     year.  We'll catch up to them sooner or later!

Cordilleran Flycatcher, Empidonax occidentalis
     Box Canyon Falls, Ouray
     Bear Creek Park, Colorado Springs

Ash-throated Flycatcher,  Myiarchus cinerascens
     Messa Verde NP
     Temple Canyon Park

Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
     Common in the eastern plains - Pawnee NG
     San Luis Valley - Monte Vista NWR

Violet-green Swallow, Tachycineta thalassina

Cliff Swallow, Hirundo pyrrhonota
     I was surprised at how common these were.  They were around just about
     every bridge that we crossed.

Gray Jay,  Perisoreus canadensis
     Trail Ridge Road, RMNP at small pull-off just before Milner Pass - 2
     very photogenic birds

Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
     Fairly common in forests at 8 - 9,000 feet.

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
     Crow Valley Park, Pawnee Grassland - I just included them here to round
     out our list ofjays.

Scrub Jay,  Aphelocoma coerulescens
     Black Canyon and other Pinyon-Juniper/Scrup Oak habitat in the
     southwest.  They were not as conspicuous as I remembered from our last
     trip.  Perhaps they were busy nesting.

Pinyon Jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus       *Life bird
     We finally ran into a flock of these raucus birds south of Durango in
     the Animas River Valley and then saw others at the Great Sand Dunes

Clark's Nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana
     Black Canyon - Warner Point Trail

Black-billed Magpie, Pica pica
     Everywhere except mountain tundra

Mountain Chickadee, Parus gambeli
     Black Canyon

Plain Titmouse, Parus inornatus
     Black Canyon
     Temple Canyon park

Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
     Black Canyon
     Mesa Verde NP
     Temple Canyon Park

Pygmy Nuthatch, Sitta pygmaea
     RMNP - a pair visiting a nest hole just a few trees away from the
     Williamson's Sapsuckers

Rock Wren,  Salpinctes obsoletus
     Temple Canyon Park - we finally heard 2 of these here on our next to
     last day.  I had expected to see and hear them more frequently on the

Canyon Wren, Catherpes mexicanus
     Heard one from both the north and south rim of the Black Canyon.

Bewick's Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
     Mesa Verde NP

Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR
     Are these guys a different subspecies?  They sound harsher and look
     drabber than east coast birds.

American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus
     Endovalley Picnic Area - RMNP
     Cascade Falls, Ouray - very photogenic fellow here

Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
     The only bird of the trip was one seen along Rt.. 160 between Durango
     and Chimney Rock.

Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides
     These beautiful birds were quite common in RMNP and around the Black
     Canyon.  We saw them at most of the mountain passes we crossed.

Townsend's Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi        *Life bird
     Saw our lifers near the Williamson's Sapsucker nest and then saw
     several others in RMNP
     Box Canyon Falls, Ouray

Swainson's Thrush, Catharus ustulatus
     McClure Pass - 1 singing - although we see these every spring, we
     rarely get to hear them sing.

Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
     Fairly common at higher elevations 9,000 +, we heard them singing

Sage Thrasher, Oreoscoptes montanus
     Black Canyon
     Rt. 150 on the way to the Great Sand Dunes

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
     Alpine Tundra - Trail Ridge Road, Loveland Pass.  It was fun to watch
     these guys doing their skylarking courtship displays.

Loggerhead Shrike,  Lanius ludovicianus
     Pawnee NG
     Peach Valley

Solitary "Plumbeous" Vireo, Vireo solitarius
     Black Canyon
     Mesa Verde NP

"Western" Warbling Vireo, Vireo gilvus
     Pretty common in the lower elevation forests 7 -9,000 feet.  I tried to
     study these birds and I noted a slight difference in the song from
     our eastern birds.  The western song was a little harsher and didn't
     seem as long as our eastern birds.  The upper edge of the white
     supercilium seemed to have a darker border.  Not near as dark as the
     Red-eyed Vireo, but distinctly darker than the eastern race.  I'll have
     to get out and study the eastern birds now.

Virginia's Warbler, Vermivora virginiae
     Common in the Pinyon/juniper/oak around the Black Canyon.

Yellow-rumped "Audubon's"  Warbler, Dendroica coronata
     Wolf Creek Pass

Black-throated Gray Warbler, Dendroica nigrescens
     Black Canyon
     Mesa Verde NP
     Temple Canyon Park

MacGillivray's Warbler, Oporornis tolmiei        *Life bird
     The first unsatisfactory views of this species gave us some anxious
     moments, but we eventually got great looks at several locations McClure

Wilson's Warbler, Wilsonia pusilla
     Endovalley Picnic Area - abundant in the willow patch across the stream
     At tree line on any mountain pass in the willow patches

Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
     Ouray - saw a female, and heard a male singing
     South of Durango - saw a male fly from a power line
     Temple Canyon Park - finally got a decent view of a male - I don't know
     why they were so hard to find this trip.

Black-headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
     Bear Creek Park, Colorado Springs

Blue Grosbeak, Guiraca caerulea
     Barr Lake Loop
     Hanna Ranch

Lazuli Bunting, Passerina amoena
     Box Canyon Falls, Ouray
     Hanna Ranch

Green-tailed Towhee, Pipilo chlorurus
     Common in the Pinyon/juniper/scrub oak around the Black Canyon

Rufous-sided "Spotted" Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus
     Common in the Pinyon/juniper/scrub oak around the Black Canyon
     Bear Creek Park

Brewer's Sparrow, Spizella breweri
     Pawnee NG - along Road 122 between Roads 37 and 45
     Entrance road to the North Rim of the Black Canyon

Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
     Pawnee NG
     Monte Vista NWR
     Great Sand Dunes

Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocorys
     Can't miss them at Pawnee NG

"Dusky" Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca
     Maroon Bells campground area
     Molas Pass

Lincoln's Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
     RMNP  - in the willows at tree line
     Loveland Pass
     Molas Pass
White-crowned Sparrow,  Zonotrichia leucophrys
     Above treeline
     Loveland Pass

Dark-eyed "Gray-headed" Junco, Junco hyemalis
     Trail Ridge Road - RMNP
     Lizard Head Pass

McCown's Longspur, Calcarius mccownii
     Pawnee NG - Road 45 just south of Road 122 there is a large breeding
     colony 40+ males

Chestnut-collared Longspur, Calcarius ornatus
     Pawnee NG - Road 114 just east of RT. 85 - we had one male displaying

Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
     Pawnee NG - common
     Common in the Animas River Valley south of Durango and in the San Louis

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Timnath Reservoir
     Monte Vista NWR

Brewer's Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
     Fairly common in fields along the road after crossing to the western slope

Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius
     Crow Valley Park, Pawnee NG - a singing male - Todd Tracey's life bird

Northern "Bullock's" Oriole, Icterus galbula
     Lower Latham Reservoir
     Durango area

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, Leucosticte australis
     Ute Trail, RMNP - 4 flybys

Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator
     McClure Pass
     Molas Pass

Cassin's Finch, Carpodacus cassinii

Pine Siskin, Carduelis pinus
     Common just about everywhere but they seemed particularly out of place
     to us easterners in the Pinyon/juniper habitat around the Black Canyon.

Lesser Goldfinch, Carduelis psaltria
     Never Sink Trail along the Gunnison River
     Bear Creek Park

Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus
     Box Canyon Falls, Ouray

Don Henise                            Internet:
Computer Center                         BITNET: deheni@ship
Shippensburg University                  Voice: (717) 532-9121 ext 3170
1871 Old Main Drive                       Home: (717) 776-6550
Shippensburg, PA  17257                    Fax: (717) 532-1427

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