Riding the High Country – Uncompahgre Plateau

As with many things in life the best things turn out much better than you think they will. After reading about the Uncompahgre (Un-com-pah-gray) Plateau in the Colorado County Birding Guide, I was a little apprehensive about going up on the plateau by myself. Especially in a car. Reading the guide made it sound like unless you were well prepared, you might not come back down off the plateau.  But far and away this turned out to be the best day of the trip.

In my case, and with apologies to Sam Peckinpah, Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, I spent the day Driving the High Country.

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The view from just outside Grand Junction. Up there, somewhere, is the plateau.

But the guide wasn’t entirely incorrect.  You can get by easily on a nice, dry day.  But you had better come prepared because there are no stores or facilities.  The drive is 50 miles of gravel road on government owned land.  On the day I saw zero other cars. None.  My rental was the only car on the plateau. Everyone else was in pickup trucks or SUV’s. And I bet I could count on three hands (less than 15) the total number of other vehicles I saw on the whole day.  So the plateau was mine to bird.

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This is a typical scene on top of the plateau. Just the gravel road and nature.

The plateau is situated SW of Grand Junction.  To get to the top you have to make several switchbacks up a gravel road going from 5000 to around 9500 feet.  Learning from my stop at Loveland Pass I stopped 3 times and birded each stop for 10-15 minutes on the way up. Each time I was a little dizzy but it soon faded.  I would walk slowly and bird and it seemed to work out.

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Looking back on the switchbacks from a higher point.

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The view back to the road I took to get plateau. And I’m not even half way up yet.

At one of the stops I saw a Black-throated Gray Warbler along the side of the road. My only other previous encounter was a fleeting glance several years ago in Oregon. So this was treat.

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A Black-throated Gray Warbler in the pines at the first stop up.

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There were numerous Chipping Sparrows at the mid-altitudes.

I also had my only encounter with Mountain Chickadees on the way up. I could immediately tell they weren’t Black-capped from their raspier call.  I also had a bird that I thought was a Western Tanager calling but never got a look.  So it will stay off the personal list.

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The Mountain Chickadees never were visible from the non-sun side of the road, hence the lousy photo.

And just like that I was at the top of the plateau and I could tell I was somewhere different. It was like going from Indiana to Northern Michigan or Minnesota.  The sun just didn’t seem right and the air felt different. The temperature was at least 20 degrees F less than the Grand Valley below (which still meant it was 80F in the afternoon). And it felt great.

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The entrance to the Uncompahgre Plateau had the usual warnings and maps.

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The view of the grasslands at the lower level of the plateau. I would continue to climb the rest of the day reaching 9500′.

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It must have been Mountain Bluebirds day to greet visitors at the entrance.

The Divide Road runs the center of the plateau and goes 40 miles before you can take a side road and descend back to the valley.  Here is a link to a short video on YouTube that a motorcycle rider made “A ride atop the Uncompahgre Plateau“.  So the plan was to bird the road for the day and get home late afternoon. With the great habitats I only made it 13 miles. I then had to turn around and come back the way I came.  But it was a great 13 miles of varied habitat.  From Alpine Meadows to Ponderosa Pines to Aspen Forests and everything in between.

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Another typical scene looking at the Divide Road.

So I spent the day traveling a little bit at a time, parking along side the road, and birding an area for a while. All the while trying to make sure I stopped at the different habitats.

Once I stopped to view the only map posted along the road.  While viewing the map my phone chimed I had a message.  That startled me in the quiet of the plateau. I had checked earlier and didn’t have service in this remote spot. But I had it there and 4 bars to boot! I never did figure out how I had service out there. I guess you can never get truly away.

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At a certain altitude Green-tailed Towhees were the most numerous bird. They could be heard calling all along the road.

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An American Kestrel hunting a mountain meadow.

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The snow capped mountains were always preset to the west.

Probably the best part of the day was the last stop. I parked the car by an Aspen Grove and hard a distant “caw caw”.  I knew I had heard it on the tapes I had listened too so I went into the grove to check it out. I saw a distant gray bird that kept moving. I figured it was the bird that was calling.  As I got further and further into the glade I saw a flycatcher  who actually stopped long enough for photos.

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A blurry photo of a Dusky Flycatcher sitting in an Aspen Glade.

And the other bird kept calling.  And then something rose up out of the tall grass and scarred the ##?? !! out of me. As I was walking quickly the other way it dawned on me that it was a fawn.  And then I about stepped on its sibling. I should have got a photo but I figured Mom was around and I didn’t want to meet her. And of course then the Caw Caw bird came out in the open. A Clark’s Nutcracker!  And the battery in the camera then went dead and the backup battery was in the car a few hundred feet away.  Oh well.

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The view of a distant Grand Junction on the way back down at the end of the day.

 

 

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High Water and Forest Damage – The Last Saturday of the IAS Summer Bird Count

My plan for the last Saturday in July, which was the last Saturday for the Indiana Audubon Summer Bird Count, was like the first weekend in June – visit as many habitats as possible. The difference as opposed to the first weekend in June was that the few birds that would be calling would probably be done by 10AM. And they were. So I was hoping for shorebirds to observe after 10.

I was out by 5AM in search of Eastern Screech-Owls but only found a pickup with a boat in the parking lot about 50 yards from my best spot at Atterbury FWA. With its motor running and lights on.  Why would someone be in a parking lot an hour and half before sunrise with a big boat by a pond that I wouldn’t even bother to canoe?  Who knows.

Anyway after missing the screech-owl I headed to the Great Horned Owl location and they began calling on cue about a half hour before sunrise.  But I missed Barred Owl again. I have only heard one this year as opposed to six by this time the last two years. Maybe I just need to get out more?

The next hour and half around Atterbury/Johnson County Park was productive. I observed not one but four Belted Kingfishers, a bird I had missed on the count so far.  It was also cool to watch Tree Swallows chase them around, a behavior I had never witnessed.

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One of two female Belted Kingfishers that was being chased by Tree Swallows. But I’m not sure who started the chase.

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A Common Grackle watching the chase around the trees.

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I’ll let you guess on the top bird way across the lake. Use the process of elimination of the tagged species at the end of the article for the answer.

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A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was in the same area as 3 males that kept flying around.

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One of the males landed long enough for a quick photo.

As others have noted swallows were gathering with a large group of Purple Martins at one of the small lakes at Atterbury. I was also glad to see a Spotted Sandpiper fly over since I had missed them because of the high water in the county.  And today the water was even higher. Driftwood SFA was the highest I have ever seen it, with no boats on the water when I checked.  The Big Blue River was also very high. And all the usual shorebirds spots were either flooded or so full of weeds that no shorebirds would land there.

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Purple Martins were numerous on the day, as were most swallows.

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A tree full of Purple Martins. They must be moving since I had never seen them in this location before.

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An Eastern Phoebe doing a 180 look. Not sure but I didn’t see anything in that direction.

Atterbury also showed the effects of the recent storms with trees down in many places. You could see were the DNR had cut many trees that had falling across the road. After Atterbury I headed to Laura Hare Preserve and the situation was even worse. If I hadn’t been to the preserve previously I’m not sure I could have picked up the trail in several spots. Trees were down everywhere and the trail was washed out in a couple of spots.  And the birding was slow as it approached the 10AM hour.

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Some of the damage at Laura Hare Preserve. You can’t even tell the trail veers to the left.

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One of the smaller trees that was laying across the path.

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And part of the trail was washed out by the lake.

I stopped by the south side of Atterbury and Johnson County Park on my way back from Laura Hare. While there I had all three raptors on the day – Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Turkey Vulture – while sitting on a picnic table getting a drink and watching meadowlarks.  The JCP Bell’s Vireo was still calling and a Yellow-breasted Chat came out to see who was around.

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A Yellow-breasted Chat popped out to see who was in this far corner of the park.

So I ended the summer count with 88 species, the first time I hadn’t broke 100 in the three years I have participated. But I didn’t get to Laura Hare in early June and that is needed for 5 or so breeding warblers. Plus no shorebirds this year. Which usually is another 5 or so. And I missed a week going to Colorado and another week to cataract surgery. Cataract Surgery is something I should blog about but I’m waiting to see how it improves my birding. So far it has been great.

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The local Red-tailed Hawk sitting in the tree behind our condo. Its mate is usually there but not on this day.

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And the local Northern Mockingbird. Recently I have heard it calling as late as midnight and as early as 5AM. Does it ever sleep? Does it call in its sleep? Does it ever stop?

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And Now for Something Completely Different – Lake Birding in an Arid World

After wrapping up at Colorado National Monument I had the choice to either try for cooler (as in temperature) birds at elevation or spend the afternoon at the only large lake in the area. Since a breeze had picked up I figured it wouldn’t be so warm around the lake. I was kinda right.

It took about an hour to get to Fruitgrowers Reservoir outside Delta, CO.  I know I said I didn’t want to drive that much but not really many options if I was going to beat the heat. The lake tuned out to be good-sized with absolutely no people around.  None. Just like the morning it was quiet but in a different way.

Then I read a sign that explained why. There was to be no water contact by people – no swimming, no fishing, no boating.  The lake has a high level of phosphorous pollution and from reading on the internet it has for some time.  So why is safe for birds? I don’t know.

But even though it was polluted and it was quiet, there were birds. The lakes’ north end had a road that cut off the lake from a low area that was a large cattail marsh.  So I walked the road observing grebes, pelicans, and gulls to one side and blackbirds, coots, and herons on the other side.

The road had very little traffic and it made for a wonderful afternoon. Even in 100F temperature!

And it reminded me of when we lived in Illinois.  I have written how I would go to LaSalle Lake almost every summer afternoon and watch the gulls. Often in 90F or higher heat. So this brought back pleasant memories and reminded me how much I like the heat.

Seriously.

And just like those Sunday afternoons of searching through all the Ring-billed Gulls for Laughing Gulls or searching the Caspian Terns for a Royal and usually coming up short, I never could turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s.

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Fruitgrowers Reservoir looking from the road over the lake.

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Looking SE at a group of American White Pelicans in the distance.

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The view to the north over the marsh area adjacent to the road.

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Western Grebe and family. How do they choose which young one gets to ride on Mom? First come? First serve?

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So I guess I did get a closer photo of a Black-chinned Hummingbird.

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I initially thought the 5 gulls hanging around were Ring-billed Gulls but after a closer I’m pretty sure they are California Gulls. I did not spend a lot of time studying them with all the other species around.

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I had the best views of my life of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. There were numerous male and females flying around. The males did not appreciated me and kept giving their strange call.

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Definitely the best looks of female Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

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More babies. There were a couple of American Coots around and this one came out with her red-headed young.

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And at the end of the road the American White Pelicans were feeding in a small pool surrounded by Great Blue Herons. I never did see any shorebirds even though there was good habitat.

And reaching the end of the road and being out for more than several hours in the heat it was time to head back.

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Colorado National Monument – Quiet, Very Quiet

 And I don’t mean a lack of birds.

You know one of the reasons I don’t particularly like urban birding is that there is always noise in the background. Always.  That is why I go to Atterbury FWA. Usually before 10AM the gun range isn’t open and the National Guard isn’t in full swing yet. So most times it is relatively quiet on a Saturday morning. I can actually hear the birds without the sound of man-made noise in the background.

But Colorado National Monument at dawn on a Sunday morning was quiet.  Real quiet. For someone who lives in Indianapolis and not that far from I-65, it was eerie quiet.

And the quiet was GREAT!

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Here is the view heading to Colorado National Monument from the south entrance at dawn. Not much happening…

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And the general area I would be birding in the early morning. There are more birds out there than what I initially thought.

At first all I could hear were Gambel’s Quail giving their “ka-KAA-ka” call. No cars. No people. No machines.  It was a great way to start the trip.

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After hearing Gambel’s Quails calling I finally spotted this male in a nearby bush.

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Here he is calling. You gotta dig the black topknot and the other vibrant colors.

I picked Colorado National Monument for the first day since it was close to Grand Junction and after driving 5 hours the day before I wanted to stay close to town. So as was to be the norm for the trip I was up by 5, made the days PB&J sandwiches, and was out the door to meet the dawn a little before 6. And the quiet.

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One of the first birds that checked me out was this Black-throated Sparrow. After Western Meadowlarks I think this might have been the most numerous species I saw in the trip. Check out the tail pattern.

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In for a closer look. He appears to be grumpy.

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The Ash-throated Flyctcher is similar to the Eastern Great Crested Flycatcher but the call wasn’t quite as similar as I thought it would be.

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Here’s a closer view of the area I was birding – mainly Juniper and scrub.

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The Western counterpart to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird – a male Black-chinned Hummingbird. This was about as close as they would get.

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The rabbits were even tamer than back home. Several times they ran right over my boots.

So here are some of the Western species I observed if not photographed for the first part of the morning – Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-throated Sparrow, Bushtit, Canyon Wren, Common Raven, Gambel’s Quail, Lesser Goldfinch, Say’s Phoebe, and Spotted Towhee.

I then decided to be SUPERMAN and make the climb into Ute Canyon figuring there would be a different variety of birds. It was already approaching 90F and clear.  A good day for a hike. And I only ended up seeing Plumbous Vireo and Virginia’s Warbler.

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This is a view of the trail down to Ute Canyon from an angle a little farther up the rim road. Can you see the switchbacks?

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I have outlined the switchbacks to show the trail I took down.

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And here is the view from the bottom of the canyon. Doesn’t look so bad from this angle. On the way up I walked 2 minutes and rested 2 minutes.  I finally got back up.

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The satellite view of Ute Canyon with the area I descended highlighted. Now if I would have seen this before I climbed down, would I have gone?

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The topographic map of the canyon. It’s only 400-500 feet down. It sure looked like more coming up…

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Remember in the spring when I posted about getting lucky? It was about a good photo I got of a Blue-headed Vireo that I was lucky to get. Here is the link – http://bushwhackingbirder.com/general/just-plain-lucky/ And as you can see I didn’t get a good photo of its western cousin – Plumbous Vireo. It was in a Cottonwood Tree at the bottom of the canyon.

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One of several lizards I saw on the trip. My daughter informs me this is probably a Six-lined Racerunner.

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The view of the east side of the canyon. A little steeper…

The rest of Colorado National Monument was quiet.  And this time I mean birds.  I took a few scenic photos and headed out around noon.

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A view of the Grand Valley taken from the top of Colorado National Monument.

It was time to head somewhere cooler to bird.

 

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Colorado – Loveland Pass- Beautiful but Forget it!

I am including this post for a couple of reasons.

1.  Unless you don’t have a problem with altitude, or have already adjusted to altitude, don’t attempt to stop and look for birds at 12,000 feet.  It is foolhardy since you will spend all your time adjusting to the altitude and not looking for birds.  Spend your time at that altitude taking in the scenery and get the heck back down to a lower altitude.

2. The odds of you finding birds – say a White-tailed Ptarmigan – is slim to none anyway.  So don’t make yourself sick unless you have adjusted to altitude.

So there you have my 45 minute stop at Loveland Pass – 11,990 feet above sea level.  On my trip from Denver to Grand Junction I thought I would stop, take an hour, and look for the White-tailed Ptarmigan that had been reported.

I had been told that drinking water would counter some of the effects of altitude.  So I had been drinking water all day.  Plus chewing gum which always helps lesson the effect of altitude change. But immediately getting out of the car I thought I was going to fall down. So I stood for a few minutes and held the car. A few minutes later I felt better and since I was there, I might as well take a short walk.  I made it a few feet and grabbed the back end of a sports car.  Luckily no alarms went off.  A few minutes later I could walk fairly normal, abet at a slow pace.

So I spent the rest of the time taken short walks, taking pictures, and listening to one distant bird. Then I figured it was time to get down off this mountain.

I would like to hear if you have had problems like this at altitude.

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Looking back north above the tree line.

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Not much growing up here for birds to eat.

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Except of course dandelions.

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On the trail leading to the summit, a White-tailed Ptarmigan had been reported the week before. I thought about trying for about 2 seconds.

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The only bird I heard or saw. Looks sort of like a Song Sparrow but didn’t sound like one. Ideas?

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And I couldn’t wait to get back down to I-70, shown in the distance. The famed Eisenhower Tunnel is just to the left.

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Annual July 4th Weekend Outing to Goose Pond

Ever since we moved to Indiana three years ago, I have made a trip to Goose Pond each July 4th weekend. And since I only get there a couple of times a year, I have started to look forward to the trip. So like a kid at Christmas anticipating it’s gifts, I was up 15 minutes earlier than the 4:15 alarm, on the road by4:45, and arrived a little after 6:30 to watch the dawn movement.

I was immediately struck by how quiet it was.  Outside of the Red-winged Blackbirds there weren’t many birds calling, though there were Marsh Wrens and even a couple of Least Bitterns calling from across IN59.  And one of the Least Bitterns even flew over the cattails, but not long enough for a photo. I’m not sure if it was because the air was “heavy” with the cloudy, humid conditions but it seemed “noisier” last year. I ended up seeing about the same number of species as last year, and the the quantity of each species was comparable, but it seemed quieter. Maybe because last year was sunny and warm. Anyway I didn’t let it spoil the day.

Also the water levels were lower.  I would have thought they would have been higher with all the rain, but the DNR must be controlling them. Even though I found some perfect shorebird habitat, I didn’t get lucky on any migrating shorebirds like I did last year.

All in all I got to see the native summer birds. Which is the reason I go every year.

Please enjoy the following photos from the day.

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A group of Great Egrets before they decided to disperse for the day.

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Could it be a distant Common Moorhen? I mean, Common Gallinule?

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Yes, the red bill confirms it.

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Of course it eventually came much closer for a better photo.

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Heading to the bridge on 1200W I immediately saw the continuing American White Pelicans.

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I never did see the distant Bald Eagles fly. Nor for that fact did I see any raptors flying except a lone Turkey Vulture. I did speak with a couple that had seen a Northern Harrier on the day.

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An Indigo Bunting was sitting by the road and really didn’t get excited about my presence.

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A Willow Flycatcher came in close while I was scanning the water.

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He kept checking out something above. The local nesting Barn Swallows were flying all over so maybe that was drawing his attention.

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A female Orchard Oriole.

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A male Orchard Oriole.

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The happy couple together. Too bad the lighting was bad.

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A Dickcissel in the same tree that a Northern Bobwhitesat in last year. Link to last year’s post –  http://bushwhackingbirder.com/general/goose-pond-saturday-greater-yellowlegs/

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Occasionally one of the nesting Least Terns would fly over while I was scanning the water. This is a heavily cropped photo.  Since I don’t get to hear many terns, it was good to hear it call.

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So I come across a pair of Blue-winged Teal. I wondered if they are breeding here?

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Who can tell from this distance with all the young Wood Ducks?

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Looks like they have have at least two of their own.

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A Gray Catbird stopped by to see what I was watching.

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And I will end with a Black-necked Stilt. I spent the last couple of hours watching them and scanning for shorebirds. I had so many photos of Black-necked Stilts that I will devout a whole post to them later.

 

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First, Birding Colorado East of the Rockies

The plan for the week wasn’t unique – bird the main habitats of the area.  But before I headed to Grand Junction I had a day to spend east of Denver.

I had taken a 5:30 AM flight out of Indianapolis that had me birding by 7:30 AM Mounain Time Saturday. The plan for the day was to bird the perimeter road of the airport looking for owls and hawks, then drive east of out into the country for hawks, and then back to a state park reservoir.  Wrap it up by 1 PM and then the 4-5 hour drive to Grand Junction.

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I turned onto Airport Rd. and immediately encountered a wet spot with an American Avocet. What a great way to start the trip!

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It know it has to do with the habitats I picked, but this is the first of what seemed to be the most encountered bird of the trip –  Western Meadowlark.

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After seeing numerous roadkill and thinking they were rabbits, I encountered a Prairie Dog colony. I guess they weren’t rabbits on the road after all…

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Knowing there were Prairie Dogs in the area, I scanned for Burrowing Owls. I found this little guy gazing at the Rockies in the distance.

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This group was watching me from just across the road. I would probably have missed them if the previous one hadn’t been up where I could see him. It is hard to realize just how small they are until you see them.

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A closer photo of the group. They didn’t move much the whole time I was there. Nor did I hear any calls. But the Prairie Dogs were vocal the whole time. I am not sure what they are watching to my left? Or would they just not return my gaze?

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Here is the view from the opposite side of the Burrowing Owl area. Pretty desolate.

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The first of many Western Kingbirds. On several previous trips they had been a possibility but I had never seen one. So it was good to finally get to watch them. Very similar acting to Eastern Kingbirds.

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Not a good photo but something I hadn’t thought I would encounter on the High Plains. While scanning for hawks a Bald Eagle came flying over. I am no where near water so I am not sure where it is coming or going.

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Now this is what I was looking for when I saw the eagle. My one and only Swainson’s Hawk of the trip. I got good looks at it before I remembered to take this photo, which is cropped.

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A little farther down the road I encountered this Northern Harrier hunting over an irrigated field. Now I don’t know if I hadn’t paid that close of attention to the status and distribution charts, but I wasn’t expecting a harrier in this location. Checking later, they are a year-round species in Colorado.

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The area 40 miles east of Denver where I was looking for hawks and Lark Buntings. This went on for miles. I did get good looks at a Grasshopper Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike, but not much else.

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After the desolate area, I headed to Barr State Park NE of Denver. There were numerous Western Grebes on the reservoir water, often coming right up to the edge. There were also American White Pelicans in the distance.

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In several areas I birded Eurasian Collared-Doves were as numerous as Mourning Doves.

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Not a western specialty, but I couldn’t resist adding this photo.  An Eastern Kingbird had built a nest that wasn’t more than 3 feet off the trail around the lake.

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And now one of the birds I probably most wanted to see on the trip, a Bullock’s Oriole. This first year male gave the best views while he constantly flew around. The adult males wouldn’t come out for photos. I was struck with how much more orange the Bullock’s have then the Baltimore Oriole.

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Another obliging Western Kingbird, though he wouldn’t come out of the shadows.

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And with that I headed west. Next installment – a stop at the highest point traveling west on I-70.

 

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Why Western Colorado?

First, I would like to start by saying I have a new respect for people who blog on a daily basis.  Especially ones that blog from vacation or trips.  After birding for 11-12 hours every day, I really didn’t feel like writing a post. I kept thinking I would head in early one day after lunch to write, but that didn’t happen. So I didn’t get around to posting as planned. But I kept good written and voice notes to write posts.

Why Western Colorado?

I have been asked this more than a couple of times. To understand just look at a map of the U.S.  Sibley has these types of maps in the front of his guides.  The U.S. is basically broken down into 3 major regions for birds.  The area east of the Rockies, the area between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada’s/Cascades – The Great Basin, and west of the Sierra Nevada’s/Cascades – Pacific Coast.  Plus there are also the smaller areas of South Florida, South Texas, Southern Arizona, and Alaska.  And Northern Minnesota in the winter should probably added.

Birding Areas

As you can see that Grand Junction(marked with a star) sits on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. FreeWorldMaps.net

I live east of the Rockies and have birded Oregon and Southern California.  That left The Great Basin.  I could have gone to Salt Lake City, Flagstaff, or Las Vegas for example.  But I chose Grand Junction, Colorado, since I could fly from Indianapolis to Denver for $200, rent a car, and be in Grand Junction in 4 hours.  The air fare for any of the other destinations would have been more than the airfare and car from Denver.  Also the area has many state and federal lands of various altitudes which make for good birding.

Why the middle of June?

If you have been reading this blog you’ll remember I went to South Texas last June.  The reason for traveling mid-June is that I try to visit an area at the end of migration but before the local breeders are done calling.  By following that plan I can concentrate on the local breeders without the distraction of migrants. Plus it is usually less expensive in June than in July or August when the rates are usually much higher for “normal” vacationers.

Concerns

I had two concerns about the trip.

First, the average high temperature in Grand Junction in mid-June is clear and almost 90F.  That didn’t worry me too much since I like dry heat.

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Averages from the National Weather Service.

Second, the altitude.  Grand Junction is at 4600 feet and some of the areas I planned to bird were over 9000 feet.  Headaches and dizziness from altitude had me a lot more worried than the heat.

Otherwise I didn’t have any other concerns.  So with the chance to see approximately 40 new species and plenty of new habitat to explore, I headed west.

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There are birds on the other side of the Rockies. Looking west from north of the Denver International Airport. 06/20/15

Next installment: First some birding east of the Rockies.

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Almost Time For This Year’s Adventure

Wish I had more to write about, but I don’t.  Between sitting in a training class last week or driving to the training class, the creative juices weren’t flowing.

Plus what free time I have is going to learning the birds of Colorado. The western slope of the Rockies to be exact.  I fly out next weekend for 6 days around the Grand Junction area. I plan on trying to make a daily post but that might be a little to ambitious. At that time I’ll go into more detail how I picked that area to see birds of the U.S. “Great Basin”.

NO photos from this weekend.  Along with Mike and Karl we did the annual breeding census on the military side of Camp Atterbury. No cameras allowed on the military base, so no photos.  Karl had done the east side on Friday which is mostly grasslands and had a good count of 35 Henslow’s Sparrows. We did the forested west side and some how came up with the same number of Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts – 17.  The count on the Hooded is the highest ever for this count. With the high temperatures the birds stopped calling early so we didn’t have as good of day as past years.  Oh well.

But here are a few photos from a week ago.

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Eastern Phoebe calling insistently above a creek and of course close to a bridge. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15

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One and only one guess as to this species. Getting a good look so I can compare it to an Ash-throated Flycatcher next week. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15 (Great Crested Flycatcher)

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Same thing here. Taking a long look at an Eastern Towhee so I can compare to a Spotted Towhee next week in Colorado. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15

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I heard numerous Yellow-breasted Chats on the day. Most were up and singing on territory. If you can call what they do singing. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15

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Same guy as above.

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I always find House Sparrows away from man interesting. But of course they really aren’t away from man because she is standing on a man-made bluebird house. FHS 6/06/15

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And the male house Sparrow wasn’t too far away. FHS 6/06/15

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There were several male Savannah Sparrows giving me their chip note to keep away. And I wasn’t even that close. I did learn their chip note though, which is a softer one than a Song Sparrow. FHS 6/06/15

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Same bird as above.

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A Yellow Warbler flew in and decided to take a quick bath. Johnson County Park 6/06/15

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And is there any doubt that the Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the prototype for every movie alien? Look at those eyes. East of Franklin – Johnson County

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Maybe movie producers used Mississippi Kites instead? Ferne Clyffe SP IL 6/19/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loss of Habitat – Vesper Sparrow

I ran the following photo as the front page photo to this blog a few weeks ago.  It is of a Vesper Sparrow that isn’t uncommon but not the easiest species to find in Johnson County.

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Vesper Sparrow – Johnson County. 5/8/15

A couple of summers ago on the way to Atterbury FWA I heard it singing.  It was at this location for the rest of the summer. And it came back last year.  And then again earlier this year it was back.  I even went out of my way to count it on the IAS Big May Day Count.

So image my surprise when in late May I saw a sign advertising “2 Acre Lots for Sale” at the very spot the Vesper Sparrow calls home.

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A Vesper Sparrow has been reliably found on these wires. I have blocked out the info on the signs but what it said was “2 Acre Lots for Sale”. Johnson County

It’s common for the fields of Indiana to be turned into large residential lots.  But in Illinois I never saw farm land turned into these large single home lots like I see all around Indianapolis and Johnson County.  In Illinois subdivisions of large homes were built but not one house per large tract of land like here. Just seems like a waste of a limited resource.

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Another view of the field that is going to be homes to people instead of Vesper Sparrows in the near future. Johnson County

Someday man is going to have to deal with land usage. But for now I guess land is seen like oil, an unlimited commodity.

Hopefully next year the Vesper Sparrow will find somewhere near by to nest. Maybe even the same area.  But one has to wonder.

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