August Birding 2017 Week 3

Last week consisted of traveling for work. So only the weekend for birding. But Mike had been out during the week to the local flooded field and nothing new. Only the usual species. But Saturday of August Birding 2017 Week 3 proved to be fruitful.

Saturday started on a good note as two Common Nighthawks were flying over as I walked to the car. At first I thought they were early then I remembered it was the third week of August.

The plan for the day was a tour from Mike of Eagle Creek Park since I had only been there a couple of times in the 4.5 years we have been in Indiana.

We started with a quick check of the south part of the reservoir from Rick’s Boatyard.  In the early light we picked up first of season Blue-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe.

As seen from Rick’s Boatyard the local Osprey was hunting in the early morning twilight.

We moved on to Eagle Creek Park. With a triathlon in progress we decided to park out a distance and walk to the Ice Skating Ponds. The walk there and the later walk to the Marina were both quiet.

Around the ponds there was a lot of activity with Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Warbling Vireos all seen. Plus the usual flycatchers were present. And have you noticed Baltimore Orioles are singing again?

Here is one of a pair of young Warbling Vireos moving through the trees.
Since they hardly come out of the brush this Wood Thrush was a welcome sight.

At the Marina Purple Martins were putting on a display chasing Spotted Sandpipers and even a Double-crested Cormorant.

Mike had to take off so I headed to the Handicapped Road late morning. Though it was quiet I did pick up a couple of new birds for the August total.

A scan of the gulls showed one was smaller – a Forster’s Tern. These images are pushing the limit of my camera.

A walk on the north trail proved productive adding a couple more to the month total.

At first I wasn’t sure what this blob of white was flying across the water. It appears this Caspian Tern has something in its mouth. A fish?
August Birding 2017 Week 3
This adult Bald Eagle was chasing the Caspian Tern for its food. They flew out of sight so I wasn’t sure if it caught the Tern.

I ended the day well north of 50 species and in the high 80’s for the month. Don’t know if I’ll get to 115 but I should break 100 for the month.

Western Colorado Final Thoughts – Dec16

It’s been four months since my December Colorado trip. And I’ll be going again in two months to run two BBS Routes. Even though I have enough photos for a few more posts it’s time to wrap it up and present my Western Colorado final thoughts.

Like other trips I’ll do a final post on thoughts from the trip. And like those reports these are in no order.

A Western-Screech Owl keeps a watchful eye at Grand Junction Wildlife Area.
  1. Early December is probably not the best time to go birding in Western Colorado if you’re after a large species count. But since I wanted to check out the BBS routes and I had the time, I went. Plus, as I have stated it is going to be one of three areas I hope to come to know and bird repeatedly.
  2. Next time I’m flying direct. For an extra $200 I can fly direct into Grand Junction and pick up an extra day of birding.  On future summer trips I might fly into Denver and bird my way across the state. But on winter trips I’ll fly direct and not have to fight the mountain passes.

    Bald Eagle couple in the distance. I have closer photos of the pair but I like the backdrop of this photo.
  3. The drive back to Denver was rough. As stated above I’ll forgo looking for birds on the way not to worry about the drive. I have driven in the worst Midwest snowstorms but never at 10,000 feet with trucks going up and down on the mountain passes. Not again.

    This was taken on the drive to Grand Junction before the snow started falling. Add 10″ of snow, zero visibility, and you have the picture of the drive back.
  4. This was my first time flying on Frontier and had no problems on either flight. The only catch are limited flights from Indianapolis to Denver. And Alamo Rent-A-Car was good for the second straight trip. Will use both again without hesitation.

    Nothing fancy. Basic motel and white Altima rental car.
  5. The next non-June trip will be timed to coincide with migration of raptors and before the snow comes to the mountains. There is a good movement of raptors along the west edge of the Rockies I’d like to see.
  6. For you listers, I saw 62 species on the trip of which 23 were new Colorado species and 5 life birds. In June I’ll probably spend some time looking for rarer species up in the mountains.

    I saw a pair of Pinyon Jays, one of my favorite Colorado birds.
  7. I proved I like to bird one area and get to know it versus traveling all day from spot to spot. And flying direct will add another day of birding the area.
  8. Still no Golden Eagle. But I’m sure one will fly by eventually.

    One of the most numerous species were White-crowned Sparrows.
  9. The zoom feature of the Nikon P900 camera proved I don’t need to lug along a spotting scope. For distant views it worked well to ID species.
  10. I saw other wildlife outside of birds. Rabbits, a lone fox, and a deer couple which scared the @(*%& out of me.
    Can you spot the rabbit? Not sure how I spotted it camouflaged in the grass.
    A view of a distant Red Fox south of the dam at Highline SP.

    The male deer first raised up out of the grass at about 20 feet. Was more than a little scary.
  11. Weather was great for December outside of the mountain passes on the drive back. Lows in teens, highs in the 40’s. Very light snow
  12. Accomplished the main goal of checking out Douglas Pass for the June Breeding Bird Survey trip. It should be interesting running the survey from the start in scrub land and working my way over a mountain pass.
  13. As I stated in a couple of previous posts I need to learn status and distribution for the area better. The number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets still surprises me.
  14. And as always every hour had highlights but the American Dipper was probably the best since it was totally unexpected.

    Western Colorado Final Thoughts
    Goodbye to Western Colorado until June.

Western Grebe – No Magic

After my last post on birders trying to turn Common Goldeneye to Barrow’s Goldeneye, you thought I would have learned. Nope. My first day in the Grand Junction area was spent wasting too much time trying to turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s Grebe.

My first photo from the Grand Junction area. Looking west after the obligatory Starbucks stop. 12/4/16

The day started out exactly like I hoped. Clear and cold (17F). I was at Highline Lake State Park in under a half hour. It was as quiet as birding in winter in Midwest. The difference though was no backdrop noise of cars or machinery like you hear in the Midwest.

The real reason I go to Grand Junction. The wide open scenery. The view north from the south end of Highline Lake.

I was one of the few people at the park besides the rangers. And the birding was slow but I didn’t mind as I walked the trails for a few hours.

What would a stocked lake be without a Bald Eagle? 12/4/16
Of course there were deer. They must be less numerous since the Park Ranger made a point of telling me where the deer were located. 12/4/16
Ruby-crowned Kinglet were numerous on the trip, which surprised me. I’m going to do a separate post on them at a later date. 12/4/16
I stumbled upon a Say’s Phoebe at the south end of the lake. From a distance I initially took it to be an American Robin. 12/4/16
And yes it wagged its tail like all good phoebes. 12/4/16
A group of eight Wilson’s Snipe were on the runoff stream below the dam. A hearty bunch in the cold. 12/4/16

And now about Clark’s, I mean, Western Grebe.

Western Grebe
I first encountered the Western Grebe when they were in the middle of the lake. With the crown looking like it might be above the eye, the one on the right looked possible for Clark’s Grebe. 12/4/16
So I spent more time than I should waiting for them to get closer. 12/4/16
I didn’t mind waiting because I could enjoy the western skyline. 12/4/16
Even at a distance this cropped photo shows the dark surrounding the eye on the first grebe. Obviously a Western Grebe. 12/4/16
I can’t work any magic on the other grebe. The dark area surrounds the eye, though it’s faint.  Western Grebe. It was fun waiting and watching though. 12/4/16

Next on to the real reason for the trip.

Canada Geese and Airport Equal Trouble?

In my last post from my recent Colorado trip I ended by asking about the Canada Geese I’d seen circling the airport area?

Well they were there. Hundreds congregating in a field.

I put the total at 8,000 but it was probably higher.

There are thousands of Canada Geese spread through the area. Many can’t even be seen.
The geese are moving left and look like PACMAN eating their way across the field.
Of course you can usually find something mixed in with this large of flock. Like Snow Geese.
Or a “Blue morph” Snow Goose. As seen on the right.

Now remember I’m only a few miles from the airport.

I’d just seen the movie Sully and my first thought was “doesn’t that many geese close to an airport equal trouble?”

On my previous trip I had been searching for Burrowing Owls which inhabit the surrounding plains. They were present with the large population of Prairie Dogs. Talking to one of the local photographers he said the Burrowing Owls are no longer present and had moved west. And he was amazed there were still so many raptors present.

The reason was because the local Prairie Dogs had been removed to another area.  And their colonies had been destroyed by the Wildlife Hazard Management Program at Denver International Airport to reduce the food for large raptors. If you read the “Other Wildlife” section in the link you’ll see Prairie Dogs don’t impose a threat but do attract larger wildlife which do pose a threat.

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It still seemed no matter which direction I looked there was a raptor in view. Like this distant young Bald Eagle scouring the landscape.

So how to manage the large numbers of Canada Geese without turning the surrounding fields into a desert? This time of year the large fields of harvested corn are going to attract geese.  And I assume be a nuisance to planes.

It’ll be something I think about on my flight next June.

Summer Count – Snipe and Collared-Doves

Yesterday was my official start of the IAS Summer Count for Johnson County. If interested you can read about participating in the count at the IAS webpage or on IN-Bird.

The highlight of the day was finding WILSON’S SNIPE at a local “marshy” area. Even though I knew it was a late date for snipe my research has led to a separate blog that I will post in a day or two.

Other Highlights

An EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE was at the previous known spot in Franklin. I check this every trip to Atterbury and haven’t seen one since late June of last year. Conservatively saying I stop two times a month that means I have checked a minimum of 20 times without seeing one. Now they are on the IAS Summer Count for the County.

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An early morning photo to document the Eurasian Collared-Dove in Franklin. 6/4/16

Another species I added which hasn’t been on my previous three years of participating was a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. It was at the same location Mike and I saw one on April 30th. I’m guessing it’s on territory since it’s still present.

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Blue-winged Warbler – Atterbury FWA 4/30/16

There are a couple of spots in the county I know that have breeding PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS. With the grass now shoulder-high I bushwhacked back to one location and it didn’t take long to hear one calling.

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This Prothonotary Warbler was actively feeding but wouldn’t stay put for a photo. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16
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From tree to stick and back. Then into the forest to sit and sing. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

There were also breeding WOOD DUCKS in the swampy area.

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This is the area of the Prothonotary Warbler and numerous breeding Wood Ducks. The Wood Ducks scattered when I came out of the trees. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

I had unofficially started the count earlier this week with a stop at the new BOBOLINK location to make sure I counted them before the grass was cut. DICKCISSELS were also calling from the tall grass.

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Someday I will get a good photo of a Bobolink. Urban Johnson County 6/2/16
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As I have seen lately on Facebook Dickcissels are much more obligating for taking photos. Urban Johnson County 6/2/16

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NRWS (1) Start of Summer Count
I couldn’t resist this photo of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. The head reminds me of an alien in a science-fiction movie. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

I spent over an hour walking the River Road hoping to hear a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. No luck. But I did hear YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and AMERICAN REDSTARTS, a species I didn’t have a June location previously.

Sunday I made my semi-annual trip to the local BALD EAGLE’S nest. It’s on the other side of the county and there isn’t any reason for me to go except to see the eagles. Looks like a good year with at least two juveniles in the nest.

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The tall tree in the center hosts the Bald Eagle’s nest. Johnson County 6/5/16
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Like any children the young eagles appeared to be fighting over food on several occasions. Johnson County 6/5/16
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This was the best of the photos showing one of the young eagles. Johnson County 6/5/16

It was good start to the Summer Count with 70+ species over the three days.

The Only Way to Describe It

Surreal.

From Dictionary.com – surreal – “having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of dream; unreal; fantastic:”

And that is the only way I can describe the scene when 100,000+ SNOW GEESE are flying overhead honking. And that doesn’t do it justice. You must see it yourself to really comprehend the scene.

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No way to describe the scene that lasted off and on all morning. Thousands and thousands of Snow Geese. Gibson Lake – 1/2/16

And this was the way it went all morning when I accompanied Don Gorney last Saturday on my first trip to Gibson County. While looking for other various specialties there was always the awareness of the Snow Geese flying in the distance.

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That isn’t a cloud in the background but thousands of Snow Geese. Gibson County – 1/2/16

I hadn’t seen this many Snow Geese since I went on chase #3 for a Little Gull at Carlyle Lake in Southern Illinois. That day there was the same constant swirling of Snow Geese until they settled on the lake. It is too bad that there isn’t access to Gibson Lake so we could see the vast amount of waterfowl that must be present.

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I know I have used this photo before but it still just amazes me. Those are rafts of Snow Geese. The photo is taken from a mile away so how many geese are there? A million? Carlyle Lake IL 1/28/12

And Snow Geese weren’t the only birds in large flocks. Though I didn’t get a picture (how can you get one that does the scene justice?)  on the day we saw huge flocks of blackbirds – mainly COMMON GRACKLES. It would probably take someone with a video camera to record the long line of blackbirds and then try to get a count. I swear one of the flocks was a couple of miles long.

Early in the day we stopped by the town of Francisco to see if there were EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES next to the grain elevator like every small town.  And of course there were.

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One of 15 Eurasian Collared-Doves that were present. Of course sometimes the sun isn’t cooperative when trying to take a photo. Francisco, IN 1/2/16

On the day we saw several impressive birds starting with the lingering GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE. Don had already spent time with it in December and I had spent considerable time with them last summer in Colorado, so we didn’t linger at the sight.

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Green-tailed Towhee on the ground. I didn’t grab my camera when getting out of the car.  So the photo credit is goes to Don Gorney. Gibson Lake Area 1/2/16
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Another photo showing the bright rufous cap in the morning sun. Don’s main goal is to get a good photo ID and not an award-winning photo. But  I think they are still good photos. Photo by Don Gorney. Gibson Lake Area 1/2/16

Hoping for waterfowl we moved on to Tern Bar Slough. There was little variety and numbers are still low. Hopefully the current cold snap will send some south. Moving on we encountered both endangered RUSTY BLACKBIRDS and RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS in the same woods. Which was good to see.

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Since it is close to the road a Bald Eagle’s nest that I have seen on several web sites. Gibson Lake area – 1/2/16

We then spent a considerable amount of time watching the Snow Geese while Don picked a few ROSS’S GEESE out of the swirling flock. A few groups of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE also flew by at a higher elevation.

In the afternoon we headed to Somerville Mine in the eastern part of the county to search for raptors.  They were numerous with many RED-TAILED HAWKS, NORTHERN HARRIERS, and more limited numbers of ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS and AMERICAN KESTRELS.

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One of several Northern Harriers we saw on the day. None of the raptors really came close to our area. Somerville Mine – 1/2/16

We also went into Warrick County in search of Northern Shrikes and MERLINS.  We missed on the Shrikes but found a few Merlins.

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I always expect Merlins to be larger. They aren’t hard to spot but they just aren’t a big bird. Warrick County – 1/2/16

We extended the day a little and went back to Somerville Mine area to catch the initial flights of SHORT-EARED OWLS at dusk.

From my first trip to the area I can see why Gibson County always does well on counts. The varied habitat is great for a wide variety of species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-rumpeds and a Bald Eagle

This past weekend was busy to start but died down quickly.  Mike and I headed to Southwestway Park to see if we could pick up any migrants.  We parked cars at each end of the park allowing us to walk the length of the park without having to double back. We would be walking through a part of the park I hadn’t seen before.  So hopefully a little bit of bushwhacking.

The first few yards along the southern end of the park was rather birder.  Our goal was Golden-crowned Kinglets.  A bird I thought I hadn’t seen yet this year. Have I mentioned my year on species has been a little slow? Anyway I later checked and had seen one on the Muscatatuck Christmas Bird Count on Jan 1.

And we did see numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets and several Ruby-crowned along the road.  We also had White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.  But on the main walk along the bluff it was slow.  So I was glad we did the cars the way we did.  Just a few Yellow-rumped Warblers on the hour and half walk. On the north end we saw the first of fall Fox Sparrows. And the overcast skies didn’t lend itself to photos.

SOSP
A Song Sparrow that hopped up out of the brush. Meijer Pond 10/25/15

We did the car switch which put us back at the Southern edge of the park.  Mike left and I went back along the road hoping for a few pictures in slightly better light. And of course it turned out to be much quieter than earlier.  But watching a couple of Song Sparrows an Orange-crowned Warbler popped out.  Since I have very few I was busy talking into my voice recorder to confirm the ID.  And the ID comes first. So no picture. Sorry.

I had a little time Sunday morning so I did the local patches.  Sparrows were numerous around Meijer Pond along with a few Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I then headed to Franklin Township Park for the usual one hour loop.

And there were Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere.

Others record these type of numbers but I haven’t seen this many in a long time. There were 2 or 3 in every bush and tree around the small pond.

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The first of many Yellow-rumped Warblers encountered on the morning. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

YRWA 2

YRWA 3
They were in every type of bush or tree. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15
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This one even decided to show his yellow rump to the camera. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

Otherwise it was quiet until I reached the car around 10:45.  I noticed a lone Turkey Vulture flying to the north.  With the naked eye it didn’t seem right. I got the binoculars back out of the car and took a look.  Sure enough.  Turkey Vulture.  But there was a second one and it banked and the plank wing pattern said it wasn’t a Turkey Vulture.

It was a younger Bald Eagle circling on the mid-morning winds. Earlier this year I had seen 2 adult Bald Eagles chasing each other here.  So I knew they were around.

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I’m guessing a third year Bald Eagle from amount of white on the head and tail. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

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Not a great photo but I posted it to show how wide and “plank” looking are Bald Eagle wings. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

So as always there is usually something interesting if you get out and look.

 

 

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.

GREG Group1
A group of Great Egrets before they decided to disperse for the day.
COGA
Could it be a distant Common Moorhen? I mean, Common Gallinule?
COGA1
Yes, the red bill confirms it.
COGA2
Of course it eventually came much closer for a better photo.
AWPE
Heading to the bridge on 1200W I immediately saw the continuing American White Pelicans.
BAEA
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.
INBU
An Indigo Bunting was sitting by the road and really didn’t get excited about my presence.
WIFL
A Willow Flycatcher came in close while I was scanning the water.
WIFL1
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 –  https://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?
BWTE WODU
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.
GRCA
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.

 

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.