Fruitgrowers Reservoir Semi-Arid Water

The flight arrived late-morning, as opposed to the usual one into Denver and the day spent driving to Grand Junction. This forced the problem of where to bird in the afternoon heat? The choices were either the cooler higher elevations or water birds which didn’t care about the heat. Since I’d be going to higher elevations later in the week the water birds won out. But where? The state parks would be full of weekend visitors. This left Fruitgrowers Reservoir semi-arid water.

The advantage of Fruitgrowers Reservoir is no people. None. As I reported two years ago the lake is off-limits do to phosphorous pollution concerns. Plus this would probably be my only chance to see certain water species this year.

That left me to enjoy the water birds on the warm Sunday afternoon.

Fruitgrowers Reservoir Semi-Arid Water
The breeze off Fruitgrowers Reservoir semi-arid water felt good in the mid-90’s heat.
A look to the north showing the semi-arid environment except immediately around the reservoir.
I know it’s not unique to the west but I wanted to show this Killdeer. Is the white material along the shore the phosphorous pollution?
Also not unique but I liked this photo of  a Double-crested Cormorant taking a fish off to eat. A nearby nest?
Every time I looked it seemed one of the local American White Pelican flock was getting up and flying short distances around the lake.
A couple slowly drifted by while I was scanning the lake. The knob is showing on the right hand bird.
Cinnamon Teal were present at two locations on the trip.The female never appeared from the reeds for a photo.
Western Kingbirds were prevalent in all the lower elevations.
As were Black-chinned Hummingbirds. This guy must have liked sitting in the afternoon heat as he never moved.
Another futile effort to turn one of the 40 or so Western Grebes into Clark’s Grebes.
A Willet way out in the grass. eBird has flagged me twice in the last couple of months, both times for Willets. The first time in Marion County, IN in May and this time in Delta County, CO.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds were the stars of the day constantly flying from the reeds to the nearby pasture land. Both sexes kept up a steady flight.
Can you spot the female Yellow-headed Blackbird in the reeds?
I didn’t realize White-faced Ibis were much smaller than Great Blue Herons. I’ll come back to the Ibis on a later post.

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.

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 – https://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.