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