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.

2015 – A Short Recap

First – one of the main reasons why I blog – I like to review the past weekend – month – year.

Lots of birding, and life for that fact, seems to be on the run.  Birding sometimes seems like run, check, and move on to the next spot. And for me the jury is still out on using eBird apps to list from the field. I still like to sit down at the end of the day and go over the birds I have seen. I think I”ll eventually work the apps into that routine but still not sure yet.

Favorite New Bird

Looking back my favorite new bird of 2015 was the BURROWING OWL outside Denver.  Who doesn’t love a small owl?

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With the back drop of the Rocky Mountains, a Burrowing Owl checks out the area before going and joining the rest of the group. East of Denver, CO – 6/20/15

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But the colors of GAMBEL’S QUAIL makes it a close second.

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I was amazed how close the Gambel’s Quail would come by me. Colorado National Monument- 6/21/15

And for the umpteenth year in a row CAROLINA WREN comes in as my favorite Midwest bird.

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This shot pretty well sums up my thoughts about the feisty Carolina Wren. Never sitting still and always looking about. Northwest Park – Greenwood, IN 5/2/15

Favorite Birding Adventure

I had many good adventures (really every birding outing is a good adventure) so it was hard to pick one out.

I’m going to go with chasing the CLARK’S NUTCRACKER through the alpine forest in Colorado as my best adventure on the Colorado trip and 2015. Sorry no photo of the Clark’s but here is the Alpine Forest that I would be running out of later.

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After hearing a strange call I went chasing the bird through this forest at 10,000 feet. Maybe not my best call. Uncompahgre National Forest, CO – 6/22/15

And chasing the PINYON JAY through the semi-arid landscape of Rabbit Valley and finally catching up to it was also a fun time.

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After chasing Pinyon Jays I knew they didn’t get out in the open for long. But only one decent photo? Colorado National Monument – 6/24/15

And without a doubt my best local adventure was seeing both RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS and BONAPARTE’S GULLS, two new Johnson County Life birds, in one day at the same place.

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A bird I never suspected I would see in Johnson County – Bonaparte’s Gull. Driftwood SFA – 3/28/15

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And on the same day another county bird – Red-breasted Merganser. But in its case I figured I would eventually see one in the county. Driftwood SFA – 3/28/15

And 2016 has already started off with 3, count’em 3, towhees in Indiana.  What will the rest of the year bring?

Colorado National Monument – Again

Time to wrap up the Colorado trip.  This post and one more should do it.

After birding the Grand Junction area for 4 days I planned to spend the last full day in the area walking/hiking and see if I had actually learned some of the western birds without having to stop and think about it. I decided to head back to Colorado National Monument and hike up No Thoroughfare Canyon to the first waterfall. It would be one mile up a ravine/creek bed and take a few hours. Plus hopefully see a few birds on the way.

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The typical view hiking up No Thoroughfare Canyon. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

The habitat wouldn’t vary much and it ended up not being real birdy, but I had a nice hike.

Gambel’s Quails were calling to start the day again. Along with Mourning Doves cooing. And for the fifth straight day I think Black-throated Sparrows were the first birds to come and check me out. Plus the rabbits were all over the place. (Unlike Rabbitt Valley)

Plumbeous Vireos were the most numerous bird going up the trail with a pair in about every cluster of Cottonwood trees. eBird even made me confirm the quantity – 8.

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Even better looks of Plumbeous Vireo than I had a few days before. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

One of the neater things on the trail was a rock outcropping that must have had White-throated Swifts nesting. They were constantly flying in and out of the rocks. Perched at the base if the rocks were some juvenile Red-tailed Hawks that called the whole time I was walking by.

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What Colorado National Monument is known for – rock croppings. 6/24/15
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If you look close you can see 3 White-throated Swifts flying around the rocks. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15
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This photo is out of reach of my camera but I wanted pictures for the trip. Two Red-tailed Hawks that called the whole time. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

A little farther past the outcropping I heard a distant caw. At first I thought it was Common Ravens since they had been flying around earlier. But the closer the noise got I could tell they were Pinyon Jays! After not getting good looks the day before I was hoping they would stay out in the open in the narrow ravine. Finally a group of three came down the side of the cliff and one actually stayed out in the open while the other two hid.

So I finally got good looks at a Pinyon Jay.

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A Pinyon Jay that actually stayed out in the open long enough for a photo and then good looks. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15
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Can you tell what this bird is on a ROCK?                     Right were it supposed to be.               Wait for it…… A Rock Wren.          Colorado National Monument 6/24/15
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Nothing like trying to ID an empid in a different setting. Pretty sure it was a Gray Flycatcher. It is awful gray. At least it stayed out in the open and even called once. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15
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Believe it or not only one of two Black-billed Magpies I saw on the trip. And not very good looks at that. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

I finally reached the waterfall, which turned out not to be a waterfall in the dry season. But I ran into a park volunteer who said the next waterfall was about another mile.  I hadn’t planned going that far and hadn’t brought enough water. But he brought plenty of extra water in his backpack for people that went up the trail in sandals, no sunscreen, and with no water. So he gave me a bottle and I carried on. I really didn’t expect more birds but felt like hiking.

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The first waterfall. Not impressive in the dry season. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

The walk to the second waterfall was about the same walk as to the first.  Except the ravine narrowed and there were even less birds as the day heated up.  But I ran into another hiker who said that his buddy was hiking in from the backside to meet him. This was also government land and was higher elevation.  I ran into him later and he never did meet up with his friend.  Listening to him I think the guy was lost.

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No clue what species of squirrel, but he looked to be in charge perched up on the rock. Colorado National Monument 6/24/15

 

The hike back down was uneventful.  It was late morning so I decided to try the higher elevation outside of the park. I am glad I did because I finally came across a Juniper Titmouse. A bird I really shouldn’t have missed on the trip.

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My one and only encounter with a Juniper Titmouse. And imagine, in a Juniper Tree. Not to knock it, but have you ever seen such a plain looking bird? No wonder it was called Plain Titmouse before it was split with the Oak Titmouse. Little Park Road, CO 6/24/15

With a rare storm approaching and not wanting to get caught up on the ridge, I called it a day.

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It doesn’t look ominous but that is a pretty good thunderstorm heading my way. Little Park Road, CO  6/24/15