Friday, 4 May 2018

Grosbeaks and Ptarmigans - Wow!

We visited some nearby feeders in a residential area after a leisurely 7am breakfast and this proved to be a great visit as there were at least 2 male Pine Grosbeaks and at leas one female present in the surrounding trees. 

Pine Grosbeak

One male was particularly obliging as he came down to a roadside puddle to drink right in front of us. A few Red Crossbils were also particularly pleasing to some of our group as they were of the ‘ponderosa pine’ race. 

Red Crossbill

At least 12 Brown-capped Rosy-Finches were here, a couple of Grey-crowned Rosy-Finches, Cassin’s Finch, along with Pygmy Nuthatch (although the views couldn’t beat the ones outside our motel earlier this morning), Steller’s and Grey Jays and a posing Clarke’s Nutcracker.

Clarke's Nutcracker

Pygmy Nuthatch
Red Fox
We then headed up into the snow-covered mountains to Loveland Pass, where after what seemed an eternal half an hour search, we finally caught up with White-tailed Ptarmigan. One bird was seen down to around a metre feeding in front of us. It was totally oblivious to our presence and literally ran up to us, through us, around us before finding a suitable patch of dwarf-scrub willow to feed on before heading up the hill and away. What an experience and the undoubted highlight of the tour.

White-tailed Ptarmigan

Leaving here in high spirits we drove to the foothills after swapping our warm weather gear for lighter clothing back at the motel. We searched the conifer forests in vain before heading to Red Rocks where a posing male Broad-tailed Hummingbird displayed all around us from his various song posts along the road. Apart from American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Lincoln’s Sparrow and a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers….

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

In the late afternoon a quick visit to the local water treatment works resulted in sightings of 2 Western Ospreys on nests and both Audubon’s and Myrtle Warblers to round off a great day.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

We returned to the Black Valley of the Gunnison this morning, seeing another 2 Dusky Grouse, but our attention was somewhat distracted by the awesome views of the canyon.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Cracking views of White-throated Swift and Violet-green Swallow were appreciated by all, and there was also a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying by, Audubon’s Warbler, brief Virginia’s Warbler, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mountain and Western Bluebirds, Townsend’s Solitaire, displaying Wild Turkey, close male Northern Harrier, many Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays, Mountain Chickadee, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cassin’s Finch, Green-tailed Towhee, as well as some other commoner species.

Mountain Bluebird

Spotted Towhee

Western Bluebird

 Leaving here we drove to Gunnison where Brewer’s Sparrow and Sage Thrasher were seen, before we drove over Monarch Pass and scored with views of 5 Clark’s Nutcrackers.

Clark's Nutcracker

The drive to Dillon was truly spectacular with snow-capped mountains, deep-sided valleys and clear blue skies. My words can’t do this justice at all.

Geting to the Good Stuff

We returned to the same desert canyon as yesterday just after daybreak and found more birds than on our previous visit. A Green-tailed Towhee showed well, as did Mountain Bluebird, a recently arrived Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and a Chukar for Keith. 

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Leaving here we headed up into the mountains. With snow all around we notched up a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers, Slate-coloured Fox Sparrow, Grey Jay, female Pine Grosbeak, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. And the views were to die for!

Nice View....

Grey Jay

Dropping lower we found a pair of stunning Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the warm sunshine before calling into Subway for lunch. 

Lewis's Woodpecker

A short drive took us to our motel in Montrose where we had a siesta before heading out to the Black Canyon of Gunnison and our date with Sooty Grouse. After a bit of a search we found one bird skulking in the shadows but were totally underprepared for the displaying male we encountered nearby. He was really bold and stared at us before displaying just a few metres away, right in front of us. It was a totally amazing performance and another major tour highlight that will live long in our memories.  

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Heading South

We visited a known location for Sharp-tailed Grouse and found the lek deserted, which was quite alarming. However after some relentless scanning we scoped some birds at a distant lek, before finding  a couple of birds feeding in the nearby bushes. A Cooper’s Hawk also flew by. Afterwards, we followed a side canyon and over the tall crags a few White-throated Swifts were seen, whilst a Golden Eagle was perched below them. Driving into another spectacular setting we saw Bald Eagle, Spotted Towhee and heard a Green-tailed Towhee singing from the nearby hillside.

Our journey south was enlivened by a stop overlooking a large lake where Ring-billed, California, Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls were seen, along with White-faced Ibis, plus Northern Rough-winged and Tree Swallows further on.

We then visited a grocery store and bought our picnic lunch before heading to our next site where Juniper Titmouse, Black-throated Grey Warbler and Grey Flycatcher were new additions to our list. A few Pinyon Jays were also seen as well, along with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Juniper Titmouse

Grey Flycatcher

We ended the day in a desert canyon near the Colorado River where Black-throated Sparrow, Rock Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, and a pair of Mountain Bluebirds showed well. 

Black-throated Sparrow

Mountain Bluebird

It was a very scenic location to end another great day in Colorado.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Barrow's Goldeneye at Last!

We split the group today with some people returning to the Greater Sage Grouse lek, which this morning was bathed in wonderful sunshine. The rest of the group went back to the feeders in the hope of seeing Black Rosy-Finch, which was photographed. There was also a pair of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches and Oregon Junco present. 

The scenery here isn't too shabby...

The drive back finally produced a decent sighting of Prairie Falcon flying across the hillside before perching on a pylon, where we scoped it and this Moose. 

There's a Moose loose about this......

Returning to Walden for breakfast we set out to a lake where 30+ Barrow’s Goldeneyes were present, a bird I’d wanted to see for a very long time. It was awesome to see so may birds here, and some were even displaying. Really wanted to get better photos but the birds weren't that close, and my attempts at PhoneScoping are pretty awful....

Barrow's Goldeneye

Other birds here included Common Goldeneye, Western, Horned and Eared Grebes, plus there was a Western Osprey on a nest.

The afternoon was then spent checking out a few sites without much luck before arriving at the small town of Craig where we were to spend the night.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Greater Sage Grouse & More!!

Another day, another chicken lek and this time we drove along icy, snow-covered roads to a high plateau with snow-capped mountains all around to view Greater Sage Grouse. The birds were already present when we arrived just before daylight and we were treated to an amazing display from these gorgeous birds as the males inflated their air sacs, threw their heads back and called. We were here for maybe 90 minutes and there were maybe 30 birds opposite us and quite close, as well as another mini-lek further along the road with up to 6 birds. What a privilege to see these birds doing their thing….

Watching Greater Sage Grouse lekking is one of the tour highlights

We watched the lek from our van

Greater Sage Grouse lek

The scenery here is stunning

Then we drove back into Walden for breakfast before heading up the mountain to some feeders, where amongst a winter wonderland scene we enjoyed Grey-headed Junco, Pink-sided Junco, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadee, and finally 2 Brown-capped Rosy-Finches appeared. 

Black-capped Chickadee

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Grey-headed Junco

Mountain Chickadee

Pink-sided Junco

It was a winter wonderland here...
On the way we also had Swainson’s Hawk, Bald Eagle and a pair of Moose


Leaving here we drove down to the lakes just outside of town and had a great time with Black-necked Stilt and Marbled Godwit found and both are scarce in these parts. 

Black-necked Stilt

Wildfowl was well represented with Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal and all the other more familiar ducks. A longish drive took us to some feeders where several Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, a Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch and a couple male Cassin’s Finches were the star birds. 

Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch

Leaving here we stopped to look at a Red-shafted Northern Flicker before checking out the lakes again. 

Northern Flicker

This time we found 24 Snow Geese, a few Common Mergansers (Goosander), Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and all the same wildfowl.