Colorado Grouse Apr 06—16, 2018
Posted by Brian Gibbons
We braved 16 to 86 degrees, prairie winds, thunderstorms, sleet, and the more mundane spring snows of Colorado this year. The grouse, for the most part, performed on schedule their ritual displays, as they have for eons. The sage-grouse were strutting in the sage of North Park, the prairie-chickens dancing and fighting on the plains, and the Sharp-tails spinning in the mountains. Stunning mountain scenery and stark prairies illustrated our trip across Colorado and Kansas.
Our first day started with a southern diversion to avoid snow, ice, and closed roads in the mountains. We enjoyed stunning foothill scenery in Temple Canyon where the trees were crusted in beautifully delicate hoarfrost crystals—barbed wire, grass, trees, cactus, and fenceposts, nothing escaped the frost. The birds were still active on this cool morning, and we found Mountain Chickadees, juncos, Spotted Towhee, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, and Juniper Titmice. We also discovered that Townsend’s Solitaires aren’t so solitary. After our morning birding in the canyon, we returned to Cañon City to delight in a couple of stunning Lewis’s Woodpeckers hanging out in gnarly old cottonwood trees. Around Salida we enjoyed clear skies and a pile of Pinyon Jays moving through the woodlands, and a pair of American Dippers delighted us along the Arkansas River. Monarch Pass finally cleared up, and we made our way over to Gunnison.
On the night preceding our visit to the Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek, it rained; then there was a thunderstorm, then sleet, and finally a light rain greeted us at dawn. With clear air, we scanned in vain for hours; no grouse came to the show that morning, undoubtedly scared off by the weather. After breakfast we made our way to Crested Butte and were not disappointed by a tree full of rosy-finches. It took us a few minutes, but eventually we found all three species: Black, Brown-capped, and Gray-crowned, including a few Hepburn’s subspecies. We made our way down the Arkansas River towards Pueblo for the night.
Read Brian’s full report in his Field Report.