Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From Agony to Ecstasy

Today started with an early run to 80-Road for the Greater Sage Grouse.  The temperature when we got there was 32F raising questions as to whether we could negotiate the muddy hill.  We walked a ways down it and decided to go for it.   However when we arrived at the lek area we couldn't roust out any grouse.  After agonizing over a missed bird, we headed east to Steamboat Springs where we had breakfast.  On to Rabbit Ears Pass on US40 where sharp-eyed John spotted a red bird along the roadside.  A quick turnaround brought us right next to two Pine Grosbeaks (photos).  Shortyly after leaving the pass we turned off for North Park a high bowl with drainage to the North Platte River.  On the way sharp-eyed Bob spotted a Northern Shrike which disappeared when we got out of the car, but soon popped back up on his hunting perch.  We next drove roads in a Greater Sage-Grouse area, talked to a resident about the grouse, and moved on to check out the birds at the Walden Reservoir.  There were many ducks there plus American White Pelicans, California Gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants that all looked like they were there on an island in the lake to breed.  Since there were no Barrow's Goldeneyes and since there was plenty of time we decided to drive an hour plus south to Windy Gap Reservoir where Barrow's Goldeneyes had been reported.  On the way there I spotted a Gray Jay atop one of the many dying spruce.  When we got to the reservoir, we scoped the ducks and sure enough the Barrow's were there.  While there we also ran into a group of birders that we had seen a couple of times earlier.  They told us that they had spent time at a Greater Sage-Grouse lek near Walden, and in fact had a couple of males fly into the lek yesterday afternoon.  That was enough for us.  Back to Walden where we drove to the lek and spent about four hours sitting in the car.  Finally John spotted a distant sage grouse and I decided to set up the scope.  As I got out of the car I told John I'd better be slow and quiet in case there was a grouse right behind our car.   And there he was!  Behind our car...displaying! So he got his photo taken many times, a couple of which I've posted for you (photos).  High fives all around.  We gassed up the car in Walden and got our "dinner" at the mini-mart and headed up to Cameron Pass.  The sun had not yet set, so we birded a little while waiting for owl time.  Finally we started seriously owling.  We would listen for a few minutes, play a sequence of Boreal Owl calls, listen for another few mintues, and move on.  We did this for ten stops over a two plus hour period.  Finally right at the pass we scored with a response.  The temperature was below freezing and the wind was blowing, but we had our bird.  It took about two more hours to get down the mountain to Fort Collins where we grabbed a motel and plopped into bed.  That's why this blog is a little tardy.  Today proved to be our longest day birding, but with six new ones and good ones at that, we didn't mind.....too much.  Total now stands at 454.  Bird number 450 was the Northern Shrike.
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  1. What a stunning, memorable day! A bunch of classic American birds, with a few Holarctic beauties, the shrike, owl, and grosbeak. Hardcore, very hardcore.