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NORTH PARK 2016 GROUSE TOUR

Starting from Denver on a beautiful April morning, our first stop was Genesee Mountain Park. At just over 8,000 feet, we had our first chance for Rocky Mountain specialty species. Singing Pie Grosbeak was a delight as well as Pygmy Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mountain Chickadee, Cassin’s Finches and several pairs of Red Crossbills. It was a great start as wee bagged all of our targets.

After a short comfort break, we headed to the Continental Divide to look for White-tailed Ptarmigans. We found 4 mostly white puff balls hiding at the base of a large boulder. It was a life bird for all and a rewarding stop for the group. The next stop had our only Rosy-Finches of the trip, Brown-capped and Gray-crowned. A singing Pine Grosbeak and Gray Jay didn’t disappoint either. An Osprey nest gave us great photo opportunities in Silverthorne. We found Barrow’s Goldeneye’s and Cinnamon Teal while driving north along the Blue River. A nesting pair of Golden Eag

les, Prairie Falcon and singing Fox Sparrow were in the town of Kremmling. After a relaxing lunch, we continued up the Blue River drainage. Gore Pass was a nice diversion as we observed a Red-naped Sapsucker, Clark’s Nutcracker, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Mountain Bluebirds. By late afternoon we had arrived at the Arapahoe NWR. Adding to the trip list was a singing Sage Thrasher, Vesper Sparrows, Rough-legged Hawk, Violet-green Swallows, American Avocets and 12 species of ducks. T photographers in the group loved this place because of the mammals along the route. We arrived in Walden at supper time and check into our new hotel. In Walden, you must eat at the River Rock Café for a truly western meal. We went over our daily list and enjoyed a juicy steak.

 

We were enjoying Greater Sage-Grouse leking all around us as the sun started to come up on day two. The group counted 106 birds including a very healthy 57 females. The males were dancing, jumping, inflating their air sacks, singing, challenging other males and flirting with all the females. Enjoy this sound clip of this unique lek experience. After everyone was completely satisfied, we headed back into town for a cou

Leking Greater Sage-Grouse

Leking Greater Sage-Grouse

nty style breakfast. Warm and happy, we made our way to Walden Reservoir. At 8,100 feet this time of year, the reservoir was still mostly frozen. We did manage to get a few goodies including a Wood Duck, 100 plus Am White Pelicans, 12 Canvasbacks, several Greater Scaup, Barrow’s Goldeneye, 66 Marbled Godwits and several hundred California Gulls. The Moose Visitors Center is part of the Colorado State Forest. They have a series of feeders around back that can be quite good for mountain species. Since we already cleaned up the day before, we enjoyed the sounds of 100’s of bird as point blank range. The photographers especially enjoyed this spot. The nature Conservancy has a preserve along the Yampa River. We spent some time walking the trail and stretching our legs. New to the trip included a Bald Eagle, Green-tailed Towhee, unexpected flyover of Evening Grosbeaks and White-throated Swifts. Our overnight was in Craig after a second day of fantastic birding.

Leking Sharp-tailed Grouse

Leking Sharp-tailed Grouse

The third day was packed with excitement even before sunrise. While heading up slope to the Dusky Grouse spot, we spotted three Sharp-tailed Grouse that were just flying off a lek area. We didn’t stay as we had our sights on Dusky Grouse. We got to the Dusky Grouse spot just in time. We had a male and female along the road. She soon flew down slope but he remained. Mr. Grouse gave us a great show as he boomed, strutted and blew up his air sacks. On to the second lek of the morning. Sharp-tailed Grouse have such an interesting dance. They stomp their feet, spread their wings and almost ram into other males. The grass was higher at this site which didn’t facilitate wonderful pictures. But, everyone enjoyed the show! As the sun came up, the grouse took off. Heading back east for our next stop was Catamount Lake. We tallied all the breeding swallows and a late leaving Rough-legged Hawk. Evening Grosbeaks and 6 pairs of calling Sandhill Cranes were found along the Yampa River. Several Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, new name for Western Scrub-Jay, were also in the area. Finding a high quality marsh yielded several Sora and Marsh Wrens. The group enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the way back into Denver. Great memories were made on this three day grouse trip. The total number of bird species was 107.