Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Last Day in Colorado, near Denver, Sunday, May 19

Saturday night I got a foot long sub and meal at Subway and returned to my room in the Super 8.  After eating, I went directly to bed and slept soundly until about 5:00 am Sunday morning.  I felt much better.  Before breakfast starting at 6:30, I started updating my blog and checked on local areas that were close to my location.  After breakfast, I left for Genesee Mountain Park not far east of my location, where I could find Pygmy Nuthatch and Williamson's Sapsucker.   I needed to stay reasonably close to Denver for my flight at 8:15 am on Monday morning.  I stopped in Iowa City to visit a Safeway store to buy some cold medication.  Of course, I bought Dayquil Cough and Flu, a product I had worked on a number of times during my career at Procter and Gamble.  I also bought some Cold Eeze Tablets containing zinc, a competitor's product, which I have found helpful to fight off a cold.

I soon arrived at Genesee Mountain Park and stopped at pull offs on my way to the top.  There were juncos trilling, Chipping Sparrows, Pine Siskins and a Red Crossbill.  I stopped at a picnic area, which is actually near the top, but I did not know that at the time, and walked through the area birding, looking and listening.  I found two Pygmy Nuthatches, new bird for the year, here behind the pavilion on the right side going up (See photo).  The nuthatch is hammering on a dead branch. 
Then I continued looking for Williamson's Sapsucker as I continued to walk through the picnic area and as I slowly drove to the not too distant top.  There were more Pine Siskins in the area and I also heard more Red Crossbills.  I continued to the top and checked the outhouse for Cordilleran Flycatcher.  This is a place to check according to Birding Colorado by Hugh Kingery.  I had also checked other outhouses further down the mountain, but did not find a flycatcher.  I may be a little early due to the late winter snows that have been prevalent in Colorado this year.  I read about the call of Williamson's Sapsucker but never listened to it on a recording.  It is described as sounding like a raptor.  I checked my phone for internet access and found a call via the Laboratory of Ornithology.  I have been a member for close to 30 years.  I was doing this searching while walking the trails below the top and down toward the picnic area.  I played the recording several times to acquaint myself with this call, and heard a somewhat distant call in response.  Eventually, I found the responding caller, a female Williamson's Sapsucker, a new bird for the year.  This is a distinctly marked bird with heavy barring of brown and white above and below with a large black patch and yellow on its belly, brown on the head and a white rump above a dark tail.  I returned to my car and ate the second 6 inch half of my sub from dinner last night, which I had stored in the refrigerator at the motel.   My next stop was Barr Lake State Park to look for grebes that may be either breeding there or still present from overwintering there.  It was about an hour's drive or less to the northeast on interstate I-70 and I-76.

I went to the boat ramp not far from the dam to scan for waterfowl.  I found some distant grebes and in my telescope, hand held and rested on a gate, found a Western Grebe in a flock of larger grebes, most of which had their heads tucked.  On this bird, the dark on the crest included the eye.  I looked for but could not find a Clark's Grebe, but I found out later that Clark's Grebe become more common to the southwest in Colorado.  There were also smaller grebes present in the group with the Western Grebe.  I checked them carefully through the scope and determined that there were several Eared Grebes.  I identified them by the black neck and head and the peak on the crown which is above the eye and the small pointed bills.  They were diving like grebes and had the general shape of grebes -- relatively thin neck, small head and oval body shape.  Western and Eared Grebe are new birds for the
year.  I checked the time and mileage, and there was enough time to drive to Pawnee National Grassland to look for longspurs and other local birds.  I arrived at Pawnee National Grassland at the east entrance to the Auto Tour at road 96 at about 5:30 pm.  I found large numbers of Lark Buntings (See photo of two males and one female).  Horned Larks were abundant.  Eventually, I found a few McCown's Longspurs and then with increasing numbers as I drove north and west until I had seen up to about
twenty total (See photos).  McCown's Longspur is more common on the Auto Tour apparently due to the preferred short grass habitat.  Chestnut-collared Longspur prefers longer grass.  I looked for them in the western part of the auto tour where there was a large field of long grass, but did not find any.  I recall being told back in June of 1990 that Chestnut-collared Longspur is more common further north, and that has been my experience since then in the Dakotas.  When I first visited Pawnee National Grassland and saw my lifer Chestnut-collared Longspur on June 30, 1990, I found only one in some limited long grass based on

special instructions from an employee.  I returned to the Denver area and got a motel close to the airport.  Tomorrow morning I have  a 8:15 am flight back to Cincinnati.

Pygmy Nuthatch, Williamson's Sapsucker, Western Grebe, Eared Grebe and McCown's Longspur raises the total to 452. 


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