Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Trip 2015 Birding Part 3

Here is the third and final blog reminiscing about birding during our 2015 Summer Trip and sharing a few additional photos. You can read the first two blogs on this topic here regarding birding on the Oregon Coast and letting BirdsEye determine where to stop while on the road.

In 2010 Christine and I stopped at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge on a road-trip west and ever since I've had a strong preference to visit National Wildlife Refuges whenever possible. With that in mind, when we left Oregon the only plan was to stop in Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days. Having a flexible timeline regarding which days and how long we planned to stay afforded me the opportunity to chart any route. While looking at a map, yes we carried paper copies, the large green region of Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge seemingly begging me to stop as if I was a moth looking at light.

We slept in a bit and got a late start from Walden after driving late the previous night. Our first stop was the city reservoir in search of Clark's Grebe. This species is quite similar in size and appearance to Western Grebes. The Clark's Grebe is found further west than my normal travels, but with a bit of luck we found a Clark's Grebe that appeared to have two youngsters with a Western Grebe. It was the first LIFER #419 for me and the first of the day.

Grebe Family (Colorado USA)
The Clark's Grebe is on the left while the Western Grebe is on the right. Notice the white around the eye and an orange bill. 

Our next stop was Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. We got great looks at Greater Sage-Grouse, once again in the middle of the road. It was much more satisfying seeing the bird up close having only added it to my life list the day before at dusk from a distance. In addition we were finally able to see Brewer's Sparrows rather than rely on their call for identification.

Greater Sage-Grouse  Brewer's Sparrow
Greater Sage Grouse female on the left and Brewer's Sparrow on the right.

American Wigeon
Baby waterfowl are much cuter than other bird babies in my opinion.
While not rare, the American Wigeon with ducklings along the drive were wonderful to see. Similar to the Clark's Grebe this waterfowl species is a summer resident further west and north than my normal travels.

Overall we did not see many birds or much diversity, but perhaps that was due to the late morning hour. However as we turned a corner we caught a fleeting glimpse of two birds. They were Sage Thrashers and the the second LIFER of the day!

Sage Thrasher
The Sage Thrasher is smaller than many other Thrashers and fortunately we saw a couple more later in the drive for photos.

With miles to drive and a goal of finding an open camping spot in Rocky Mountain yet that day I concluded the dedicated birding portion of the trip. My family had graced me the previous two days with birding and I was fortunate to see a few new birds. Perhaps it was luck, maybe even fate, or yet the outcome of divine intervention but, regardless of the reason, as we stopped to take a photo of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign a Broad-Tailed Hummingbird flew in and checked it out as well. We had the wrong lens and camera out, but alas it remains the single bird of that species that I've ever seen.

Finally, since this blog post is about birding here are a few other photos of species we saw while in Colorado that were not previously shared.

A fledgling Mountain Bluebird with Male from RMNP and Willet from Walden Reservoir.

  Clark's Nutcracker
Fledgling Townsend's Solitaire and Clark's Nutcracker from RMNP.

  Violet-green Swallow
Dusky Flycatcher and Violet-green Swallow in RMNP. I did not get a photo of my lifer Cordilleran Flycatcher.

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