109CO 07/28/08-EL/RS 05/21/08-BG
APRIL 17 - 26, 2009
Five species of grouse inhabit the prairies and northern valleys of North America—the Greater and Gunnison sage-grouse, the Sharp-tailed Grouse, and the Greater and Lesser prairie-chickens. All are noted for their spectacular mating displays, and all can be exceedingly difficult to find away from the “leks” or display grounds. This tour will focus on observing these birds and their mating rituals. From the sandhills of southeastern Colorado to the high sagebrush parklands of the north- ern part of that state, we’ll be spectators at some of the most fascinating displays in the bird world, such as the “booming” of the prairie-chickens, the wild dance of the Sharp-tails, and the strutting of the huge sage-grouse.
There are more birds to see in Colorado at this season than grouse. Possibilities will include Golden Eagle, Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks, Prairie Falcon, Scaled Quail, Sandhill Crane, Moun- tain Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird, Chestnut-collared and McCown’s longspurs, as well as a host of waterfowl, shorebirds, and prairie and montane special- ties. Mammal viewing should also be excellent, and the scenery will be breathtaking. Although the tour will require considerable daytime driving, we’ll make frequent stops.
April 17, Day 1: Arrival in Gunnison. Participants should make arrangements to arrive today and take the complimentary shuttle to our hotel. United Express offers air service to Gunnison from Denver International Airport (subject to change). We will meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30 p.m. for a get-acquainted dinner.
NIGHT: Holiday Inn Express, Gunnison
April 18, Day 2: Gunnison Area; Drive to Pueblo. A pre-dawn start will take us to the first of our five grouse leks, this one for the recently split Gunnison Sage-Grouse. With its strange filoplume crest, more prominently banded tail, smaller size than the Greater Sage-Grouse, and tiny range (basically restricted to southwestern Colorado), this new species has instantly become one of the most endangered birds of North America. Though this lek is not particularly close, we should have good scope views of the Gunnisons in their outrageous display.
The remainder of the day will likely be spent birding along the Arkansas River en route to Pueblo. Common Merganser, Greater Roadrunner, White-throated Swift, American Dipper, Juniper Titmouse, and Canyon Tow- hee are among the many possibilities. With some luck, we might find the very uncommon and irregular Pinyon Jay as well.
NIGHT: Ramada Inn, Pueblo
April 19, Day 3: Pueblo to Lamar. From Pueblo we’ll head east toward Lamar and the Comanche National Grasslands. Just east of Pueblo we will search the shortgrass prairie areas with Prairie dogs looking for Moun- tain Plover. Along the way we may encounter raptors such as Red-tailed, Swainson’s, and possibly Ferruginous hawks; Scaled Quail; Burrowing Owl; and Curve-billed Thrasher, a southwestern species that barely enters this corner of Colorado. Stops at prairie playas and reservoirs should produce Eared, Clark’s, and Western grebes;