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Colorado Grouse, Page 2

Snowy Plover (uncommon and declining); American Avocet; Black-necked Stilt; and a host of other shorebirds and waterfowl.

NIGHT: Best Western Cow Palace Inn, Lamar

April 20, Day 4: Campo and Cottonwood Canyons. As light increases, we will get our first good views of these rare prairie birds—their pinnae erected like horns, maroon air sacs inflated, wings drooping, and feet pounding a rapid beat in the sand. After the chickens have departed the lek, we’ll search nearby grasslands for Long-billed Curlew and Lark Bunting, along with Grasshopper and Cassin’s sparrows.

The remainder of the day will be devoted to scenic Cottonwood and Carrizo Canyons, where pinyon-juniper groves merge with cactus-studded slopes and riverine cottonwoods. Here we will encounter a fascinating as- sortment of southwestern and Great Basin species. These may include Greater Roadrunner, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Scrub-Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Canyon and Rock wrens, and Ru- fous-crowned Sparrow. Our main target, however, will be the Lewis’ Woodpecker, an outrageous kaleidoscope of pink, green, red, and silver.

NIGHT: Best Western Cow Palace Inn, Lamar

April 21, Day 5: Lamar to Wray. A very early start will take us to the second of our grouse display sites, this one a Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek. This will be our earliest start of the trip, necessitated by the longer drive to reach the lek. We’ll be on the lek at dawn, greeted by the eerie booming and cackling noises of the chickens. After the Lesser Prairie-Chicken display, we will head north to Wray. Some birding will be in order as we make stops at Bonny Reservoir, an excellent spot for migrant land and waterbirds. Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheas- ant, Virginia Rail, and early migrant landbirds are also possible. In the late afternoon we’ll make the first of our visits to look for the Greater Prairie-Chickens. In some years our afternoon display is so good that no morning visit is required.

NIGHT: Sandhiller Motel, Wray

April 22, Day 6: Wray to Fort Collins. We will start the day with another dawn vigil, this time at a Greater Prairie-Chicken lek. Afterward we’ll head west through the Pawnee National Grassland, where Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks abound. With some searching, our chances are excellent for finding Mountain Plover as well as Chestnut-collared and McCown’s longspurs, all in high breeding plumage. From there it’s only a short drive to Fort Collins, where we’ll spend the night.

NIGHT: Best Western Kiva Inn, Fort Collins

April 23, Day 7: Fort Collins to Walden. This morning we could return to the Pawnee to search for any spe- cialties we may have missed. If our luck on the previous day was good, we may opt instead for an earlier start westward through the mountains, allowing us more time to search for and enjoy the montane birds. As we travel through beautiful mountain passes and past snow-covered mountain peaks, we’ll search for such montane spe- cies as Red-naped Sapsucker, Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, American Dipper, Pine Siskin, Pine Grosbeak, and Cassin’s Finch. After crossing Cameron Pass, we’ll descend into the high country of North Park, a region of sweeping vistas where snow-covered mountains provide a backdrop for marshy meadows and mint-green sage- brush flats. Sage Thrashers dart between shrubs; Mountain Bluebirds add dazzling touches of color to the land- scape; and in some years, roadside snowbanks or local feeders may hold lingering Rosy-Finches. Raptors (par- ticularly Golden Eagle and Swainson’s Hawk, but also an occasional Prairie Falcon) should be quite evident. Mammal possibilities for the day include moose, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and white-tailed prairie dog.

NIGHT: North Park Inn and Suites, Walden

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