Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prairies to Grasslands

Wednesday June 4 we got up early and started out on the auto tour of the Pawnee National Grasslands.  We started at the corner in the lower right of this map.  In front of us was a red jeep from Chicago with 3 birders on board, they had high hopes of seeing Mountain Plover, I hope they did; I lost track of them somewhere they may have turned back I never saw them again...



This is an outline of the birding auto loop, it is about 20 miles or so of gravel road through the grasslands.  There are numbered stops along the way but if you visit, keep track of this map so you don't get turned around as roads not seen on this map are present and it become confusing. The flyers pocket was empty so I took this photo of the drive good thing too...as there are few landmarks to orient you to anything except the road. 





The Grasslands are expansive...oil and gas leases mean you can encounter some fast moving trucks who have no or little regard for birders, so beware of this I have a brand new chip in my windshield.   

I am happy for the fences (said to keep Cows OUT of the grasslands) because it gives the birds a place to perch. 



Lark Buntings 

At one point the gravel was so deep I nearly got stuck...and with no cell phone bars I had to wonder how the heck I was gonna deal with that but fortunate for me suddenly the DLEX spurted forward and out of the rocky road mix!


Female Lark Bunting

Saw lots of the Lark Bunting, the CO state bird, both males, females, and some young.  The Grassland was vibrant with yellow everywhere.  




and awesome waving grasses mixed with mariposa lily. 




some of the taller stuff made great perches for the multitude of Western Meadowlark with their beautiful songs...



And also Horned Larks, who also have a beautiful song...


And just as I had figured another Burrowing Owl would show after I had broken the ceiling...I was able to put the Red Jeep people onto this owl much to their delight!  The had a scope and a big A$$ camera so they got some good shots!



my fuzzy not so good shot

Found a Common Nighthawk napping on this post...probably another late night out!



And not too far away from that posty found a lifer in the Cassin's Sparrow! I am happy I found this one although the Longspurs remained too far away for sighting, I got this Cassin's up close. 


Note the barring on the upper back, rounded tail, finely streaked head and overall a drab looking bird...but that was #444.




And that's no bull but this is!  He was looking lonely out there by himself...






I made many stops along the way to get out listen for the Longspurs, and once again heard but just not seen.   Literally had tons of Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, and many of these gorgeous Lark Buntings


Grasshopper Sparrow 

And I was almost certain I had a Mountain Plover, the size, shape, overall color is right, but since I've never seen one and this is the awful photo I got so I didn't even try to include it in my list for the day...and the upright posture reminded me of a pipit, I just decided to put it down as IDNK=I do not know!  If the throat had been all white, the line by the eye heavier, the beak thicker... 


...so here is another for the IDNK list!


Well you just can't peg hole them all....meanwhile the thistle and milkweed were starting to open I imagine a week later butterflies were everywhere. 



By noon the heat became unbearable, glad we got on the tour at 7:30 am had to take it slow to see or hear anything and no AC running at slow speeds unless you want to kill your battery so I was glad  when we reached Hwy 14, and we made our way down to Hwy 34 east and our camp for the night

At Johnson Lake State Park near Orchard, CO



Yes you can get a decent shower and shampoo your hair in 3 mins for 50 cents.  

PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

14 comments:

  1. So many birds, isn't it frustrating when you can't quite pin a bird down though! Sounds like it was a good idea to take a photo of the map!

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    1. It is very frustrating for sure...Yeah I had to refer to my camera and see where I was on that map..I nearly took one wrong road--and it was so narrow I had to back out and get on the right road.

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  2. I am pretty sure that your IDNK bird is a pipit. It has that distinct upright stance of a pipit and the lean appearance. I have birdied this area but we were just a tad early for the arrival of the Lark Buntings and more’s the pity. as you say it would not be hard to get lost there.

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    1. I had originally thought it was a Sprague's Pipit, I hate reporting rare birds, I don't want to cause a fuss...as my Mom is apt to say. I had hopes of seeing some of the Longspur species that had been reported, but then I realize many people report a heard only bird...I did hear, but did not see. The addition of these roads that go to gas leases hurt the chances of our seeing more grassland birds, yet without the roads how would we even get this close, a catch 22.

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  3. Another nice tour. Love the Lark Buntings. But sure wouldn't want to have to try and run from that bull. Your camping spot was nice and that a great covering over the table, looks like you had electric too.

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    1. Yes I had electric I was happy for it, cost $6 more but wen it's hot a fan makes a big difference, and even tho my fan's will run on battery they run longer and better on electric. I wonder if that huge bull could run he was gynormous!

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  4. That shot of the Nighthawk is good. We have Nightjars near us but I have yet to see or hear them.

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    1. It is not very common to find one out on a post like this so that was really cool!

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  5. Wow that place sounds amazing! Except for the heat and almost getting stuck in gravel... I had to look up Cassin's Sparrow because that's one of those birds I barely knew existed. Your possible plover... I have no clue. Definitely has a pipit stance but the color pattern is more plover.

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    1. Yep I should have been there like May 10th would be perfect time to be there! But, well you known how it goes. I was thrilled to pick up that Cassin's Sparrow. I wanted it to be a Mt Plover so bad, but so far away & a bad look just couldn't deliver me a positive ID so, I really don't know and there is more never seen before in the IDNK file also but the photos were even worse...I really need a scope to get better looks.

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  6. Next time we're in Colorado I want you to be there too .... we're always too busy to bird. Nobody else ever wants to stop as often as I do or wait around in one spot for birds to show. The people we see are wonderful (my kids of course!) and the scenery is always drop-dead stunning and I loved every minute of our time there as always. But no birding!)

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    1. Yeah I normally head off alone to bird, cause like you say it takes patience and determination..and still you don't see the dang bird! LoL

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  7. The grasslands have a beauty all their own. I've never spent any time there, but really enjoyed the photos, and the wide variety of birds. I like that shot of the Horned Lark and the colorful flowers.

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    1. HI, and thank you for commenting, so true...and without these few places protecting the grasslands we would have them no more...I wish it could be expanded.

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