Saturday, 17 April 2010

Way out west

From top: drake Barrow's Goldeneye; Swainson's Hawk; Grey Jay; Brown-capped Rosy-finch (centre) with Cassin's Finches, Pine Grosbeak and Pine Siskin; and Pronghorn on the move.

In between owling into the small hours of the morning and rising way before dawn for grouse, there has been no time until now for an update on this Colorado trip. But suffice to say that we are officially on fire, hitting target after target in line with plans carefully made and executed by Luke and Joe.

The scenery has been mesmerising but the birding even more so, with grouse, owls and woodpeckers featuring heavily but many other notable species involved. Yesterday's session began with good views of Williamson's Sapsucker ("Not available this early in spring," according to one tour leader I consulted before deciding to look elsewhere) and continued with my personal highlight of finding two White-tailed Ptarmigan at almost 12,000 ft at Loveland Pass.

Since then we have descended to the sagebrush plateau where Sage Thrasher and more than 30 lekking Greater Sage Grouse gave themselves up to our admiring eyes. And we persisted with our vigil in the cold at a set of feeders where, finally, Brown-capped Rosy-finches - endemic to this region - came in as snow began to fall heavily. Sharp-tailed and Dusky Grouse rounded off what was another remarkable day today, while our mammal list is already in the mid-teens.

I hope these brief photo highlights will give a good flavour of what the birding is like out here; list update to follow when I've worked it out.

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