Hannah and Andrew and I spent the past several days in southeastern Colorado. Here's a recap:
Wednesday, August 2nd. Horse Creek Crossing (near the intersection of Colorado 71 and County Road BB), Crowley County. We got out of the car, flushed 20+ BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, annoyed 1 VIRGINIA RAIL, heard the flight call of a CHIPPING SPARROW, and were on our way.
Wednesday, August 2nd. Lake Henry, Crowley County. With high water, the place was a dud. But 70+ CLARK'S GREBES were a nice tally. Also, 4 EARED GREBES. And on the drive out, an impressive flock of 375+ LARK BUNTINGS.
Wednesday, August 2nd. Ordway Reservoir State Wildlife Area, Crowley County. In a flooded field on the west side of Colorado 71, we saw 18 widely scattered PLEGADIS SPUHS and 3 GREATER YELLOWLEGS.
Wednesday, August 2nd. Ordway Proper, Crowley County. On entering the town of Ordway, we saw a MISSISSIPPI KITE soaring above Colorado 71; it was the first of gazillions we would see in the lower Arkansas River valley.
Wednesday, August 2nd. Crowley Reservoir, Crowley County. First, out over the main lake, 1 adult PEREGRINE FALCON in the general company of 25+ FRANKLIN'S GULLS and 6 BLACK TERNS. Next, along the south side of County Road G, a goodly throng of shorebirds, among them 6 BLACK-NECKED STILTS, 7 STILT SANDPIPERS, 9 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, 15+ BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS, all three species of the small peeps, 3 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 2 hard adult DOWITCHER SPUHS, and 600+ WILSON'S PHALAROPES. Also, random stuff like GADWALL, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, and at least 3 Chipping Sparrows.
Thursday, August 3rd. Higbee Valley Road (County Road 804), Otero County. This stretch of road is usually great, and so it was this morning. First, at Higbee Cemetery, we heard the first of several RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS that we would hear along the road; we got RED JUNGLEFOWL here, too. Next, we poked around the outskirts of the invariably productive homestead at 37.7177968 North, 103.5175234 West. Here we found a doozie, a LARGE HUMMINGBIRD SPUH. It flew by at close range, impressing us with its heft and general darkness. Then, the bird briefly but very conveniently interacted with a notably smaller hummingbird, probably a female Broad-tailed. I suspect male Magnificent for the large bird (quite dark below, tail noted to be all dark when in interaction with the other hummer), but we saw the bird too briefly to be absolutely certain. Also of note around the homestead were 4 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS and 1 RED-HEADED WOODPECKER. Elsewhere along Higbee Valley Road, we found 1 WOOD DUCK, 55 WILD TURKEYS, 6 Mississippi Kites, 2 more Red-headed Woodpeckers, 1 LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, 1 CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, 1 CANYON TOWHEE, and 10 BLUE GROSBEAKS. LARK SPARROWS and Lark Buntings numbered in the triple digits, and we saw a few Chipping Sparrows. On a cautionary note, all 12 ravens that we observed appeared to be COMMON RAVENS, and all 38 pechos amarillos that we observed were WESTERN KINGBIRDS; don't assume anything down there!
Thursday, August 3rd. La Junta, Otero County. In town we saw 15 SCALED QUAIL, 3 Mississippi Kites, 1 male BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (it looked so small!), 1 CHIMNEY SWIFT, and the first of quite a number of LESSER GOLDFINCHES we would see during our travels. Oh, and we had heard a fly-over Chipping Sparrow at 3:30 in the morning. (Let me know, by the way, if you seek information regarding a hotel NOT to stay in, next time you're in La Junta.)
Thursday, August 3rd. Cheraw Lake, Otero County. Decent, but not great; this place is often, quite simply, great...but not today. The water was just a bit too high. Shorebird-wise, the only notable presence was of 500+ Wilson's Phalaropes. We added 15 Black Terns here; and we got our only CANADA GEESE, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and RUDDY DUCKS of our excursion.
Thursday, August 3rd. Holbrook Reservoir, Otero County. I keep waiting to see the great birds for which this place is famous. Well, once again, Holbrook was--in my experience, anyhow--a bust. We got 7 more Black Terns here, plus a CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, and that's about all.
Thursday, August 3rd. John Martin Reservoir, Bent County. We saw several LEAST TERNS and FORSTER'S TERNS off the dam, along with at least 30 Black Terns. We also saw a Peregrine Falcon soaring above the dam, and a lone BURROWING OWL northwest of the dam a little ways. Oh, and there were thousands of birds waaaay out west of the dam, among them 600+ AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS and an awful lot of grebes, 150+ AMERICAN AVOCETS, lots of other shorebirds, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS aplenty, more terns, and other stuff.
Thursday, August 3rd. Hasty Campground, Bent County. Where were all the humans? We expected the place to be full, but we had it all to ourselves. Anyhow, we saw a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO perched on a sidewalk, of all places; it was beating a caterpillar to death. Also here were 3 Mississippi Kites and 2 Lesser Goldfinches.
Thursday, August 3rd. McClave Pond (on the south side of U.S. 50 between County Roads 26 and 28), Bent County. 26 Black-necked Stilts and 7 Black Terns.
Friday, August 4th. Lamar Community College, Prowers County. The first bird we heard on getting out of the car was a NORTHERN CARDINAL, and the first bird we saw here was a barely fledged cardinal; we found at least 4 cardinals altogether. Other birds here in the ever-birdy Community College woods included 2 Wood Ducks, 10 Mississippi Kites, 15+ Chimney Swifts, 2 Cassin's Kingbirds, a surprising RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, 1 BEWICK'S WREN, 2 BROWN THRASHERS, and 2 Lesser Goldfinches. As we we were wrapping up and preparing to move on, we couldn't help but notice that our car had been surrounded by a full-on armada of Lamar's finest. We were informed by the officers that a jogger had reported that "maybe" we had broken down. Next, in a brilliant demonstration of the human capacity for non sequitur, we were asked for my place of birth, Hannah's and Andrew's dates of birth, and lots of other things. No doubt, Leatherman was behind this...
Friday, August 4th. Willow Creek Park, Prowers County. We heard 2 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS, and we saw 1 WHITE-WINGED DOVE. Other goodies included 2 Mississippi Kites, 2 GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES, and at least 3 more Lesser Goldfinches. And we finally heard a comparatively rare AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. Oh, and I note that, all before 10:45 a.m., we managed to patronize 3 playgrounds, 1 swimming pool, 2 restaurants, and a Wal-Mart.
Friday, August 4th. NeeGronda Reservoir, Kiowa County. Although water levels were seemingly decent for shorebirds, we could find nothing except a lone KILLDEER. We also saw at least 35 Black Terns and 4 Franklin's Gulls. And we heard our first CASSIN'S SPARROWS of our trip; they were singing right along the water's edge.
Friday, August 4th. Upper Queens Reservoir, Kiowa County. This place hasn't had water in years, it would seem. It did, though, produce our only apparent CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN during our travels. Out in the desert, we saw 5 BULLOCK'S ORIOLES, probably diurnal migrants, flying along. By the way, County Road C, between U.S. 287 and the reservoir (as if), was excellent for lizards. Hannah chased after a great many of them.
Friday, August 4th. Lower Queens Reservoir, Kiowa County. With low water and extensive mudflats, the place looked excellent for shorebirds; but we saw nothing. We did, however, find our first EASTERN KINGBIRD of our trip.
Friday, August 4th. NeeNoshe Reservoir, Kiowa County. The mudflats were decent, but terribly distant. Through the heatwaves, we could make out some LARGE SHOREBIRD SPUHS, evidently curlews or godwits; there were other indeterminate large blobs--birds of some sort--out there. The dead trees in the vicinity harbored lots of landbirds, including 1 Red-headed Woodpecker, 1 wonderful Chipping Sparrow, and a fascinating hive of roosting COMMON NIGHTHAWKS.
Friday, August 4th. The middle of nowhere, Cheyenne County. Probably a first in the annals of Cheyenne County birding, we actually managed to find a body of water! It was a small playa along Colorado 59, and it even had a bird in it! The bird was--wait for it--a SWAINSON'S HAWK, wading out into belly-deep water. It would be too much, far too much, to ask of this county an actual shorebird or tern or something.
Friday, August 4th. Seibert, Kit Carson County. The Conoco Station was infested with Great-tailed Grackles, at least 45 of them.
Saturday, August 5th. The Fox Ranch (PRIVATE), Yuma County. We had a great time here. Shortly after sunrise, Hannah and Andrew befriended a basking western diamond rattlesnake. Also, we saw the most stunning orthopteran I've ever seen. At first, I thought this parti-colored creature was a planthopper on steroids. But it was definitely an orthopteran. It was sea-green all over, with sky-blue wings, a fire-engine-red stripe along the "spine" of the thorax, and green-and-red legs. Leatherman, are you out there? Tell me what it was, and I'll forgive you for that stunt in Lamar. More. Hannah and Andrew built elaborate homes for the obscene number of toads they "rescued," and they tried to persuade a porcupine to be their pet. It didn't work. Birds. We heard at least 5 QUIDDYQUITS, and probably twice that number, migrating over during the morning. I love that sound, one of the most evocative of all bird calls. At dawn, the woods were alive with singing Yellow-billed Cuckoos! ORCHARD ORIOLES were abundant, with at least 30 noted. Other stuff included cackling Wild Turkeys, a whistling NORTHERN BOBWHITE, a SOLITARY SANDPIPER dropping in for a visit, 15+ Red-headed Woodpeckers, an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL whinnying at dawn, 6 Brown Thrashers, a DICKCISSEL feeding young, a beautiful adult male BALTIMORE ORIOLE, and several GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS and Chipping Sparrows amid various other sparrow species. All the flickers we saw appeared to be YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKERS.
Saturday, August 5th. Cope Memorial Park, Washington County. This site has the most OSHA-noncompliant playground in Colorado. Here we saw 3 Lesser Goldfinches, including a beautiful black-backed male. Also, 3 Chimney Swifts, 2 more Red-headed Woodpeckers, and a semaphoric "Eastern" HAIRY WOODPECKER.
Saturday, August 5th. Anton Playa, Washington County. It's *moved*! eBird's gonna freak out. Anyhow, it's now about 1,000 feet west of town, along the north side of U.S. 36. The site was loaded with shorebirds, including 225+ Baird's Sandpipers, 20+ Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Stilt Sandpipers, and 7 Black-necked Stilts. Also, several Black-crowned Night-Herons, widely scattered Plegadis spuhs, and a lot of ducks, among them NORTHERN SHOVELER, CINNAMON TEAL, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL. I note here that some female NORTHERN PINTAILS can look impressively similar to Fulvous-whistling Ducks. I suspect that this site will be great for "grasspipers" a little later in the season. Seriously, I encourage Tina Jones and other Last Chance aficionados to add a few extra miles to the trip, this coming fall, and make the haul out to Anton. It could be exciting. Speaking of Last Chance...
Saturday, August 5th. Last Chance, Washington County. Unexpected was a singing WARBLING VIREO. I doubt it bred here. The bird sounded like a "Western," its song being choppy, burry, and generally wimpy. But could it have been the "sub-song" of an "Eastern"? Not sure.
Ted FloydEditor, Birding
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