Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pawnee National Grasslands - 13 Apr 2017

I was out the door at 6 am and off to Pawnee National Grasslands located in Weld Co. about 2 hrs NE of Denver. US-25 N to Co-14 E to Co-77 N and then W on Co-96, which was labeled w/ a “Bird Tour” sign. While driving east on Co-14 I passed a large Prairie Dog colony and managed to find a pair of Burrowing Owls among them. The other highlight was seeing a Bald Eagle on a power pole out in the middle of nowhere!

As soon as I turned onto Co-96 I was in the short-grass prairie and immediately surrounded by hundreds of Horned Larks and singing Western Meadowlarks. I was hoping to see McGown’s Longspurs in this stretch of the Grasslands, as I had the last time I visited. But, there would be now longspurs today. I’m guessing that its still too early for them, Mountain Plovers, Lark Buntings and sparrows. No problem though, as I had plenty of Western Meadowlarks to photograph.

A Prairie Falcon flushed from the grass next to the road, but flew out of sight before I could get the camera on it. I would see it a second time, but still would not get any pics. An American Kestrel was a bit more cooperative, but kept flying before I could get close enough to photograph it through the passenger window. I would have to settle for pics of Pronghorn Antelope foraging near the fences.


My route through the Grasslands was west on Co-96 to Co-57 N where I found a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes

A Vesper’s Sparrow was the first sparrow of this trip.

From Co-57 I then took Co-106 W to Co-45 N to Co-122 E then Co-120 S and E. The route was uneventful, but the scenery was beautiful. Things are really dry here. Rains are needed.

Things turned around on Co-120, though. I spotted the silhouette of a large hawk sitting in a tree ¼ mile from the road. The bird took off and began soaring. I quickly surmised a Swainson’s Hawk based on wing shape. What I didn’t expect was the bird flying toward me in order to check me out. I was a bit surprised when it soared directly overhead and circled several times before continuing on.

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