Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pawnee National Grasslands, Pt. II - 13 Apr 2017

After my encounter with the Rough-legged Hawk I continued on Co-120 E until it ended at the small town of Grover, CO. Here the middle portion of the National Grasslands is mainly farmland for several miles before becoming undisturbed grassland again to the east.  As I drove out of Grover on Co-122 E I spotted the first of two Swainson’s Hawks perched on telephone poles. I was able to get a few pics from inside the car before pulling past it so as to get some pics w/ the sun behind me. The bird was very cooperative, allowing to take pics while standing next to the car. 

I had to wait patiently for several minutes until it decided to fly off, allowing me some additional photos in flight.

The second Swainson’s Hawk was even more cooperative. I took a few photos from inside the car and drove on without flushing it.

As I entered the Eastern portion of the Grasslands, I found that I was close to the Pawnee Buttes. To get there I’d have to drive through the Cedar Creek Wind Farm, a huge expanse of wind towers that stretched for miles. But, once I was past the last windmill I was up in the hilly portion of the grasslands. It was now late morning and winds were picking up, so just a few Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks were making themselves seen.

I spotted a large raptor circling out over one of the buttes, and stopped to watch it. It was barely visible through binoculars, but an all-white tail and white wing patches on a light-brown body had me guessing Ferruginous Hawk. As with the previous hawks, it slowly circled and kited for several minutes before working its way in my direction. This time, however, I would not get lucky. I would have to settle for long-distance photos as it flew along the ridge before disappearing out of sight. But, I was able to get good enough looks to confirm Ferruginous Hawk!

The remaining drive would be uneventful. Truck traffic was heavy in this portion of the National Grasslands so I only stopped to photograph a pair of Pronghorn before continuing on to Co-14 W then back to Co-77 S and home via Co-14 and I-25.

I love this place!

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