Sunday, April 16, 2017

Road Trip to Gunnison, CO! - 10 Apr 2017

I dropped Robin off at her workshop and headed southwest toward Gunnison, CO where I would hopefully see some endangered Gunnison Sage Grouse tomorrow. A look at the wind map for the US showed a huge low-pressure system pushing strong winds down through the Denver area, then back up through Michigan. Winds were calm where I was headed, though, so I was grateful.

The drive was long, but this part of Colorado is beautiful. Snow still covers many of the peaks making up the foothills to the Rockies. Runoff is strong, and rivers and streams are rushing w/ aqua-blue water. 

Birds were pretty scarce, however. It wasn’t until I was in the town of Jefferson that I spotted what looked like an American Kestrel on a pole. I was going to disregard it, until I was a half-mile down the road and decided that I needed to go back and check it out. "That’s why I’m here”, I thought. So, when I returned and saw it through binoculars, I was thrilled. Prairie Falcon!  I managed to get some nice portrait photos through an open window, and it even let me photograph it while standing next to the car. But, as I tried to get the scope and tripod put together it decided not to wait around.

I would then see the first of many Western Red-tailed Hawks across the street on a pole.  Several more would be seen soaring overhead and being harassed by American Crows and Common Ravens.

check out that patagial!

Just as I entered Gunnison Co. I spotted a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a fence post next to the road, so I pulled over and photographed it from inside the car. I was then able to mount the scope to the window and digiscope it from inside the car.  I’d be able to drive off w/o ever spooking it.

Shortly after noon I arrived at the Gunnison Sage Grouse Wildlife Viewing Area. Since I’d be here tomorrow morning an hour before sunrise I wanted to see what it looked like in daylight. The lowland field is covered with rivulets, so perhaps the birds will be closer to the near bank that is on higher ground? I’ll find out…

I drove into Gunnison and checked in at the Econo Lodge, grabbed some drive-thru, then headed another 2 hours west to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Wow, this place is gorgeous! Driving along the South Rim of the park you’re looking down 10,000 feet to a mini Grand Canyon. Once again I’d be white-knuckling it a bit as I drove along the edge of the drop off. But, Black-billed Magpies, Mountain Bluebirds, Common Ravens and Western Scrub Jays helped to direct my gaze from sudden death…  I would miss several fly-by Spotted Towhees, and a gorgeous dark-phased Red-tailed Hawk.

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