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Rich Hoyer reports after his recently-completed 'chicken run' in Colorado:

April 11: Rich Hoyer reports after his recently-completed 'chicken run' in Colorado:

Frank Nicoletti and I just finished a spectacular, gigantic loop drive through the middle of the United States, passing through three states and many small towns with a very congenial and happy group of participants. Incredibly, we managed to see all of the possible species of grouse along the way. The dominant theme in the mountainous, western part of our itinerary was snow – and lots of it on the ground. Fortunately, none fell while we were birding, and while we had some cold mornings and a few days with wind, we were extremely fortunate with the weather.

The very different eastern part of our loop was still affected by a drought, so prairie-chicken numbers were depressed compared to recent years. Thanks to Audubon of Kansas, we still had an exceptional experience at a lek in Gove County, Kansas where a dozen highly animated Lesser Prairie-Chickens were joined by two Greater Prairie-Chickens and a happily displaying but frustrated hybrid. Our fabulous Greater Prairie-Chicken experience in Nebraska was very similar, enhanced by the amazing hospitality of the folks from the McCook/Red Willow County Tourism. The sounds and sights of the displaying and dueling birds just yards away was unforgettable.

Photo by participant Matthew Dryden


We added many birds to the list between grouse sites, including this stunning Mountain Bluebird, one of many on the tour.

Photo by Rich Hoyer


One of the more memorable roadside stops of the tour was at a park with a pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls.

Photo by Rich Hoyer


Birds weren’t the only attraction – we tallied over 20 species of mammals, one highlight being a Red Fox hunting in a snowy field next to a remote highway south of Walden.

Photo by participant Mark Garbrick


With so much snow on the ground (Steamboat Springs recorded their third highest snowfall ever this winter), we weren’t surprised to have dipped on Dusky Grouse in all the right locations. So it was a triumphant surprise to have one on our last morning from the parking lot behind our hotel as we were loading for the final drive of the tour.

Photo by Rich Hoyer

Posted: April 11, 2023