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Gavin Bieber on his and Evan Obercian's recently completed tour, Colorado: Lekking Grouse

May 05: Gavin Bieber on his and Evan Obercian's recently completed tour, Colorado: Lekking Grouse

Early spring in Colorado is dynamic both for weather and for birds.  This year we found the prairies and even the mountains to be warmer than average, with many trees already leafing out.  Over much of the Rockies there was little snow, and no appreciable precipitation during our tour, although persistent winds were an issue on a couple of the days. Of course the top prize of any spring Colorado trip must fall to the grouse.  This year we had exceptional views of all five lekking species, and excellent looks at a male Dusky Grouse that seemed utterly oblivious to our presence, even allowing us to sit down next to it!  White-tailed Ptarmigan performed perfectly in their picturesque alpine home, with two birds casually feeding in a small clump of willows that were protruding from the rapidly thinning snowpack.  The stately but somehow supercilious displays of Greater and Gunnison Sage-Grouse provided a great contrast to the frenetic and comical antics of the three prairie chickens.  The supporting cast was wonderful as well; from all three species of Rosy-Finches including several dazzling male Black Rosy-Finches perched above a feeder in Crested Butte, to luminous male Mountain Bluebirds and the roosting Barn Owl that showed well for us as it circled overhead.  It was a wonderful voyage around the scenic and bird-rich state of Colorado, with a two-day side trip out into the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska, and even a short excursion into southern Wyoming!

A delightfully accommodating Dusky Grouse. Image: David Fisher

With the diminshed snow pack, White-tailed Ptarmigan were a bit easier to find this year

A Greater Sage Grouse in all his pompous splendor.  Image: David Fisher

Greater Prairie-Chicken, still the champion 'stomper'.

Feeding stations bring rosy finches like this Black down to our level. Image: David Fisher

Mountain Bluebird, one of the most arresting birds in North America. Image: David Fisher

This Barn Owl briefly shelved its nocturnal habits and gave stunning views. Image: David Fisher

Posted: May 05, 2017