Welcome to Birdquest
Wednesday 30th March - Monday 11th April 2011
Colorado is now well-established as a must-visit destination on the World birding circuit and the highlight of our fifth ‘Ultimate Grousequest’ to this wonderful US state was our fourth clean sweep in a row of the ‘magnificent seven’: the beautiful (yet eminently ‘missable’) White-tailed Ptarmigan; the extrovert Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens; the recently split Dusky Grouse; the foot-stomping Sharp-tailed Grouse and the two stunning boomers - Gunnison’s and Greater Sage-Grouse. However, as I have said before, Colorado is not just about chickens! We enjoyed an excellent selection of other Nearctic birds and recorded our second highest species total so far, 165 (the highest score, 169, was achieved a little later in April when more summer migrants are about). Other highlights included: Wood Duck; Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser; Scaled Quail; Wild Turkey; Clark’s Grebe; Northern Goshawk; Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks; Prairie Falcon; Mountain Plover; Franklin’s, Bonaparte’s and California Gulls; White-throated Swift; Lewis’s and American Three-toed Woodpeckers; Grey, Steller’s, Western Scrub and Pinyon Jays; Clark’s Nutcracker; Juniper Titmouse; Pygmy Nuthatch; Rock, Canyon and Marsh Wrens; the pretty trio of Eastern, Western and Mountain Bluebirds; Townsend’s Solitaire; Sage and Curve-billed Thrashers; Harris’s, Black-throated and Sage Sparrows; McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs; all four distinct North American forms of rosy-finch - Grey-crowned, ‘Hepburn’s’, Black and Brown-capped; Cassin’s Finch and both Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. A few uncommon visitors such as Vermilion Flycatcher, Bohemian Waxwing and White-throated Sparrow provided were an added bonus and we also caught up with the amazing Greater Roadrunner again after a gap of eight years. Another five new species were added to the Birdquest Colorado list in the form of Gambel’s Quail, Lesser Black-backed and Glaucous Gulls, Williamson’s Sapsucker and Violet-green Swallow and the mammal tally was a new record total of 32 live species. The furry line-up included a good number of interesting range-restricted rodents but pride of place went to a North American Porcupine, watched picking its was down a steep snow-covered hillside by a few insomniac Birdquesters on a late night owling excursion. Our 2011 ornithological road trip clocked up well over 3300 miles in less than two weeks via some of the most impressive scenery in the USA and was my most enjoyable visit so far to this amazing corner of North America.