23 March 2011


After the COS/WOS/AFO meeting in Nebraska, we headed into the mountains of Colorado.  

If you know which canyon to hike up, it's not uncommon to see wild horses in parts of Colorado.  I've seen the wild horses before at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland but never before in Colorado.  By the way, these horses are actually feral (descendants of domestic horses but are now self-sustaining in the wild).  Here are four horses in the shade of a canyon one late afternoon:

Nearby, I jumped on the opportunity to photograph this "PINK-SIDED" DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis mearnsi).  This is not a race we find here in Iowa:

Maybe it was the lack of birds that helped us notice some small mammals?  For example, on a quiet walk in some high elevation ponderosa pine forests, we spotted this LEAST CHIPMUNK (or so I believe, it looks quite similar to the Colorado Chipmunk which I've never seen):

Just down the path from the chipmunk was this distant TASSEL-EARED SQUIRREL, a new mammal for us.  This species is said to be secretive and difficult to observe:

You can't spend much time in the West without stumbling on PYGMY NUTHATCHES as we did:

... the same goes with seeing MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES:

This BROWN CREEPER really should consider foraging on a different colored trunk:

Near Gunnison, we found feeders that had all three species of rosy-finches:

GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH (including the "Hepburn's" race)

It was pretty exciting for us; it was only the second time I've seen Black Rosy-Finch (the first time was in Utah in August 2004).  I took many photos but later accidentally deleted over 100 of them!  Not my brightest moment.  I was left with only a couple photos of the rosy-finches including this one which shows Brown-capped and Gray-crowned rosy-finches (with a Hepburn's):

Of course, if you're near Gunnison in March/April, it would be worth a stop at the public viewing of the GUNNISON SAGE-GROUSE lek.  We did just that and saw about 20 grouse on the lek.  Here is one male that is apparently displaying for only himself:

Near the lek was this early-morning visitor, a WHITE-TAILED JACKRABBIT still in its winter coat: 

A new photo bird for me was this WESTERN SCRUB-JAY:

Another highlight for us was seeing LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS.  I had only seen this species once and that was back in 2001.  It was a new photo bird as well (yeah, I'm not sure why I only have a picture of the back of the bird but I don't really care):

Anyone want to venture a guess at this blue and chestnut thing?
It's a bluebird, as you might guess, but which kind?  Well, the only bluebird that has chestnut on the UPPERSIDE of the wings is WESTERN BLUEBIRD.

Eventually we left Colorado to start our way back home to Iowa.  However, not without a quick stop in Kansas.  Like the sage-grouse, it would be silly to pass through western Kansas without stopping for LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS during their lekking season.  That's exactly what we did; here is a distant flock of six (part of a flock of nine) we spotted after they finished lekking:

This one preferred to sit on top of a bale of hay:

This BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT decided to sit tight for a couple seconds in the rich morning light:

Here is a parting shot from near Gunnison, Colorado: