Thursday, April 22, 2010

Goofy Chickens - Part 3

April 16, 2010

Up before dawn, I needed to get some munchies and fuel. 7-11s, out west, provide both (here in Michigan, a 7-11 won’t have gas). While paying for my cheese danish, I realized the attendant at the register had eye-liner and a wild purple nail polish. I should also mention the attendant was a man. Let me be very clear here – I don’t care how people dress or how they do their make-up – man or woman. It is totally their call. It was simply a bit shocking to see that in what I thought was the conservative cattle region of eastern Colorado. I just was not ready for that at 4:30 in the morning.

Just north of Wray, on a back county road, I found one of my non-life target birds for the trip– Greater Prairie Chicken (I had already seen them in southern Illinois). On a low ridge, with the sun rising behind them, I heard and saw it all. The hooting. The jumping. The confrontations. The pretty colors. All those males looking for attention. So cool. With all that jumping and flashing going on, I half expected the guy from 7-11 to join them. Some even flew a few feet from my car.

After a quick bagel in Wray, it was off to the Pawnee National Grasslands again (the western end). The Crow Valley Campground was quiet (as expected) and the vagrant Yellow-throated Warbler was no longer around but the nesting Great Horned Owl was neat. A short drive through what is called Murphy’s Pasture turned up dozens of McCown’s Longspurs and a few Chestnut-collared Longspurs. One “Chestnut” in particular looked so damned handsome standing tall and nice on pronghorn poop. (Unfortunately, something went wrong with myphoto. Given the distance, the bird should have been crystal clear, but it is not. It seems very “un-sharp” to my eye. One thing I have to consider is this – I shot the picture out of the passenger window while the heat was on. Possibly the heat coming from the vent distorted the image? ) Any way you look it, that is one slick lookin’ bird.

I also had to take the picture of the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. While I don’t speak ground squirrel, I think he was yelling at me to do so.

Pronghorn are easy to come by, too.

The final hours of the afternoon were spent looking for Mountain Plover. Yes, I had seen this bird before (in Wyoming many years ago), but it was a distant bird with some heat shimmer. A better look had always been desired. A local birder had been posting locations near his home in Nunn. After misses on three properties, I scored on the fourth. I made sure the teenager in the front yard (apparently raking rocks?) knew I was birder and that a GREAT bird was in his front yard. He was cool enough to let me take a few pics from the driveway and NOT call the guys in the white coats or the other guys with funny hats and guns. With effort, I could probably eliminate that Milky Way from the background...

By 5:00pm, I was back at the car rental returning the dirty and partly bloody car (I creamed a pheasant on the way to Wray). Joe, the buddy of mine from way back and now a resident of Denver, picked me up. While dinner at a brewery would have been grand, we opted for a tiny Greek place. The gyro was the size of a giant burrito. My “Holy cow!” exclamation was answered by the waitress with a “No, Lamb…” Thanks.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I hope you tipped the waitress extra for the "no, lamb" comment. That's pretty quick. Well, actually, at a Greek restaurant she's probably been working on that joke for years, but still.