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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Colorado Chicken Trip

      First off I apologize for the low quality of this blog. I left home without the device to download my pictures onto my computer so I have to download to Nick's. When he emails them to me and I enter them on the blog I can't enlarge them and it looks like you can't either.
      So let's carry on. We arrived in Denver on Friday morning and quickly headed to Barr Lake just north of the airport. Lots of waterfowl were present and we also found our first Swainson's Hawk. Many more would follow.
Carl & Nick at barr Lake
Most of our stops today were at lakes and reservoirs, so lots of waterfowl made the trip list. We had many White Pelicans, Western, Clark's and Eared Grebes, Bonaparte's and Franklin's Gulls, along with Wigeon, Lesser Scaup and Gadwalls.
      We had to travel almost to the Kansas border today to get to the town of Wray. The Colorado Division of Wildlife was providing an orientation about the Greater Prairie-Chicken lek that we were visiting the next morning before sunrise. Along the way we passed through many a little town. One town we were already though when we got pulled over by a cop. He said we were doing 35 in a 25 MPH zone. None of us saw the speed go down that low and told the officer. He asked us if we were local and we told him we were from PA. He then asked where we were heading. Carl said to Wray to watch the Prairie Chickens and that we were birders. The guy gave us a weird look and went back to his car to write a citation. When he came back, he told Carl that he would just give us a warning if Carl could tell him two facts about Greater Prairie Chickens. Well, I never saw Carl talk so fast, with the help of Nick throwing out some extra facts if needed. The officer accepted this and sent us on our way, probably thinking these Pennsylvanians are a weird lot indeed.
Division of Wildlife Trailer
      The next morning we arose around 4:30AM and took a local school bus to the chicken lek. At the lek was a trailer set up with two rows of  cushioned bleachers. I chose to stand in the back and to set up my telescope for better viewing and digiscoping. As soon as we settled in, the ranger opened the front of the trailer and the Greater Prairie-Chickens were already in display mode.  The males were booming and clucking and waiting for the arrival of the females. Once the females arrived the chicken dance really kicked up a notch. We had a total of 67 chickens on the lek today. The ranger said this was the best day he had there since he started four years ago.

Carl & Nick in trailer
Greater Prairie Chicken
       When the birds were finished with their rituals, we jumped into the bus again and headed to a local ranch for a breakfest. On the way we found our first Ferruginous Hawk sitting on a telephone pole. At the ranch we picked up White-crowned Sparrows and Pink-sided Junco.
Part of the 67 chickens on Lek

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