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Friday, April 15, 2011

Colorado Trip - Wray to Elkhart, Kansas Day #2 and #3

Western Meadowlark
    After leaving the Wray area we headed south to Bonny Reservoir, located out in the prairies. The winds today were predicted to be 40 mph with gusts up to 60. However, we all felt that the winds were 60 mph all day long. We ate lunch at a picnic table and everything was blown away. At the reservoir we found many White Pelicans, Bonaparte's & Franklin's Gull's.
Breeding Plumage Franklin's Gull
     Then we headed to Nee Noshe Reservoir where the winds made birding impossible. We were hoping for Snowy Plovers and other shorebirds but struck out. We spent the night in Lamar and before we went to dinner we birded the Willow Creek Nature Center behind the Lamar Community College. My target birds there were, believe it or not, Northern Cardinal and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Our motel was actually right next to the college so we wold go there first thing in the morning.
      We ate dinner at a local restaurant and ran into the Victor Emmanual Nature Tours group. It was being co-led by Mike O'Brien from Cape May. This chance meeting would become important the next day.
      Sunday morning we went to the college and Nick found me my Cardinal that I needed for my Colorado state list. Cardinals can only be found in this location, so this was a good sighting. We dipped on the Red-bellied Woodpecker and were too early for the Mississippi Kites. We did manage to find another unusual bird at this park. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, which is rare in Colorado, was also added to my state list. Walking around the park I saw a strange bird that reminded me of the flight pattern of a robin but didn't quite look correct. I followed the bird to where it landed and discovered our first Townsend Solitaire.
      We then made a few other quick stops and picked up a flock of 76 Long-billed Curlews feeding in a field with Western Meadowlarks and a few Harriers. At the Campo Prairie Chicken lek (no longer accessible) I remember years ago that I had Cassin's Sparrows there. We arrived and right away we could hear one singing along with all the White-crowned Sparrows that were present.
Lesser Prairie Chicken
      From here we had to travel to Elkhart, Kansas to a lek in order to watch the Lesser Prairie Chicken display. We had a long drive because, believe it or not, you can't get to Kansas from Colorado. We had to drive into Oklahoma then around into Kansas. No roads led from where we were in CO to KS directly. This is desolate country out here on the range.
     Well, the plan was to get up before dawn and head out to the lek before sunrise. But since we had about an hour before sunset we decided to try for the chicken now. So when we arrived we found 12 Lesser Prairie Chickens on the lek displaying. We got out of the car to walk to the blind and they all flushed but we stayed in the blind and within minutes they were back. The lighting at this hour was perfect with the sun behind our backs. Much better then the morning light would have been.

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