Bird #492 — Chestnut-collared Longspur

calcarius ornatus

Monday, May 7, 2018 — 11:13 am

Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado — Weld County Road 69

After I saw the McCown’s Longspurs, I continued driving along the dirt road into the grasslands. I heard a Grasshopper Sparrow singing off in a section of prairie with taller grass. I pulled over to get a better look. Another birder drove up as I was putting my scope back in my car. We exchanged sightings. He said the longspurs had eluded him so far. I told him where I’d seen the McCown’s. We headed off in opposite directions.

I pulled onto another dirt road heading north. After a couple hundred yards, I saw a black spot on top of a prairie plant about 30 yards ahead of me. I angled my car across the road and took a look. The black was the belly of a Chestnut-collared Longspur, my other target bird for the morning. 

After 30 seconds or so, it hopped down into the grass and foraged. I could follow it for about a minute before it disappeared. 

I drove on and soon saw two birds fly across the road into the grass. Both of them were appearing and disappearing in the grass. I was settling in to watch for a while when I heard a rumble behind me. A semi with a load wrapped in blue plastic was headed my way. It was somewhat surprising since I was on a tiny dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I pulled over as far as I could and let him by. When he’d passed, the birds were gone. I didn’t see any more, but since I’d gotten good looks at my two lifers, I didn’t hang around long.

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Bird #491 — McCown’s Longspur

calcarius mccownii

Monday, May 7, 2018 — 9:14 am

Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado — Weld County Road 96

This one was pretty easy. I knew where other birders had been seeing McCown’s Longspurs on the Birding Tour in the western section of Pawnee National Grasslands. I pulled onto the dirt road and drove very slowly—stopping to check out every bird I saw. I discovered that the windshield on our new Honda distorts the view through cameras and binoculars a great deal.

The area was short-grass prairie without a tree or building in sight. I crested a rise and saw three birds on the road. One of them was Horned Lark—which helped me tell immediately that the other two weren’t.

The female McCown’s Longspur looked somewhat like a female House Sparrow with a broad, pale line above her eye. (That’s the longspur on the right.)

The female flew off into the prairie. I angled the car across the road so I could look at the male through the driver-side window. I picked at the road, moving slowly but steadily away from me most of the time.

The Horned Lark came and went and came again. The male longspur stuck around for about five minutes, then flew off into the prairie toward where the female had gone. I expected to see more, but these were the only two I spotted.

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Mac Nation

This odd little restaurant is tucked into a canyon in one of the western suburbs of Denver. The specialty of the house is mac and cheese. They bake it with whatever ingredients you choose on top. I had the Arkansas, with pulled pork, ham, and bacon. Sally ordered the New England, with Italian sausage and peppers. 

We sat outside on a shaded patio and enjoyed the food. It wasn’t fancy, but it was tasty.

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April Recap

A Vermilion Flycatcher was discovered by the Hanover Fire Station near the south border of El Paso County. It was first seen on the evening of April 1, about six hours after I was there. When it was still around on Tuesday, I had to go see it. I showed a photo of it to my boss, and she readily let me leave half an hour early. I drove down and saw it without difficulty or drama—unless you count the large, bossy woman who ordered me not to walk closer to the bird than she was until she’d gotten all the photos she wanted—even though I had no intention of doing so. It wasn’t a lifer. I’d seen one in Arizona in 1984 and another one in south Texas about eight years ago.

I spent my birthday, even thought it was a Sunday, at Cheyenne Mountain Resort for the CBS training conference. I sat in the back of the room behind 80 leaders who were learning about children’s and youth ministry. All 80 of the leaders happened to be women.

Among other things, we all made sculptures out of marshmallows and toothpicks. Here’s mine.

The big excitement, however, was a wildfire that was burning on Fort Carson—easily visible out the resort windows.

On the following Friday, Cynthia hosted a murder mystery dinner. We all were given characters and were supposed to dress and act accordingly. I was Indy Temple, an obvious ripoff of Indiana Jones. I went to Bass Pro Shot and bought a hat—then forgot it at home.

On the 16th, a Lucy’s Warbler was found by Sinton Pond, a grubby park in an industrial section of Colorado Springs. I drove down after work and saw it. I fell in with two women who were also looking for it. While we were there, some guy came by and showed us a photo. He said he was tracking a bail-jumper. He was somewhat perturbed that we were more interested in looking for birds. Meanwhile, a couple homeless guys were setting up a tent in front of a “no camping” sign. It’s not my favorite place to bird. I saw the warbler well, but it was moving fast, and this was the best photo I could get.

Here are the highlights.

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