Oliver’s Birding Blog | Camp Colorado

Yes, I did publish this a bit later then I intended to but better later than never!

Day 1 – we met at 3 PM at the YMCA of the Rockies to begin camp. While we were waiting for everyone to show up, we found Black-billed Magpies and many Violet-green Swallows & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds flying overhead! When everyone was at the meeting spot, we headed inside to discuss the week ahead and listened to an excellent presentation by Bill S. about the ecosystems and habitats of Colorado. While Bill was talking, a Gray-headed Junco flew into the room, bird #1 that got inside the meeting room.

Day 2 – Today we headed to the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park in search of American Dipper, Black Swift, and other montane species. At first, birding was very slow. But the waterfalls and streams at this spot were spectacular. On the way back into the Y, one of the campers spotted some pigeons sitting on a front porch of a house, we stopped to check if they were Band-tailed and sure enough, they were! We then did some birding around the Y, along with the common species, we found a few Cassin’s Finches and a few campers saw a Lesser Goldfinch. Today, we also did a bird banding program at the Y, where we were able to watch Tree Swallow nestlings get banded as well as get a close-up look at a Broad-tailed Hummingbird! The evening program for the day was a fascinating presentation on bird banding by Ashli G. And again today, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird zoomed into the room, bird #2 that got inside.

Day 3 – We went to Endovalley today, the day started out at the West Alluvial Fan where the day started off with an American Three-toed Woodpecker landing 30 feet away at eye-level and started there for 30 minutes! We walked farther down the trail, and when we eventually reached the waterfall, we were treated to a very close American Dipper! Next, we headed over to an aspen grove where Jennie talked about the effects that Elk have on the Aspen population. We walked down the trail until we found a stream, a few campers (including me) decided to wade in the cold stream, by the time I got out I could barely feel my feet! Today was the first day of workshops, I decided to take the point count workshop by Joel S., although we got rained on, I still learned a lot, and it introduced a new type of birding to me! Tonight, we listened to an excellent presentation by Joel S. about his research on Rosy-Finches!

Day 4 – Today was the Alpine day! It was the day we would go to look for White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. As soon as we got to Medicine Bow Curve (the ptarmigan spot), we were treated to an early Rufous Hummingbird, a lifer for many of us! As we walked down the trail, we found another good bird, a flyover Pine Grosbeak! Then someone said, “I’ve got ptarmigan,” we all came rushing over to the scope, not the most excellent views ever, but nonetheless it was a White-tailed Ptarmigan! We then went to the Lava Cliffs to look for the second target bird of the day, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (a near endemic to Colorado). Immediately, we found one foraging on the snow, again not a good view, but we got the bird, but just as we were about to leave, a bird decided to fly much closer than the previous one, close enough to obtain an identifiable photograph! We headed back to the Y for more workshops, today I did the field sketching workshop, again by Joel S., we went out to a Cordilleran Flycatcher that a few campers (including me) found the day before. We spend a little over an hour watching the birds behavior and sketching it. Tonight was the only owling night of the trip, we came up empty-handed as far as owls go but it was worth a try.

Day 5 – PAWNEE! Yep, today was the Camp Colorado Challenge, a sort of mini-big-day where we would try to find as many birds as possible. It was a 2-hour drive to Crow Valley Campground, the first stop of the day, as soon as we entered Pawnee, we found many Common Nighthawks and Western Kingbirds flying around. We walked around the campground a bit, observing a flyover Bullock’s Oriole; a perched Common Nighthawk; and an exciting bird for the west coast birders, a Blue Jay. We ate Breakfast, then moved on, first hitting a reliable spot for Mountain Plover. After just a few minutes of looking, one of the leaders shouted, “MOUNTAIN PLOVER, flying over the field,” most campers got on the bird, but the views were terrible; however, we did eventually get a few in the scope, although they were again, awful views. We then started driving to a spot for longspurs, on the drive there, we saw many sparrows, and although the majority were Grasshopper, I’m sure a few were better ones, but we didn’t have time to stop for any of them. Also on the drive, we found a more Mountain Plovers (including a fledgling), this time we had much better views, but we were stuck in the vans, another notable bird was a Yellow-headed Blackbird. While we were observing the Yellow-headed Blackbird, we looked out at the pasture and were amazed to find 29 more Mountain Plovers, some were reasonably close allowing for excellent photographic opportunities! When we finally arrived at the longspur spot, we immediately found more Mountain Plovers, Lark Buntings, and Grasshopper Sparrows. It took a while before we saw the McCown’s Longspurs, but we eventually did, in fact, 16 of them, some leaders and a couple campers even heard a Chestnut-collared; unfortunately, I was not one of them. We began driving to another part of Pawnee where we were hoping to find Cassin’s Sparrow and get any grassland birds we didn’t have yet, on the way we picked up many more Grasshopper Sparrows, and other grassland birds. We made a brief stop at Crow Valley Campground then continued on to the other part of Pawnee and spent a couple hours there, but we did not find another new bird for the day. The last stop before heading back to the Y, was Fossil Creek Resivior, when we got there, we saw some Western Grebes in the water, but mixed in the Western Grebes were 2 Clark’s Grebes! A lifer for me and most of the group! On the walk back to the vans we found a Bullock’s Oriole and a Cedar Waxwing. When we got back to the Y we did some more birding, a few of us decided to hawkwatch, and those who did were treated to some good looks at a Prairie Falcon, the only one we saw on the trip! We wrapped up the day by heading inside and tallying up everything we saw, we ended up with 90 something species (sorry, can’t remember the exact number), 54 Mountain Plovers, and 100’s of Grasshopper Sparrows (a record high for Colorado)!

Day 6 – Sadly, this was the last full day of camp. Today we would head to the foothills where we would meet up with Ted F. the guest leader for the day. We started at Rabbit Mountain, and almost immediately, we heard a Canyon Wren calling! And then someone called out Golden Eagle, then Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay; also, a Rock Wren, Blue Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole, Lark Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee were seen at nearly the same time. Good birds were everywhere, and I didn’t know where to look first, luckily most of the birds seemed quite content on staying in the same spot, so I was able to get on all of them. The rest of the hike was surprisingly slow, but I was finally able to find my lifer Lesser Goldfinch. We then headed to Old Saint Vrain Road in search of more foothill specialties. It was a cool place with a cliff on one side and a river on the other. As we started walking down the road I spotted a small bird hopping around in the shrubs on the cliff, I raised my binoculars, and it turned out to be a Virginia’s Warbler! We walked further down the road finding more good birds such as Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and a few Lazuli Buntings. We headed back to the Y where for the rest of the day we talked about camp highlights and hung out as it was our last day. One more time, while we were talking about camp highlights, another Gray-headed Junco hopped into the room, the third bird to do so during camp, lol.

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