Sunrise Birding LLC - Colorado: Dance of the Chickens April 7 - 17, 2018
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COLORADO
Dance of the Chickens
& Western Specialties!


April 7 - 17, 2018

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Greater Prairie-Chickens. Photo by Gina Nichol.
Greater Prairie-Chickens. Photo by Gina Nichol.

Greater Sage-Grouse.
Greater Sage-Grouse.
Photo by Steve Bird.


Greater Prairie-Chicken. Photo by Gina Nichol.

Mountain Plover (Photo: Gina Nichol)Join Sunrise Birding for an exciting tour in search of Colorado’s famous prairie chickens and grouse as we aim to round up the “Magnificent Seven” and much more! Our search for the avian specialties of the Centennial State includes opportunities to see a wealth of mountain species, grassland rarities, migrants from east and west, seven species of chicken, five species of grebe, and a clean sweep of North America’s beautiful bluebirds. Other species of interest will be Mountain Plover (Photo: Gina Nichol); Three-toed Woodpecker and Williamson's Sapsucker; Black, Brown-capped, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch; McCown's and Chestnut-Collared , Longspur (Photo: Steve Bird) and many others.

This trip will offer wonderful scenic memories, from mountain passes to sweeping grasslands as well as the astonishing birds that call these varied habitats home. It is a must for those with an eye to photography and those desiring to see a host of birds that are almost impossible to find most anywhere else in the country. As fair warning, travelers must be aware that the tour includes some long, bird-rich, days as well as a good number of pre-dawn starts for the lekking chickens. Days will see us rise early, but the wealth of spectacular sights and species will be our just reward.


ITINERARY

Day 1 (April 7): ARRIVE DENVER
Plan to arrive at Denver International Airport (Airport code: DIA) for pickup at 4:00 PM. The meeting place is at the Jeppesen arrival area. Everyone emerges from the same exit for baggage claim and there are seats there in the concourse waiting area right outside the exit. We will leave the airport at 4 PM sharp and drive to Pueblo for the night. We’ll settle into our hotel and enjoy an introduction to the tour over our first dinner.

Day 2 (April 8): TO LAMAR
Following breakfast, we’ll head east towards Lamar and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek. Along the way we’ll make stops to look for Curve billed Thrasher, Inca Dove, and Scaled Quail at Swallows Road outside of Pueblo. We’ll head east to Holbrooke, then on to Cheraw Lake where we'll scan for Snowy Plover and Baird's Sandpiper just arriving from their spring migration. Possibilities here also include American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt and Wilson's Phalarope. There are often large flocks of Western Grebes at one or two locations, and we’ll check for Clark’s Grebe among them. Night Lamar.

Day 3 (April 9): LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN
American Avocet.  Photo by Gina Nichol.Today will involve a very early start to meet with our rancher guide and make it to the Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek before sunrise. We’ll be viewing this spectacle from the vehicle so as not to disturb the mating ritual of one of the rarest birds in North America. Their "dancing" and “booming” is an unforgettable sight. We’ll have breakfast at the ranch after visiting the lek and then return to our accommodation, check out, and head for Wray. Along the way, we'll look for Burrowing Owls. We will also be watching for other birds of the Great Plains, including Ferruginous Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lark Bunting and Northern Mockingbird. Time permitting, we’ll stop at Bonny Lake for Franklin's Gull, American Avocet (Photo: Gina Nichol), Black-necked Stilt, and more raptors.

We’ll arrive in Wray later in the afternoon, check into our hotel and head out for our orientation for our visit to the Greater Prairie-Chicken lek tomorrow. We may even go out to the lek and look for some birds in the evening, just in case we run into weather the next morning.

Day 4 (April 10): GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN
Another early start will be required to get to the lek to see Greater Prairie-Chickens in action. We expect another amazing show with these fabulous birds performing their elaborate display complete with "booming" sounds. Later on, we will return to our hotel for breakfast and then depart for Greeley. We’ll stop at Pawnee Grasslands to search for some of the inhabitants of this extensive grassland . Here we will search out Mountain Plover, McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs (Photo: Steve Bird) and Burrowing Owls at their burrows. We will also have more opportunities here for raptors including Ferruginous Hawks and Prairie Falcon as well as several sparrow species and Western Meadowlark.

Day 5 (April 11): WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN
Today, after breakfast, we travel west and ascend to 12,000 feet to the snowy Loveland Pass and our quarry the White-tailed Ptarmigan. We will spend good amount of time searching for this, the smallest grouse in North America.  It is a very well camouflaged bird and scanning the landscape with your scope will be our best chance of finding. it.  Later on we will head north toward some stunning mountain reservoirs and the chance to find numbers of Barrow’s Goldeneye among other species of ducks. En route we will stop to look for more mountain denizens including Three-Toed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Lewis's Woodpecker (Photo: Gina Nichol). We’ll stop in Buena Vista to look for Williamson’s Sapsucker and Pinyon Jay. Later on, we will arrive in Gunnison. After dinner we will get rested and ready for our pre-dawn appointment with our next ‘chicken’ species.

 

Day 6 (April 12): GUNNISON SAGE-GROUSE
Once again, we will make an early start to get to the Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek. Here we should have fine views of this superb bird from blinds. We’ll celebrate with breakfast in Gunnison followed by a drive to Crested Butte to look for three species of Rosy-Finch and Evening Grosbeak, then a stop at Almont for American Dipper. With our targets acquired, we will hopefully have time to soak up the mountain scenery and more opportunities to see such desirable birds as Gray Jay, Townsend’s Solitaire and Clark’ s Nutcracker.

 

Dusky Grouse. Photo by Gina Nichol.Day 7 (April 13): DUSKY GROUSE
Today we drive out to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Renowned for some of the oldest rock and steepest cliffs in North America birders know this park one of the best places to look for Dusky Grouse (Photo: Gina Nichol).   We'll look for the males performing their displays in the oaks along the south rim road.  Other birds we may encounter here include Green-tailed Towhee, Canyon Wren, and White-throated Swift. 

Later on we will bird the Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area.  This is the largest body of water Colorado created by the Blue Mesa damand is a haven for loons, diving ducks, and a variety of shorebirds.  We'll continue on to Grand Junction and enjoy an excellent dinner and overnight in the largest city in western Colorado.

Day 8 (April 14):
COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT / CHUKAR

This morning does not see a pre-dawn start, however there will be no lying-in on this action packed day. We’ll enter Colorado National Monument, with the sun at our backs and marvel at its sandstone cliffs, canyons, and diverse range of habitats including pinyon/juniper, sage and riparian. Species to look for here include the usual specialists as well as Pinyon Jay, Gambel’s Quail, Say’s Phoebe, White-throated Swift , Juniper Titmouse, Golden Eagle, Bushtit, Peregrine Falcon and three species of wren: Bewick’s, Rock, and Canyon. Time permitting we’ll also check the oak woodlands at Rifle Falls for woodland birds such as Western Scrub-Jay, Band-tailed Pigeon and Spotted Towhee.

Colorado National Monument. Photo by Gina Nichol.

From here we go to Coal Creek Canyon in the hopes of finding Chukar. Here, we should also pick up scrub/desert species such as the charming Black-throated Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting and the ever-jaunty Rock Wren among others.

Day 9 (April 15): SHARP-TAILED GROUSE / DUSKY GROUSE
This day will begin with a pre-dawn outing to view Sharp-tailed Grouse and Dusky Grouse. If we can’t find it here, we will go to another site on 20 mile road. After lunch in Grand Junction we’ll continue on making a stop at Rabbit Ears Pass on the Continental Divide to look for Gray Jay, Steller’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker (Photo: Steve Bird), and Three toed-Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pine Grosbeak,Three-toed Woodpecker and Mountain Chickadee.

Day 10 (April 16): GREATER SAGE-GROUSE
This day will start early morning as we head off on the roads to look for the in equal parts glorious and comic Greater Sage-Grouse dancing upon their leks. After spending time watching their enchanting displays we will head on to search local reservoirs that will produce ducks in dizzying variety and number. There will also be raptors to be found here and a wonderful assortment of other birds including: Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawk, White Pelican, California Gull, White-faced Ibis, Yellow-headed Blackbird American Avocet, Cinnamon Teal and Mountain Bluebird. Here we will be able to ponder whether there is there any bird more beautiful in North America than a male Mountain Bluebird? The sagebrush habitat around the reservoir could also produce a newly arrived Sage Thrasher among others.

As we travel back toward Denver we will stop at Colorado State Forest headquarters for Rosy-Finches, Pine Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadee, Three-Toed Woodpecker. Night Denver.

Day 11 (April 17): DEPARTURES FROM DENVER

COLORADO: Dance of the Chickens
April 7 - 17, 2018

TOUR PRICE: $3375.00 per person based on double occupancy from Denver, Colorado (Airport code: DEN/DIA).  Single Supplement:  $550.00 (subject to availability)

Deposit: $500.00 per person. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise gina@sunrisebirding.com when you have made payment. 

Included in cost:   Cost is based on double occupancy and includes: group airport transfers, private transportation in Colorado, all accommodations, meals beginning with dinner on Day 1 of the tour and ending with breakfast on the last day of the tour, professional guide services, local guides, local park and reserve entrance fees. 

Not included:  It does not include roundtrip airfare to or from Denver, Colorado; airport transfers other than scheduled group transfers, passport/visa fees, insurance,  drinks, items of a personal nature such as: laundry, telephone, beverages, or gratuities for porterage or personal services.

RESERVATIONS:
To reserve your place on this tour, complete the Registration/Release Form> and mail it with a deposit of $500 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC.  Instructions are on the form. 

Final payment is due by December 7, 2017 and must be paid by check or bank transfer.

Cancellations and Refunds:   All cancellations must be made in writing.  In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. 

Insurance:   The purchase of trip cancellation insurance to cover any eventuality is strongly recommended.  Sunrise Birding LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour. 

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at gina@sunrisebirding.com  Phone: 203.453.6724

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More about . . . THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN!

Greater Sage-Grouse  Centrocercus urophasianus  
First described by Lewis and Clark in 1805, the Greater Sage-Grouse occurs in eleven western states.It is the largest grouse in North America standing two feet tall and has a long, pointed tail which it fans out during its mating display. The large white ruff around its neck in combination with the inflated bright yellow air sacks makes adds to its an amazing mating display at leks.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse Centrocercus minimus  
Split from Greater Sage-Grouse, this species was first described in 2000 taking the world of ornithology by surprise as the first new avian species to be described in the US since the 1800s. It is a third smaller in size than Greater Sage-Grouse and is restricted to southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. There are seven separate populations, the largest of which inhabits the Gunnison basin. Gunnison Sage-Grouse is currently being Considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

White-tailed Ptarmigan  Lagopus leucura  
Colorado has the largest population of this, the smallest grouse in North America and inhabitant of alpine habitats. Like other ptarmigans, the White-tailed’s plumage is cryptic and changes during of the year but it almost always has white wing and tail feathers. It is well adapted to its severe habitat with feathered toes and a sedentary, energy saving lifestyle.


Dusky Grouse  Dendragapus obscurus  
This forest-dwelling grouse is native to the Rocky Mountains where it breeds at the edges of conifer and mixed forests. The third largest grouse in North America, the Dusky Grouse has a large range and feeds on buds of deciduous trees and needles of coniferous trees.


Sharp-tailed Grouse  Tympanuchus phasianellus 
Sharp-tailed Grouse is a bird of open grassland and brushland habitats. It has a large range in the west, as its habitat requirements of are not as specialized as other grouse allowing it to use a wider variety of habitats. Still the population of Sharp-tailed Grouse has declined sharply in recent decades.


Greater Prairie-Chicken  Tympanuchus cupido 
A bird of the tall grass prairie, Greater Prairie-Chickens are renowned for their booming displays in which the bird leans forward, raises its horn-like feathers above its head, and inflates its orange air sacs all the while strutting and making a deep hooting call. Once common, population declines brought this bird to the brink of extinction in the 1930s and it is still rare over much of its range. The open grasslands of northeast Colorado hold a remnant population.

Lesser Prairie-Chicken  Tympanuchus pallidicinctus 
Slightly smaller and paler than Greater, the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is another bird of open rangeland. Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, it is found only in restricted areas of five states in the southern Great Plains. In southeast Colorado, the population is estimated at fewer than 500 breeding birds. Like its larger cousin, it does an elaborate display raising ear-like feathers above its head and inflating reddish-purple air sacs.

 

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