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COLORADO 2002

Starting in Fort Collins we spent two whole days in the stunning Rocky Mountains National Park. Fortunately the fires further south did not affect us, although we had to dodge some rain! As last year, we didn't see White-tailed Ptarmigan but we did see all of the other regular birds including Pine Grosbeak, Clark's Nutcracker and Grey Jay. The bonus was a Flammulated Owl seen at the nest following a tip-off from a forestry worker.

The Pawnee National Grasslands were less windy this year so both Chestnut-collared and McCown's Longspurs were seen well and Lark Buntings positively abundant. Mountain Plover showed well at the usual spot but not elsewhere, which is a cause for concern. Burrowing Owls seemed to have recovered in numbers this year although Swainson's Hawks were rather scarce.

By the time we got to Yellowstone National Park we were well on target with the specialities, having seen Ferruginous Hawk and Greater Sage-grouse en-route. We added Black Rosy-finch at the top of the stunningly beautiful Grand Tetons, together with Townsend's Solitaire and Mountain Bluebird, whilst at the cable car base station Calliope Hummingbird, Cassin's Finch and Evening Grosbeak were feeder birds! Black-backed Woodpecker was seen at the nest for the second year running and American Three-toed Woodpecker (now split) and Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers all seen in some numbers.

Ruffed Grouse at first proved tough but then, after we'd spent five hours looking for one, ridiculously easy; Blue Grouse was much easier! Trumpeter Swans were seen at the nest and large numbers of Barrow's Goldeneye were seen in non-breeding flocks. Bison, Moose and Elk gave us a mammal diversion and we visited Old Faithful and several of the other geysers and thermal pools. Dusky and Hammond's Flycatchers, Sage Thrasher and Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees all showed well.

Heading back south we connected with a number of difficult species including Grey Flycatcher and Juniper Titmouse en-route to Grand Junction, where we arrived in the middle of a country and western festival! On the penultimate day out we caught up with the very local Grey Vireo and the extremely difficult Black Swift on the nest under a waterfall from about 12 feet. On the way back to the motel we made a 'small' diversion to see good numbers of Gunnison Sage-grouse.

The last day was spent in the Rocky Mountains where the weather deteriorated into snow (28th June!). Nevertheless we had excellent views of Brown-capped Rosy-finch, although White-tailed Ptarmigan eluded us this year (well, it's only an introduced species!).

McCown's Longspur

McCown's Longspur