Birding with my Sister - Pawnee National Grasslands
My sister has taken up our folks pastime of birding recently and so the day after the wedding, when we both needed to de-stress from the busy-ness of the day before, we decided to take a trip out to Pawnee National Grasslands. It's only about 30 to 45 minutes away from where I live, so it was an easy trip out. Once you get north and east of Greeley, the farmland gives way to the high plains and short grass prairie. We both love the wide open vistas of places like this. It may not look like much, but it's teaming with wildlife and especially birds!
In the eastern portion of the grasslands, Pawnee Buttes, a major landmark on the Oregon/California Trail can be seen. I've hiked out to them in the past. It's usually recommended to go in the early spring or late autumn as the temperatures can be brutal and there is little to no water anywhere and definitely no shade! Every time I see them, they give me a greater appreciation for the fortitude of all those men, women and children who dared to make that difficult journey.
Our main goal for the trip was to see Lark Buntings. They are Colorado's state bird, yet most Coloradans have rarely if ever actually seen them. I've heard many people question why this bird is the state bird as a result. But when driving the back roads of Pawnee National Grasslands, it quickly becomes apparent as they are there by the thousands!
I loved seeing the Nighthawks sitting on fence posts! We saw several of them!
Another new bird for Holly was the Eastern Kingbird. So pretty and elegant. We also saw many Western Kingbirds, which are the same shape as the Eastern, but have a buff colored back and yellow belly.
Our real find of the day was this McCown's Longspur. It's an uncommon bird and a real treat to see. It had a lovely song which we stayed and listened to for a long time!
Another treat was to see this nest of young hawks! They don't have enough feathers yet to tell what kind they were though, so Holly couldn't count them on her bird list.
Much of the Pawnee Grasslands is open grazing. We had a bit of a wait for this herd to cross the road!
To go with the cows, we saw a whole fence full of brown headed cow-birds!
To end our day, we stopped at the Crow Creek Recreation area near the small town of Briggsdale. It was a favorite spot for our parents to bird and they made many trips there. But unfortunately for us, we saw very few birds at this location - probably due to our being there late in the day in the middle of summer. I imagine that it is teaming with birds earlier in the spring as it is quite an oasis in the grassland and one of the few places where water is to be found!