Date: 6/24/19 9:11 am
From: DAVID A LEATHERMAN <daleatherman...>
Subject: [cobirds] Pawnee Grasslands
Just spent the weekend with a wonderful group of folks at an event sponsored by Boulder Audubon on the western portion of the Pawnee National Grasslands. It was expertly coordinated by Pam and Joe Piombino and was quite successful/enjoyable despite the extraordinarily cool, wet weather. It was an honor to be amid the other leaders and enlightened participants.

The grassland is LUSH. Plant blooms are exploding (cacti, primrose, broomrape, spiderwort, composites, globe mallow, bee plant, sweet clover, penstemon (white on the prairie, purple along SR85 n of Nunn is amazing), yucca, and many more. The grass is green and still short but not as short as it normally is.

Mike Weissman found cool creatures in flooded roadside ditches and temporary playas called clam shrimp and fairy shrimp that somehow survive long periods of existence in dry mud, the sudden appearance of water, followed by pounding from cows with big hooves and active intestines.

Bird activity was understandably subdued and I get the impression insects and birds have not had time to respond to the happy plant life.

We had around 40 species of birds, which for an area with minimal trees and permanent water is pretty good. Highlights were:
Mountain Bluebird on Weld CR37 at the Central Plains Experimental Range HQ between CRs 114 and 122 (late date to still be out on plains).

Ferruginous Hawk dark phase, appeared to be immature, on CR49 midway between 114 and 122 on a prairie dog town e of the road.

Western Wood-Pewee at CPER HQ.

Many McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, mostly on CR114 between 45 and 49 and on the latter two roads between 114 and 122.

Bald Eagle nest/nestling somewhere north of Mexico City (location purposefully left vague).

Loggerhead Shrike activity much subdued since their arrival in healthy numbers in April (because of bomb cyclone events?), but still a few territories. Saw a nest (second 2019 brood) with 6 eggs. Impaled objects observed were baby bird (lark bunting?); bird gizzard; grasshoppers (redshank, coral-winged, Arphia sp.); crickets (both field and robust camel); Pasimachus ground beetle; and both lesser earless lizard and many-lined skink. No short-horned lizards, snakes, longhorn beetles (Moneilema cactus borers or Prionus grass rootcrown borers), moths, bees, dragonflies, wolf spiders or adult birds (yet).

Burrowing Owls seem to be reduced. We saw active shooting and lots of shells at prairie-dog towns, which may be part of it.

No Mountain Plovers (never easy to see).

Many thanks to Pam and Joe, facility manager Mark Lindquist, the expert leaders, curious participants, and Mother Nature.

Dave Leatherman
Fort Collins

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