When we left for the lek at 5:15 AM it was 28°F. We anticipated this by studying the weather before we left, so I brought all my cold weather gear. We were planning to use the Jeep as a blind, which would require sitting still for an untold number of hours until the Gunnison sage-grouse were ready to move on from the lek. So, I bundled up as if it was winter in Duluth again:

  • Merino smart wool 250 crew base layer
  • Merino wool sweater (with loons on it!)
  • Leggings
  • Fleece sweatpants
  • Columbia fleece-lined knit hat
  • Lightweight Merino wool buff
  • Cotton liner gloves
  • My thickest wool FITS boot socks
  • Wildcat mukluks
  • Long down parka

I also used my puffy coat as a blanket for my shins. (We commented that we could have used a blanket for the car!) It was chilly, but I was comfortable in this gear combo. The grouse were lekking on the closest ridge to us, but we had a hard time finding them and weren’t supposed to leave the car. Apparently, the viewers in the blind saw several grouse. They may have been guided, or assisted by the volunteers. They arrived in 2 vans, suggesting a tour.

Eventually, two of us crawled behind the stone wall to exchange info with the car behind ours. They had spotted a male strutting and were able to point us toward it. Later in the morning, we got out and setup the scope as the viewers were exiting the blind. We got nice (if distant) looks at a lone displaying male! The longer filo-plumes were noticeable even from a distance. It was a wonderful sight to see such a spectacular endangered species!

In the afternoon, we continued onto black canyon national park! On the road approaching, we saw our lifer Woodhouse’s scrub-jay. We stopped at the campground to bird on the way in, and I walked the small sidewalk past the facilities to cut through to the picturesque campsites. One of my favorite sights was a low-flying Cooper’s hawk with its under-tail coverts flared! Later, we walked down to the Gunnison point overlook behind the visitors center, but couldn’t go much farther because of snow closure. Similarly, we walked down to the bench beneath the Tomichi point overlook, but couldn’t make a small loop on the rim rock trail back up to the parking lot. At the lot, we had the nicest looks at white-throated swifts we’ve ever had! We walked to where the trail went toward the campground and backtracked. We ended the evening’s birding at Crested Butte, where we saw brown-capped and black rosy-finch!

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