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Monday, 27 October 2008

Colorado Monument on Sunday 21st September

This day we set off to visit the Colorado Monument. We had not gone far before we saw Mourning Doves. As we left Grand Junction a Great Blue Heron flew across in front of us and then an unmistakable Bald Eagle flew past us at altitude (the only one that we were to see).
Colorado Monument

We entered the Colorado Monument and were soon enjoying the fantastic scenery. We stopped at the very useful Visitor Centre and then, beside the car park, found a Western Bluebird – an amazing bird that looks very grey and drab until the sunlight catches it in a certain way and then it suddenly becomes brilliant blue with an orange breast. This is because of selective light reflection, rather than light absorption. I got several photos of the bird in non-reflective mode, but nothing that showed its true blue glory.

Western Bluebird (female)

From the Visitor Centre we took the relatively short Alcove Trail (designated a nature trail). As we joined the trail a Cotton-Tail rabbit crossed in front of us, and ‘hid’ under a bush at some distance. There were some Robber Flies about which looked and sounded a bit like dragonflies in flight, but looked very handsome, if a little sinister, when they settled.

Mountain Cottontail

Robber Fly

Soon we were seeing a number of lizards of various species (I have attempted to identify these but am no lizard expert so any input would be much appreciated). The first, a lizard with a striped back, I believe to be a species of Whip-tailed Lizard, but I can find no reference to a lizard with this few stripes - the Plateau Striped Whiptail is said to have 6 or 7 pale stripes, not the 4 that this had (perhaps it was a juvenile PSW?). This is the only one I saw, so I give you the best of a bad bunch of photos.

Whip-tailed Lizard species

Prarie/Plateau Lizard

I am not particularly interested in plants, but do have a passing interest in cacti, so was pleased to find Echinocereus Triglochidiatus.

Echinocereus Triglochidiatus

There were a couple of Western Scrub Jays seen (but not photographed), and several LBJs (little brown jobs) which seemed to be hiding from the sun in dense cover. With a total lack of experience of American birds, the LBJs were as good as impossible for me to identify.

I attempted to photograph a hawk (unidentified) that passed by at some distance but my camera had gone faulty just before the holiday, with insufficient time to get it repaired, and so had a tendency for the lens to electrically uncouple itself from the body, thus rendering autofocus and light metering non-functioning. The temporary solution was to give the lens a gentle twist until it connected again, but grabbed shots were virtually impossible to achieve for the whole of the holiday.

About half-way along the trail a Chipmunk (possibly Cliff Chipmunk) was seen scampering along the edge of a rock ledge, and then stopping under a bush.

Chipmunk (possibly Cliff Chipmunk)

At one point my wife was (unusually) just ahead of me, and suddenly put up a Hummingbird which hovered noisily for a split second and then shot off, never to be seen again (in spite of hunting for it for half an hour). It was all over and done with in maybe half a second. I did not notice any colour tendencies, so do not know what species it was, but I think that Broad-tailed Hummingbird is most likely.

Prairie/Plateau Lizard

Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard

After this walk, we got into the car to explore the scenic qualities of the Monument from the various viewpoints. From these we saw Turkey Vultures and American Kestrels in the distance. There were also plenty of White-throated Swifts around.

At the southern end of the Monument we found what I believe to be a Hopi Chipmunk, Echinocereus Triglochidiatus forma Inermis, and some evil looking wasp-type insects which were killing caterpillars very much larger than themselves and dragging them down holes in the ground.

(probable) Hopi Chipmunk

Sagebrush Lizard

Echinocereus Triglochidiatus fa. inermis

Cricket sp.

'wasp' with caterpillar

Prairie/Plateau Lizard

At one stop we found a flock of about 20 LBJs which were constantly and noisily on the move (a little after the fashion of Long-tailed Tits). I believe these were Bushtits. I attempted to photograph them but they were in shadow, and moving fast, so the results were not good.


Turkey Vulture

Shortly after exiting the Monument we came across some Mourning Doves on a wire beside the road at a place that I could park, and so I managed a few shots in the low evening light.

Mourning Dove

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