Newly returned from a week-long trip to Colorado, a mixture of bird and mammal photography. The main target were displaying Great Sage Grouse – more of them in due course – but other grouse, rosy-finches and of course some fine mammals were all gladly received.
Colorado reminded me of Iceland – it was the feeling that every time one turned a corner a wholly new and different vista would open up before one’s eyes, with incredible contrasts at every turn. That there are stunning snow-covered mountains goes without saying – these are the Rockies, after all – but there are wide open plains, towering rock formations, blood red rocks against cobalt blue skies, rushing crystal clear rivers, and dense forests. It felt like being in a movie all of your own making.
Highlights? Way too many to recount in detail, and not a bad day amongst them – hiking the southern rim of the spectacularly vertiginous Black Canyon of the Gunnison in fresh snow as the sun rose and began to take the chill off the -12C temperature would have to be right up there. Shortly after that I found a frisky male Dusky Grouse at the roadside that ran up to me and was persistently too close to photograph. I’d gone there hoping for lekking grouse, but had little idea I’d end up part of the lek itself!
A day spent with a good local friend looking for rosy-finches was a particular treasure, and amongst many delights we had superb views of a pair of feeding Barrow’s Goldeneyes; nesting Bald Eagles with three eaglets; and two magnificent and confiding Bighorn Sheep rams. And then of course, to round the week off, the incredible Greater Sage Grouse lek… as the sun rose over the snow dusted plains a bobbing, shuffling dark mass of movement resolved itself into many dozens of these magnificent grouse displaying to their females. In time they gradually dispersed, leaving four stalwart males to continue displaying alone on the lek, competing with one another in an excess of testosterone and braggadocio. The low, warm sunlight illuminated their dark, spiky tails and ruffled white breast feathers to perfection as they threw their heads violently back and inflated their green chest pouches. It was sexually provocative stuff, and this photographer went away not a little impressed… and feeling rather like he needed to up his game!