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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rabbit Mountain: Sage Thrasher, Bullock's Oriole and Golden Eagle

[Boulder Co., August 2015]

Is there no justice in Birding? Woeful is the birder who returns empty-handed with naught but barren tidings from a chase or excursion that commenced with bright and cheery hopes sprung from the fertile soil of optimism. 

There are no guarantees in birding; no "reap as you sow" law -- good effort expended does not necessarily yield reward reaped. Occasional despair, it must be freely admitted, shall not be unfamiliar in the travails of the indefatigable birder. 

Yet, birding is also a great redeemer -- in seemingly random acts of good fortune, ordinary days sometimes blossom with sightings -- thanks to bountiful quality and quantity of desired species. These semi-miraculous events, occurring roughly in equal measure to the days of despair and drought, compensate for all the misses and dips. So, all in all, perhaps there is justice indeed in Birding! Take heart, ye brave and gritty birding soul! 

Having reported in this blog on many species of the distinctive New World family of songbirds that are the Thrashers -- species such as Long-billed Thrasher, Crissal Thrasher, Curve-billed Thrasher, California Thrasher, and, Brown Thrasher -- this blogger was hoping to add another thrasher (and Lifer) -- the Sage Thrasher -- to this list. The hope for this Lifer arose as a result of a quick trip to Boulder, Colorado -- however, not one Sage Thrasher was seen -- instead, dozens were! As the old adage goes, "when it rains, the birder's cup spilleth over" ....[or something like that].

The venue for these observations is a delightful hotspot in Boulder County -- Rabbit Mountain -- where the full list of species observed included:
  • Sage Thrasher
  • Bullock's Oriole
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Say's Phoebe
  • Golden Eagle
  • Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher
We start with the Thrasher:

Sage Thrasher is our smallest thrasher and, like all our thrashers (but one), is found in the West. Were it not for the pronounced streaking on the breast, one could be forgiven in casual misidentification with Northern Mockingbird. As its name implies, it is a specialist of sagebrush habitat and generally forages on the ground, feasting on insects.

Next up, Bullock's Oriole -- a beautiful female was sighted feeding on seeds. This is to the West what Baltimore Oriole is in the Eastern US. If you're wondering about the male of the species, here's one reported in this blog from earlier.

Rabbit Mountain provides a mixture of habitat -- dominated by grasses and brush -- perfect for sparrows as well as Blue Grosbeak:

Both sexes were sighted (the female in the latter photos).

In the parking lot itself, a Say's Phoebe took an elevated vantage point on a post:

This is a common flycatcher of the West.

Another lifer was Golden Eagle -- although the photographic quality risks attracting criticism, it is nevertheless an imposing raptor that deserves mention in this blog. The underwing pattern implies that this is a juvenile.

Finally, our most widespread Gnatcatcher -- the Blue-Grey:

Although this post starts with a somewhat rhetorical question, those with ample experience in the field will know that every excursion, rich or poor in sightings, will offer learnings and insights to the enterprising birder.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Congratulations on finding your latest lifers, Hemant. Only two thrasher species to go!