I flew over Colorado Monday, June 25th, and could see scattered patches of snow still on the ridges of the Rockies through the smoke. The sky as far as I could see looked like someone had brushed it with dirty water colors. A layer of smoke was in the stratosphere all the way to Missouri. The news this Friday is that the fires have eased somewhat. A tragedy.
Meanwhile, John was in the Dakotas seeing Chestnut-Collared Longspur and Dickcissal, Lark Bunting and Vesper Sparrow. Then he drove down through eastern Colorado mostly seeing pronghorns and burrowing owls. Wednesday night he stayed in Grants, New Mexico. A few years ago, we discovered a closed campground just north and east of Grants that had a wonderful variety of mountain birds. This year it was open but not as many birds to see, so Thursday morning, John drove up higher to a fire lookout and saw Red Crossbills, Clark's Nutcracker and got his first good picture of a Harris's Hawk.
Thursday afternoon, John went into Aravaipa Canyon. One of the joys for him in his big year, has been visiting wonderful natural areas. A plethora of peccaries crossed the road, including really young ones.
The saguaros were covered with fruit and birds, Lucy's Warblers, Hooded Orioles, Phainopeplas, Gilded Flickers, Gila and Ladder-Backed Woodpeckers. Purple Martins were nesting in some of the woodpecker holes. The reported Black Hawk would have been a life bird for John, if he had seen it. Drat! Of course, as we were driving on I 10 a few years ago, two immatures cartwheeled by the car and I saw them but John didn't.
John estimates that his big year total is around 550, not many new birds in all his wanderings. Today, June 29th, he goes into California Gulch with Melody Kehl.