The rolling Colorado foothills covered in sagebrush ebbed and flowed through the Gunnison valley. A blanket of old snow made it seem like it would be easier to spot grouse, but I could only turn the distant blobs into coyotes, ravens, and a Red-tailed Hawk. 

The only bird that I can see in Colorado, and virtually nowhere else in North America is the Gunnison Sage Grouse. (Nearly 3,500 exist in the wild today, with only 100 of them in Utah) 

I taught class yesterday, and I teach tomorrow, so today I decided to go try to luck into a Gunnison Sage Grouse. The beginning of March is still too early for the males to be on their leks, dancing to attract females with their spiky tails, elaborate head plumes, and balloon-like air sacs. There is one public lek in Gunnison county, and it doesn't open officially until April. I decided to do a "drive by" as stopping on the road is not permitted from March 1st until May to avoid disturbing the birds. Despite my best efforts, and nearly 80 miles of driving, the Gunnison Sage Grouse remained elusive. I'll try to find one later this year when the odds are better. 

A few photos from the morning's drive:

A Horned Lark shows the curved head plumes and strong black mustache and yellow throat. 

A Horned Lark shows the curved head plumes and strong black mustache and yellow throat. 

Brown-headed cowbirds on a cow is expected, but a Black-billed Magpie was a surprise! 

Brown-headed cowbirds on a cow is expected, but a Black-billed Magpie was a surprise! 

"Northern" Red-tailed hawk- a clean candidate for 'abieticola' designation

"Northern" Red-tailed hawk- a clean candidate for 'abieticola' designation