Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Search for the Juniper Titmouse

Grand Junction, CO - I am in Grand Junction for a planning workshop. Sounds pretty boring I know, but I find these workshops quite exciting. I get to work some wonderful talented and dedicated people who are working on the future of our public lands management.
As part of this workshop we had a field trip this morning to Glade Park just south and west of Grand Junction to look at a few habitat treatments that the BLM and partners have implemented for Gunnison Sage-grouse. I found the discussion and ability to view these areas very interesting but I have to confess I was also trying to get a fair amount of birding in since I was going to be spending much of the next 3 days in a conference room. In particular I was looking for the Juniper Titmouse – a species that was recently spit from the Plain Titmouse along with the Oak Titmouse. As you might imagine the Oak Titmouse is very similar but occupies oak habitats rather than juniper habitats. I have observed the Oak Titmouse (back when it was still the Plain Titmouse) in California but I had no notes that I had ever observed a Plain Titmouse in the portion of it’s range where it is now called the Juniper Titmouse. It should be a fairly easy bird to pick up but I just managed to always not be in the right habitat or have enough time to look in the right habitat when I traveled to places within it’s range. Grand Junction is in the heart of Pinyon/Juniper country and I figured this would be my opportunity to find one and this field trip would be my best chance this week.

No such luck. We wound up going to places where they had gotten rid of the Pinyon/Juniper to enhance the distribution and extent of sage habitats so we weren’t in the right habitat again. We did drive through some very nice Juniper habitats and I had tantalizing glimpses of birds that looked like they might be a Juniper Titmouse but when you are traveling with a bunch of non-birders on a schedule it is difficult to hold up the whole group of to tromp through the bushes to find a bird. I did see some wonderful birds this morning though – White-throated Swifts, a Golden Eagle, lots of Vesper Sparrows, Ravens, Mountain Bluebirds, Gamble’s Quail, Western Meadowlarks, and American Kestrels. Plus all the usual city associated birds – House Sparrows, Rock Pigeon, Starling etc.
I do have one last chance to get out and find a Juniper Titmouse. Tomorrow we get done about 4:00 and I have already convinced one of the participants with a vehicle to take me back out into some Juniper areas. Hopefully…

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