Featured Post

Baltimore by the Sea

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pawnee Grasslands

[Management regrets, despite all efforts to prevent, yet another time warping travesty, Ms Miller is again 'back posting', pretending it is still May. Bear with us, the woman is stubborn.]

Hurrah! I'm in Colorado. Barbara's here for a week of classes in Denver. I tagged along to keep her company (she hates flying), and because I’ve got a wish list of birdies I’m hoping to see.

I must say, I’m enjoying myself, which is bizarre. In Sacramento, as our jet headed up into the atmosphere, I was in good health, excited and anxious to see Colorado. Our jet touched down in Denver and as I walked up the gangplank into the terminal, my lungs shriveled down to the size of pea pods and vast rivers of foul snot began running from my nose – and me without a hanky.

Oh well. Screw being sick! On my second day of vacation I slept and wheezed. The next day Barbara told me that during the night she lay in her bed listening to me go quiet after a bout of labored wheezing and decided I had died (made me laugh - I had thought the same thing about her on our last vacation). Barbara is trying to get me to go to an emergency room, but I don’t think my first ever case of altitude sickness or a nasty bit of seasonal allergies will kill me. Didn't come to Denver to ruin a vacation by heading toward the bright light – my ancestors will just have to wait. On Day three I birded again, while day four I slept to recoup. On Day five, things got interesting.
I was headed north on Hwy 5 for another shot at birding Pawnee National Grasslands. The skies weren’t sunny as they had been all week, but were overcast. In the distance I admired how black and dismal it looked on the horizon. But what did I care? After more than an hour’s drive, when I finally hit the grasslands, all the birds were hunkered down or else what with the winds, they appeared to be flying backwards.

Later, after a nearly bird-free tour, I retraced my path back to the freeway. The little town I traveled through was buried under a blanket of white hail! I thought, how very strange and quaint these prairies are. What I ought have thought was HOLY MOTHER OF TOTO! A WHOPPER OF A TWISTER JUST TORE THROUGH HERE!

Pronghorns I saw while the Tornado raged -
obviously those critters knew what to do during an emergency

The black clouds I’d seen on the horizon was a major tornado that ripped a new one for northeastern Colorado. It chewed up homes and cars and spit 'em out. It had missed me by that much. Since I was mercifully left alive to snort snot and wheeze another day, let me show you what I saw at the Pawnee Grasslands this week.

McCown's Longspur (a lifer for me), ignoring
the noisy, coughing human with the camera

My second Colorado lifer - a skittish Brewer's Sparrow, who to be coaxed within shooting range of my camera.

A Brewer's Sparrow that sung a little song

Earlier in the week I spotted my first Pronghorn Antelope for this trip. Something – which I’m reasonably sure wasn’t me, spooked it. He took off running on a path that took him racing past my car. I flipped up my camera and by a miracle, got shots of him imitating Secretariat at the Belmont - Beautiful animal! He was the first of many Pronghorn I’ve been spotted.

This photo below is the uncropped shot from which the one just overhead was cut. It shows how far away I was from the beastie. I chose this one to show how the last 1/3 of my photos of him were crappier - the green swath is the car's windshield I was shooting over. Really, it's a miracle these shots came out as well as they did - I was stunned. Also gives a good idea how much cropping is sometimes necessary to even see the little buggers I shoot. GAK! It also shows how badly I need to develop the habit of CLEANING MY LENS! talk about spot dot n' grit city...
An uncropped view - See that fleet dot in the center?


  1. Glad to have you back ClaireBear.You did what we call a dinkasaur move.Note:when animals leave you leave, okay?Oh yeah, you've um revealed your age with the Secretariat.

  2. thats crazy awesome.you and the camera have become one grasshopper.

  3. Uh... yeah, Secretariat was 'back in the day', wasn't he? Oh well! I bet that little Pronghorn would have given him a run for the money. : D

  4. Yes I agree.How far away didcha get the shot?How many didcha have to take to get the ones we're viewing?

  5. I'll post a photo below the bottom one, that shows the true distance without the photo cropping. *races away to count the total # of shots - ah... 11 shots in total (because the bugger was moving like de bat outta hell.

    I love digital and I love not using a tripod. I hand hold my 100-400 lens so I HAVE to shoot alot of photos because I swear, at least half of them are jiggly and such.