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California Quail in extreme NW Moffat Co., and other sightings (very long)

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  • Andrew Spencer
    Hi all, For the past few days I ve been up in NW Colorado, looking for butterflies with my lepidopterist friend, Mike Fisher. The first day we headed up to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 22, 2006
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      Hi all,
      For the past few days I've been up in NW Colorado, looking for
      butterflies with my lepidopterist friend, Mike Fisher. The first day we
      headed up to Diamond Peak, in EXTREME nw Moffat County, where we have
      both had good butterflies before. On the way up, along Moffat CR 10N, a
      couple of miles north of Irish Canyon, Mike said "there's some quail!"
      Expecting Chukar (which are in Irish Canyon), I quickly looked and saw
      three quail with head plumes running off the road. I yelled "STOP" and
      quickly go out. I was not able to see them on the ground again, but I
      did flush them and saw one male very well overhead in flight. I was
      able to see the brownish belly patch and scaly patterning on the belly
      very well on the one male. I did not see the others well. They flew
      out of sight towards the west, and I could not refind them.

      The area is a just north of Irish Canyon, where there are some large
      green fields on the left (west), and sagebrush on the east. Later, I
      asked some locals at the Browns Park store, and the ranger on duty at
      the NWR about Quail. The owner of the Browns Park store, when I asked
      "are there any Quail around here?" said that chukar were somewhat
      common, and that she has seen "Gambel's" Quail in Beaver Canyon
      (immediately adjacent to the Utah border). Another local there said he
      has seen "California" Quail along SR 318 near the border, AND, just
      north of Irish Canyon! The ranger at the NWR said he has seen
      California Quail (and he even told me why they were California and not
      Gambel's) along SR 318, and has heard reports from north of Irish
      Canyon. All three said they were rarely seen, with the ranger saying in
      a year he has seen small groups along SR 318 a few times only. All
      three also knew Chukar, and described the quail they saw as having head

      This species is expected in the state, since they are common over
      the border, especially towards Flaming Gorge. There have been reports
      from the area before. Alas, I was not able to document these birds, but
      if someone spent some time up there, especially in the spring when they
      are more likely to be calling, they may be able to document them. Maybe
      they would come into a tape? From what the locals told me, it seems to
      be a rare resident in the area. If anyone wants more details on my
      sighting, let me know. I would be interested in going up there again to
      look for them more thoroughly, if others are interested.

      Other sightings from the weekend include:

      Peregrine Falcon - the local pair near Diamond Peak

      RUFFED GROUSE - 1 heard drumming and 1 flushed (maybe the same bird) at
      Hoy Mountain, in the '05 grove. I flushed the first bird about 10
      minutes after walking into the grove, by far the easiest of the three
      times I've searched for this bird. On a side note, I did this hike solo
      this time while Mike was looking for butterflies at a lower spring, and
      I was able to find a somewhat easier, though still hard, route up. On
      the way I saw a medium sized brown mammal climbing a tree, and looked at
      it in my bins. I was expecting a porcupine, so I was shocked when I saw
      a young bear cub climbing the tree. Knowing what a young bear cub
      climbing a tree probably meant, I looked around, and sure enough, there
      was mama bear much closer than I would have liked. So, I backed away
      slowly, and found a different (and harder!) route up the mountain. I
      also saw a number of Mountain Lion tracks, and at least 8 Short-horned

      Greater Sage-Grouse - 6 females on the drive out from Hoy, on the
      Colorado side.
      Northern Goshawk - 1 adult that flew right by me along Marvine Creek in
      Rio Blanco County
      Purple Martin - 2 males and 4 females along Marvine Creek in Rio Blanco
      Sandhill Crane - 2 adults along CR 8 near Meeker

      Since I was on a butterfly trip, I did not get as much time to bird as I
      would have liked. Butterflies were very poor in most spots up there,
      disappointingly so on Hoy Mountain. I did get my state Mojave
      Sootywing, though. Good birding,

      Andrew Spencer
      Centennial, CO
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