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Rage in the Sage

By Nic.Korte

I could write about Greater Sage Grouse and Gunnison Sage Grouse, two species imperiled by development and climate change.  The potential listing of these species under the Endangered Species Act, while controversial (http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse/), is not the subject of this blog.  Instead, I want to discuss two other sage inhabitants that can be seen near Grand Junction.  When visiting birders come to our area; these two species are often on their must-find list because they are only common in the appropriate habitat.  First, is the sage thrasher.

These are in the same family as the mockingbird and a near relative of the lowly starling.  They nest principally in sagebrush, but will use other desert shrubs on occasion.  A great way to see them is to drive out old 6&50 past Mack toward the Stateline.  Sage thrashers, such as this one from a couple of weeks ago, often hop up on the wires and fence posts.  


Another sage specialist, but much less adaptable, is the sage sparrow.  Before you roll your eyes (Ugh sparrows—more on that topic in an upcoming blog.), consider that this sparrow has a silvery grey head with a bright white eye ring.  Viewed from the front, the white cheeks of sage sparrows almost have the appearance of a white handlebar moustache.  If not beautiful, they are at least handsome, especially as they sing each spring from the top of sage brush.  Once mating season is over, these birds can be tough to find as they may run rather than fly if you go looking for them.   Sage sparrows require large, continuous patches of low (~3ft) sage—a habitat less common than formerly.  Good places to find them are fields of thick, low sage on BS road several miles west of the Glade Park Store and on the slopes of Brewster Ridge just off of 2.8 road.  An early-returning migrant (there is suspicion they no longer migrate in our area because of changing climate), sage sparrows can be found singing to attract mates and defend territories for the next few weeks.  {This post was written by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society.  Send questions/comments to nkorte1@hotmail.com]To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, such as weekly bird walks, please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook!] 
 

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