Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Into Colorado, Cottonwood Canyon, brief New Mexico jaunt

May 9, 2007

Sweet cool morning on the point with lots of bird action and song. No new tics but it hardly mattered after how good the day before had been. After awhile I headed to town, another El Rancho breakfast, laundry, fill gas, groceries, quick pass at the sewage ponds. Then west into the long wide 50mph dirt roads of Baca County Colorado. I got to the Carrizo Canyon Picnic Area around 1:30pm. There was a lot of damage from some kind of flood event, but it was possible to get down along the creek for birding. And found a Barn Owl, monkey face, what a great surprise, coupled with a Burrowing Owl earlier in the day at a likely looking Prairie Dog town. After that I took my time and the backest way to Cottonwood Canyon.

I had first visited there years ago on my first trip to the dry grasslands, took forever to find, just a map in the ABA Colorado bird-finder, no GPS in those days. I was blown away. It's a private land undeveloped camping ground, open and free, just don't make a mess, on a flood plain near what seems to be a year-round creek. I've never seen it dry in four trips. That first trip I found a Lewis's Woodpecker hanging out near camp. This time it was a Ladderback. The first time had Mississippi Kites doing screaming landings in the tree overhead, this time Canyon Wrens and a Swainson's Hawk, and several Long-billed Curlews landing in some crop on the way in. I had eight new Colorado tics by days end, but was feeling the elevation and the wear of the trip. Took a couple of hour nap in the afternoon. Hoped for some more owls in the night, since this was where I heard my first bouncing ball Western Screech-Owl, but it was pretty quiet.

May 10, 2007

I birded around Cottonwood in the morning, but wasn't having the kind of luck I wanted. The very northeast corner of New Mexico wasn't too far, at least that's the way those big western states look in a road atlas, so I thought I'd try a quick venture there, specifically a drive to Capulin Volcano National Monument, which I had visited briefly many years ago. It took longer than expected of course, and I had to wait for a little store in Kim to open for a snack. Got a Eurasian Collared Dove watching the wires. I saw my first one in Florida in maybe '92 or '93, soon after they first arrived in the US. Now I've got them checked off in eleven states, and I'm surprised it's not more. The drive into New Mexico was really nice, over a good elevation pass, enough that it got considerably greener for a while. Found a pond with ducks even. The GPS showed a neat little loop I could explore, and I tried that. At the Volcano, I had good luck at the Visitor's Center with feeders, and walked several trails in that area. Then drove the road to the top, where it was not birdy since there was about a thirty mph wind. Good view though, especially of the other volcanoes in the area. Managed eleven new tics for New Mexico

From there it was south to Clayton, and then into Oklahoma, and back into Colorado without stopping. I wanted to check out Two Buttes Reservoir, thinking that would be a different habitat with more species possibilities. A long hot drive with lots of road construction, but I met a guy while buying gas in Campo that said he had lesser Prairie Chickens he was flushing up while cutting hay. I got pretty good directions, and headed on for the water. Well, there wasn't any. I drove over the dam to nowhere and looked down on a weedy grassy meadow. Not even a wet spot. Pretty decent waste of time and money, but "one cannot win if one does not play" Nevertheless, rats! Then back down long dirt roads and through the construction the other way. Have I mentioned that other than the drainages, Baca County is the flattest place I've ever seen. Kansas is a wonder of topography compared to it. Campo means field or plain, and it's at least fifty miles across.

When I got back there, Campo, I started looking for the haying operation. I think I found the right road, I may have found the right house, but if someone was haying on that place, it was way the hell back off the road. That's another dip (opposite of tic). I was getting pretty frustrated, but I took some back roads into Black Mesa SP in Kansas, and luck returned. Found Bank Swallows on the way down, and a Cinnamon Teal at the Lake there. Three OK tics made fourteen for the day. Not so bad.


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