Friday, November 14, 2008

Back into Colorado, then Moab etc

November 17 - 19, 2008

Monday: It turned out to be a frustrating day. I got all my stuff from Diana's guest house and she had done a load of laundry for me. What a great friend! Somewhere along the road I discovered that I hadn't brought my extremely useful Lands End jacket, given by my mom years ago. Diana later checked the palces where I might have left it, and it was gone, gone. Anyway, I headed northwest out of Silver and made several short stops at NM birding trail sites, but no new birds. Took minor roads along the western edge of the state, and up thorough El Malpais. Got some good birds there, a Golden Eagle close and on the ground, and a Merlin flying along a cliff face. Stopped at their eastern Info Center, the BLM version, and got their bird list. Have to say it's the finest production I've seen from a public agency, great work.

I had been reading the New Mexico birdfinder book, and decided that Bluewater Lake a little west of Grants looked like a good place to bird and spend the night. Grants seemed to have changed since the last time I was there in the early nineties. I remembered it as a dirty, gritty, poor and desperate place. It looked a lot better, and felt friendlier. But I just grabbed a bite, so can't say for sure. Got to Bluewater Lake, nice place, big and empty of folks, no staff it seemed either. Not many ducks, but there was an arm that I couldn't see up. A little map studyshowed I had to go back to the Interstate, then take another local highway to get back there. It was about three pm, and somewhere along there I figured out how far it was and how long it would take, and started looking for an alternative. The road atlas showed another state park a little further along, with an easy exit. Guess what? No exit by that number, no signs of any kind for a park.

It was getting dark, and I headed north on the highway up the eastern edge of the Navaho Res. All the way to Shiprock in the dark, and no camping. By then I'd decided to just get into Colorado, and the atlas showed two campgrounds near Dolores. When I got ther I couldn't find them, the atlas didn't have enough detail, nor did the GPS software. I drove around here, then back then ther then back farther until I just got frustrated and headed into the National Forest to look for a roadside parking place. Found a good one, slept well. Getting colder.

Tuesday: I woke up and figured out I was a little south of the Home Creek Rec area on McPhee Reservoir. That was one of the elusive campgrounds from the night before. I just hadn't gone far enough, a mismatch in my scaling from the atlas to the GPS. It turned out to be a pretty good spot, with lots of Common Mergansers, and lots of Bald Eagles, at least twenty. Before I left I also found one Hooded Merganser, and a durable Great Blue Heron. There were four lakes around Dolores and Cortez, and I got sort of systematic. The inlet end near Dolores for McPhee had holding pools that suppressed dust blowing into town, and a Bufflehead. I stopped at Narguinnep Res, which the Colorado birdfinder hadn't spoken well of, but it had a lot of birds with good variety. Also a couple, local birders, who sent me to other good sites.

One was the dam for McPhee, which had a Western Grebe, and the dirt road beyond it proved good for sparrows. Then as recommended I went back through Dolores and south around the east side of Totten Res. which had lots of waterfowl, mostly Coots, but a few others. The last stop was Danny Park on the east end of Cortez, a pond really, but with a Red-breasted Merganser. Trifecta on mergs. I ended up with 7 new tics by around noon.

From there I decided it was time to get on to Moab, I could make it before dark, and I was anxious to see Serena Supplee, good friend and great artist. There was one more stop the couple had recommended, just into Utah, wher Gunnison Sage-Grouse had been seen. I bit, even though I live under a curse to never see certain galliforms. Scanned the area four times with a scope, curse was effective. On to Moab, where I'd lived for a year in the early nineties. The drive up was beautiful, as always, renewing my acquaintance with red-rock hoodoo country. The town was kinda overrun with tourists then, but had now reached the truly disgusting stage. Endless motels, "attractions", condos, and what not. Still the scenery is magnificent, too steep and rough to settle buildings on, and thus self-protected mostly.

Serena was home, working in her yard with a young assistant, and pleased to see me. She had had a very sucessful show at the Grand Canyon during the summer, and had gotten down in the canyon to paint numerous times. She glowed. We agrred to meet up later for dinner, and I went off to drive around and try my luck at bookstores. Moab now has three, all owned by the same concern. I found a good book in the used division, and was attracted to a couple of new ones at "Back of Beyond", which had been my center of operations when I lived there. But my friend the amazing coyote Jose Knighton had moved away, rumor said Portland OR. I went to the library to check email and send Laura a note, and then Serena and I had a great pizza and a long talk before we went back to her house for the private art show and works-in-progress. I slept in the truck in her driveway, a place I'd used a score of times.

Wednesday: It was good to have the guest-house for morning hygiene, crisp fresh start. I wanted to check out a couple of sites on the Eastern Utah birding map. Matheson Preserve, a TNC site, had been one of my earliest birding places, where I'd stop almost every morning before goinfg to work. First Ibises and Soras and half a dozen other species made it dear to me. But they had a bad fire in the invasive Tamarisks, and the fire control efforts had wrecked a lot of other habitat. Lots of dozing and brush-hogging through the vegetation, presumably for fire lines, had really torn up some of the area . Not to mention the burn. It was officially closed, but I poked my nose in, enough to be grossed out. Just a little further down the road was Moonflower Canyon, a sweet short bluff ended creek bottom with big cottonwoods. It was cold and not very birdy, but looked to be an excellent prospect for a contemplated spring stop next year.

After another bookstore stop to show the staff the Utah birding maps as a suggestion, and another short but good visit with Serena, I headed north to Salt Lake and Bear River. The stop at the Green River sewage ponds was good, almost any open water in Utah would get new tics, but some of the other stops I'd targeted didn't pan out. Either the season was wrong, or the roads were snow bound, or they ended up being too far off my best route. Once I got into the metro area it was just plain 'ol thruway driving. The directions on the northern Utah map were not ground-truthed, and made no sense. By the time I figured out what I should have done from driving in circles way out of my way, and studying the GPS, it was getting late enough to look for a place to sleep. More problems: the state parks were closed, it being normally winter by this time of year, even though the season was running late.

I finally spied a place in the atlas just east of Bear River, and was able to find it. It was closed too, but the road through it was open, and I finally just parked in a pull-off, already dark, read my books a little and crashed.


Post a Comment

<< Home