Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colorado, western

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Up and out about 5:30, well into dawn by the time I started up the Poudre River Canyon. Very scenic drive and some good quick birding stops along the way. Should be revisited mid-May some year, but this time it climbed into winter. Enough snow to hide the road markings and make driving slow and 4WD. After topping out, on the downhill side there was small state park, mostly closed still but the Visitor Center was open. Just managed to stop and pull in and it was a lucky thing. First was the feeder setup, allowing several new CO tics with little effort. Second was a small car from Washington State as I recall with four birders that I met twice again in the next two days. They sought Pinyon Jays, and I think got nemesis. But also the Sage-Grouse leks. Third was the woman holding down the desk. She knew everything important, like where the Walden Greater Sage-Grouse was located, and where her bird rehab place was located a little further on with feeders full of Rosy-Finches of all kinds. It's actually a birder B&B, Rosy Ridge Ranch. So I left with directions to a lot of good birds.

Once I got into Walden I had time to make a stop at Arapaho NWR, and took the tour route finding almost every species of duck you could expect, good for the trip list but none new for the state. That put me late enough in the afternoon to head out to the lek. There's a sweet site, a lake just west of Walden and the road past it leads to the twin buttes that shelter the lek. Same road goes on to RRR. If you want to see the grouse on this lek, I highly recommend that you contact her. First the ranch, which netted Mountain Bluebirds for CO, and the Finches and their associates. Then back to the lek, which was a just barely marked stub of dirt road ending at a snow bank. Parked there with back to the lek site, maybe 100 yds away. Popped open the camper-shell back lid, set up the spotting scope on short sprawled legs to make it fit under the shell, sat Buddha-style behind it and waited for dusk. Sixteen Greater Sage-Grouse came that I could see, third trip lifers, females may have been hanging around the periphery, but the light was dim, gray and cloudy. The great part was being close enough to hear the grouse popping and seeing the ripples down the pouches on their necks when they did it. I watched until it was dark, then just went to sleep right there.

Wednesday, April 14

Had to get up really early so I could drive off before there was any light. Making sure not to disturb the morning gathering of Grouse. I headed south out of Walden, somehow got on the wrong road, but it took me past Windy Gap Reservoir, which had several Barrow's Goldeneyes . Great bird, like a duck in a tuxedo, and one of the few I was missing for the state. From there it was a long drive south, hoping to find something at Baca NWR, but it must be a new one, land still being assembled, no facilities or signs, so on to Alamosa and Monte Vista NWRs. I found the Tundra Swan that had been reported on the listserv, and then over the divide into Gunnison. Dinner and some groceries, then east a little way to the Waunita lek, these being Gunnison Sage Grouse. They were there but I almost missed them, very distant, and I wasn't looking in the right place. Couldn't hear them either. Fortunately the carload of WA birders had them spotted and shared a scope view. Lucky for me. Fourth trip lifer.

It was after dark, and rather than the choice between a short sleep to get out early, or getting stuck to wait for them to scatter in the morning, I decided to just drive a little further toward New Mexico. It was a good idea at first, gassed up in Gunnison, then west and south on a two-lane mountain blacktop in the dark. Slow going and dangerous when the deer and elk started grazing the roadsides. I kept watching for a place to stop and camp, but all the campgrounds were at higher altitudes and closed by snow. Past mid-night when, after crossing the divide again, I finally spotted a snow-mobile staging area, south of Lake City, and I crashed there. Almost 11,000 feet.

Thursday, April 15

It was 18C when I woke up, cold gray dawn of ice and snow world. Fortunately it was downhill from there, through Creed, South Fork and Pagosa Springs and into New Mexico. Somewhere along there I found a great old library, it had wifi, but was being decommissioned for modernization reasons. Stupid modernization. Great tall narrow stairways, cool old woodwork and windows, upstairs rooms with high ceilings.


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