Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quick Utah and Quick Colorado

Monday, April 26, 2010

Drove on into Green River, checked the sewage ponds, then east and south to Moab. I got there around 9:30, put my clothes in the laundry, and drove up the street the the TNC Matheson Preserve . When I lived in Moab it hadn't been officially established, but I had birded the area there many mornings before going to work. It's where I cut my teeth on western birds, site of my first Sora, Cinnamon Teal, and White-faced Ibises, among others. They had had a fire the year before, but most of the facility damage was repaired, and the habitat had greened up. I mostly birded around the trail at the official parking area, found Lazuli Bunting and heard a puzzling vireo which turned out to be Cassin's. They sure do sound like Yellow-throateds.

Back to laundry to stick stuff in the dryer, then over to the Colorado River and a short drive to Moonflower Canyon. The day had worn on and I didn't get the pristine dawn action at all, which is too bad, it still being migration. Back at the laundry the dryer had failed, but the prop was around so we got it straightened out. More time chewed up. I went by my friend Serena Supplee's, famous canyonlands artist, but she was off somewhere painting. Ran into the house-sitter and he said it'd still be okay to crash there like I often do. By then too hot for much birding, so I went downtown to cruise the bookstores. Moab has great bookstores, my favorite being Back-of-Beyond. Bought a few, but managed to not spend the bankroll. Someday... Geeked at library, sucking down those listserv emails.

When it was cooler I went back to Matheson, the official end and the unofficial area past the old hospital and Water Treatment Plant. Nothing special, but that had been the classroom area. Went to Serena's, got coffee at Dave's across the street, hung out and did a lot of reading before crashing.

Tuesday, April 27

My birthday, had some Facebook greetings. Went by Matheson again, and then up the River Road past Castle Valley where I'd lived for over a year, and on to Cisco and the Interstate to Grand Junction, Colorado.

In Junction, I finally got the long needed oil change and then went to Midas, where I ended up getting almost all the brakes replaced, including a new rotor and two new calipers. About $700+ of happy birthday to me. The guy who did the work was great, very practiced and competent, answered questions placidly, and didn't waste a move, every step in order, tools always right where they were needed, parts likewise. A joy to watch.

So, after about $800 vehicle costs I was headed north through Rangely and into Dinosaur National Monument. Headed out to the east end, a campground called Deer Park, where the boats launch onto the Yampa to head down to the Green River. It was early in the season, and only a few groups had gone, but one was gathering and organizing while I was there. Nice to have someone to talk to that wasn't in a store. The birding there was pretty good, widely scattered big cottonwoods in a meadow of golden grass from the previous year. Pretty obviously an elk wintering ground, judging from scats and skeletons. Good place for hawks and woodpeckers. Also some great Mountain Bluebirds hung out around the truck. There were even a few shorebirds if I scanned the banks carefully and repeatedly. Another good dark and quiet night for sleeping

Wednesday, April 28

Out of Deer Flat, fuel dearly and wisely bought in Maybelle, and then back west on Rt 318 to the Headquarters for Brown's Park NWR. A nice young man there was quite helpful, and generous with the sort of posters and literature they always have stashed in those places. They're usually pretty generous when they only have a visitor every three or four days. I guess they don't go through a lot of guest books. It was a cold gray windy day, with great color and spitting snow, I set off on the tour loop, lots of river views and slowly pieced together a list of ducks and sparrows and what-not.

What I was really interested in, though I took my time to bird as well as the wind would allow, was getting back to the east end and back into Dinosaur to get to the campground at the Gates of Lodore. I'd heard about them reading the John Wesley Powell stories, and they had just jammed in my imagination as something I had to see. I would never have imagined what a striking and magnificent setting. It should have been in the Lord of the Rings. The campground was deserted but for a grader working the road, which left after a couple of hours. The birding was very good in the thickets and trees along the river, this being the Green up-stream from the Yampa junction. I walked the trail to an overlook and got some decent pics.

Upstream from Gates of Lodore

The Gates of Lodore

Back to the campground, more birding, Best finds were a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a Say's Phoebe. However I was getting worried as the snow had become quite steady and was starting to lay down. I knew that the nearest place where there might be another person was at least six or eight miles, and maybe all the way back to the refuge. I studied the map, and decided to make a run for the Highway north into Rock Springs, Wyoming. As soon as I hit the Utah line the road turned to dirt and gravel, with a little paving on the worst grades. It was snowing harder and I was climbing out of the river valley. Kinda surprised at how high I got before long, over 7000ft on snow covered dirt, and not any traffic at all. Not one vehicle in the forty miles to the highway.

When I finally reached it, I was ready for relief, but the road atlas didn't show the two semi-passes at over 8000ft. The pavement was covered well enough that no paint lines showed, and it was getting dark now as well. Fortunately, there was a little traffic, so the tracks of previous trucks showed the way. I was doing 35 or 40 in 4WD, and every now and then, maybe a half dozen times in sixty miles, one of the locals would come booming by in a big diesel pickup and cut a fresh track. It was way past dark when I got to Rock Springs, but I was relieved to find a truck-stop right at the junction. Sleazeball operation. The restaurant was closed, the gas was priced at gouge grade (which I found out the next time I stopped), I stayed there in the snow, which stopped in the night. Didn't get a good spot, so had to listen to trucks with reefers cycling all night. But I wasn't snowed in at the Gates of Lodore.

That was the last of Colorado for the trip. I managed to add 20 tics for the state, was within 20 tics of making the ABA list, and had found 4 lifers.


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