Saturday, September 18, 2010

Colorado, thwarted by urbanity and bad luck

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I drove SE into Colorado directly to the REI in Fort Collins. I was looking for one of those little cowboy coffee grinders, but they had nothing like that. Everything seemed expensive, which explains why I pretty much only buy from their sale catalogues. I did get a dozen Powerbars. From there I worked my way over to Timnath Reservoir, finally found the public park area, which put me close to lot of mudflats as the res was pulled way down. There had been lots of good shorebird reports from there, but I was about a week too late. Got a couple of tics, Baird's Sandpiper, which seemed to be the reliable late moving species. Stayed at Crow Valley on the Pawnee NG, just hanging and desultory birding. Did find a Townsend's Warbler. Didn't feel like setting up the tent, slept in the wagon, actually fairly comfortable.

Thursday, Sep 16

Woke up around 4:30 and headed to a recent grass fire site which might have been good for Mountain Plovers (I still had hopes), sat and read for awhile until the edge of dawn, then drove north to Norma's Grove, a little migrant trap of cottonwoods and willows where a small stream crossed a dead end county road. The birding was good once the sun had thrown a little heat into the area, but nothing new except a Cooper's Hawk which seemed to upset the tree-top Starlings pretty thoroughly. Went back to the burn, and spent thirty minutes scanning from three or four stops, it was quite an area when the light showed the extent, but no luck.

I drove back into Fort Collins and ended up sitting for half an hour waiting for Best Buy to open, but didn't get an inverter there, seemed overpriced at more than $70 when they were in truckstops for thirty. Put it off again. I then went non-birding sight-seeing through Estes Park and down through Ward, where I'd lived for a winter many years ago, sent a bill payment from there, hand stamped in the one room Post Office. Then down the windy narrow two-lane to the highway into Boulder. I wanted to check out some sites there, but got frustrated by traffic, entry fees for places that I just wanted to glance at, no outlets in Micky's to charge the battery, then realizing that the prime reservoir for some interesting Gulls was a State Park, and not worth it. When I studied the map and found a road straight out of Boulder that would completely skip Denver and set me on the Interstate headed west, I went for it. I'd had enough urban challenge.

I wanted to stay for a couple of nights in Guanella Pass, and had visions of cool high altitude laid back practice camping. But in Georgetown I discovered that the road up the pass had been closed by a landslide, and then going west there was at least an hour's delay for tunnel construction. I was getting fried. Finally got going south, and was able to re-find an undeveloped campsite south of Salida where I'd stayed several years ago. Got there at sundown and just threw a couple of pads on the ground and crawled into the bag. But when I woke in the night the stars were glorious, Jupiter was blazing, closest approach in fifty years, and suddenly it seemed Okay.

Friday, Sep 17

I was up at first light and gone before sunrise, headed south for Monte Vista and Alamosa NWRs. Monte Vista was good, with four new tics including Black Duck and a bird that I first, after some guide study, took for a Little Gull. There had been one or more reported on the big lakes further north, and no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't get the bird to show the dark patch behind the eye that would have made it a simple Bonaparte's. But the bill didn't seem as small as the guides showed, although that is a variable feature in its reality, its verbal description, and its illustration. So I first recorded it as LIGU. Then I got cold feet and changed it to BOGU, much more likely. But I may change my mind again if I look at some more pictures. Either way it was a good tic. Alamosa was dried up just as it had been in the spring, and I didn't linger. Headed on south into New Mexico.


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