Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snowing in the Colorado Mountains

Last nite my sis and I decided to try an Indian restaurant in Ft. Collins. We were not impressed with the buffet, so we opted to order off the menu. A local wheat beer on draft was very tasty. The mixed tandoori grill (chicken, shrimp and lamb tikka) was ample and enjoyable. The naan, saag paneer, and tarkadal were all above the norm. We left feeling quite satisfied.

The forecast was for some serious snow in the Colorado mountains today and tonite, so we were on the road at daylight to make the 160 mile drive from Ft. Collins to Steamboat Springs. It rained at first and then as we climbed in altitude the snow flurries began. Fortunately, that was all we encountered as we worked our way to Steamboat.

The route from Ft. Collins takes you along Hwy 14 thru the Cache la Poudre River canyon. We heard a canyon wren soon after entering the canyon, but could not find where it was calling from. We stopped several times to listen for northern pygmy owls that supposedly like hanging out along the river in winter, but heard none. There were not many birds about in the canyon, probably because of the weather conditions. A townsend's solitaire was the best bird we ran across. We also had to drive around a herd of 15 big-horned sheep that were partially blocking the road.

On the other side of Cameron Pass, we stopped at the moose viewing center on Hwy 14 in Colorado State Forest State Park, and I snapped the picture above of a pair of male and female pine grosbeaks at one of the feeders. I also saw a new year and life bird there--the gray-crowned rosy-finch. Why I had not yet seen this relatively common bird is one of those oddities of birding. I had seen its "cousins" the black rosy-finch and the brown-capped rosy-finch long ago. I hope to see some more this week, including its cousins.

We wound our way thru the streets of Walden looking for more finches but had no luck. Outside of town we did see 200 horned larks, 3 mountain bluebirds, and a large herd of antelopes (picture above). We did see a fine golden eagle on our way into Steamboat. We also located an american dipper feeding in a stream north of Steamboat--another new bird for the year.

So the day gave us 11 more new birds for the week which included the bald eagle we saw yesterday but I forgot to mark down. The YTD total is now at 407, and the new life birds for the year is at 14. Tomorrow we will be up before dawn in hopes of seeing some grouse on their leks over near Hayden, CO. Stay tuned!

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