Monday, June 28, 2010
Can You Say Boreal Owls!
Yesterday after having a nice mexican breakfast in Boulder with our friends, my friend from Austin and I drove up to the Indian Peaks area west of Boulder to do a later afternoon hike. The parking area at the trailhead was jammed with Sunday hikers. The 1st mile up the trail was constant side-stepping to let people and lots of dogs pass. Once we made the left turn onto another trail, it was much less busy. The 2 mile hike climbed about 1000 ft from our starting point of 9,000 ft. Our destination was Diamond Lake which still had some snow patches around it. It threatened rain, but none came. We have been seeing lots of elk on our hikes, so I decided to add the top photo above to today's post.
We had initially planned to camp out up at the campground at the trailhead, but found out we needed a permit. Instead we made the drive to Cameron Pass to listen again for the boreal owl. Enroute we found several slate-colored fox sparrows--a new year bird. We arrived near the summit of the pass at midnite, and proceeded to play the boreal owl call, and then listen for a response.
By 12:45 AM we had reached the summit of the pass, but had heard nary a hoot. I decided to drive over the pass to try one more time. We stopped and played the call. My friend said, "hey I think I heard a response." So I played the call again. A boreal owl replied from across the highway. Then a second called back up a ways towards the summit, then a 3rd did also. Finally, a 4th called in the direction of the 1st call we had heard so faintly. We listened as this chorus of boreal owls kept chiming in. Wow!
After high 5's, we drove back over the pass and down a short way to a parking area where we slept in the truck--me in the back inside the camper cap, and my friend opted for the passenger side front seat that reclines.
The sun coming over the mountains woke us up at 6 AM. We drove down the Cache la Poudre river canyon, thru Ft. Collins and out to the Pawnee Grasslands to do some prairie birding. It was sunny and breezy on the prairie when we arrived about 8:30. For the next 3 hours we enjoyed seeing the prairie birds including the many lark buntings (middle and bottom photos) and horned larks (bottom photo). We also saw several cassin's sparrows including a male doing the flight display ending in a singing landing on a fence post.
We drove back to Ft. Collins where the Star of India beckoned for lunch. This time we did the buffet which proved to be as good as the 2 other ordered meals I have eaten here. Now we are checked into our motel in Estes Park to be ready to do 1 more hike early tomorrow morning before I take my friend to catch his plane.
The past 2 days added 35 more new birds for the week. The owl, and the fox and cassin's sparrows being new year birds raised the YTD number to 631. I will be heading to western Colorado tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned!