Friday, June 25, 2010
Man Do I Love Birding in the Mountains of Colorado
Yesterday afternoon and all day today my friend and I reveled in the low humidity, bright blue sky, 80's weather of Rocky Mountain NP. The birding has been a real treat also. We were up at 5 AM to make the 45 minute drive from Estes Park up trail ridge rd. to medicine bow curve in order to search for white-tailed ptarmigan. Back in March I spent a total of 5 hours over 3 different days at Loveland Pass trying to find one in its all white winter plumage. I had no success.
We arrived to the sun coming up, temp probably around 50, and windy given that we were above the tree line and over 11,000 ft in elevation. We came to medicine bow curve because the ptarmigan likes the tundra there to breed. The young men I mentioned recently said they had seen them just this past Sunday. My friend and I had not walked 5 minutes down the trail when I spied one moving not far below us. The top photo above is of the bird we found. 5 minutes, 5 hours--this is how it can go with birding.
We drove back down the mountain to an area called endovalley to see what else we might find, including williamson's sapsuckers. The middle photo is of a female at her nest hole, and the bottom photo is of her mate. We found this pair because we noticed a man and a woman unloading high powered cameras on tripods, and asked them what they were going to photograph. They were up from Kerrville, TX and the husband said there was a dead aspen tree not 100 yards from his truck that had 4 different bird species nesting in the various cavities. The williamson's was one of the nesters. The others were mountain bluebird, house wren and tree swallow. We had a nice time chatting with the fellow while we all took photos.
Since we had not had breakfast, at 10 AM we decided to go into Estes Park to eat. The breakfast was nothing to write home about, so I won't. We then went over to the fern lake trailhead and had a very nice hike up to fern falls where we sat in the spray coming off the falls. We hiked back down the trail, and are now back in Boulder at our friends looking forward to helping them make a home cooked meal, and to drink some interesting wines.
Week #26 starts out with only 26 birds seen, but the ptarmigan and sapsucker are new year birds raising the YTD to 627. Tomorrow morning we are going for a hike with some friends here in the Boulder area. Who knows what might show up birdwise. Stay tuned!