This trip was harsh, exhausting, gut wrenching, and soul searching. Silja and Lena came with too. It was snowing before I came, it was snowing during my stay and the forecast was for more snow upon my departure, I headed out fast....El Nino, thanks ole' El...by the way, where are those west coast vagrants?
I did this trip last year for practice...we got all the birds so quickly we added birds and then done in 72 hours I flew home early...that was then this is now...what should I expect on a bad weather big year? but Bad weather....
I had a list of 16 birds I could get, we hit the ground running We headed west on I-70 into the teeth of a traffic jam. It was stop and then just stopped. It took us 3.5 hours to go an hour. Loveland Pass was closed, any ptarmigan try was out…dang and worse, it was snowing and the police were checking for chains, and enforcing laws 15/16 of the vehicle code. Luckily I had rented a Jeep at the advice of my wife, the lovely Silja. Since no hazardous cargoes could go around on the pass, they had to stop traffic at the tunnel to let them through.
The weather warmed to 45 and the snow magically was gone by the time we drove the few miles to Montrose, it was odd. Suddenly, I had the urge to stay up on Grand Mesa. I had seen Boreal Owl reported up there already but I didn’t know the area at all, thinking it was just like Colorado National Monument we booked a night at the Grand Mesa Lodge, as I thought, then I wouldn’t have to drive too far to call owls, and we had to stay somewhere. Luckily, they had an opening…..
It was the beginnings of a technically challenged day.
We walked around the property, saw another three-toed woodpecker and heard it repeatedly, then finally after calling in Steller's jays for Lena's year, Cassin's finches perched for a great photo-op, a year bird. Eventually tiring of the local birds and needing a Clark's Nutcracker, we packed up and drove up to pass and in a parking area found a lone Clark's........now I would show you my photos of these birds and those later in the day, but I forgot to replace the chip in my camera...I took some great photos....they even looked good on the camera, but with no chip, I got nothing. My daughter won't share until she publishes her blog. Oh well.
I took a Cassin's Finch photo on the next day
My wife now understands what the Green cross signifies in Colorado, in France, it is a pharmacy, here...well....
Back last year when I rolled though here, I had great luck at Loveland pass, elevation 11,990 in getting white-tailed ptarmigan, it was a once in a lifetime moment, the bird flew and landed at my feet, I had to step back to take a photo with my iphone.........this year? There were skiers, tons of skiers on both sides of the pass this year. Despite, me hearing the birding song on the way up the pass, nothing worked...my iphone didn't have a call for the birds, then it failed all together and just shut down. It was windy, and I couldn't see any birds....It was a bust. Why the birding song?
Swear words describe my thigh burn, my sunburn on my face, and burning lungs. I sent my wife and daughter home (good thinking!) and Doug Kibbe, Denver Master Birder took me up on snowshoes to the closed pass to get the ptarmigan, THE spot for this bird...except it wasn't. Last times up here over 30 and 50 ptarmigan....this time......the big 0...I don't know how far we hiked. We hiked up and then through snow. Then down through snow. The highlight was sitting on a rock taking my lone picture. I had oxygen choices and well, fat and out of shape I am. Doug is much older than me and he made me look bad, even taking my pack around on the pass. We criss-crossed and saw just one, day old track...I imagined something...then I miss called a herd of Elk...Bighorn...It was time to get off that God forsaken place. I don't want to say any more....It was tiring..,I'm sick of 4 to six foot deep snow....
Now I have to hail Mary a ptarmigan....I will have to think about this bird, and the Dusky grouse, and sapsucker, my other big misses. Doug took photos of me wore out in parking lot, ass-deep in snow, dragging bum up the hill, but I am not ready to see them or post them...too soon, the memory is still too painful.
I got 12/16, the Boreal owl was key but those d$%m grouse
Coded Birds: 36
Miles driven. 17,950
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be more)
507. Brown-capped rosy-finch
508. Black rosy-finch
509. Gray-crowned rosy finch
510. American three-toed woodpecker
511. Gunnison Sage-grouse
512. Sage Thrasher
513. Pinyon Jay
514. Juniper titmouse
516. Boreal owl
517. Cassin's Finch
518. Clark's Nutcracker
Rare birds in Arizona, I rented a second car and Doug graciously dropped me off at the Avis spot and away I go...Arizona with out snow. I'll be back...at least I got the western side birds done...dang birds.
Heck Lena's total is now 341!!!!!!!!!! Wow!
Here is her blog