Thursday, October 28, 2010

Last Days in Colorado

On our final day in Vail, Stephanie and I attempted to drive to Piney Lake in Arapaho National Forest. It was raining when we started out but quickly turned to snow as we gained elevation. The dirt road was filled with potholes, making for a very bumpy ride. We finally found some birds, a small group of Gray Jays, about 4 miles up the road. We figured the lake would be just ahead so we continued on. About 5 miles later, we came to a curve in the road and found a sign that read "Piney Lake - 12 Miles." We decided we were sick of being thrown around by the potholes and turned around.

On our way back, I noticed a trail head with a trail that led through some habitat that looked spectacular for American Three-toed Woodpeckers. We were no more than 50 feet up the trail when we heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree, and we quickly spotted my lifer American Three-toed! Steph didn't get a very good look at the first bird, so we continued on and found another one that gave us much better and longer looks!

On Saturday morning, we headed back towards Denver for the next leg of our trip. It was snowing very hard at Vail Pass along I-70, and we made it through that area only 20 minutes before they shut down the highway. We heard later that it was closed for the next two days! Man were we lucky!

We made a couple of quick stops on the way up to Estes Park, including a stop at Boulder Reservoir. There were tons of Western Grebes on the lake but not tpo much else, so we moved on. As we arrived in Estes Park, we noticed some elk right on the golf course in the middle of town. It was quite a sight, and there were many people who had pulled into the Visitor Center parking lot to check out the herd!

We got an early start the next morning and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. The wind was howling and Trail Ridge Road was closed 7 miles into the park due to the high winds and heavy snow. Our first stop was right where the road was closed. The view was awesome, and we took some nice pictures, but as I suspected, the birds were not active in the windy conditions. Next, we tried the Endovalley Picnic Area. As we walked around the loop, we noticed that a group of Steller's Jays was following us around! They were very tame and allowed us to capture the photos below!


Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay

We battled high winds the next day as well and headed back towards Denver after just a couple of hours in the park. When we got to Denver, we had some time to kill before going to dinner, so we decided to visit Chatfield State Park again. There was pretty much the same mix of birds, but we found a nice spot by the marina to take some awesome pictures of gulls and American White Pelicans. Some of my favorites are below.

Ring-billed Gull

California Gull

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

Black-billed Magpie

It was a great trip, and even without focusing on birding the whole time, we ended with 72 species and I had 6 lifers!

-Rob

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Moose and 2 Lifers!

Yesterday, Stephanie and I decided that we liked Sylvan Lake State Park so much that we wanted to bird there again, so we headed out the door at 8:00 and we were at the park by 8:30. One of the first birds that we found was Cassin's Finch. This was a lifer for me, but we were unable to take any photos due to them being terribly back lit.

We continued past the lake on the forest road and finally came upon another flock of birds. We parked in a small pull-off and followed the flock up the road. We found a group of Gray Jays, our first of the trip, and had a flyover Williamson's Sapsucker. As we continued on, we noticed some cows coming down the road towards us. All of a sudden they started running straight at us. We were pretty close to the car so we quickly ran back and jumped in. As I looked back I noticed that something was chasing the cows! It was a huge moose! Below are a couple of pictures I took as it ran by.

A moose chasing a group of about 20 cows!

Another moose shot.

This morning, we drove back to Denver for another stop at Red Rocks Park. There had been a Golden-crowned Sparrow reported from their feeders, and it would be a lifer if I could find it. There was one birder there when we arrived who had seen and photographed the bird shortly before we got there. After about 15 minutes, I got a very short glimpse of the bird, but it disappeared into the bushes immediately. Over the next 45 minutes, I only got one more look at the bird, but I was able to see it nonetheless.

While I was waiting for the bird, Stephanie was busy photographing the more common birds at the feeders. Below are a couple of the shots she took.

Dark-eyed Junco

Western Scrub-Jay

-Rob

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sylvan Lake State Park Birding

This morning my wife and I got up early and headed to Sylvan Lake State Park about 30 minutes west of where we are staying. It was very cloudy and foggy as we drove west, but it started to clear a little as we arrived at the park. Our first new bird of the day was a Townsend's Solitaire on the drive into the park. We stopped at the Visitor's Center to pick up a map and a checklist of the birds of the park.

Sylvan Lake State Park Visitor Center

Next, we headed to the lake. There is a fantastic trail that goes all the way around the lake. Shortly after we started out hike, an Osprey flew over and then a few minutes later, a Bald Eagle landed in a tree across the lake. The highlight of our hike was my lifer Williamson's Sapsucker! I was not expecting this bird at all but was very glad to see it in my binoculars when I was finally saw it through the pine trees.

The drive to Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake State Park

At the very end of our hike, we came upon a bridge over a rushing creek. I immediately noticed an American Dipper that was close enough for some photographs. Below are 2 of my favorites. After taking these pictures, I dropped part of my camera in the creek but was able to fish it out just before it was lost forever!

American Dipper

American Dipper

-Rob

Monday, October 18, 2010

First Few Days in Colorado

On Saturday, my wife Stephanie and I flew into Denver for a 10 day vacation in Colorado. We will be spending 7 days in Vail and then 3 days in Estes Park. Our flight arrived at 8:15am, and we headed straight to Chatfield State Park. It is a beautiful park that has a huge reservoir. We immediately noticed a large number of grebes on the lake. While most were Western, I was able to find one Clark's, a lifer for me!

Due to the time of day, there were not very many birds around. Our highlight other than the Clark's Grebe was a large number of American White Pelicans.

American White Pelican

Our next stop was Red Rocks Park on the west side of Denver. This park has some of the most amazing scenery that I have ever seen. Since it was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, there were people everywhere and no birds to be found. But the fantastic views more than made up for the lack of birds!

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Below are a couple of my favorite pictures that my wife took while we drove west to Vail, one of a chipmonk that I have yet to identify, and a picture of a very cool Steller's Jay!

I-70 West of Denver

I-70 West of Denver

Some type of chipmunk.

Steller's Jay
-Rob