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

5 comments:

Kelly said...

Wow! What an incredible series...and beautiful photos too. I've always wanted to see an American Dipper. Your shots of it are stellar. Looks like a fabulous vacation.

each day an adventure in alaska said...

enjoyed your photo's. always love a stellar! birds are fascinating, i always try to get better pictures than what i find in our local alaskan bird book. you should plan a trip north...met tons of birders in the pribilofs.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Love the face of that Stellars. Very nice in-flight images!!

許百美 said...
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chrischaos said...

these are some pretty breath taking pictures.