It's been a few weeks now since Rocky went to sleep. Like any worthy pet owner I miss him greatly. I've always had GSD's in my family..my Dad raised 2 litters, one with my first lad Shane. An opportunity arose to acquire a puppy before I return to work tomorrow...
So after talking with Louise we've taken the plunge and we now have...
While I have chance (more later) I'm posting a double. So, the fabled WTP finally fell. As most people reading this Blog will be committed Birders you'll be able to share the feeling of finally connecting with a "difficult" target bird! I'd tried 3 times in Alaska (walking several miles) and twice on Mount Evans earlier this trip. I'd also had a thorough search in Rocky Mountains N.P. on Trail Ridge road the previous afternoon evening. We were leaving for South Dakota so this was my final attempt. I made it up to Medicine Bow Curve for dawn and it was a bit fresh to say the least, but more importantly it was fine and quiet!
I started down the excellent trail. I'd probably gone 300 yards or so when I decided to have a scan. Still nothing. This was my prime location in my opinion taking account of all the information I'd gathered. So...out came the tape. I'm not an advocate of this technique but I feel on occasions it's justified i.e. when you've had enough of looking and times running out!! No, seriously, breeding season over, not that many birders and brief use. Also many American birders use them...judiciously.
So I turned my ancient cassette recorder on and gave it a go. Still nothing. Try again...
Bird or Stone?
You can appreciate why scanning for this bird is so difficult! I had 4 birds literally walking around my feet totally oblivious of my presence. So, success at last...very satisfying. Chasing this bird was beginning to get to me...
Having checked the Colorado bird group website I saw that some members were visiting Summit Lake below Mount Evans. I'd already tried once in poor weather but I couldn't miss this opportunity of "more eyes". This meant an early start (there's a shock!) and a long journey (c200 miles) from Gunnison to reach Island Lake by 10. Anyway, I made it...just, and could see the group scanning the col. I joined them and got talking to the leader Bob Shade (great name) who was a very sociable and pleasant chap, He soon pointed out a BCRF to me which alighted briefly about 20 metres away. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get a snap. I also had a couple of flight views but I reckon it was still worth the long drive...not so sure Louise agreed but as usual she was a real trouper.
Made our way down to Gunnison and settled in to the motel. I left Louise early to try and connect at dawn. Road 38 was the target south of town at the back of the airport. It was a lovely morning and I was full of optimism...as usual!
After exactly 8.5 miles I noticed some movement in a horse paddock by the road. There they were! A family/s group feeding in the morning sun...Brilliant!
OK, here goes. Over the next few days I'll be posting the highlights of my trip, mostly bird related with a few anecdotes thrown in...hope you enjoy them.
Met up with Brian Linkhart as arranged at Rocky Mountain Research Station, Manitou Experimental Forest (phew!). Nice bloke. Also met a Brit (name gone...apologies) who now lives at Cape May!! He'd been photographing Red Crossbills by the entrance gate (yes, I missed them and didn't connect the whole holiday).
We set off around 5.45 up an interesting mountain road...I use the word road in the loosest possible sense!
Eventually we reached the site and Brian led us to the nest site. The other birder suggested tapping the tree. Brian didn't think this would work but was willing to try. TAP...
I'd heard a Flammulated Owl in the Davies Mountains, Texas (ABA rules allow a tick on Owls) but I wanted to see one, so happy days/nights.
We stayed past dusk and our friend obtained some excellent shots with his long lens. I'm happy with the point and shoots I got here. The trip back down the mountain was more than interesting...but we made it!
Well, I'm back. A quick I-phone post for now from Lancs. Just recovering from the usual jet lag and 6,000 miles plus!! Tried hard for the 'Snowcock but it wasn't to be. Up at 3, car park by 4 and made the pass in the dark by 6. Covered the tundra then returned to Island Lake to scan the Canyon. Due to the fact this bird is so local it was a big miss. I'll just have to go back one day!
On reflection, more time to connect would have been useful but with the areas covered and the sights to see it was hard to fit everything in and to be honest I'd had it.
Managed 11 ABA ticks and some decent photos of some of them...I'll post some later.
Combed Cody Bowl above Teton Village this afternoon but no luck. Post breeding dispersal? Cool ride on the cable car though and magnificent views...again. I did manage 4 Trumpeter Swans though, which were great to see.
Onto Nevada tomorrow to try for the Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains...
More quality time spent in Yellowstone with close views of a mother grizzly and 2 young! Also a "wildlife jam" with a family party of Bison strolling along the road for a good half a mile...Who's going to tell them?
Also saw a couple of Bald Eagles and Ospreys plus 3 Sandhill Cranes in Hayden Meadow.
Old Faithful performed better this morning after a feeble attempt yesterday!
Dusky Grouse morning tomorrow, which will see me up Signal Mountain in the Tetons at dawn.
I'm also trying later for Black Rosy-Finch again at Rendezvous Mountain thanks to help from Stuart Healy
Possible chance also of White-winged Crossbill.
Loooong drive down from Minot to Red Lodge. No luck at Medicine Lake with the Longspurs.
BIG disappointment on the Beartooth Highway with no sign of any Black-crowned Rosy-finches at the western summit...too late? No disappointments with the incredible scenery however.
We then moved on into Yellowstone N.P. and things improved immediately on the wildlife front with 2 Grizzly Bears seen at close quarters plus 4 Wolves!!! One bear (a large male) was protecting an Elk carcass that the Wolves had killed and he had stolen! When we left he was asleep on it using it as a pillow. Staying up at Big Sky, Montana for three days, using it as a base for the park. Going to see this today...
OK, so 9 ABA ticks so far, but it's not just about new birds. I've seen some quality wildlife and some magnificent sights! We leave for Montana tomorrow and we're stopping off at Medicine Lake for a couple of hours before driving I94 to Red Lodge.
We're visiting the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, which I'm really looking forward too...General Custer and all that...
Then it's over the Beartooth Highway...
Had a great day in Estes Park, Rocky Mountains N.P. yesterday. Saw some good stuff. Beavers, Elk, Bald Eagles but the highlight (for Louise anyway) was 2 BEARS in the hotel car park!!!
Arrived late last night in Hill City, South Dakota (8,000 feet) We're visiting Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument today.
Badlands, Keystone (cops) and Deadwood tomorrow on the way up to Minot, North Dakota. Baird's Sparrow and Gray Partridge! the next ABA targets.
You've guessed it. Finally, after many attempts over many years, I connected this morning with my *Nemisis* bird. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours watching and photographing 4 birds at Medicine Bow curve in Rocky Mountains NP. When you eventually do find them, you have to be careful not to tread on them!
The Owling with Richard Stevens (top bloke) went well, with both species being located but unfortunately not seen. Got back at 5.30am!!!