Monday, April 19, 2010
Last Day in Colorado
John and I spent our last day in Colorado in the vicinity of Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent the morning with Scott Rashid, a local artist, bander, rehabber, and all-round naturalist. He took us to an area where he has been following the activities of Northern Pygmy-Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls for several years. The pair of Pygmy-Owls (photos, female top) are in the process of selecting a nesting cavity. Scott has placed a nest box in the area and is hopeful of having the first box-nest for this species. He does have a pair of Saw-whets using a box (photo), but it is apparently not trivial to entice them to use one. There were also Mountain Bluebirds using boxes he had put out. Red Crossbills were "kipping" joyously in the pines above us, a new yearbird for me, John having gotten them in the mountains of Virginia a while back. We took Scott to breakfast and chatted about all of his various projects including his artwork. We both purchased a copy of his book, "Small Mountain Owls," the proceeds of which go directly to the birds. After dropping Scott off at his house, we headed into Rocky Mountain NP to try to get as high as we could. The Golden Age Pass let us in. If you're 62 or over and don't have one, it's a no-brainer. They're good for life and let you into sooo many great places. The scenery was beautiful and the spruce didn't seem to be in as bad shape as trees in many other parts of Colorado we've seen. We drove up Trail Ridge Road, a truly unforgettable experience any time of year, and were able to get as far as Rainbow Curve at about 10,500'. While we were there, we were approached by two Gray Jays and two Clark's Nutcrackers, the last species we were to add to the cumulative list before we left Colorado (photo). Although these corvids become downright nuisances during the late summer by begging from tourists and campers, during the breeding season, which is now, they can be very secretive and quiet. These individuals may have been non-breeders, teenagers looking for a free meal and some excitement. Know any of those?
The drive to the airport and car rental return were uneventful. John and I did the final day's checklist while relaxing over a drink. Then we went our separate ways. I trust John got home in a timely fashion, because I did not. For the first leg of my flight I sat on the plane while mechanics made two attempts to fix a "black box." After a dely of about two hours, we left for my intermediate stop, Pittsburgh. However, when we arrived, it was much too late for me to make my connection. So it was the rebooking, shuttling to a motel, little sleep, shuttling back to the airport, breakfast on vouchers series for me. I finally arrived back in Norfolk with my baggage about 8:30am on Tuesday morning. Now I have to get ready for our Florida-Texas combo run with fewer hours in which to do so. Oh well! It's all part of the great adventure. The three last Colorado birds brings the cumulative list for me to 462.