Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 26 (Day 207) - More roadside kindness, hard ride for Calliope!

I had several route choices to get from South Ogden, UT to Logan, UT. Each of these was roughly 50 miles, and each had advantages and headaches associated with them.

Option 1: Slow, mellow climb into mountains followed by additional VERY steep climb on dirt road. Long, slow decent on dirt road into Logan.

Option 2: Steep climb into mountains followed steep decent. I would then have to do the same additional VERY steep climb on the dirt road in Option 1 and the same long, slow decent on dirt road into Logan.

Option 3: Parallel the mountains on flat ground to Brigham City, then cut over them to the northeast with a moderate climb to reach Logan - all paved roads.

Option 2 was the most challenging and would probably going to be too hard for me given what I did yesterday. Option 3 would clearly be the easiest, but would give me the least time in the mountains where I would look for Calliope hummingbird. Given this, I settled on Option 1 even though I was not at all looking forward to the steep dirt road climb. This climb proved to be short but brutal. The road was incredibly rough. It was closer to a two-track than a graded dirt road. I was forced to push the bike for some of the climb. It was not fun - at all. I eventually reached the top and began the long slow decent north towards Logan. The road was still a bit rough, but at least it was downhill. 

I had hoped to find some nice alpine meadows with wildflowers where I could look for Calliope hummingbird. There were very few flowers all morning, and unfortunately since the road was so bad for so long, my attention was focused on not crashing versus bird finding. It was a really frustrating first half of the day.

A stretch of decent road at the top of the climb

Everything changed when I rejoined the paved road as I could start looking for birds again. At around 1:30pm, I passed a house in the foothills with a hummingbird feeder out front. Several birds scattered as I went by. I slammed on the brakes and set up shop in the street to do a bit of feeder watching. After about a 1/2 hour the homeowner appeared. Marlene was incredibly nice and said I should sit in the shaded yard instead of standing in the hot, sunny street. For the next 3.5 hours I feeder-watched as Marlene and her husband Robert kept me company. We had a very nice conversation that spanned politics, the environment, our respective lives, and so and so forth. It was great to have company as the hummingbirding ebbed and flowed over the afternoon. This was yet another example of extreme kindness shown to me by complete strangers. I was completely blown away by the generosity and hospitality demonstrated by Marlene and Robert. It is really reassuring to know such warm people exist in a world that sometimes can appear scary and intimidating. Bad news seems to get so much attention that it is easy to forget that there is much individual good in the world.

The most exciting moment of the afternoon came when a very small hummingbird buzzed the feeder. It momentarily flashed a very short tail with only a bit of white before it was chased off by a Broad-tailed. I was fairly certain it was a Calliope, but I really hoped it would return to confirm this diagnosis. About five minutes later what I presume was the same bird returned. I got a decent look this time as it perched right next to a male Black-chinned. The Black-chinned looked much larger than this bird. I managed a few photos showing both birds. The smaller front bird in the photos is the presumed Calliope with tiny beak and wings projecting beyond the short tail. This bird was minuscule. I counted this as Calliope hummingbird for #509. The bird did not return after these two brief appearances.

Marlene and me

Robert, Dog Marty, Marlene again

Afternoon stew provided by Marlene!
See mom, I am eating my vegetables.......

 I also managed to shoot a few of the other species a bit later in the day. There were lots of Black-chinneds and Broad-taileds! I am calling these all females, but I guess that it is possible that some of them are immatures.

Female Black-chinned

Same female Black-chinned as above

Female Broad-tailed

Another small hummingbird that I
think is a Broad-tailed.  It tail was on 
the short side though.

Another confusing bird......probably Broad-tailed

Same bird as above, but perched

Tomorrow I will head into state #25, Idaho! I hope to find Trumpeter Swan in the subsequent days as I cross back into Wyoming en route to Jackson.

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