Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30 (Day 149/150 Combined post) - Elevation test run, Retirement of Roadrunner hat

Well, I see that Sonia did another admiral job with the blog in my absence. I am starting to worry that blog readers are going to demand more of her and her unicorns and less of me and my birds! I will try to keep things entertaining to keep up with her.

Yesterday I decided to perform a very important cycling experiment. I know exactly what it feels like to ride 50, 75 or 100 miles over flat or moderately hilly terrain. However, I have no idea what climbing several thousand feet in one hit on a fully loaded bike is going to feel like. I did climb approximately 2,000 feet to reach the Buff-collared nightjar spot a few days ago, but I will likely have to face continuous climbs of 4,000-5,000 feet once I get into Northern Arizona and Colorado.

There have been a series of Flammulated owl sightings between 5,900 and 7,200 of elevation in the Santa Catalina Moutains just outside Tucson AZ. I decided that I would take an overnight run up to these elevations to test my legs and take a crack at finding one of these birds. I did not take my fully loaded bike; I was carrying about 60% of my normal weight, plus a loaner sleeping bag and sleeping pad. I figured that if I as not able to make it I could just roll back down the hill to my hosts' house. The bottom line is that I would rather know my limitations now than discover them in the middle of nowhere in a few days.

The cycling part of the experiment was a great success. Granted I was not carrying my full load, but I felt good as I climbed 4,500 feet in exactly 3 hours (2 hours 35 mins of riding time). This 4,500 feet was covered over 17.7 miles. There were basically zero downhill stretches, so this gave me a good idea of what 4,500 uninterrupted vertical feet feels like. I most certainly could have continued on without too much trouble. I think this result bodes well for future climbs. I will certainly be slower with all my stuff, but I know I can tackle a climb of this sort and expect to eventually succeed.

17.7 x 2 = 35.5 up and back. I also had to ride 10 miles
to the spot from where this climb started so that's
an additional 20. I'll call it 55 miles total for 
yesterday afternoon and this morning.

Winding road up

Feeling good on the climb

I spent the afternoon birding Rose Canyon Lake at around 7,200 feet. I finally saw Greater Pewee after hearing them in several previous locations, and I also saw a number of (8?) Olive warblers. I saw one of these in the Chiricahuas, so this was a really treat. I even managed a photo of a beautiful male high up in a pine. There were also Yellow-eyed juncos, Common Ravens, Buff-breasted flycatchers, Pygmy and White-breasted nuthatches, Hairy woodpeckers, and a single Red-faced warbler. I was able to add 2 birds to the year list: Pine siskin at #456 and Western bluebird at #457. 

Olive warbler - WAY up in a pine

Western bluebird

Greater pewee

Common raven cruising by.....

Aptly named Yellow-eyed junco

Here is a Pine siskin from my photo collection.
This was taken outside Boston a few hers back.

Armed with a flashlight, I flipped into owl mode once the sun set. I heard several Mexican whip-poor-wills, but not a single Flammulated hoot. I spent the first 2 hours of darkness at this 7,200' of elevation. At 10pm I dropped down to another area at 6,000 feet from which the owls have also been reported. The result was the same: nothing. At midnight I decided to hang it up and hit the hay. I had carried a sleeping bag and pad up the mountain with me so that I could spent the night up there. I did this in case the owls started hooting later, and so that I did not have to ride through Tucson after midnight. My plan was to get up with the sun and shot down the mountain. I did this, but not before some midnight excitement.

At around 1:30am (I think), I heard this big crash and woke to find that this 20-something guy had just stalled his brand new stick-shift Mini Cooper only to have it roll backwards down a hill and into a roadside ditch. The left two wheels had slid off a stream culver and the car was resting on its belly with the right two wheels still on the concrete. We tried to get the car on the road but were unsuccessful. He reluctantly conceded defeat and tottered downhill to where he could get cell reception to call for help. I found out this morning that he was picked up about a mile down the road and given a ride into town. From there he called his parents. He returned with them and a tow truck at 5:00am. They were able to get the car out, but needless to say with all this nonsense I did not get any decent sleep last night. I therefore just returned to Southeast Tucson where I will ride out the rest of the day. I had planned to ride to Casa Grande today, but after not getting enough food last night and the crappy night's sleep, I need a day to refuel and rest. I wish my phone had had some juice left to get a photo of the car, but it was dead by the time I went to bed. You'll have to settle for this distant shot of Tucson from the Santa Catalinas. 

My view of Tucson as I descended from 
7,200' to 6,000' last night

Lastly, I do have a bit of troubling news. The roadrunner hat that I purchased in the Chiricahuas was acquired on May 16. From May 16-25, I wore only the roadrunner hat and kept my Red Sox hat in my bag. The Sox lost all nine games during that stretch.  I switched back to the Red Sox hat on May 26. The Sox subsequently won their next 4 games. Bottom line: I have a free roadrunner hat that would look great on a Yankees fan!

More internet awesomeness - May the force be with us!

This is what we wear to games at Fenway - seriously!
We're kinda like minor celebrities on Lansdowne street


  1. Strongly recommend just ticking GRVI and then GTFO of Arizona. Black-chinned Sparrow and the Lovebird are easy ticks on your way back through AZ in Nov, no need to waste valuable early summer time on these now. CO has many places for Flammulated and a more active birder community you can tap into to help get you on the birds...

  2. Yeah, GRVI is the key bird. If I find it I will 99% also find Black-chinned sparrow and Juniper titmouse since they share the identical habitats. I am SO close to the lovebird right now (~50 miles) that I am going to go into Phoenix tomorrow and get it. Also tomorrow is a Sunday so the city will be quiet and it will be safer that during the week. No telling what will happen in November when I come back through here.