Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 17 (Day 168) - A terrible day of birding is salvaged at the end

I am very tired after a very long day, so this is going to be on the short side. Today I went up to Black Canyon National Park to look for Dusky grouse. A number of people said this was a good spot for them, so I decided to make a day trip of it. The problem today was that there were 30 MPH sustained winds all day. This made the riding very difficult and the birding essentially a waste of time. I left the house at 6:30am, and I arrived at Black Canyon at 8:30am. To make a very long and windy story very short, I spent 10 hours and 45 minutes hiking and biking around the park to find absolutely NOTHING. I did have a flyover Peregrine, but outside of that the birding was a dead as the Miami Heat. I imagine that the winds kept what few birds might have been present hunkered down for the day. 

30 miles to and from park + 20 miles riding in park.
6 miles hiked in park as well.

View of Black Canyon.  I probably should have taken
more photos, but I was too focused on looking
for grouse that didn't want to be found.

The day was salvaged, when at 7:15pm, I flushed an odd looking bird. I got a 3 second binocular view of the bird. It was "very large" empid with an extremely prominent white eye ring. The long tail was being vigorously flicked. I quickly realized I was looking at a Gray flycatcher! This was year bird #481. Although I did not get the grouse, I birded really hard today. It did feel good to pick up the flycatcher right at the end. I had just about decided to leave the park, when I doubled back for one last pass through a particular area. Gray flycatcher has been reported recently in the park, but I was a bit surprised to find the bird in an oak/sage mix rather than a pinyon/juniper mix. I'll take it either way! I returned to the house at 8:30pm, 14 hours after I left. A very long day - UGH.

The coolest find of the day was this guy. Evidently, he is a Common collared lizard. I saw a few of them today, but this guy was really cooperative for photos.

Common collared lizard

Today's winds were from the south. This would have made riding with the loaded bike today very dangerous as the 30-50 MPH winds would have been pushing me into traffic as I rode east. The winds tomorrow will be ~15 MPH from the west. This should give me a nice push as I tackle what will surely be a very difficult ride to Gunnison tomorrow. There I will deal with the next big headache, the Gunnison sage-grouse. I think it will be a minor miracle if I am actually able to find this bird. After today's grouse debacle, I am not feeling very good about finding other family members in the next few months. I think finding grouse off-leks might be the single biggest bird finding difference between my big year and a traditional big year. 

OK, I'm beat. That's all folks!

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