Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 21 (Day 172) - A nice ride with a new bird trifecta!

I had a very pleasant ride from Gunnison, CO to Salida, CO today. The day was overcast which helped to alleviate some of the discomfort stemming from a sunburn on my snout and lips. I have to remember that I am at altitude here in Colorado, and sunburn can actually happen a lot faster than at sea level. The entire ride today was very nice. There was one very challenging 9-mile, fairly steep climb that took me to the top of Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet. I managed to complete this stretch without a stop, so I was very proud of myself for this minor victory. My body is adjusting well to the altitude. I almost died climbing the 6-miles to 10,900' a week ago, and today I had at least a some gas left when I peaked at 11,300' after the 9-mile climb. This bodes well for the even higher elevation climbs that will come as I search for White-tailed ptarmigan and Brown-capped rosy-finch in the next week. I even had the energy to do the 1.5-mile hike up to Monarch peak after I reached the pass on the bike today.

68 miles today

View from the top!

As for birding, I was able to add three (3!), new birds with relatively little effort today. The first of these was Cinnamon teal (#483). There were 2 males in a pond right next to the road. This pond also held several Yellow-headed blackbirds including the first adult males I have seen this year. I saw several females and immature males in Junction, TX earlier in the year. Between the teal and the blackbird, there were some seriously attractive birds at this roadside stop. Now I need real photos of both of these species for my collection......

Cinnamon teal #483

Yellow-headed blackbird

The next year bird that surfaced was Willow flycatcher. I have been keenly listening for his "fitz-beew" call anytime I bike near riparian areas and creeks. Today I almost fell off the bike when I finally heard one just off the road. I jumped off the bike and located the bird for #484! This is a bird that I missed during spring migration in East Texas. It was nice to finally nail this guy down today.

Incredibly distant shot of the Willow flycatcher #484

Here is a better photo I took of this species
in Massachusetts a few years ago. 
Eastern and Western birds have slight differences.

The third year bird of the day appeared on my short hike to Monarch Peak. Clark's nutcrackers always make their presence known with their characteristic calls and associated antics; Today was no exception. Two of these guys appeared downslope from me as I hike towards the peak (#485). One of these guys spent several minutes using his long beak to extract moths from a crack in a dead tree. He worked with a purpose and efficiency reminiscent of my performance at the Pizza Hut buffet yesterday. Corvids (jays, crows,  magpies, etc) are some my favorite birds. Members of the family Corvidae are generally very social and they tend to travel in groups. Most of them are loud and raucous; They seem to command the attention of all within earshot. They are also some of the smartest birds as they can solve problems and use tools to accomplish specific tasks. Check out this incredible video

Clark's nutcracker #485

Here is a better photo I took of this species
in Rocky Mountain NP a few years ago

OK, a bit on the short side today since the last few days have been rather involved. Tomorrow I am going to head north towards FairPlay and onto Silverthorne the following day.

Unbird from today - cuz why not?


  1. As a birder and former recreational cyclist, I Iook forward to your daily posts. I hope you will join the speakers circuit once you complete the year. I would look forward to hearing you and seeing your photos during the 2015 Biggest Week of Birding in Ohio next May.

    Ohio Birder, Pat Brannon

  2. You are doing so well on this trip! As with Andy Dettling's big green year in Michigan a couple of years back, you are probably setting a record that will not be broken. Kind of nice to be ranked up there with the likes of Cal Ripkin (baseball), Bob Beamon (1968 Olympic long-jump gold medalist) and, I'm sure, many other records that I am not aware of. Keep on biking, birding and blogging.

  3. Big ups for Clark's Nutcracker. This is the species that caused my wife + I to become birders.


  4. Big ups for Clark's Nutcracker - this is the species that caused my wife + I to become birders.


  5. Have a good ride to Fairplay / Silverthorne. We were down in Breckenridge, CO a couple of weekends ago for a friend's wedding. Beautiful country! Popped up to Hoosier Pass, which was a 15 minute drive...I imagine a lot longer on a bike! (Although it will be all downhill for you on the north side.) Missed you by two weeks - too bad. Probably will not make it down to CO again this summer, and I don't suppose there is any good, bird-related reason for you to swing thru western SD! Wishing you continued safe travels.