Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26 (Day 177) - A great ride, but no birds....

The rest day yesterday worked wonders today. My legs felt incredible on my ride to the top of Loveland Pass this morning. I arrived at 8:30am, stashed the bike, and began a 7-hour, fruitless search for ptarmigan and rosy-finch. I birded the entire area around the pass, climbed 3 different peaks, and traversed a mountainside's worth of tundra - not a thing. I know these birds are hard to find, but this is getting incredibly frustrating. Tomorrow I will bike up to Guanella Pass (another monster climb of  > 3,000' in ten miles) where I will likely be spending the night camping with a Colorado birder with whom I have been corresponding. This will give me two days (Fri, Sat) during which I can not find these birds. After this, I will fold my hand on these birds and move onto fight the next painful battle, Flammulated owl.

Steep, winding road to the top

Great view

Highest I've had the bike this year!

I hiked the peak on the right, 
the peak on the front left, the
peak in the way back left rear, 
and traversed the front mountainside 2x.
I climbed to @13,400 feet on foot - ugh.

I am sorry if this post sounds incredibly pessimistic, but this is how I feel at the moment. I could potentially push a week into these two birds and not find them. This would be a colossal waste of time, and it would be a big blow to me personally. I do not do well with failure. The tough thing about birding is that I have only so much control over the outcome of any given search; If the birds aren't present, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Maybe I shouldn't pin so much of my definition of success and failure on whether or not I find the desired birds. I know intuitively that I should just relax and enjoy the entire journey on which I find myself. It's just hard for me to do this when I have such a specific goal in mind for a day like today. Everyone has different definitions of success and failure, and everyone has to find a way to exist within his/her definition without driving himself/herself crazy. After Saturday, these birds will either be ticked or they won't. The adventure will continue with or without them, and ultimately they will have little bearing on my overall experience this year.

American pipit - no shortage of these today.

OK, that's it for now. Fingers crossed for tomorrow....


  1. Just for perspective...I hiked the Continental Divide Trail last year, which includes at least 50 or 100 miles of above-treeline hiking in Colorado. In all that time, despite always being on the lookout for the, I never saw a rosy finch, and I only saw 6 or 8 ptarmigan. Don't get too discouraged--neither of those guys are very common. At least the scenery is good.

  2. Hey Dorian, not sure what your exact route is across Wyoming but if you are still missing Brown-capped Rosy-Finch there is a reliable place in the Medicine Bow Mountains west of Laramie. It would be a climb to get up there, but the birds do breed and I know plenty of folks who've seen them. Also, I had several Flammulated Owls in the Sierra Madre Range, which is to the west of the Medicine Bows, two weeks ago. This spot is a long ways from anywhere, so it might be a logistical challenge, but they are definitely there.


  3. I find that just when I get used to being impressed by your birding you do something on the bike that is even more impressive. You casually throw out, "Yeah, yesterday I climbed to 12,000 ft"...ARE YOU KIDDING ME@! That's AWESOME! Maybe there are no birds there CAUSE THEY CAN'T BREATHE at that altitude! And you CAN.

    Feral Cyclist (slow even at sea level)