Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 1 (Day 182, part 2) Flammulated owl, Dusky grouse!!!!

I am writing this midday when I should be riding, so I am going to keep the details to a minimum. Last night's owling adventure was an incredible success. Joining local researchers Christian and Allison, we spent 5-6 hours crashing around the mountains west of Boulder in the pitch black searching for Flammulated owl. We found a total of 7(!) Flams (#491), and I had amazing looks at two of these. This was only the second time in my life I have ever seen this incredibly shy little owl. The first time was in Arizona on my VENT camp in 1991!

Here is the biking I did yesterday and a representative idea of our hike. Like I said, lots of it was off trail so this is just to give you an idea. It also took a hell of a lot longer than 3 hours....more like 6.

Biking 25 miles total - 22 mapped
+ 3 to sports bar for World Cup (ugh....)

I climbed about 2000' on this hiking loop.
For those thinking about it, this is NOT to 
be undertaken casually. This is a tough hike - bears
and mountain lions not withstanding.

Christian warned me ahead of time that we would be doing some very challenging bushwacking on some very steep slopes. Given this, and the fact that I had to do a fair bit of hiking to even reach the owling area, I opted to leave my camera at home. I figured I might hear the bird, but I assumed seeing or photographing it was out. Plus, without a real flash, a lack of IS on my 400 5.6 lens, and a tripod, there would be a very low upper bound on the quality of photo I could get anyway. After doing the bushwhacking, I can state with certainty that leaving the camera was the right move. It would have been nice to have it when the owls appeared, but you can't have it all. I was able, in a desperate but shrewd maneuver,  to "Digi-binoc" a record shot of one of the owls. I used my iPhone to take a picture through my binocular lens. That I was able to do this at all shows you how good the look we had was!

Night bushwhacking. This was one of the few places
I could see far enough ahead to take a photo.

Digi-binoc'ed Flammulated owl!

However, Flammulated owl was not the only bird that I was able to add to the year list last night. We actually had two separate under-foot run ins with Dusky Grouse (#492)! We found a male and later a female roosting on the ground as we were bushwhacking our way between owl haunts. These birds were incredibly lethargic and permitted very close approach. I was able to take several photos with just my iPhone. 
Male Dusky grouse

Same male grouse
We bushwhacked right through thick stuff like this.

Female Dusky grouse

Here is a better shot of a female Dusky 
Grouse I took in Rocky Mountain NP a 
few years back. I couldn't back up to
get more room around her!

This was a HUGE find as I was not sure where to find this bird along my route. These guys are widespread, but also fall into the "must step on" category in order to observes. Luckily we did just this last night!

It was a really nice night out.  I was wiped out when I got back here at 2:45am. I had probably hiked 8-9 miles with most of it in the pitch black and a good deal of it on poor trails or bushwhacking. We saw 2 very tough species very well. This excision will certainly rank as one of the highlights of the year when it is all over. A special thanks to Christian who organized the whole adventure. Here we are this morning outside his apartment. You can tell I just woke up.....

Today I will be making two personal visits to friends. One in Longmont, and another in my final destination of Ft. Collins. Tomorrow I will head out to Pawnee National Grasslands where I will be met by several birders for an afternoon of birding and a night of camping. It should be fun!


  1. Oh man, two more awesome scores! This frees up considerable time for other species!

  2. July's going to be great! Go gettum!