Canvasback with chicks
The plan for the afternoon was to cruise some of the back, dirt roads en route to Steamboat Springs to look for Sage-grouse. These detours were to take me through the Coalmont area where there are several well-known Sage-grouse leks. I was hoping that I might kick one up off the road as I biked along. This ride was quite pleasant, but as I started later in the day than normal, thunderheads started to build to my west as I crept along these back roads. By the time I climbed this road up this hill (see photo below), there was quite a bit of thunder and lighting in my vicinity.
32 miles + 3 from a second loop at NWR for 35 total
Photo of the hill that yesterday was getting peppered with lightning
Just as I reached the top and was deciding what to do, CRACK! - right behind me. A large lightning bolt hit way too close for comfort. There was a house about a quarter mile behind me back down the hill. I quickly scampered down to the property. I had planned to shelter in the garage until the storm passed. However, a large dog started barking as I approached the house. The owner appeared in a few seconds, calmed the dog down, and asked if I needed a place to ride out the storm. To make a very long story very short, Becky and I really hit it off, and after 1.5 hours of chatting, I asked if Sonia and I could camp in her yard for the night (Recall that Sonia was coming to meet up with me today. It was just as easy for her to meet me here as in Steamboat Springs). Becky said it was no problem at all. We could sleep in the house, and she even offered to make us dinner! It turns out that one of the best-known Sage-grouse leks in the state in actually on her property. Becky and her husband Pat watch the birds out of their living room window! I figured that I could bird the area around her house both yesterday evening and again this morning. I thought this would give me a great shot at actually finding the Sage grouse. This was the first time I have had to ditch into a random person's house this year. Becky and Pat were incredibly friendly and showed a level of hospitality that would have impressed a close friend let alone a complete stranger. It was a truly incredible encounter.
Sonia and I spent lots of time both yesterday (after the storm cleared) and today stomping around in the sage. Despite incredible effort, we were unable to turn up a grouse. Becky, a fairly accomplished rider, even joined us on horseback. She says she regularly flushes grouse as she rides around her property. However, today was not our lucky day, and even the presence of Lucky, Becky's dog and sidekick, was not enough to kick up a grouse from the seemingly endless sage. When all was said and done though, I think I will remember Becky and Pat just as much as any bird I'll see this year. Sometimes when the birding slows down a little, its good to put the focus on people instead.
and more sage!
Sonia, Hondo, Becky
Better kisser than Sonia!
Sonia tackles the sage
Becky on Hondo, Lucky
A morning in the sage
I did observe a life mammal yesterday when a badger came running across the top of a hill where I was birding. I was able to snap a few quick photos of the beast before it disappeared into its hole not to be seen again. I took a few another photos yesterday. I am VERY pleased with the Rock wren - mainly because of the rock!
Rockin' Rock wren!
After today's morning romp in the sage, I hopped on the bike and pedaled the ~50 miles to Steamboat Springs. Sonia left at about the same time. She reached Steamboat Springs well ahead of me and anchored in a cafe to work while she waited for me to arrive several hours later. Highlights of my ride included 2 Bald eagles and my first moose of the year! We spent the afternoon hanging out, eating, and doing errands in Steamboat Springs. Tomorrow we will head to Craig. I will leave very early and try to make a few stops to look for Sharp-tailed grouse. Sonia will work from Steamboat in the morning, then head to Craig in the afternoon to do more work and wait for me. We've got this down to a science at this stage. Hopefully I'll have some good news on the bird front. I figure that Greater sage-grouse and Sharp-tailed grouse will be 2 of the hardest birds for me to find for the rest of the year. At this stage I would totally settle for one out of two!
49 miles from Coalmont to Steamboat Springs today