I also received my new bike tires today, and I will put them onto my rig tonight. I have been quite happy with my go-to Continental Gatorskins. I have had very few punctures. What flats I have had have surely resulted from the undo wear and tear that dirt roads have put on these road bike tires. I'd rather have a few flats using really slick, fast tires than fewer flats on a more treaded, heavier tire with greater rolling resistance.
A quick 57-miles today
I spent a bit of time looking for Sagebrush sparrow along the road today without success. I will probably run into this bird in Washington somewhere so I am not worried. The only real bird note today was an incredible show put on by 4 light phase Ferruginous hawks along I-84. I am not sure if they were a family group, but pairs of them spent time chasing one another around as if they were siblings. It was as though they were engaging in games of tag to hone the flying skills on which they will rely in the future for hunting and migration. I had only seen 2 Ferruginous hawks this year until today, so this was an incredibly beautiful display from 4 representatives of a truly magnificent species.
Right now I am not sure how to handle the the next few days and weeks. There has been a family of Northern hawk owls hanging out about 110 miles north and east of Boise. It would require several dedicated days to reach this area ( and > 9,000 vertical feet of climbing). However, the birds have not been seen since July 28 - 11 days ago. In an ideal world, since tomorrow is Saturday, someone would go birding in the area, see the birds, and report them as being present. I am not going to invest 3 full days in a search for a bird that may not be there. Taking a run at these birds would also require major alterations to my route, and it would take me through some very sparsely populated areas in Western Idaho without much support. If I had a positive report, I would have a hard decision to make. As it stands now I think I have to pass on the hawk owls.
I want to start finding some new birds both for me and for blog content! I have found so many birds that is going to be really tough to add many before I get a but further into WA/OR.
Option 1: Go straight to Mt Rainier and spend lots of time making sure I get every single possible species, mountain and costal, from Rainier south. This is the route I posted the other night. This route would give me a great crack at Sagebrush sparrow so that I would not have to worry about it later.
Option 2: Compared to the above, this would add the possibilities of Boreal Chickadee and Spruce grouse. Either bird would be tough, so counting on both probably isn't realistic. The big challenge with this route is that someone would have to meet me in the North Cascades for at least 2 nights of camping to make it worthwhile (Bueller? Anyone? Dave S? Anyone?). Like the above, I would have a good chance at knocking out the sparrow around Yakima.
Option 3: This is the route I would have to take to try for the hawk owls. It would require the same camping assistance in The North Cascades as Option 2. The route through Western Idaho is thin in support, and this would surely be the most expensive (by far) from a money standpoint. I could also potentially find Spruce grouse while looking for the hawk owls. I would likely miss the sparrow since its most common in the center of the state. Irrespective if I were to get the owls, if I were to get the grouse, I would probably cut out the North Cascades and head straight to Rainier. Riding to the North Cascades for a crack at only Boreal chickadee would be too steep a price to pay after the rugged ride through Western Idaho. I hope this rationale makes sense. I am tired and my brain is shutting down.
I will sleep on this and hopefully make a decision tomorrow. My legs are feeling a bit beat up right now, so even if I take a single day tomorrow to rest it won't be wasted since I could use the rest.
Let me say that I understand that I am just looking for birds. I'm not doing anything that's really important in the grand scheme of things. That being said, times like this can be incredibly stressful as I try to sort out what to do. I cannot go back to get missed birds, and I must consider so many variables in any route plan that it can often make my head spin. Successful bird finding during a big year is largely dependent on timing and luck, and I want to put myself in the best position to get lucky. Its just incredibly frustrating/challenging to sort out the best way to do this (and yes, I realize the worst day of what I'm doing is still a better day than many have).