The flight arrived late-morning, as opposed to the usual one into Denver and the day spent driving to Grand Junction. This forced the problem of where to bird in the afternoon heat? The choices were either the cooler higher elevations or water birds which didn’t care about the heat. Since I’d be going to higher elevations later in the week the water birds won out. But where? The state parks would be full of weekend visitors. This left Fruitgrowers Reservoir semi-arid water.
The advantage of Fruitgrowers Reservoir is no people. None. As I reported two years ago the lake is off-limits do to phosphorous pollution concerns. Plus this would probably be my only chance to see certain water species this year.
That left me to enjoy the water birds on the warm Sunday afternoon.
I was going to jump right to the most interesting thing from my Western Colorado next installment. But I figured I should start with an overview as I have on previous trips.
As I posted in December I’ve decided my birding travels should matter if possible. Not just a list of birds I see one time and move on. So I decided and have now successfully run two BBS routes in Western Colorado. The reason I decided on Western Colorado, particularly the Grand Junction area, is it will allow me to annually be among Great Basin birds. I still need a west coast spot.
On to the recap, in no particular order.
I decided to fly direct to hopefully free up more time for birding. Not sure it actually worked out so well with the hassle of flying. There isn’t a direct flight from Indianapolis so I elected to fly through Dallas. I have flown many times but never through Dallas. And hopefully I won’t have to again. Not sure if it was Dallas Airport’s or American Airlines problem but the connecting flight had the gate switched 4 times. And remind me never to fly on a Friday.
One other thing about flying into Grand Junction is the plane has to come in through the high mountains into the Grand Valley. This means a quick mile drop through the higher plateaus and mountains. And of course when the temperature is 95° out there’s a lot of hot wind. This made the landing and takeoff bumpy. But most people acted as if it’s normal coming into the Valley. The planes were smaller but modern jets. I just think they were lighter so the wind made the bouncing rougher. Otherwise the flight was smooth.
I’ll need to work out the birding and driving thing for next year. Not sure saving the extra $200 flying into Denver and driving compensates for the hassle of flying.
Maybe related to flying in direct but I didn’t actuate to the altitude as well this trip. It may have had something to do with birding a full day around Denver and driving over the Rockies. It wasn’t bad but each morning I woke up with a headache. I had to take a couple ibuprofen and drink a lot of water. But it didn’t stop me from birding. Maybe it had something to do with my allergies?
Once again no problems with Alamo as a rental car provider. In and out in a few minutes each time.
The motel was family owned and well run. The chains were all over-priced for a big country music festival the following weekend. The motel turned out to very nice with no problems. It was on the old main road and in the style from the 1960’s. The kind where you can park right in front of your room. So now I’ll look for a hotel where I can carry my stuff out to the car with minimal walking and no hassle with elevators.
The weather was warmer than expected. Temperatures at night in the low 60’s and day time highs in the mid 90’s. As seen below it’s about 10 degrees warmer than average. But it didn’t affect birding because it was cooler longer in the morning. There was some moisture moving from the Southwest which caused afternoon showers at the higher elevation. But clear skies birding in the morning.
I also checked out two new spots that will play prominently on future birding trips.
Otherwise a lot of car birding which I hate. That’ll change next time.
Just long days birding and early to bed due to the time zone change.
After wrapping up at Colorado National Monument I had the choice to either try for cooler (as in temperature) birds at elevation or spend the afternoon at the only large lake in the area. Since a breeze had picked up I figured it wouldn’t be so warm around the lake. I was kinda right.
It took about an hour to get to Fruitgrowers Reservoir outside Delta, CO. I know I said I didn’t want to drive that much but not really many options if I was going to beat the heat. The lake tuned out to be good-sized with absolutely no people around. None. Just like the morning it was quiet but in a different way.
Then I read a sign that explained why. There was to be no water contact by people – no swimming, no fishing, no boating. The lake has a high level of phosphorous pollution and from reading on the internet it has for some time. So why is safe for birds? I don’t know.
But even though it was polluted and it was quiet, there were birds. The lakes’ north end had a road that cut off the lake from a low area that was a large cattail marsh. So I walked the road observing grebes, pelicans, and gulls to one side and blackbirds, coots, and herons on the other side.
The road had very little traffic and it made for a wonderful afternoon. Even in 100F temperature!
And it reminded me of when we lived in Illinois. I have written how I would go to LaSalle Lake almost every summer afternoon and watch the gulls. Often in 90F or higher heat. So this brought back pleasant memories and reminded me how much I like the heat.
And just like those Sunday afternoons of searching through all the Ring-billed Gulls for Laughing Gulls or searching the Caspian Terns for a Royal and usually coming up short, I never could turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s.
And reaching the end of the road and being out for more than several hours in the heat it was time to head back.
Ever since we moved to Indiana three years ago, I have made a trip to Goose Pond each July 4th weekend. And since I only get there a couple of times a year, I have started to look forward to the trip. So like a kid at Christmas anticipating it’s gifts, I was up 15 minutes earlier than the 4:15 alarm, on the road by4:45, and arrived a little after 6:30 to watch the dawn movement.
I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. Outside of the Red-winged Blackbirds there weren’t many birds calling, though there were Marsh Wrens and even a couple of Least Bitterns calling from across IN59. And one of the Least Bitterns even flew over the cattails, but not long enough for a photo. I’m not sure if it was because the air was “heavy” with the cloudy, humid conditions but it seemed “noisier” last year. I ended up seeing about the same number of species as last year, and the the quantity of each species was comparable, but it seemed quieter. Maybe because last year was sunny and warm. Anyway I didn’t let it spoil the day.
Also the water levels were lower. I would have thought they would have been higher with all the rain, but the DNR must be controlling them. Even though I found some perfect shorebird habitat, I didn’t get lucky on any migrating shorebirds like I did last year.
All in all I got to see the native summer birds. Which is the reason I go every year.