Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Colorado Day 1 (24-25Mar2018)

My family unit (myself, wife and two boys) arrived at Denver International at around 5 pm and I tried to hurry us along to get our rental car so I could hunt a possible Long-eared Owl before dark on the way to our first hotel.  We arrived at the park just as light was starting to fade and I found the shooting range where the owls have been roosting.  Unfortunately the shooting from the range was so loud it was a little distracting.  What kind of owl chooses to roost at a shooting range??? Weird. So the first target was a dip but the sunset and scenery was amazing and we went to bed happy.

Our first stop the next morning was Red Rocks Amphitheater and adjoining trails.  What an amazing place!  Here are some pics that exhibit the bird life, as usual I neglected to take scenery pics.

Townsend's Solitaires were signing!

Woodhouse Scrub-Jay

I was so surprised at how many Black-billed Magpies there were.  I knew I could find them but was not prepared to see them every time I stopped and sometimes while driving.

I believe this is a Desert Cottontail or maybe a Mountain Cottontail. Not sure how to differentiate them from Eastern Cottontails.

Prairie Falcon in the red rocks.

I was looking diligently for Cassin's Finches but all I could find was House Finches here.

Townsend's Solitaire

I think this is a Rock Squirrel.   Its on a rock so it makes sense.

Next stop was Genesee Mountain Park which is just the first set of mountains west of Denver.  That is where I lifered on the cutest little munchkin which is known as the Mountain Chickadee.

Mountain Chickadee - not sure why it took me so long to meet you!

Pygmy Nuthatches were abundant.

After a great lunch at the Moose Cafe, we headed up the mountains to the famous Loveland Pass.  A couple lesson's learned about Loveland, don't go mid day and check the weather before you go.  The winds were blowing hard and the glare from the sun on the snow was making looking with binoculars a painful process.  Also, all the kids in town were hitch hiking to the pass and skiing or snowboarding down on the slopes where I was looking for Ptarmigans.  Not ideal.  That being said, I was with my family and could not put in as hard an effort as I would have liked.  A beautiful spot none the less.

I canned the rocks as much as I could and found plenty of suggestive rocks but no Ptarmigans.

My son hiked up a slope with me and he was light enough that he was not breaking through the snow.  I on the other hand was sinking up to my knees and was getting snow all over.

Dang it! Looks like I will have to go back some day! =)

See that speck?  A Rough-legged Hawk soared by the pass but that was it for birds.

This guy looked like he was training for Everest.

Back down the other side of the mountain we stopped in the famous Silverthorne and drove through the Wildernest community.

My first Mountain Bluebird!

Now apparently Rosy-Finches are everywhere but I spent several hours finding nothing until...

I hit the jackpot at someone's feeder but it was a bit overwhelming and I had my family in the car waiting so although I saw all three species, I missed a photo of the most difficult one - Black Rosy-Finch.  The above were mostly Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches with both the Interior and Hepburn's sub-species.

Some Brown-capped in this shot.

A Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

An Interior Gray-crowned Rosy-finch - the black cap and gray area has very defined borders.

A nice mix here.

Brown-capped RF

Brown Creeper

Hairy Woodpecker - I was totally confused until I consulted the Sibley Guide and saw that our eastern Hairy WPs look different than the western.

Brown-capped RF.

For dinner we stopped in Steamboat Springs and dined on some "Mountain Pizza" which was interesting but not my favorite pizza style.  As far as I am concerned, Mountain Pizza and Chicago Style can both be retired as novelties.

Next up was was my first and only chicken of the trip.  But it was the best one!


  1. Definitely agree that deep dish pizza is overrated! Chicagoans just being different and thinking they have extra depth...
    Should stick to tiny hamburgers.

    The Rosy Finches are stunning though; you cleaned up there!

    Awesome to be able to do this with Fam!

    1. Yeah the kids are old enough that I can drag them along. Yours will probably hinder your birding for a bit but it is still worth it in the long run so don't give up on the whole kid thing yet.