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Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Colorado Adventures 2012-Day 4

Day 4, August 12th, was to be an exciting day.  It was our first full day in the Telluride area.  I planned out a full day of birding and was hoping this day was the day to get my first look at a Pine Grosbeak.  Pine Grosbeak was the bird I was thinking about the most! 

The first full day started out on an exciting note at the Cabin we were staying at, which was called Cabin 300.  It was nestled in a thick grove of apsen trees, which also had mixed conifer forest and willow riparian thickets.  There was good birding right in the area of our cabin.  When I woke up, I was greeted by a Gray Jay who flew right up to me and landed on our porch. 

The Gray Jay was joined by a second Gray Jay, and they wanted to see who their new neighbors were for the next week.  The surrounding area of the cabin also held Red-breasted Nuthatch, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Wood-Pewee, Clark's Nutcracker, Lincoln's Sparrow, MacGillivray's and Wilson's Warblers, Stellar's Jay, and Mountain Chickadee.  I then heard a Northern Goshawk screaming, and it sounded close.  As I looked up in the direction of the sound, all I saw was a Gray Jay perched on top of a fir.  I  heard the goshawk again, and I was never able to see it despite the fact it sounded close.  Everytime I looked into the direction where the hawk was screaming, there seemed to be a Gray Jay.

Just like in Durango, the Telluride area had Black-billed Magpies everywhere!

From the cabin road, I took Colorado highway 145 north towards Telluride for a hike and some serious birding.  I walked through along aspen parkland (aspen stands in midst of grasslands), and mixed conifer and aspen forests.  A huge flock of Cliff Swallows over the grasslands was impressive to see.  Violet-green Swallows and Purple Martins were a few other swallows that were present, as well as Tree Swallows.  A female Williamson's Sapsucker flew by, and several Evening Grosbeaks perched along the road.  Red Crossbills also made an appearance.  I recorded 31 species by walking this road for several miles.  Also along this road I had great views of the 14,017' Mount Wilson, where we also had great views of from the cabin.

Later in the day, my family explored Telluride.  I explored Bridal Viel Falls.  This beautiful waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Colorado, dropping over 360'.  It is home to a large nesting colony of Black Swifts.  The Black Swift is the largest of the North American swifts, and prefers to nest in higher and more secure places, especially behind waterfalls.  Also, the Black Swift was a lifer for me.  I was bound to get the swift on this trip up.  On my way up, I was amazed at the scenery of the falls, which was breathtaking. 

The birds were quiet on the way up, but this Townsend's Solitaire was cooperative.  Two distant soaring Golden Eagles were also nice to see!

After a steep walk up through switchbacks to the falls, I finally came to the base of the falls.  Right away, a swift overhead caught my attention!  In my excitement, I forgot that Black Swifts have much slower wingbeats than other swifts.  There ended up being a lot of swifts overhead.  They looked dark, but everytime I saw them in better light, they seemed to have some white on them.  I realized they were White-throated Swifts, which can surprisingly look darker than they are.  I even told people I was seeing Black Swifts quickly before I realized they were White-throated Swifts.  The wingbeats were too fast for Black Swift as I was studying flight, and the tail was too pointed also for a Black Swift.  For an hour, I tried to find that slow-flying big swift without success.  It was very frustrating and I was embarrassed I mis-identified them at first.

On the way down, my mood got better quickly as I got two mammal lifers.  One was the small American Pika!

The other were a group of Yellow-bellied Marmots!

I read earlier in the trip that Black Swifts are sometimes seen in the middle of town during the evenings in Telluride, Colorado.  Of course, White-throated Swifts were to make that a challenge for identification.  After I looked at the Pika and Marmot, I heard a White-throated Swift overhead.  There was a flock of them as I scanned overhead.  As I scanned, I got lucky and found that all dark swift in the middle of the White-throated Swift flock.  It was my lifer Black Swift!  I saw it clearly and it was noticeably bigger than the White-throateds, had VERY slow wingbeats for a swift, and had a short tail.  I watched it and thought it was a great way to close the day out!

 

Go to Day 5

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