Posts Tagged ‘Common Raven’

Each of our first four mornings in Moab, David rode his bicycle on the designated route for the Skinny Tire Festival and I birded various spots near town. On the first day, Saturday, March 12, David rode 64 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park and back. That was a big ride, so we didn’t do much that afternoon, but we did walk to a nearby spot on the river where David had seen a Great Blue Heron. The heron had moved on, but we saw a few ducks, including gorgeous Cinnamon Teal in breeding plumage.

The second day, David rode north along the Colorado River. He came back and didn’t even change out of his cycling clothes before saying that we had to leave immediately because he had just ridden by dozens of ducks on the river. Many had left by the time we arrived a few minutes later, but about 50 remained including three new species for our Utah list. We also saw American Pipits on the riverbank, a life bird for David.

It was still early, so we decided to drive to Arches National Park to preview it for David’s ride the next day. With the steep ascent and hairpin turns on the road into the park, that turned out to be a good idea which allowed David to plan his ride. Below, “Balanced Rock,” a favorite site in the park.

“Devil’s Garden” is one of Arches’ most popular areas. We enjoyed exploring it a bit when it wasn’t mobbed.

On Monday, the festival cyclists rode into Arches NP. David stopped at the “Park Avenue” overlook to take a photo of his bike.

We wanted to go back again in the car later that afternoon, but the park was full and a sign was posted saying “Come back in 3 hours,” so we drove to Canyonlands National Park instead. This is another impressive park as you can see from the photos below.

While David was riding in the Skinny Tire Festival, I was birding every morning. I wanted to get my Utah list to 50 species. I started with five birds from a stop along the Colorado-Utah state line during the Colorado Grouse Tour in 2019 (Part 2 with the jaunt into Utah). With over five days in Utah on this trip, it seemed like an easy goal. But, I was struggling to find much other than ducks. So, after we got back from Canyonlands NP, David and I drove a local road just outside of Moab looking for House Sparrows and European Starlings. Yep, I was that desperate. We found our target birds, a Eurasian Collared-Dove, and a lovely Western Meadowlark, another life bird for David. In those five days of birding, I didn’t get good photos of anything other than a Common Raven.

On the last day of the festival, the ride was along the Colorado again, this time downriver on Potash Road. That afternoon, we went back to the Wall Street section of Potash Road. Its sheer cliffs are popular with rock climbers and a large well-preserved petroglyph panel provides an outstanding look at ancient Indian art. Dinosaur tracks are also nearby and David hiked up the mountainside to get a closer look. I was satisfied with my binocular view and stayed on the road to watch the Ornate Tree Lizards which fascinated me.

Both of us had been watching for wildlife every day, but we were disappointed that we didn’t see much. The only things in abundance were these beautiful butterflies that David first noticed on his rides. I think this is a Checkered White.

The day after the festival, we headed to Arches National Park first thing in the morning before even checking out of our hotel. We drove around several areas, but the Windows Section was our favorite.

Then it was on to Dead Horse Point State Park, perhaps David’s favorite of the three parks we visited. The park is located at the end of a mesa that soars 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, on the edge of Canyonlands NP. The overlook where David stands is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. If you want the sad legend of how the park got its name, read this.

Below, a view into Canyonlands NP from Dead Horse Point State Park.

We had seen a little mammal scurrying across the landscape a couple of times, but they were too quick to even guess what they were. Finally, in front of the Dead Horse Point SP Visitor Center, I got good looks and a photo of a Hopi Chipmunk. This individual was almost tame and even came towards me once. It differs from most other chipmunks by having no black stripes.

Our planned adventure at Dead Horse Point was to view the night sky. The park is a designated location by the International Dark-Sky Association. Six yurts at the Wingate Campground allow a “luxury” outdoor experience. Honestly, I was not looking forward to the only bathroom facilities being the vault toilet shown on the map, but I was pleasantly surprised by flush toilets and running water for hand washing just a short distance from my yurt.

So, the facilities were fine, but our night sky experience was a bust. A full moon and cloud-filled sky obscured nearly all the stars. A dark-sky experience remains on our bucket list.

It was still pleasant to experience the quiet outdoors in the late evening and early morning and we could hardly complain with a view like this.

A quick look at a Juniper Titmouse near the yurts was my last new Utah bird. This brought my Utah total to only 35 species.

After a leisurely morning at Dead Horse Point SP, we headed back towards Albuquerque for David’s flight home the following day. The previous few days had felt familiar and reminded me of western Colorado. A little research revealed that much of Utah is in the Colorado plateau, the same physiographic province as western Colorado as shown on this map.

Below is our last arch, Wilson’s Arch, about 30 miles south of Moab.

We arrived with just enough time before dark to go back to the park (Los Poblanos Open Space) where I had looked for the Western Screech-Owl nearly a week earlier. I had seen several Greater Roadrunners there and we hoped that David would see one, but nope. The “birdless” moniker for the trip continued to be appropriate. Regardless, our Utah adventure was amazing and I am very grateful for the experience.

What will happen on my drive to North Carolina? Follow along with me and see what I discover.

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On Thursday morning, I got “permission” from a local Montana birder to try Bannack Bench Road again when I called for advice.  “The roads dry quickly and the storms don’t usually come until late afternoon.”  So, I hoped to hit a sweet spot in the middle of the day.  The beginning of the road was great, but it soon starting getting sticky.  But, I heard birdsong, so I just pulled over and shut the engine.  I continued to hear the bird and then I found him at the top of a distant bush with his head thrown back in full song.  I hoped that this was a Gray Flycatcher, so I made a couple of quick voice recordings and tried to get a photo, but my camera wouldn’t focus.

Before I had time to play with camera settings, a local rancher came by and stopped to see if I was OK.  He said I should be OK for another mile or so, but that I should turn around at the next cattle guard.  Then we talked for a while, about how he loved Montana, how he is trying to save the Greater Sage-Grouse on the land he uses, the local roads.  I showed him an illustration of a Prairie Falcon and he was sure they were “just over the ridge there.”  But, of course, that was an inaccessible location for me.  I can’t regret the 20 minutes or so we talked, but after he left, I could not re-find my singing bird.  Also, storm clouds gathered while we were talking and he left me with instructions to turn around right then.  If I got stuck he would have helped me, but I would have been embarrassed by my foolishness.  The rancher told stories of people calling for a tow truck and being asked if they had a good book.  At least one person was stuck for over 24 hours.  Friends, you may have worried about people, bears, or rattlesnakes, but the real danger out here is the roads.

I reluctantly left Bannack and headed to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, where I arrived mid-afternoon.  The park is beautiful and I wish that I’d had the time and energy to hike some of the trails or take the tour of the caverns.  I explored just a little of the park before it started raining.  I headed to Bozeman for the night.

It was raining when I woke up yesterday morning and I half-way expected a call from Ron Farmer cancelling our birding.  But, Ron picked me up as planned and we spent several hours birding from the car.  Ron took me to his reliable Sage Thrasher spot and we did see one bird.  The bird was wet and I didn’t really get a great look, but it was a lifer.  We spent the rest of our time looking for Prairie Falcons to no avail.

Ron dropped me back at my hotel and I took a nap.  When I awoke, the skies looked a little less rainy, so I headed back to the spots that Ron had showed me that morning.  After watching for Prairie Falcons for over two hours (mostly in the rain), I decided to go look for the thrashers again.  I drove up and back the road in intermittent rain with just one brief sighting.  I started for a second round and immediately saw this Sage Thrasher perched on a fence post in a brief moment of sun.

Sage Thrasher

Thrilled that I finally had a photo, I headed back to my hotel and started thinking about today.  I had planned to drive the Beartooth Highway and look for Black Rosy-Finches at the pass, about 10,000 feet of elevation.  I expected them to be right by the road.  But, I started thinking about whether or not I would be comfortable driving the road and googled “Is driving the Beartooth Highway scary”?  Well, the answer is that yes, for me, it would be as I am terrified of cliff edges.  I have no idea why I did not think about the narrow mountain road with steep ascents and decents and hairpin turns before the trip.  I fell asleep with no plan for today.

This morning, I decided that I would check Bear Canyon Road in the Pryor Mountains for Sagebrush Sparrows.  It took a while to drive from Bozeman, so I started down the road at 12:30 PM.  I did not find the sparrows, but I did receive confirmation from an expert that my recording from Thursday was indeed a Gray Flycatcher, another life bird.  Bear Canyon Road was another of those isolated spots that I love and I enjoyed it.  Here are a few images from this afternoon.

Common Raven on nest

A bird that reminded me of the Southeast US.

Loggerhead Shrike

A little sparrow that I believe is a Brewer’s Sparrow, or maybe it’s a Clay-colored Sparrow.  Birder friends, can any of you identify this bird for me?  (Update: the sparrow has been confirmed as a Brewer’s.)

Brewer's Sparrow

Brewer’s Sparrow

A view of the Pryor Mountains. Yes, that is snow on the peaks.

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