Thursday, June 28, 2018

Heartland to Home!

Continued from last post.....

June 4th
Jackson Lake State Park, near Orchard, CO

SO yes we got an electric site here under this big Cottonwood turned out to be so buggy! And we had these gypsy moths hitching a ride with us for days!  They crept into every crease between the doors and the door insulation strip....hundreds of them!!  If I had investigated a wee bit more we could have gotten a site by the water that had more sun but less bugs....A trade off of sorts.  But we had our fans to keep us cool, and the screen kept the bugs out the moth attack happened after the sun went down I assume. Remember that COE campground in Kansas where I saw all those butterflies, I had to move to a different site cause they were getting in the van.

June 5th 

Jackson Lake 

The Lake was ocean like huge, with waves!  Lots of DC Cormorants, White Pelican, California Gulls, 

White head, dark eye, orange dot on lower mandible with a black smudge near it, dark grey back, black wing tips, yellow legs, 

Ring Billed Gulls, Barn Swallows, 

and Lark Sparrow 

Lark Sparrow is one of my western favs, the ones in Colorado are plumper and look more refined compared to the ones down in TX and AZ, they are leaner and more rugged looking. 

Just gliding by... 

On the way out we stopped off at the dam where sometimes Curlew Sandpipers have been seen, not today we had more Yellow Warbler in the trees, and White Pelican in the air...

In the morning we left after taking our time, and traveled along Hwy 6 that loosely follows the South Platte River.  Along the way we took a quick look at Prewitt Reservoir...and the fun thing I saw there was a distant Heron Rookery with awkward looking brand new herons trying out long legs.  

And more White Pelican

We picked up Hwy 138 in a North-easterly direction to just west of the town of Crook, and Tamarack Ranch State Natural Area.  It is mostly set aside for hunting but this time of year it's safe to enter!  We took a road into the riparian area of the South Platte.  Lots of Redheaded Woodpecker, like 8 we saw. 

Along with the Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, I found this Philly Vireo that ended up being just a Red Eyed,....danggit! 

I really didn't see the line as that strong, till I reviewed a different shot of him...and the lemony belly distorted my thinking. I've never seen a red eyed back home with a lemony belly they are always English Linen Tan!

...this one below is definitely a  Dicksissel singing out on the millet spikes.  I love the ones that there is no question on what it is don't you? If it's an empid, sparrow, or gull you can bet I'm wrong 50% of the time.
(add vireos too) and we won't even go into all those dang yellow warblers.

Eventually the heat drove us away...we made our way northeast to Nebraska via I-76, and to this lovely boondock by Lake McConaughy.  I imagined I was  Robinson Crusoe, but this was Nebraska not Mas a Tierra.  


Our Robinson's Crusoe Camp on Wednesday the 5th

Still if felt like a deserted island, we could see an organized campground about 5 miles away on the Western Shore of the lake. The dogs and I took a dip in the water to cool off, and then sat out to dry off before turning in for the day...when the no see 'ums began to feed on us. 

The morning the 6th kept us moving East and though the farmlands of Nebraska and into Iowa, all we did all day was drive, and stop for more gas to drive some more...gas on this return trip ranged from a high of $3.09 in Walden, per gallon, to $2.45 in SC.  We rolled through towns large and small.  I-76 had emptied into I-80 back along the CO/NE state line, so we followed 80 East.   Thursday we stopped at Anita Lakes State Park in Iowa, (pictured below) for the night...we got an electric site for $16.  A really nice park and later a terrific thunder storm cooled it off so nice we didn't even need the fans, It was a little scary when one of the park rangers came around banging on our door and said go to the bathhouse if the winds got any worse there was a tornado warning till 8:45 pm!  I should have taken photos on the next day about 9 miles east of the park 2 semi's had been blown off the road and each one lay on it's side...pretty scary stuff...

We had a Common Yellowthroat in our camp.

And more Dicksissel 

And some tree swallow at the nest box, 

 We stayed a bit late that morning, but eventually back on the highway.

The heartland is dotted with alternative energy sources these days...

And some old fashioned things too!!

This big barn begs for a Quilt Block don't you think?...near Davenport, Iowa I took I-74 south and east past Bloomington, IL and to Le Roy, Moraine View State Park, in Illinois Where we stayed on June 7th our final camp on this trip, just before our southerly turn onto I-57, no photos of that camp as we arrived just at dark, we walked, ate, then it was lights out and sleep.

Friday June 8th we left early like just after dawn...and it was hammer down time, which I despise, but what I do while all these miles roll over my odometer is to recap all the awesome sights I have seen and relive the best moments!   (sort of go into a trance, like a Fugue State) I drove all the way home 827 miles, south via I-57 to Nashville,  

Nashville Skyline

picked up I-40 East and then I-26 East at Asheville, NC  then later onto I-20 East at Columbia, and arrived home at 2 am  Saturday Morning!  Long drive but I was ready to be home!!  By the time this posts Mom should be back in her home right next door to me, and sis should be there too I expect a long hot summer and have no current plans beyond taking it all one day at a time! I had a very busy spring with lots of travel and I'm ready for a long "staycation" now. 

Every day is a new Adventure.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prairies to Grasslands

Wednesday June 4 we got up early and started out on the auto tour of the Pawnee National Grasslands.  We started at the corner in the lower right of this map.  In front of us was a red jeep from Chicago with 3 birders on board, they had high hopes of seeing Mountain Plover, I hope they did; I lost track of them somewhere they may have turned back I never saw them again...

This is an outline of the birding auto loop, it is about 20 miles or so of gravel road through the grasslands.  There are numbered stops along the way but if you visit, keep track of this map so you don't get turned around as roads not seen on this map are present and it become confusing. The flyers pocket was empty so I took this photo of the drive good thing there are few landmarks to orient you to anything except the road. 

The Grasslands are expansive...oil and gas leases mean you can encounter some fast moving trucks who have no or little regard for birders, so beware of this I have a brand new chip in my windshield.   

I am happy for the fences (said to keep Cows OUT of the grasslands) because it gives the birds a place to perch. 

Lark Buntings 

At one point the gravel was so deep I nearly got stuck...and with no cell phone bars I had to wonder how the heck I was gonna deal with that but fortunate for me suddenly the DLEX spurted forward and out of the rocky road mix!

Female Lark Bunting

Saw lots of the Lark Bunting, the CO state bird, both males, females, and some young.  The Grassland was vibrant with yellow everywhere.  

and awesome waving grasses mixed with mariposa lily. 

some of the taller stuff made great perches for the multitude of Western Meadowlark with their beautiful songs...

And also Horned Larks, who also have a beautiful song...

And just as I had figured another Burrowing Owl would show after I had broken the ceiling...I was able to put the Red Jeep people onto this owl much to their delight!  The had a scope and a big A$$ camera so they got some good shots!

my fuzzy not so good shot

Found a Common Nighthawk napping on this post...probably another late night out!

And not too far away from that posty found a lifer in the Cassin's Sparrow! I am happy I found this one although the Longspurs remained too far away for sighting, I got this Cassin's up close. 

Note the barring on the upper back, rounded tail, finely streaked head and overall a drab looking bird...but that was #444.

And that's no bull but this is!  He was looking lonely out there by himself...

I made many stops along the way to get out listen for the Longspurs, and once again heard but just not seen.   Literally had tons of Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, and many of these gorgeous Lark Buntings

Grasshopper Sparrow 

And I was almost certain I had a Mountain Plover, the size, shape, overall color is right, but since I've never seen one and this is the awful photo I got so I didn't even try to include it in my list for the day...and the upright posture reminded me of a pipit, I just decided to put it down as IDNK=I do not know!  If the throat had been all white, the line by the eye heavier, the beak thicker... here is another for the IDNK list!

Well you just can't peg hole them all....meanwhile the thistle and milkweed were starting to open I imagine a week later butterflies were everywhere. 

By noon the heat became unbearable, glad we got on the tour at 7:30 am had to take it slow to see or hear anything and no AC running at slow speeds unless you want to kill your battery so I was glad  when we reached Hwy 14, and we made our way down to Hwy 34 east and our camp for the night

At Johnson Lake State Park near Orchard, CO

Yes you can get a decent shower and shampoo your hair in 3 mins for 50 cents.  

Every day is a new Adventure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mountains to the Prairies

June 2nd

The Poudre River is such a wonderful part of the landscape in this area of Hwy 14, all the way to Fort Collins.  Cache la Poudre means "hide the powder"! I know weird but it's all connected to an incident of 1820 when French Trappers were caught by a snowstorm and forced to bury part of their gunpowder along the river banks..strange right! 

In one area the canyon walls come in close and it is really an awesome drive...probably about 10 miles with the walls close in, this section is called Poudre Canyon Road. 

The roar of the water is amazing as it gallops toward the South Platte.   This river has its origins in the Northern parts of Rocky Mtn' National Park! If you recall when I was there last year I pointed it out down in the valley below.  So you can google it up if want to know more!  One thing I will say there are some fantastic campgrounds along  this route and I chose to stop at Kelly Flats. I got a great spot right by the river. If  you follow that link to our campground location you will see as you move along the highway many campgrounds and trust me they were all practically full.  So get in early or you won't get a spot. 

Site #8...We got in early the sun was still strong, so I put up my canopy...helped to create some shade...and once the sun set it cooled down to where I needed to be in my sleeping bag with my quilt on top of that too. 

I wanted to have a nap with the cool breeze coming through the van, the sound of the Poudre tumbling by, but that never happened...too many camp chores to do with the dogs there is very little time just to sit and do nothing, One is getting tangled up on their tether, one wants water,. while one is barking at the voices coming from the closest's a 3 dog circus!

The river was right behind the van...

 I put my chair in the shade and did a little journal writing and had a cool drink, while I watched the river roll by....I filled my all purpose bucket with cold river water and sunk my bottle of Black Tea in it to chill... my reward for the day. Later I dunked my head in that same bucket of water and shampooed my hair! It was COLD.  I can heat the water right on my stove in the bucket if I want but I enjoyed the shock!!

Not long after sitting down I had a Lazuli Bunting land on a branch right by the water... too slow I didn't get outta my chair in time to get a photo..then this Cordilleran Flycatcher came by with some nesting material in his/her mouth

It was a very peaceful campsite, sort of tucked away from the main campground the last one before the tent walk in sites, and the sign said no RV 's or Trailers beyond this point, so no generators! Yippee.  It was perfect for me $11 with my seniors pass,  I thought of staying an extra day but I was eager to keep after breakfast and a long dog walk we broke camp and skedaddled. 

Not long after we left found this side road, I spotted some flowers, a little tributary flowed here more of a creek, and above in the tall trees I heard this Warbling Vireo.  

There was another bird something large and yellow but I missed it, never got my entire eyes on it...Back on Hwy 14 we passed one of those areas where rafting is do-able...

I will never forget the time my sis and I went rafting in the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs...sooo  thrilling.  Before you can count to 10 I was close to Fort Collins and my next planned stop...then WHAM look at the sign. 

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area...South to hwy 287 to Hwy 1 N,  then 15 N Rawhide Flats rd....Dogs not allowed and in the hand out at the Kiosk, it says Dogs not allowed even IN THE CAR! So dang-it.   

But the approach road was quite long like 7 miles or so.  I came up here hoping for Chestnut Collared Longspurs.  And they were there but not one showed himself, all heard only I played my phone app call and song,  and they answered so I know they were they but I don't count heard only for the first sighting...but lets see what did show up along the fence line!

Blue Grosbeak 

More Pronghorn Antelope

And there's an established Buffalo herd...

Aspen Daisy thrives on the prairie...

Vesper Sparrow
(white eye ring, streaked head & chest, white throat, rufous shoulder patches)

Lark Bunting

And tons of the buzzy grasshopper sparrows...

This morning dove had a great view from her barbed wire perch. 

Some type of Vetch?

The road is a bit dusty and bumpy. 

Lots of Horned and Meadowlark  

Once we got to the Entry Booth I told the nice lady I had to turn around and she felt sorry for me, but not enough to let me sneak in with my pack of canines we headed back down the bumpy road and eventually back south the way we had come and turned East on CR 100 to the community of Nunn, then south on Hwy 85 to Pierce and picked up Hwy 14 East again to the town of Briggsdale, and North on 77, to: 

Where we found a campsite for the evening, in the Pawnee National Grasslands.   We arrived sort of late in the day so it was dog walks, dinner, and then off to up bright and early and did the same dog walks, breakfast and had coffee by the rising sun..

Everyone began to stir. Annie sure wanted to chase this guy...we had a little disagreement about it.  

Morning Dew...

After we packed up we headed right up to the Auto Tour route of the Grassland. 

Up Next!

Every day is a new Adventure.