Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Colorado Adventures 2012-Day 2

Now Vallecito Lake is huge.  I mean, really huge!  When we pulled in at night at Eagle's Nest Cabins, it took awhile to get to our cabin after driving along the western perimeter of the reservoir.  It was nothing but a beautiful sight once I got out of the cabin in the morning.  The lake was beautiful but the surroundings caught my attention even more.  Several rivers and creeks flowed into the reservoir.  For this trip to Colorado, I had a list of six potential lifers or so of birds to see for the first time in my life.  Pine Grosbeak was one of them, and was the only bird on that list I thought I could see the first few days.  When the morning came on our first full day, August 10th, I was dying to get outside!  Besides the life birds, there were several other species I was going to see for only the second time of my life.


Once I got outside, the scenery surrounding the lake was breathtaking.  I thought, "this is definetely not Arizona!"

The birding got good very quick.  Minutes into my hike, I heard a call that I was unfamiliar with.  Turns out it was one of the birds I had never heard but seen once before....a Black-billed Magpie.  During the course of the trip to Colorado, I was to see an abundance of this species.  This awesome bird can be found in northeastern Arizona also in a few locations, but isn't so easy as Colorado.  During this first day, I probably saw thirty Black-billed Magpies after seeing two while driving through Colorado in 2005 for my aunt's wedding.  Also, Evening Grosbeaks flew around everywhere, a species I have ever only seen once prior to this trip.  Broad-tailed Hummingbirds flew overhead.  MacGillivray's, Yellow, Wilson's, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were four breeding warblers that were found in the same area closeby.  It was also neat to be in the breeding range of the White-crowned Sparrow, something else I hadn't seen before of a species that winters abundantly in Arizona.  

Before we came to stay at Lake Vallecito for two nights, I read about a pleasant forest road that travels through higher elevations, which is called Middle Mountain Road.  The road sounded like a great road for birding, and a good chance of getting a look at my first ever Pine Grosbeak.  It travels through higher elevations up to treeline level for about 11 miles.  Luck hit me, and I saw on a map that this road was very close to where we were staying.  I decided to hike the road hoping to find good birding over the first few miles.  Doug, who owns Eagle's Nest Cabins where we spent the night, said it was only a 1/2 mile away from the cabin.  He did tell me about a big Black Bear who other people had been seeing along the first two miles of the road.  I wasn't thinking about any bear though, but was focusing on building a new state bird list, with Pine Grosbeak being my hopeful.  Birds were cooperative during the hike, and I was concentrating on finding as many as a could.  As I was searching a few thickets, I happened to look at the road ahead of me, and there was the big Black Bear right in front of me!  It was walking away from me, but I was still very scared of it.  I backed away as fast as I could before it disapeared back into the forest.  It never turned around and saw me, and I didn't want it to, especially since I was by myself.  I did manage to somewhat get a picture of it on my video camera. 

I also got a new lifer mammal, a Least Chipmunk.

Before this trip, the Black-capped Chickadee was close to being a lifer.  I had only seen it once in a South Dakota trip to the Black Hills in 2000 (which I didn't spend time birding).  Middle Mountain Road gave me good looks at both Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, my first ever double Chickadee day!

A family of Dusky Grouse was also very exciting to see!

Throughout the morning, species from the birdlist that I also saw and heard included Olive-sided Flycatcher, Townsend's Solitaire, Williamson's Sapsuckers, Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-breasted, Pygmy, and White-breasted Nuthatches; both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Clark's Nutcracker, Belted Kingfisher, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskins, and Warbling Vireos.  Vallecito Lake held five Ospreys, Canada Geese, Mallard, Common Merganser, Green-winged Teal, and Great Blue Heron.  Here is a shot that gives an idea of how big the expansive Vallecito Lake is!

Later in the day, I got amazing looks at Evening Grosbeaks.  They were everywhere throughout the area of this large lake, and were the highlight of this area for me.  Back in 2001, I found a female Evening Grosbeak in the Greer area in Arizona, and hadn't seen one since.  This bird was cooperative for me here a Vallecito to the extra degree, and I got plenty of good looks at the birds as I was really hoping for!

This was the cabin we stayed at by Lake Vallecito, one of the Eagles Nest Cabins and Homes.  Doug and Connie and provided a great stay.


Go to Day 3

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