Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Colorado Adventures 2012-Day 7

The Northern Goshawk continued to call in the morning as I was waking up.  Once again, there was still something wrong with the call that sounded like it was an imitation.  I know that Steller's Jays are good Red-tailed Hawk imitators, but I never thought of a Gray Jay being that way, especially with something like a Goshawk.  Goshawks aren't all that common, so there would have to be one regularly in the area for a Gray Jay to be able to mimic and produce it's call so well.  I quickly got up and went outside.  A Gray Jay came to greet me.  It landed on the porch for a few seconds before flying up into the surrounding aspens.  A few more Gray Jays joined with the present bird.  They started to socialize back and fourth, and I decided to follow them and listen to them more closely.  All of a sudden, one of the jays produced the perfect call of a goshawk!  I was stunned, I guess my assumption was right.  If it weren't for the two juvenile goshawks I saw yesterday, I would be dissapointed.  Birds who mimic birds to perfection usually get on my nerves, but I actually found this to be cool about the Gray Jay.  It didn't annoy me at all.  I decided to research this on the internet to see if it was common, and sure enough, I found out that Gray Jays do mock Northern Goshawks regularly.  It made me realize that a Goshawk was probably in this area actively for the Gray Jays to be immitating their call so much to a freaky almost replica degree. 

I went inside with my family to see what the plans were for the seventh day of our trip, which would be August 15th.  We had planned to go into Telluride and walk/hike around.  I decided to take the famous Gondola ride to higher elevations right off the bat.  I wanted easier access to the trails that went above treeline level.  I wanted to try for those two lifers, the White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy Finch.  As we were making plans, we decided to eat breakfast out on the big porch.  Some of our food spilled, and a Gray Jay came to eat it.  It kept returning and coming back time-and-time again.  My family was amazed at the sight of the tame bird.  We all started to line the porch with food.  Three Gray Jays were now taking turns and visiting the porch.  Mom was snapping pictures, and everyone was enjoying the sight of these fearless birds.  At times, they would land literally a foot or two away from us.  Once eating and storing food away for later, they would glide into the porch as if they were coming in for an urgent landing.  They went wherever the food was.  I then had the crazy idea of "sharing the cabin with a Gray Jay".  Because they are so tame and fearless, I thought be putting a line of food leading into a cabin, we might have a cool bird indoors in the same cabin as us.  I put a line of food into the cabin a few feet.  Sure enough, the brave Gray Jays didn't care, and hopped right into the entry way of the cabin.  From fearless feeding habits to perfect Northern Goshawk imitations, I gained a huge respect for the Gray Jay in a matter of a few hours!  And a few hours later, my family and I were still enjoying them..

After the Gray Jay show, we went into town.  I took the Gondula Ride up to one of the three stations where it stops at, St. Sophia.  St. Sophia was beautiful, and it was well over 10,000' feet in elevation.  From the station, there was quick access to the See Forever Trail.  True to it's name, the See Forever Trail had spectacular views.  It was a horribly steep climb up this trail, but access to tundra and rocky slopes above treeline was a given.  Ptarmigan and Rosy Finches were on my mind as I was heading up the trail.  I regularly had to make stops to preserve and catch my breath.  The way up had amazing scenery, as well as an abundance of Gray Jays and a male Pine Grosbeak (who stayed too distant for my camera).  This day was really all about the Gray Jay!

Exhausted, alone, and tired, I finally made it above the treeline, where I could really see forever!  I found the tundra habitat and rocky slopes my two lifers prefer, but I didn't have a lot of time to look and unfortunetely had to head back.  I wasn't used to the elevation of being above 12,000 feet, and when I realized how alone I was without anyone nearby, I freaked out.  I was at least glad I made it to the habitat and got to walk along tundra and try for the lifers.  However, a Hammond's Flycatcher right at the treeline's highest point was a very good consolation.  Here are a few views of the See Forever Trail!

After a long hike up and a long hike down to town after hiking See Forever, I was exhausted.  I have never been so tired and sore in all my life, as it was hard going up as well as going down the trail.  Things got even more difficult as I took the Telluride Trail towards the town of Telluride instead of taking the Gondola down from St. Sophia to the same spot.  I went home and crashed, hoping I would get another shot at Rosy Finch and Ptarmigan for a longer period of time.  This day would go down as the day of the Gray Jay!


Go to Day 8

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