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Trip Report- SE AZ and CO

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Posted (edited)

Day 6, Pt. 1

Day 6 started early at Carr Canyon, down near Sierra Vista, in the same area we had been on Day 2. 

At the bottom of the road, Cassin's Kingbirds, Common Ravens, Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Mexican Jays were common. As we climbed, the birds started to change to more of the typical high elevation species such as Plumbeous Vireo and Yellow-eyed Junco. Some nice views of a large cliffside provided looks at a trio of White-throated Swifts and the trip's only Peregrine Falcon.

48352461406_9ea767bbf8_k.jpgIMG_2238 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

We had a couple of mountain warblers to clean up, and it wasn't long before we heard our first Painted Redstart. This bird proved difficult to photograph, unlike the nearby pair of Hepatic Tanagers. 

48352642262_ac00e03862_k.jpgIMG_2263 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352638827_1573db1a2d_k.jpgIMG_2300 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352599242_7b5f25b92a_k.jpgIMG_2336 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352637372_9120877040_k.jpgIMG_2362 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

A bit down the road, we saw a jay in a distant tree top.

48352601322_9f664832de_k.jpgIMG_2405 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

At first, we assumed it was a Mexican Jay, but upon getting a bit closer, we realized it was actually our lifer Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. This was exciting as we did not necessarily intend on seeing this bird at this location. 

48352602257_26ffdb7822_k.jpgIMG_2545 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352601687_0dcbb51f20_k.jpgIMG_2531 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Edited by blackburnian
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Day 6, Pt. 2

Shortly after we left the jays, we arrived at the first campground, the main birding location in Carr Canyon. I believe its called Reef CG. We had a very specific reason for coming here, and that reason let itself be known literally the second I got out of the car. Throughout a couple of hours, we would see many of these little reasons, more commonly known as  Buff-breasted Flycatchers

48352469391_97668dc7c5_k.jpgIMG_2567 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352487331_e30392ff64_k.jpgIMG_2790 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352474451_e49cec80ef_k.jpgIMG_2803 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The campground was active with House Wrens, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, and Painted Redstarts.

48352618202_96e2fbbb70_k.jpgIMG_2838 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

But it was the flycatchers and the stunning Grace's Warblers that stole the show.

48352499991_fe8544e229_k.jpgIMG_2662 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352496886_bf5cb37fb4_k.jpgIMG_2677 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352471946_0c1ce50e79_k.jpgIMG_2681 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352628797_a28089d4e1_k.jpgIMG_2720 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352625907_f17c232f37_k.jpgIMG_2729 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The drive back down the canyon proved rather uneventful, although we did run into a kinetic flock of Bushtits, our first of the trip, if I remember correctly.

 

 

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Day 6, Pt. 2

To finish out the day, we headed back to Box Canyon in the evening for try #2 at Lucifer Hummingbird. The sun set yet again on us and we ran out of light before finding the nest or the bird. 

A singing Five-striped Sparrow and 8 Lesser Nighthawks, as well as the attention-grabbing song of Canyon Wrens were roll-overs from the previous day.

But this outing was not a total loss, as we did pick up our first Black-throated Sparrows and Hooded Oriole of the trip. We also ran into a Great Horned Owl after dusk on the drive back to the hotel.

48352483526_22dc7ce32a_k.jpgIMG_2988 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352612242_0daacb283e_k.jpgIMG_3036 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48352615232_730dd5048d_k.jpgIMG_3074 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Day 7 would see some clean-up birding around Tucson and a final attempt at the Lucifer before heading east to Willcox.

 

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Day 7, Pt. 1

We awoke well before sunrise in order to beat the extreme heat that accompanies the lowlands of the southwest because we had one nagging low elevation species we had somehow not seen. To our disappointment, our main spot to look for these was closed so we accepted that we were simply going to miss this very common bird. More on that later. 

Fortunately, the Tucson sports complex was open. Why were we at the Tucson sports complex, North Ball Park #5, you ask? Because of these:

48357876132_155047cca9_k.jpgIMG_3163 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357877787_2d80249a4d_k.jpgIMG_3219 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357881297_5b06787670_k.jpgIMG_3264 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Ravens. But only when the wind blew can you see why we were after these:

48357876722_7721bcfcb6_k.jpgIMG_3195 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357741556_6a6346b417_k.jpgIMG_3179 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Chihuahuan Ravens! The white underfeathers are diagnostic. These birds don't usually nest at such low elevation, so it was a surprise to AZ birders when these guys built their nest atop a light structure at the sports complex in the heart of Tucson.

The ball park and adjacent park were quite active with other birds such as Vermilion Flycatchers, Abert's Towhees, Lucy's and Yellow Warblers, and Neotropic Cormorants, as well as some Black-necked Stilts.

48357760881_af549ea664_k.jpgIMG_3209 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357884532_a66878f57b_k.jpgIMG_3281 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357895762_1899f65774_k.jpgIMG_3288 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Back to that common bird we hadn't seen yet. At the last minute, as it was heating up and hope was fading, we heard the calls of a gnatcatcher for the first time all trip. After a brief false alarm with some Bushtits, we finally located an uncooperative family of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.

48357750866_ffdad448d3_k.jpgIMG_3312 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357755286_cce3245783_k.jpgIMG_3348 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

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Posted (edited)

Day 7, Pt. 2

After cleaning up the gnatcatcher, we headed to Box Canyon. This was our last chance to see this hummingbird here and we were desperate and a incredibly frustrated upon arriving. We searched for another hour without success. THANFULLY,  two birders arrived looking for Five-striped Sparrow, one of whom was a local who birds the road quite often. He was helping out a friend who is attempting a lower 48 Big Year. Of course, they knew exactly where the nest was. I later learned that almost everyone who found the nest found it the same way- running into others who knew where it was. After a half hour wait, we saw the most earned and satisfying lifer of the trip, a female Lucifer Hummingbird, sporting the long, downcurved bill that make them so recognizable. 

48357807066_4268da946d_k.jpgIMG_3377 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357945557_9d89907a2b_k.jpgIMG_3379 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357838156_0cb7338f36_b.jpglucifer copy by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

After an informative chat with the two birders (who got the sparrow by the way, we heard one as well, the third time in three visits to Box Canyon), we and the Big Year birder tried the nearby Florida Canyon for Black-capped Gnatcatcher, another national rarity that is regular in SE AZ. But I was not really expecting to see this bird on the trip, as they are difficult to find even where they are regular. This was true at Florida Canyon, especially seeing as how it was after 11, the time in which they usually disappear until late evening. Happy with the Lucifer, I didn't care too much about missing this bird at first, but over the course of an hour waiting at Florida Canyon the prospect became more enticing. We even heard what we thought may have been one, but never could get eyes on it. Needing to head east, we left, without a gnatcatcher. I had seen the previous day, on eBird, one had been seen at Leslie Canyon NWR, an extremely small piece of land an hour south of the Chiricahua's, but had no intention of going, as they are not usually seen there, as well as the fact that I was totally unfamiliar with this location (that also happened to be out of the way). But as we neared closer to the turn to the direction of the refuge, I couldn't resist one hail mary effort at the bird. It was late evening before we arrived. It was totally dead, aside from a brief look at a Black Bear. We couldn't even find the trail where the bird had been seen. We drove for probably 20 miles before asking a park ranger where we even were. It turns out, we had left the refuge after mile 1, as the refuge proper is very small. We turned around, thinking this little ventures as a total loss. But, somehow, on the return drive, we spotted the trailhead (totally missed it the first time). We walked down a little ways, having no idea really where to go. There were no birds around at all, just thousands of little ants covering the trail. Tired and ready to sleep, we were ready to give up. I pulled out my phone, briefly called a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, as I figured all gnatcatchers sound generally the same, as a means to try to stir ANYTHING up. Immediately a gnatcatcher came in out of nowhere, calling and agitated. I quickly stopped what I thought was futile playback, and tried to get optics on the bird. To our absolute amazement and shock, we were looking at a Black-capped Gnatcatcher

48357949882_5fcbd7566d_k.jpgIMG_3424 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357837776_ea1a91b5cd_k.jpgIMG_3426 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357832951_f63ee08dff_k.jpgIMG_3428 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The diagnostic white undertail:

48357819516_dd692178dd_k.jpgIMG_3435 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357827941_2f879e26cb_k.jpgIMG_3447 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48357958257_7ef60a4939_k.jpgIMG_5628 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

 

It was a very satisfying day of birding, with the hummingbird and our third Code 3 rarity of the trip, which also happened to be our second new gnatcatcher of the day. Day 8 we visited the famous Chiricahua's. 

Edited by blackburnian
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Day 8, Pt. 1

Day 8 would be our last day in Arizona before moving onto NM and then CO. We started early just a couple miles from our hotel in Willcox at the famous Willcox Lake. It was the first real water we had seen all trip so we added a ton of new trip birds including White-faced Ibis, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, Mexican Duck, Ruddy Duck, Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, a late American Wigeon, in addition to a ton of Black-necked Stilts and Black-crowned Night-Herons. 

48358502677_aaec44509e_k.jpgIMG_3510 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358497637_710447ab78_k.jpgIMG_3474 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358490727_d0710998ca_k.jpgIMG_3494 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358433522_570c8a6dab_k.jpgIMG_3497 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358360921_7accc15b87_k.jpgIMG_3504 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358352091_f17177db97_k.jpgIMG_3538 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358302866_1ce5ad5e67_k.jpgIMG_3551 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358480002_88dc314d2e_k.jpgIMG_3565 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358344031_60d02278af_k.jpgIMG_3571 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358306536_1e9cf98de6_k.jpgIMG_3612 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358339346_094970fd2e_k.jpgIMG_3619 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

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Day 8, Pt. 2

Some more photos of the aforementioned birds:

48358310231_91c70b772e_k.jpgIMG_3633 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358333971_9eca759e79_k.jpgIMG_3680 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358329591_820dfa4dd2_k.jpgIMG_3646 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358448707_f36dd41f04_k.jpgIMG_3690 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

While all the waterbirds were a welcome sight, we came here for the localized population of Scaled Quail. It didn't take too long for one to fly across our line of sight and into some thick vegetation. 

48358325341_e13cba1820_k.jpgIMG_3696 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48358455212_c5c7fc914a_k.jpgIMG_3701 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

But the real excitement of the morning came in the form of almost stepping on a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, an animal I desperately wanted to see on this trip.

48358318561_46c2fc7a7c_k.jpgIMG_3709 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

 

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Day 8, pt. 3

After a successful morning in Wilcox, we headed about an hour and a half east into the famous Chiricahua's, one of the most biodiverse places in the U.S. The mountains themselves are relatively remote, and somewhat difficult to access. We took the forest road from the western side, which eventually spit us out at the tiny town of Portal. When we got into decent looking habitat (large evergreens, the habitat in the Chiricahua's is closer to that of Mt. Lemmon), we pulled over and started looking for our target, the Mexican Chickadee, a bird that can only be found in the Chiricahua's, which is part of what makes the mountains special. But distractions included a large feeding flock that contained the most cooperative Cordilleran Flycatcher in history, Red-faced Warblers and Painted Redstarts, Hairy Woodpeckers, Bushtits, and many, many House Wrens. 

48447090647_dcf5b5ed1e_k.jpgIMG_3755 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48446934681_6214c3741d_k.jpgIMG_3765 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447163967_01c0b59253_k.jpgIMG_3775 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447100092_2a60564962_k.jpgIMG_3781 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447161052_fdd7be5717_k.jpgIMG_3816 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447104117_e3c0618f40_k.jpgIMG_3845 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447107912_82d2c775b9_k.jpgIMG_3909 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Amongst the chaotic feeding flock, our target eventually showed itself, as chickadees so often travel with large feeding flocks like this one.

Mexican Chickadee:

48447157922_5b1eb4ca9f_k.jpgIMG_3872 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48446951316_2c29063208_k.jpgIMG_3876 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

1 of 2 targets down. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Day 8, pt. 4

The search for target #2 in the Chiricahua's (which also happened to be the last lifer in AZ) brought us to the Cave Creek Research Station, or more accurately, their hummingbird station. It was unbelievable. Their were hummingbirds everywhere, probably upwards of 70. Rivoli's, Black-chinned, and Broad-billed made up most of the bulk, but our target Blue-throated Hummingbird was also rather abundant. 

Note: the first two pictures show a rather strange bird that was behaving unusually (hanging on the side of the feeder). It had us stumped for a bit but we figured it was a young Blue-throated simply trying to learn how to drink from a feeder. Feel free to confirm this or add thoughts. 

48446954381_91c52e5ecb_k.jpgIMG_3958 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447137652_578f459152_k.jpgIMG_3964 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447149152_542d342266_k.jpgIMG_3972 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48446982586_edff76224c_k.jpgIMG_3978 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447140997_d8efbb0ccf_k.jpgIMG_4114 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447223162_529a1b0c53_k.jpgIMG_4000 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447091506_dbf6d1886b_k.jpgIMG_4043 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447250312_1f7216eee9_k.jpgIMG_4048 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447226327_3715a81d1e_k.jpgIMG_4086 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447084871_6f8cca1708_k.jpgIMG_4100 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447229422_b0f68f8d71_k.jpgIMG_4161 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447239512_105a2856ba_k.jpgIMG_4170 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447081426_60e9f94f71_k.jpgIMG_4132 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447235942_732d617503_k.jpgIMG_4177 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447232627_5ea899fa4e_k.jpgIMG_4186 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Our last birds in the AMAZING state of Arizona included Black-throated Sparrows, Say's Phoebes, and Western Kingbirds in Portal. It was an unforgettable experience. 

 48446957566_651dc09fc6_k.jpgIMG_4189 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447121737_7ccf3064a2_k.jpgIMG_4281 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48446963376_dd913e9f31_k.jpgIMG_4319 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48447128497_c9c0421715_k.jpgIMG_4331 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Edited by blackburnian
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Day 9

Day 9 was by far the most unsuccessful day of the trip, so I will keep this brief. It was mostly a travel day through NM and up to CO Springs. We did bird for a couple of hours near Albuquerque and missed all of our targets including Gray Vireo, Black-chinned Sparrow, Crissal Thrasher, and Juniper Titmouse. We only managed a ton of Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays.

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Day 10, Pt. 1

We awoke early, excited for our first day ever birding in CO. Before moving on to Rocky Mtn. NP, we needed to clean up a couple of birds around CO Springs. Following an eBird tip, we eventually found ourselves on Squirrel Creek Rd., a seemingly obscure country road through the beautiful CO grasslands. Before even getting anywhere near the eBird coordinates, we heard and then saw our target, Cassin's Sparrow. This particular bird was putting on quite the aerial show. There were many Lark Buntings skylarking in addition to the Cassin's Sparrows.

48522129262_f6ded84a6b_k.jpgIMG_4496 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48521997241_8069ce5b4b_k.jpgIMG_4499 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522132817_73ed46b44e_k.jpgIMG_4521 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522162112_faee7d5b8f_k.jpgIMG_4523 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The road turned out to be not only beautiful, but very birdy. In addition to the Cassin's Sparrows and Lark Buntings, Western Meadowlarks, Swainson's Hawks, and Black-billed Magpies were common. A Red-headed Woodpecker made an appearance and a small country pond held Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal. 

48522157317_8a1e5819ea_k.jpgIMG_4551 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48521985506_55d8ec14af_k.jpgIMG_4589 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The real excitement of the morning came when we stumbled upon a stunning Golden Eagle sitting on a power pole. This is a bird we really wanted to see, as we had only ever seen them once before, and at a distance as well. We had brief, but spectacular views, although the pictures didn't come out. Just mere moments after the Golden Eagle left our view a beautiful, ghostly Ferruginous Hawk zipped by. Seeing those two species in quick succession was one of the highlights of the trip.

48522147157_f3366b1486_k.jpgIMG_6510 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522135542_9568500449_k.jpgIMG_4600 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48521982156_3dba464424_k.jpgIMG_4602 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

 

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Day 10, Pt. 2

After the Squirrel Creek, we headed back into the west side of CO Springs, where it borders the Rockies, in an attempt to find a Virginia's Warbler. We searched for over an hour without luck, although the forest was alive with Spotted Towhees, Plumbeous Vireos, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, and one Ovenbird. 

48521970446_1c47169c00_k.jpgIMG_4665 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Just as we were losing hope, we heard a warbler song coming from high in a pine, a Virginia's Warbler, our last warbler lifer of the trip. 

48521971211_e089cc2c4e_k.jpgIMG_4707 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522143412_3c21e4d73f_k.jpgIMG_4744 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Having gotten both of our targets around CO Springs, we headed north to Estes Park, a sleepy mountain town at the base of the mighty Rocky Mtn. National Park. We booked small cabin for the night, and headed into the park, but not before the trip's first Prairie Falcon swooped by. 

I'm just going to go ahead and say it: Rocky Mountain National Park may be the most beautiful place I've ever been. I loved every second I spent there. Both the scenery and the birds were spectacular and I cannot wait to go back. 

The first place we pulled off and birded was a small boardwalk surrounded by wetlands called Beaver Meadows. Here we found incredibly cooperative Wilson's Warblers and Lincoln's Sparrows. 

48522154971_a807416d44_k.jpgIMG_4774 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522159521_3d7c4871ff_k.jpgIMG_4813 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522164486_a64105b56a_k.jpgIMG_4787 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

After this, we climbed.

 

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Day 10, Pt. 3

And boy did we climb. But as we neared 10k feet, the weather began to change. Eventually, we were in a full on snow storm, in the middle of June no less. But it was beautiful. The snow-covered mountains were jaw-dropping. Common Ravens, American Pipits, and White-crowned Sparrows made up most the inhabitants of the snow fields. A hungry Coyote was also hunting the fields, allowing cars ridiculously close. It was by far the closest I've ever been to one.

48522237791_51fb3344ec_k.jpgIMG_5111 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522203916_997cf22016_k.jpgIMG_7222 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

But we were at Rocky Mtn. for two birds, which also happened to be my two most wanted of the entire trip: White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. I've always been fascinated with high elevation birds, and these are two of the prime examples. 

The first place we pulled off was a random one. We saw a bunch of people slipping on a massive ice field while walking out to an overlook and figured it looked fun. It was cold. Really cold. Once we made it to the overlook, we noticed the first of hundreds of Yellow-bellied Marmots, as well as some brave Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Steller's Jay.

 48522208401_2b0452b6aa_k.jpgIMG_7128 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

As we were looking over the alpine tundra, we noticed a small, brown bird right in front of us. To our absolute amazement, without even trying, we found a female Brown-capped Rosy-Finch! Another bird, a male, popped up near it, and we enjoyed this pair for a good-half hour. It was my favorite bird and experience of the trip (until the next day). 

48522200836_9f782061ce_k.jpgIMG_6979 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522213751_80e3bf4357_k.jpgIMG_7014 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522365897_b42c235793_k.jpgIMG_7077 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522219591_03e95c84fc_k.jpgIMG_7171 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522225181_95a5ef244e_k.jpgIMG_7180 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522190236_18b33a038f_k.jpgIMG_7188 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

The ptarmigan did not prove so easy. As we got closer to the top, Medicine Bow, the premiere spot for ptarmigan maybe in the lower 48, the weather worsened. We tried to wait it out in the gift shop at the top, but eventually decided to head out into the trail in the storm. Visibility was incredibly poor, and the temps were in the low 30s. We spent two cold, long, wet hours on the trail searching aimlessly for the well-camouflaged Ptarmigan without success. Tired and defeated, we headed back down the mountain, with a plan to try again in the morning. The only other birds on the trail were pipits, White-crowned Sparrows, and a couple of Mountain Bluebirds. 

48522167591_e02de87717_k.jpgIMG_5185 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

 48522171651_62b63639a2_k.jpgIMG_5196 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

On the return trip, we did stumble upon several large herds of Elk, which are always cool to see. They were even present just outside our window at our rental cabin in Estes Park. 

48522233241_012963a951_k.jpgIMG_5222 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522185176_484d28a6b8_k.jpgIMG_5227 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522175236_e678c055f4_k.jpgIMG_5253 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

48522399557_0343e8d091_k.jpgIMG_5272 by Ryan Justice, on Flickr

Overall, a exhausting but rewarding first day in CO.

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