21 de febrero de 2024

Rao Road Trip 2021: 11 Jul – 9 Aug

Incredibly awesome Road Trip! We started in San Francisco and our end destination was seeing friends and family in Minnesota. However, along the way we saw 5 National Parks, 10 states, and 223 bird species!

To keep me busy while in the car for hours each day, I kept a notebook with tallies of every bird species we saw while driving through every county. Super painstaking but totally worth it! Highlights include: 191 Common Nighthawks in one day; Black and Forster’s Tern seen in an overflow pond; fields with Sandhill Cranes grazing; copious and conspicuous Upland Sandpipers and Burrowing Owls; flocks of migrating Franklin’s Gull; Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks soaring together; Red-headed Woodpecker; Lark Bunting flocks sallying between posts; and ridiculous amounts of Eastern and Western Kingbirds!

Our first stop was Klamath Falls, Oregon where we stayed for one day and two nights. Our main excursion was to Crater Lake. We hiked around the rim on the south side and touched the water on the north side. Stunning views of the lake despite a thin layer of smoke wafting over its surface. Got my lifer Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and Northern Goshawk. We even added Pacific-slope Flycatcher for the trip list. On the way back to our house we stopped at Wood River Wetlands where it was ridiculously humid and gross, but we heard loads of Willow Flycatchers and a grunting Virginia Rail. In the morning at our house, a small water feature in the backyard attracted both Cassin’s and Purple Finches, along with a: Hermit Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Western Tanager, and even some Mountain Chickadees. We later found a nesting Western Wood-Pewee in a tree right next to our house. We walked a couple hundred feet to a nearby beach by the lake and watched White-faced Ibis and Franklin’s Gull fly in front of the setting sun.

Next we drove to Walla Walla for one day and two nights. It was 102 degrees! Despite the searing temperature we did make it out to Bennington Lake in the morning where we saw Gray Catbirds, Black-capped Chickadees and Yellow-breasted Chats sulking in trees; Bank Swallows swarming a lake; and both Eastern and Western Kingbirds in one place for the first time. Our day concluded with some splash park time and nabbing Vaux’s Swift and Belted Kingfisher for the trip.

Next, we drove to Kalispell, Montana and stayed there for 3 days and four nights. On the way over the visibility was completely clouded with smoke from the wildfires. But when we arrived at our house we were greeted with an usual find, a Blue Jay! The next day we visited Whitefish and Smith and Foy’s lake. At Smith’s lake we heard and then saw breeding plumage Red-necked Grebes. Additionally, Black Terns were gliding around the lake. Even a Bald Eagle eventually joined the mix. At Foy’s Lake I got my FOY Trumpeter Swan and lifer Calliope Hummingbird. The next day we headed up to Glacier National Park. We went up Going-to-the-Sun Road and it was crazy!!! Completely unreal views of glaciers, mountains, and valleys. I got some really awesome black-and-white photos. We originally thought we were going to walk up to Grinnell Glacier but our plans were diverted by bears (only in Montana I tell ya). Our immense disappointment didn’t last long as we stumbled upon my lifer American Three-toed Woodpecker, Cordilleran Flycatcher, White-winged Crossbill, and Veery! We thought it couldn’t get any better but suddenly the forest opened up into an incredible view of a lake with a distant waterfall surrounded by cliffs and glaciers. We sat down to have lunch and gawk at the view. We even heard a singing Northern Waterthrush in the willows next to us. On the way back I got my lifer Black-backed Woodpecker and counted twenty three MacGillivray’s Warblers. I even saw five Townsend's Warbler gleaning and chipping in the pines. At the end of the trail some Townsend’s Solitaires and a Barrow’s Goldeneye were awesome parting gifts. We then drove down to The Logan Pass trail which is literally a sheer cliff. Amazing views! We then turned around and walked the Hidden Lake Trail and saw a Hoary Marmot and a Long-tailed Weasel dart through the taiga habitat. There were also a few singing Oriantha White-crowned Sparrows and a Calliope Hummingbird feeding on some petite mountain flowers was just a cherry on top for the outing. The next day we went back to Glacier National Park and found a family of American Dippers tucked away in a stream. We also heard loads of Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes and even the eerie song of a Varied Thrush rang through the wood. Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dusky Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Pacific Wren, and a Northern Waterthrush also joined the forest symphony. Near the parking lot a flycatching Red-naped Sapsucker, singing Slate-colored Fox Sparrow, and a pair of Vesper Sparrows waited for us.

Finally, leaving Glacier National Park we drove right through Yellowstone National Park on the way to Jackson Hole. We stopped at every spot on the westside of Yellowstone at dusk. We saw Old Faithful and some cute Tree Swallow babies at Paint Pots and the Midway Geyser Basin. We stayed the night in Jackson Hole. The next day I woke up at dawn and walked around the neighborhood. I got ridiculous views of Oriantha White-crowned Sparrows and even a Moose and her calf! Later I found a pair of Calliope Hummingbirds; a pair of Rufous Hummingbirds; and even a pair of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. Three pairs of three different types of Selasphorus just outside our house!!! I also heard a Hammond’s Flycatcher, Black-billed Magpie, and even a singing Lincoln’s Sparrow. At about 8 o’clock we drove to Teton National Park. Over the next two days we hiked for 12 miles, swam in a lake, and rafted down a stream. I was stoked to see my first ever Pink-sided Dark-eyed Junco and the slightly less impressive Brewer’s Sparrow. We had a very close encounter with singing Dusky Flycatchers and Yellow Warblers alike. Many a Western Tanagers, and Lazuli Buntings dotted the hikes adding bits of color. We ended the day with a beautiful sunset and Bison Burgers. To top it off, on the drive back we heard a Long-billed Curlew singing in the fields!

Finally, we gunned it straight through Wyoming, and South Dakota. Of course the mandatory Wall Drug stop was initiated. We also saw some truly epic Sturgis bound motorcycles. Finally, after two back-to-back days of driving for 14 hours we reached Minnesota. There we spent a lot of time with family but also had some cool birding moments. We nabbed the Neotropic Cormorant, Field Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, and some Purple Martins too. We also experience the phenomenon of Purgatory Lake drying up. This turned the lake into a wetland that attracted: Least Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers, Baird’s Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Blue-winged Teals, and Semipalmated Plovers. This was also the first year that Sedge Wrens were recorded at that site.

On the way back to San Francisco we stopped at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. I even saw the legendary White-winged Junco!!! We also stopped at the Badlands where I saw some Horned Larks hopping around a Prairie Dog Town. We even caught a glimpse of a Prairie Falcon flying tranquilly above the still prairie. Well I say tranquilly but not two minutes later a freak storm set in. We experience lightning, thunder, heavy rain, and even a tornado while driving back.

The next day we drove from Rapid City, where we were staying, to Salt Lake City. We saw the Great Salt Lake! Man it was so cool. It really reminded me of the Salton Sea, from the smell to the look. The banks were lined with California and Franklin’s gulls for literally miles. As we were walking its (receded) salty shores a couple of Wilson's Phalaropes quickly flew past us. After seeing the sea, we went back into town where I nabbed a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay at the very last minute and we even got to see the infamous California Gull memorial statue in Temple Square (go look up the history, it is very interesting).

Finally, after one entire month we drove home. A salty pond with Black-necked Stilts in Nevada closed out the trip for us.

Publicado el febrero 21, 2024 03:03 MAÑANA por rajanrao rajanrao

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