In retrospect, eating two deliciously-disgusting 7-Layer Burritos from Taco Bell twenty minutes before a semi-difficult trail run probably wasn’t the best idea. However, after the effects subsided (the effects being extremely painful abdominal cramps and the need to stop every 300 feet to wait out the nauseating sensation of needing to heave beans, rice, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato all over the place), Welch and I got some pretty good SWSA birds.
We were running on the Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows, which is situated in Larimer County right between Pinewood Springs and Estes Park at an elevation of 7335 feet. From the road, the trail takes a steep downhill descent to a tributary of the Little Thompson River, which it follows for three miles up canyon to “Homestead Meadows,” a mountain park chalk full of old homesteads, all of which have been abandoned since the 1930’s. In addition to the historical value of this site, the habitat conflagration of lower-elevation Ponderosa Pines and higher-elevation firs along with a smattering of Quaking Aspens make for some superb birding.
One of many dilapidated structures.
After the Taco Bell side-effects had subsided and I was able to concentrate my full attention on birds and footing, so not to have a rocky wipeout, I started picking up birds instantly . . . a Western Warbling-Vireo doing its “Figure-8” call from the Narrowleaf Cottonwoods along the creek, a Cordilleran Flycatcher pseet-ing from somewhere on my left, and a Western Tanager warbling its husky robin-like song from somewhere up the hill. Once we actually got to the meadows, we really started racking up the list with Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dusky Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Lincoln’s Sparrow all making their appearance.
As we trudged back up the final hill to the parking lot (it seemed a whole lot shorter coming down…), we calculated the total of new Sweaty Sanderling species . . . six!
But that was two days ago. This evening, Joel and I took the pain and did our third trail run in three days. This time, our trail of choice was the Antelope Trail nearby our hometown of Lyons. Although we often drive/run by the turn-off for this trailhead, I’ve only been past the trailhead once, and that was only for a few hundred yards. After the first mile of twisting-turning, uphill madness through juniper enshrouded slopes (complete with Spotted Towhees, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers), the view opens up into a huge foothills meadow with a sizeable Black-tailed Prairie Dog colony. The trail skirts along this, however, and traces the edge of the Ponderosa forest. We scored two new SWSA birds, a Rock Wren calling from an isolated jumble of granite boulders and a Yellow-breasted Chat running through its eccentric collection of odd noises and sounds. The chance to explore new territory was well worth the pain and our now-dead legs.
I’m thinking about a nice, short, flat run tomorrow…
2011 SWSA Totals: