Trip reports

"A Rocky Mountain Meander"

"A Rocky Mountain Meander"
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Friday, 18 March 2011

"A Rocky Mountain Meander with Paul Denning took place on Friday March 18th. Paul is an old friend of the group and was a very welcome speaker on the night. His talk covered what seemed to a large part of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana with a bit of South Dakota added as a bonus. The trip he took us on was not just a birdwatching trip we saw several important historical and wildlife sites as well as mammals, snakes and insects. So all in all, something for everyone.
We started in the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.This contains the spectacular ruins of the cliff dwelling villages of the Anasazi people who lived from roughly 550 to 1300 A.D. Here we saw not only the ruins but American robin and American wren, the ruddy duck in its natural habitat, Wilson's phalarope and muskrat.
From here we drove into Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming. Paul described Wyoming as big and flat and his photos proved the point. It took 3 days to drive across the state on roads as straight as a rule.
The Black Hills of Dakota were beckoning us however. Here we saw herds of buffalo in Custer State Park. Paul then showed us lark sparrow on the way to the Devil's Tower a 1200 foot high rock outcrop sacred to many native American tribes, but perhaps better known to us from the film ?lose Encounters of the Third Kind."
At the site of the battle of the Little Bighorn we saw what seemed to be a very large American Wolf Spider perhaps 4 inches across the body.
Paul then drove us along Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Otherwise more prosaically highway 296. This was what we imagine the Rockies to be like high snowy peaks, blue skies and deep blue lakes. Apart from magnificent scenery we also saw American aquilegia and Colorado chipmunk.
The road led us onward into Yellowstone National Park at a quiet time of the year. On Yellowstone lake were lesser scaup, ring necked duck and Clark's grebe. We also saw sandhill crane, mountain bluebird, violet grey swallow, brewer's blackbird. We also saw wolf, black bear and grizzly bear.
From here we went to the Grand Tetons on Box Wagon Road.. In complete contrast were the karaoke humming bird (America's smallest) and the golden eagle (one of the biggest).Bobalink were in summer plumage, ridge fritillary were on wild sunflowers.
On the Platte River stands Fort Kearney. American dipper were in the rushing meltwater while American waxwings called in the trees above. Fort Laramie has been refurbished the 1849 cavalry barracks looks as though it has just been vacated. A killdeer was performing its distraction display, so similar to our lapwing, and the ooh aah factor was provided by the cutest of killdeer chicks. Along the Old Laramie River Road were American avocets, yellow headed blackbirds, cliff swallow and prairie dogs.
Finally, back in Colorado, we saw the lark bunting the state bird. Also present were were chestnut collared longspur, and horned lark (our shore lark) As we returned towards Denver we saw apollo butterflies, big horned sheep, moose, the cute pine squirrel and the demonic looking all-black tassel eared squirrel, elk, marmot and red-tailed hawk. Whereas normally a talk ends with a sunset over the sea, but here we were a long way from the water so Paul ended with another ooh aha photo a black bear cub.
As usual Paul gave us a talk of amusing and informative anecdotes allied with some super photographs. This was a talk with something for everyone, and I think everyone who was there enjoyed it.