Monday, November 24, 2008

800 up!!!

Phew, what a mission that was!!
7 days and 4000 miles later, and we're in Portland, Oregon. We arrived at Colin's parents place yesterday afternoon after a furiously paced trek across the country.
From Long Point, we drove non-stop for 24 hours to Kansas ,where we stopped for a short while at Quivira National Preserve for a bit of birding. This was an impressive wetland site, with large numbers of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, along with smaller numbers of Canada and White-fronted Geese, and assorted other wildfowl. We had a few good smaller birds with Loggerhead Shrike being a nice lifer as well as a Harris's Sparrow at some other site back along the road.
From Quivira we carried on in to Colorado, seeing very little until the last few kilometres of plains before the Rocky Mountains started, where we had a stonking Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon perched up on adjacent telegraph poles, giving fanastic views. We stayed in the Rocky Mountains for a few days, picking up some quality mountain birds, like Pine Grosbeak, Clarks Nutcracker , Stellers and Grey Jays and Three-toed Woodpecker. Unfortunately the weather had been too good to push Rosy-finches down to accessible areas, i'll have to try again for them some time in the future.

We pushed on in to Wyoming seeing Barrows Goldeneye, Western Grebe and Trumpeter Swan on roadside lakes and pools and arrived in the legendary Yellowstone National Park. The only new bird in Yellowstone was an American Dipper, my 800th bird species of the year. The highlght of Yellowstone however, was the mammals ,we had crippling close views of grazing hordes of Bison and Elk, and hunting Coyotes and Red Fox. The only budget acommodation available in Yellowstone at this time of year was camping, so we set up at Mammoth Campsite expecting a freezing night, luckiy iy was surprisingly warm, though when we woke up there was 2 inches of fresh snow on the tent!!! A Great Horned Owl calling from a tree above the tent was a nice disturbance in the middle of the night.

Overall it was an excellent trip across the country, we managed to do it fairly quickly, and on a decent budget thanks to some unbelievably low gas prices (for a european at least). We also saw a pretty decent selection fo birds considering a total lack of planning, we pretty much decided where to go each day by picking a random spot on the atlas each morning!!

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