Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Birding the Rockies. Rocking the Birdies.


We take off about 8:30 am, heading for the mountains near Estes Park. We are on the hunt for rosy-finches.

I have been reading the rare bird alerts, and there were rosy-finches at an inn, in a place called Allenspark, northwest of Denver. We go to I-70 and head east. We take the I-76, which angles up to the I-25, at which point we head north. After a half hour or more, we turn west on Colorado 66, headed for Lyons.

On the way, we come to a wonderful pullout next to a small rushing river and we can both smell a certain something about this habitat, figuratively speaking. I'm happy to announce that I spot the pair of American Dippers first. We watch them work the streamside, the rocks, and dive under the water for their meal. I take photos, but the dippers just like little black dots.

They slowly work their way around a bend, and we high five. Always fun birds to happen onto.

We continue on, collecting some nice trip birds. We pass through Ferncliff, then arrive at the Fawn Brook Inn. There are lots of feeders and quite a few birds. We excitedly scan the grounds and feeders, but after a half hour or so, we bump into the owner, who says that the rosy-finches have departed, and are higher up the mountains now, on their nesting territories. It's been too warm for too long.


Still we have a pleasant time walking around the small village of Allenspark. Is it a park or is it a spark? I like to think it's a spark, but I reckon not. We see an interesting black-billed magpie, which has a white bill. It's not a yellow-billed magpie, but has some sort of color variation on the bill.

We continue on toward Estes Park, passing Mt. Meeker, then a wonderful church built of stone.


We arrive at a lake and find Ring-necked Ducks, who have come here to mate, but they are all shivering their respective feathered timbers because there is a cold wind blowing across the ice-rimmed lake. There are also mallards, ravens and Canada Geese.


We hop back into the truck and crank the heater up a little, as we head out and downhill to Estes Park. We find a shopping center and Sharon orders a chocolate gelato, while I give instructions at the fruit shake place on how to make a root beer freeze. They don't get the proportions right, and it's too thin, having not enough ice cream. But still it's good.

We go home through Boulder, taking a different route home for the different scenery and we're home about 5:30 pm.

It's Tuesday night, so after dinner finds us in front of the TV, watching American Idol.

Driving to the Mountains Birds: American Dipper, Belted Kingfisher.

Allen Spark Birds: Cassin's Finch, Mountain Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Say's Phoebe, Brown-headed Cowbird, Pygmy Nuthatch.

Allenspark to Estes Park Birds: Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, Ravens

No Life Birds Today.
Life Birds Still Stand At: 4

Trip Birds Today: 4 (The dipper, kingfisher, cowbird and the Ring-necked Duck)
Trip Birds Total: 104

Spend the Night: Jeff and Shani's Driveway. Free

Miles Today (on our pickup): 158
Total Pickup Trip Miles: 2555


Wednesday, April 30, 2008. Typical Day at the Weeses.


Sharon takes the kids to school, and stays with Tommy in his kindergarten class, where he introduces his grandma, who has a trailer and is from California.

After lunch, I go pick up the kids and bring them back.

Later I gas up at the local Conoco where there is this small problem. My truck needs 87 grade fuel, but they don't have 87. The low grade is 85, and the next grade is 88 or 89. Anyway, I decide to get half a tank of one and half a tank of the other, making the average be about 87.

Wednesday evening is Awana night, at their church, so we go along. It's incredible that their church and their school and their house and their gas station and their grocery market and Shandra's job, not to mention their bowling alley, are all close together, within a couple of miles of each other. Poor Jeff has the commute out to the airport to contend with twice a day for four days every week.

It's a pretty typical day around the Weese household. The kids sleep in the trailer again, though Tommy decides he wants to sleep inside.

At the School Bird: Sharp-shinned Hawk.

No Life Birds Today.
Life Birds Still Stand At: 4

Trip Birds Today: 1
Trip Birds Total: 105

Spend the Night: Jeff and Shani's Driveway

Miles Today (on our pickup): 59
Total Pickup Trip Miles: 2614


Thursday, May 1, 2008. Our Last Day at Shani's.


We wake up, and holy smoly, it starts snowing.


Sharon's story of visiting Tommy's class was so fun that I decide to visit Sydney's class, who's in the first grade. I take the kids to school, where Sydney gives me a tour of the school - the library, the computer room and so forth. A bell rings, and it's off to her class.

I meet her teacher and after Syd introduces me, enjoy watching the class operate for an hour or so. They do spelling, counting, storytelling and more. Way more than I did in kindergarten. Oh that's right, we couldn't afford kindergarten. I spent that year the hard way, on the streets with my buddy Alson, whose parents couldn't afford to send him to kindergarten either. It was tough I tell you, playing all day.

I return home and Sharon has made an appointment for some kind of temporary stopgap measure for her fingernails, since she's not going to be back in time for her regular appointment in San Jose. Afterwards, Sharon goes to meet Shandra where she works, and gets introduced all around.

When she comes back home, I have decided to go back to school and visit Samantha and Mikayla too, and it'll be a surprise, since they don't know I'm coming.

I bump into Samantha out in the hall, where she's getting a drink of water. "What are YOU doing here?" she inquires, and I tell her I'm here to visit her. She's delighted and takes me in and introduces me to her teacher and to the class.

They are in the fourth grade, and are working on a presentation to give to the school board tonight, appealing for a new school. It's fascinating. When I was in the fourth grade, we didn't do anything like this. It's awesome. When that's over, the teacher, beginning with Samantha, does a timed reading test. She starts a stopwatch and Samantha reads as fast as she can for a certain amount of time, then is scored. I can't believe she can read so fast.

After an hour or so, I leave and go to Mikayla's class. She's out with another sixth grade student, to bring back the laptop carrier. It's a big think like the dining cart in the hospital, only you can lock the doors and you can also plug it in to electricity. Each of the twenty or so laptops inside are connected to the one cable, so all the batteries are being charged at the same time, when the laptops are not being used.

Mac comes in and finds me there to her great surprise. She introduces me, and I recognize one or two girls from her church. They are having a physics class, and are going to a certain website where they can do experiments. Like building a roller coaster, or shooting a bow and arrow at various angles to see how long it takes them to zero in on the bullseye of a target.

I stay till class is over, then gather the other three Weeses and we head home.

Because this is our last night here, Sharon and I take everybody out to Chili's for dinner. Everybody eats too much, of course, and we take a doggy bag home, but it's lots of fun.

We don't have to leave very early tomorrow, so the kids get one more night in the trailer. Now I didn't tell this before, but each night, just before the kids go to sleep, Shandra comes in, takes requests, then sings them a good night song. She's very good, and to a lesser and lesser degree each night, they quiet down and go to sleep.

But tonight is exciting, I guess because it's our last night. Tommy and Sydney both wind up back in the house, so then it gets pretty quiet.

I have scheduled us to go to Gunnison, Colorado tomorrow, then meet up with a volunteer guide the next morning, to see a new species - the Gunnison Sage Grouse. However, the weather report is for high winds and snow in the passes between here and there, and whether we go depends on the weather report tomorrow.

Sharon has complained a few days of a sore throat, and has been treating it with some Cipro which she has brought along.

Weese Back Yard Bird: Blue Jay.

No Life Birds Today.

Life Birds Still Stand At: 4
Trip Birds Today: 1
Trip Birds Total: 106

Spend the Night: Jeff and Shani's Driveway. Free

Miles Today (on our pickup): 22
Total Pickup Trip Miles: 2636

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