My year started in one of the best ways I could imagine: watching a fire dwindle in the darkness with Emily as the fireworks began to explode in the distance. Having had my wisdom teeth removed less than two days before, however, my year become quite bland after she left. I ended up sleeping for almost two days as I tried to recover from my teeth, and eventually started walking around to Connected Lakes around noon of the days I was home to exercise and just get out of the house. My year list slowly started to climb, as I saw White-breasted Nuthatch caching seeds in the Fremont Cottonwoods and a pair of Brown Creepers calling back and forth as they alighted on the bare limbs that stretched into the sky. I slowly and methodically plodded along, each day recovering a little more from having four of my teeth pulled out. Finally, on Saturday, I was actually able to go on a trip. Emily and I took off for the south fairly early, with the intent of visiting friends (that are practically family) and seeing some great scenery along the way. We first took our time meandering through Delta, and were rewarded by the massive Sandhill Crane flock currently wintering near Escalante SWA.
After gawking at the cranes, we checked the local lakes and rivers, getting Snow Geese at Confluence Park and Shoveler, Wigeon, Mallard, and all the usual duck suspects for the year list. We continued south to spend some time with some friends in Montrose, and then drove across Blue Mesa Dam and looped up towards Paonia getting excellent views of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison cloaked with snow. We even saw a surprise flock of Black Rosy-Finches feeding on the shoulder of the road with a single Brown-capped mixed in! It was an excellent view of these birds, and we were quite luck to 'happen' across them. We then proceeded to my friend Jason Beason's house in Paonia and, in addition to his seeing his son cross-country ski across his yard, saw a Harris's Sparrow in his front yard! We were soon on the road again, however, and spent the rest of the afternoon in and around Hotchkiss with Andrea Robinsong. Overall, it was a great day for a drive and for visiting some great friends that I don't see often enough. As an added bonus, I even got my year list above 60 species.
I'm now ready for my last week and a half in Colorado, and am hoping that it is as great as or possibly even better than the first one.