Saturday, October 8, 2011

Laramie River Road & Zimmerman Lake Loop

October 1, 2011

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I went birding up Laramie River Road today. We ran into a Wyoming birder who reported a Pileated Woodpecker at the Tunnel Campgrounds (Larimer County). If we could photograph or get a decent sighting, the bird would be a first state record.

Unfortunately, no Pileated Woodpecker was found in a 3-hour search. There have been four reports of a Pileated Woodpecker in Colorado. All were single birder sightings; none has been confirmed.

Tunnel Campgrounds did have a male American Three-toed Woodpecker and 2 Townsend's Warblers as consolation prizes.

Next, we hiked the Zimmerman Lake Loop Trail (Larimer). We were not disappointed. Two White-winged Crossbills circled overhead between the trailhead and the lake!

Our plan was to hike up to tree line (11,005 feet) wait until dark and return to Zimmerman Lake (10,495 feet), then continue to Highway 14.

We enjoyed a night of almost no wind and clear skies. Up there, stars appear to be in the millions! The eastern ridge must block most northeastern winds; we could have heard a pin drop!

Owls did not disappoint us either. We found/ heard only three Boreal Owls, (no reason to hit the owls with a spotlight and disturb them, we only wanted to get a count). There might have been a fourth, too close to number 3 to be sure.

We enjoyed the night so much, that when reaching our car, we decided to hike up to Montgomery Pass. The trail follows an old jeep trail and is not difficult to follow in the dark. The trailhead is just a little north of the Zimmerman Lake Loop trailhead.

I was familiar with this trail as it was climbed when I was trying to hike the 300 highest passes in Colorado. By the way, I only have three to go and I will have accomplished that!

Again, we relished the calm night and owls. The forest is quite noisy even at night! Figuring out what was calling is always interesting and challenging! In the mammal category, several bull elk were heard bugling.

At least another 3 Boreal Owls responded to our recordings. Montgomery Pass (11,004 feet) was reached about 4:00 AM. The return trip was just as pleasurable.

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