Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Failed Plans and their Rewards

Last Friday night was a bummer. With no work obligations and a free place to crash the plan was to head up to the mountains, get a couple of runs in at Arapahoe Basin before the crowds on the two open runs made the lift line unbearable, and then get back down the hill in time for costume prep. As I finished loading my gear into the truck; I grabbed my new boot - and bammo! The strap fell off. This was a brand new boot....Argh! I attempted to reattach, but the reason why it had fallen off became clear. The bolt was too short, and only the first turn of thread on it could reach the female side, leaving the connection dicey at best. I made a desperate call to the ski shop in Boulder to see if they could just supply me with two longer bolts and have them waiting if I raced up before closing, but a long hold time on the phone prevented that. So my plan was shot, my next morning was free, and I turned to the reports on COBirds to see what goodies were about. A Curve-billed Thrasher had been hanging around the feeders at the Red Rocks Trading Post, and seemed just right.

The little garden behind the Red Rocks Trading Post is a great spot for birding. Several feeders keep crowds of birds around, and its location at the base of the foothills seems to make it a good place for infrequent visitors to stop by, and a nice place for more common birds as well. I was able to relocate the reported Curve-billed Thrasher. Supposedly both a Golden-crowned and a White-throated Sparrow has been in the area as well, but they didn't appear while I was watching.

As I had not seen a Curve-billed Thrasher previously I had done a bit of reading on it before heading out, and while I don't have any of my guide books around to quote the description of its call I can say that, 'watery' or 'liquidy', were used. (Most likely it was 'watery' as 'liquidy' fails spell check and therefore wouldn't seem to get published much). Just before heading back I got to hear the bird call, and it was very impressive - 'watery' seemed fair. Having read the description before hand I knew that what I was hearing was the bird I had just seen - very cool.

The drawback of the trip was that the early shots I got of the bird were taken just as the sun was clearing some clouds - driving down I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises I have seen - and I was a bit overexposed when the bird popped out. I made a bit of an adjustment to compensate, but will just have to hope for another run-in with this species in the future for better results.

After a roundabout trip to Boulder, to fix the boot - (New gear failing before what was to have been my first ski day of the season is frustrating, but better to get it out of the way in October than before a big powder day mid-season! They even gave me a second bolt for the other boot as well.) - I swung back past Plaster Reservoir in Broomfield on the way home. The fall/winter ducks are returning in force, and the Gadwall above was happy to stay perched close to me, showing off that subtle-but-deep texture on its breast.

Moral of the day - rare birds and common birds are both good ways to get over the annoyance of failed equipment and plans, and the boots are ready, better than ever for the next chance to get up to the mountains.

2010 Count: 203
Lifetime: 246