Tuesday, August 20, 2013
West Farmington to California Road Birding Trip 2013: Going West
With all the best intentions, blogging every day along the way just isn’t practical. So I will bring the trip up to date and then report as internet service and time permits.
It is a long way from home in Ohio to California. I am writing from Grand Canyon National Park in Northern Arizona and 2,500 miles from home. I still have a lot of ground to cover! I traveled 12 hours and stopped in Iowa at Prairie Rose State Park for camping and some Eastern birding to set the pace for the rest of the trip.
Prairie Rose is a recreation area that has enhanced habitat: a peaceful place with trees, a lake, and habitats attractive to wildlife and birds. It hints of what Iowa might have been before it became a sea of corn and cash crops.
My next stop was southwestern Nebraska along the Platte River where I visited The Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary world famous for the 80,000 Sandhill Cranes congregate each year. I saw none. It is a great stop in any regard and the staff was friendly and helpful.
I spent the night at Red Willow State Recreation Area but the birds and the landscape remained much like Iowa: lots of agriculture.
But the terrain began to roll and the corn began to diminish and the hills were becoming short grass and pasture. Western Nebraska is very different from the eastern and central cultivation.
The third night I stayed in Crow Valley Recreation Area in the middle of Pawnee National Grasslands in northeastern Colorado. At last the prairie! Now I am hearing Western Meadowlarks. I found a Bullock’ Oriole in a stand of willows. Here I watched a Northern Mockingbird successfully harass a Swainson’s Hawk in flight. Loggerhead Shrikes appeared on telephone wires……..yes those antiquated wires of days gone by. I doubt I will ever see a bird quietly perched on cellular waves or underground cables.
The evening was filled with a thunderstorm, passing close by, that performed a spectacular lightning show and moved on its way to reveal a spectacular star show, including a meteor shower. But the best of this evening was an evening sky filled with Common Nighthawks buzzing the tree tops of the campground. Then, as the night stars glimmered, a Great Horned Owl perched near hooted into the stillness on the prairie.
My western journey was now a reality. Pawnee National Grasslands is a great host into a great adventure to places well known and some others in the middle of nowhere.