Tuesday 7/5: I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park today. After a bit of getting lost in Estes Park, I reached the park, paid, and started in. I decided to stop at the first trail to get a feel for the place (plus it was a good hour and a half to the park and I was ready to stretch), so I got out at Lawn Lake and started to walk. Almost immediately I found a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. I pulled out the camera and found that it wouldn’t turn on. Fortunately, it turned out that I didn’t disconnect it properly downloading pictures last night and the battery was drained. But I was limited to phone cam only for the day.
After dumping the camera, I walked a bit of the trail and was rewarded with a couple Green-tailed Towhees, target #1 on the day. Otherwise it was pretty quiet, mostly Yellow-rumps but a couple Mountain Bluebirds were nice.
After looping back to the parking lot, I continued on to the Endovalley picnic area. I spent an hour wandering around here. Pretty quickly, I heard a Cordilleran Flycatcher. It took a bit of effort but I did get a decent view. Back in the middle of the area, I caught some movement up in one of the pines which turned out to be a Red-naped Sapsucker. Also present were lots of Mule Deer and Mountain Chickadees among more common things.
From here, I headed to the Trail Ridge Road and took my time checking the various views. Birding was a bit slow as most stops were crowded and the road isn’t one to scan from as you drive. Snow levels were way up still (a couple points still had banks well above the car). One overlook didn’t seem that bad until I noticed one of the signs was barely poking out from the snow. I did walk out a bit at one point but got winded pretty quickly and didn’t see much reason to continue.
I eventually reached the Lava Cliffs, which the book said was a good spot to scan for Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. I took a look around and noticed a small brownish dot moving. I assumed it was a finch, but when I got the scope out I discovered that my sense of distance was off and it was much bigger.
That’s phone-scoped and still hard to tell, but it’s a White-tailed Ptarmigan! There’s no way that bird should have been that easy.
I spent a few minutes watching it walk across the snow and then moved on. It was clouding up a bit, which made me very glad I wouldn’t have to start hiking for one soon. I skipped the visitor center and ended up stopping at Lake Irene. Snow was way up here and the trail turned out to be pretty rough, so I turned around (after picking up a nutcracker and Gray Jay).
Moving on, it began drizzling a bit. I reached the Timber Lake parking lot and decided to pull in and have lunch and hope the weather got better. It did, so I took a walk. First up were a few Elk crossing the path. I chased a few things around, which turned out to mostly be Yellow-rumps but there was a Gray-headed Junco mixed in. At one point I heard some quiet tapping up a slope. I worked my way up but was unable to find the source (which was likely a Three-toed Woodpecker).
Returning to the car, I found the only White-crowned Sparrow of the trip. From here, I headed out of the park. I looked for a couple stops on the return trip, but none appealed so I headed back to the hotel.
I headed towards a Venezuelan restaurant for dinner. Once I got there, I found it to be full. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I headed elsewhere. After a bit of driving around, I found Jason’s Deli and had an acceptable chicken wrap. Back to the hotel for an early night.