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Old Sunday 21st August 2011, 16:58   #13
Mysticete
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Wyoming, USA
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My plan for day 2, with the Grouse of the way, was fairly straightforward; Take the South Rim trail (Gambel Oak scrub habitat) to the Oak Flats trail (which turned out to have a mix of habitats...see below) and take the upland trail back to camp.

I woke up at first light to start my walk. The South Rim trail gets it's name from skirting the canyon, and offers excellent views Birding was rather thin on the ground, but did include some choice species. Common birds seen here included Bushtit (interior form), Black-throated Gray Warbler, Warbling vireo, Vesper Sparrow, and Green-tailed Towhee. However, quite a few times I was greeted with silence and no movement. As the day warmed up, White-throated Swifts became common hawking over the canyon, however despite my efforts I was unable to pull out a Black Swift, a rare but possible bird here. Woodhouse's Scrub Jay was also present, although not as common as I would have expected.

Birding was much more enjoyable on the Oak Flats trail. Despite the name, this trail actually goes down into the canyon via a series of switchbacks. The habitat is much more varied here, with stands of Aspen and stands of coniferous trees hugging the canyon wall. My first new bird of the trail was Lazuli Bunting, a brilliant male near the start of the trail. Ascending into the canyon proper, a grove of aspen provided a cornucopia of birds. Standing in this area for maybe 20 minutes added Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Williamson's Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Western Wood-Pewee, and the best birds of the morning, a pair of early migrant Townsend's Warbler. Continuing on, birding became more hit and miss as the morning heated up. A patch of Coniferous trees added Mountain Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Some shady shrubbery added House Wren and excellent looks at the shy MacGillivray's Warbler. Shortly before arriving back at the top, the last new bird of the trail appeared, a showy Olive-sided Flycatcher.

I then took the upland trail. By this time the canyon was hot and birds had largely dried up. I decided heading back to the campsite via the South Rim trail would be a smarter idea. No new birds on the way back, but it was now warm enough for herps to be active, with Sagebrush Lizards and what I later identified as a probable Smooth Green Snake, which I thought would not be expected in this habitat but apparently is often encountered.

A short trip out of the park for some caffeine commenced (the park didn't really have any sort of concessions at all in the park, rather annoying). It was blazing hot by the time I returned, so I hung out at the visitor's center for awhile and watched the canyon for birds of prey. This resulted in adding Clark's Nutcracker, Tree Swallow, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, Cooper's Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk to the day list. Eventually I continued on, this time trying the Rim drive. not many birds encountered. Eventually I reached the end of the drive and the Warner Point picnic area. This shady area was a good place to wait for cooler temperature, and added several new birds in the process, including Northern Flicker and tame Steller's Jay. A flock of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay also frequently appeared. It was interesting watching the dynamics between the two species. Despite being smaller, the Scrub-Jays dominated the Steller's whenever they appeared. Something I didn't expect, and in fact this was probably the first time I ever observed two different jay species interacting with one another.

As afternoon ended I took the hike out to Warner Point. Activity was low, but I did observe nutcrackers, more rock Squirrels...and not much else. Part of the issue was the mother and son who decided RUNNING was the most appropriate way of experiencing the Warner Point Nature Trail. Because nothing helps out with wildlife observation than loud people running around.

The end of the trail gave good views of the canyon, and I used the opportunity to get the required sunset Canyon shots. I then headed back.

What should I find, not far from the parking lot? Yes, another pair of Dusky Grouse, which again allowed close approach. I was able to point them out to several tourists who appreciated the gesture. The last bird was a fledgling Hermit Thrush, scampering in the parking lot as dusk fell.

The game plan was now to drive back, with the hope of picking up some mammals or herps on the road at night. Traffic was fairly slow, facilitating stop and go animal observation. The most common mammal seen was Deer Mouse, of the Rocky Mountain/Prairie form. Identification of any of the small rodents was difficult, as they were generally seen in the headlights as they darted across the road. another Western Terrestrial Garter Snake was the only herp.

Best observation of the night was a Northern Grasshopper Mouse, easily identifiable by it's short tail, running across the road. This was a lifer I had always wanted to see, an unusual little hypercarnivorous mouse (whose diet includes spiders, scorpions, and even other mice) which is know to howl at the moon!

I then got to camp and headed for bed, getting a pretty good rest. Tomorrow would be my attempt at the sage grouse...
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Last ABA:Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Mammal: 228 Herp: 172
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