Yesterday afternoon Bill Kaempfer, Linda and I drove up to Rocky Mountain NP to try and find a Red-naped Sapsucker, have dinner at Sweet Basilico in Estes Park and then try for a Flammulated Owl. I encouraged Linda to tag along to maximize the time we can actually spend together. I know she enjoys talking to Kaempfer as well. We struck out on the sapsucker, but it was a rather half-hearted attempt. After a pleasant meal, we met Gary Mathews, Peter Gent and Todd Deininger at the turnoff to Big Elk Meadows at 8:30 PM. I certainly appreciated the help and support from my Colorado birding friends and was optimistic about the search. We then drove up the canyon, parked and the five of us hiked down to a spot where they’ve been hearing and seeing Flammulated owls recently. Linda stayed in the car. Come to think of it, I may not have mentioned to her that she’d be sitting alone in the dark in a remote dirt road for two hours when I suggested she join. After a twenty minute hike, we arrived at the spot where the Flammulated Owls had ben calling. Despite working the canyon for almost two hours, we neither saw nor heard any flams.
This really wasn’t a surprise. They usually quit calling around June 20 as they begin to set up nests. I’m not worried yet, though this is now the second failed attempt for this owl. On the bright side, there wasn’t a forest fire. My first attempt for flams in the Chirichuas was aborted when I drove into Cave Creek Canyon from the west side as firefighters were evacuating everyone. Yesterdays drive down Arizona Hwy 92 with the Monument Fire raging twenty miles in front of me was unsettling and only served to remind me that mother nature doesn’t always cooperate.
Benton Basham’s advice to me when we met in January now seemed prophetic. “Make sure you have the nineteen owl species by June 1st” I’m three species short. Flammulated Owl is the only migrant of the three and therefore concerns me the most. My strategy will switch to trying to finding a nest site. I’m concerned , but not worried (yet). I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.
I’m writing this post on a flight from Denver to Houston, where I’ll catch a 2:30 PM flight to McAllen, TX. Stay tuned, I hope to report good things later today.