Bluebird Morning (April 14)

When we woke up early Monday morning, we looked outside to see that most of the previous day's snow-bearing clouds were gone, leaving behind blue skies and pristine snow. 

When we saw this view of Twin Sisters out our front door we knew we had to go out!

With almost no discussion, we decided to forego our usual morning coffee and just grab our gear and head into Rocky Mountain National Park. We were undeterred by the 0F reading on the thermometer and rolled out of the garage at just past 7:00am. 

Driving in towards Deer Ridge Junction

We drove up to Deer Ridge Junction to take in the panoramic views of Longs Peak and the Continental Divide, then over to the viewpoints above Horseshoe Park to see the spindrift on Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon peaks.

Longs Peak and the Continental Divide

Mike and "Tina" in some blowing snow at Deer Ridge Junction

On the way down to Horseshoe Park viewpoint

Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon peaks

From there we drove on to Many Parks Curve, where Trail Ridge Road is seasonally closed. On our way up, we noticed skier tracks on the mountain above Little Valley and we stopped to take a picture of them. Susan wondered aloud, "I wonder if my friend Nancy and her husband skied there?" She learned later that day that they indeed had hiked up 1.5 hours for a single ski run! 

Ski tracks left by friends

Longs Peak, viewed from Many Parks Curve

Susan captured this stunning telephoto shot of Ypsilon Mountain with a raptor in flight. 

Raptor in flight with Ypsilon Peak

We then headed back to Bear Lake Road, stopping along the way to see a Red Crossbill near the road. 

Look closely at the beak on the Red Crossbill

At Bear Lake we found a 75" base of snow and walked in to the first viewpoint of Hallett Peak.

Bear Lake Ranger Station

Obligatory shot of Hallett and Flattop from Bear Lake

Telephoto of trees on the mountain with the walls of Hallett in the background

Then we drove back and stopped at Sprague Lake, where a wild turkey greeted as us we pulled into the parking lot. As we headed in to the lake, we saw what looked like a small wedding party at the fishing pier on the lake, and from a distance we could see the couple posing for photos. 

Wild Turkey near Sprague Lake

Small wedding party at Sprague Lake

As we walked in clockwise around the lake, we met the wedding's officiant on the way out, under-dressed and obviously cold. As we got to the pier, we offered to take a few pictures of the family and then walked around the lake. 

Nice background for for a wedding!

Snow-covered trail along Sprague Lake

We watched a pair of geese make their way across the frozen ice. Amazing they can stay warm!

Canada Geese on mostly frozen Sprague Lake

After we got back to the car we decided to drive out via Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes to see if there were any Bighorn Sheep out and about. There weren't any, but we did stop at a Great Horned Owl's nest we knew of and found an adult hunkered down in the nest. 

After we moved on and got back into cell coverage, Susan got a call from a local birder telling us about some migrant birds at Lake Estes, so we decided to extend our little trip. 

But before we got back to town, we came around a curve on Fall River Road to find a herd of an even dozen of mostly female Bighorn Sheep, with a couple of not-quite-a-year-old lambs. 

Bighorn Sheep on the road

We pulled off and spent quite a bit of time watching and photographing them as they dug into the snow on the hillside, looking for food.


After this treat, we headed on over to Lake Estes, where we saw some of the usual birds there, plus a Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Flicker, American Avocet, Killdeer, Opsrey, and both Mountain and Western Bluebirds.  

Loggerhead Shrike



When we looked at the time, we found is was after 1pm and realized how hungry we were! So we headed home for a very late breakfast and some coffee. Amazing how much we could see in just a few hours in our "backyard." And after having traveled so much in the past year, it was really nice to return to our familiar places. 

Mountain Bluebird

Mt Olympus, overlooking Lake Estes

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