Travis goes to Camp Colorado Part 2: Rachel Rothberg

“THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” – Rachel Rothberg (7/26/13; Wild Basin, Boulder County, Colorado)

Yes, it’s a bold statement; so let me step back a bit and explain.

As a participant in the American Birding Association’s Camp Colorado, I got to spend the week at the stunning YMCA of the Rocky Mountains with more knowledgeable birders than I could have imagined.  I saw some amazing birds (and other wildlife) in habitats surrounded by spectacular views and picturesque mountains, making the entire experience a fantastic part of my already exciting summer.

On Thursday the 26th, we were joined by BIRDING Magazine editor Ted Floyd and piled into the ABA vans to drive to Wild Basin in Boulder County. I was quite excited because on this day I was given the opportunity to carry Leica’s Travis the Traveling Trinovid!  Some of the other campers had already gotten lifers for themselves with Travis and I wanted to be among them because I loved the idea of sharing lifers with a famous binocular.  Little did I know what striking birds I would soon be seeing…

Travis, the Traveling Trinovid (© Rachel Rothberg)

Travis, the Traveling Trinovid (© Rachel Rothberg)

As we entered the area, I kept a sharp eye out for new birds and was constantly asking if Travis had already seen Clark’s Nutcrackers (not yet!), Calliope Hummingbirds (not yet either!), or other birds that we were hoping to see.  My first looks at birds through Travis were stunning and I didn’t even care that they were not lifers; it was amazing seeing any bird with perfect clarity. But then it happened; the first lifer: not one but five Clark’s Nutcrackers working the tops of Pondarosa Pines across the road from us!

Clark's Nutcracker (© Jeff Bouton)

Clark’s Nutcracker (© Jeff Bouton)

Continuing along our walk, we were told by Ted Floyd to keep an eye out for any “football-looking birds” running through the brush– Dusky Grouse.  Unfortunately, we did not see any during our trip, and they would have been lifers for me and Travis, but in my opinion we got a much closer look at a more amazing bird–a female American Three-Toed Woodpecker!

The bird in question (© Rachel Rothberg)

The bird of the day (© Rachel Rothberg)

The woodpecker hammered at and flaked away the bark on the base of a tree, apparently oblivious to our presence.  For a good ten minutes the only sound you could hear was her working the tree bark, the oohs and aahs of the campers, and the sound of rapid camera shutters.  I got a good 200 pictures of her myself. Satisfied with her work she flew silently away leaving us in awe of what had just happened.

It really didn’t hit me for a couple of minutes after walking away; I got really excited because I had now joined the cast of birders who had gotten Travis his lifers, and in the process had captured amazing memories with my camera.  I immediately proclaimed that it was the “best day of my life!” because I got to see this rare woodpecker for a remarkably long time; one of two species I had set as my “target birds” for the entire trip (the other being Clark’s Nutcracker, seen just moments before the woodpecker). As if the day could get no better, our last stop was a small bed and breakfast inn on the way back to Estes Park, where they get around 20,000 individual hummingbird visits per day!  There were hundreds of Broad-Tailed, likely dozens of Rufous, and even a few Calliope Hummingbirds zooming inches above our heads.

Six (of the hundreds of) hummers buzz around the feeders (© Rachel Rothberg)

Six (of the hundreds of) hummers buzz around the feeders (© Rachel Rothberg)

After lunch the day only got better, when resident bander, Scott Rashid, offered an opportunity for us to see him at work.  Hummingbirds, Pine Siskins, and a Green-Tailed Towhee were some of the birds he banded while we looked on.

Male Rufous Hummingbird being banded by Scott Rashid (© Rachel Rothberg)

Male Rufous Hummingbird being banded by Scott Rashid (© Rachel Rothberg)

Getting to hold a Pine Siskin after it was banded absolutely made my day; apparently it wasn’t awesome enough already!

The Author releasing a Pine Siskin (© Ben Thesing)

The author releasing a Pine Siskin (© Ben Thesing)

So there you have it, Thursday July 26th is officially “the best day of my life”. However, I don’t expect this title to persist forever… I know there are many more “best days” yet to come, likely filled with birds. Until then, though, I’ll just enjoy reliving this one.

Happy birding!!