Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a special place—and a wonderful mountain escape just thirty minutes west of Golden, Colorado. The thirty minute drive is worth the trip. The beautiful drive is filled with curves and twists and lots of 20mph yellow warning signs. But the grades are easy and I was wishing for a sports car to make this drive. But the unhitched Suburban is my dependable and trusted vehicle of choice, and I am thankful for the safe travels it has provided these last six years.
The rick-man and I arrived at Golden Gate Canyon State Park late Friday morning. The temperature was in the 50’s and stayed in that range throughout the day. After a summer of three digit temperatures on the Texas Gulf Coast, I had to remember to take and wear layers of clothing. My light weight vest and lined wind breaker never felt so good. With day pack, binoculars and walking stick, my 400 mm lens and Canon 7D were not a part of my hiking gear. I wanted to focus on birding this new territory. I was greatly rewarded.
Although we explored several trails, the Raccoon trail was my favorite of the day. At an elevation over 9000 feet, it was a beautiful hike. The trail seemed straight out of a magical fairy tale with mature Aspen and Spruce trees providing a lovely canopy over the root and rock-filled trail. I was delighted to watch Golden-crowned Kinglets and Mountain Chickadees spiral up the Spruces. Round and round the trunk they would go, climbing higher, as if they were winding tassels around a Christmas tree. I was waiting to hear Fantasia music to begin. The Kinglets and Chickadees would fly in so close to me that I could almost reach out and touch them. A Golden-crowned Kinglet stopped on a branch less than four feet from my head, just at eye level. We both froze and sized each other up. It was delicious. Their golden-crowned head is an amazing piece of art from Mother Nature’s canvas.
But I could hear Elric’s voice in my head: “if you want to get a really good warbler, look to the canopy tops”; and so I scanned, and scanned and scanned, with my neck complaining from the abuse.
And there it was, gleaning its day’s bread from the top of an Aspen, moving in and out of the quaking leaves and allowing me glimpses of all body parts: a Townsend’s Warbler. This beautiful warbler has been on my wish list for a very long time. If you look at its habitat range in any bird book you’ll understand why it has been a wishful find for this native Texan. I have studied it and studied it, on opposite page to the Golden-cheeked Warbler (The Native Texan). But I knew my chances of adding the Townsend’s to my life list would require travel and timing, and a lot of luck. Friday was my lucky day.
With fall migration occurring in Colorado, I happened to be at the right place at the right time. My canopy-top scanning was rewarded with multiple sightings of this beautiful warbler. The rick-man does not attempt top-canopy viewing, so the best I can share of this experience are photos of this happy birder, on beautiful trail, sighting and watching the Townsend’s Warbler:
And after a perfect day at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, I took a back road to return to Golden, partly dirt, to stop at the overlook at White Ranch Park. The views were stunning:
And a fitting closure to a perfect day was sighting a partial rainbow in the easterly direction, seeming to confirm that Golden does indeed lie at the end of the rainbow: