The Mossy Cave/Water Canyon Trail is outside the park entrance, but it has a nice little waterfall and provided the first close-up views of Bryce's orange-pink hoodoo formations (part of the Pink Cliffs). It also provided the first Grace's Warbler of the trip.
I did some birding around Bryce along the Rim Trail and north campground. I was hoping for some sunset photos, but a cloudbank to the west interfered with the sunset itself. I still got some decent photos, even if they weren't the stunning Bryce shots I wanted. (PHOTO2) I did get some new trip birds at Bryce: Hairy Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Mountain Bluebird, Western Tanager, and Olive-sided Flycatcher (heard only).
Ruby's Inn has a lake with Gadwall and Ring-necked Duck in addition to the Mallards.
Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden
Tuesday, June 3, 2003: My first hike of the day was the Navajo Loop. (PHOTO) It goes through a narrows and then by Thor's Hammer, which is perhaps the signature hoodoo of Bryce Canyon. It's not long, a couple of miles, but has 450 feet to climb back up. Just past the narrows I found a Dusky Flycatcher.
I then headed to Yovimpu Point, which has a good view of the Grand Staircase + Aquaris Plateau (some think of it as the top step). While I was there I also walked the Bristlecone Trail, which features Bristlecone Pine.
Then I headed out of the park to the Tropic Reservior. There were some waterfowl there, but nothing new.
Later in the day I returned to Bryce to do the Queen's Garden Trail. Like the Navajo Loop, it descends among the hoodoos (there is a short trail connecting them). The Queen's Garden Trail doesn't descend as far.
I ended the day by walking around the Ruby's Inn property. They have a lake, a marsh, two streams, and some Ponderosa Pine woods. Not surprisingly, this leads to good birding. In fact, the only places I've stayed that were this good were in Portal, Arizona. Besides the ducks I've mentioned, There were 4 species of swallow, including nesting Cave Swallows. There were nesting Say's Phoebes. Other highlights were Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Spotted Sandpiper, and Lesser Goldfinch.
Wednesday, June 4, 2003: Although Bryce (which is mostly at 8000-9000 feet) has more comfortable weather than the lowlands, I decided I wanted something downright cool. I headed west to nearby Red Canyon (part of Dixie National Forest) to start the day. (PHOTO) The road goes though two very short tunnels carved from the red rock. I hiked the nature trail, and then headed for cooler pastures.
Panguitch Lake was next. It was well-stocked with waterfowl and gave me several trip birds: White Pelican, Wigeon, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Franklin's Gull. There were Clark's and Eared Grebes and nine species of duck.
My next stop was Brian Head, which is about 11,500 feet. It was quite cool up there and there were patches of snow about. It was good thing I went the road when I did because there was a "Road Closed" sign on it when I came down. They were doing some road work. I had hoped for Rosy-finch and Three-toed Woodpecker but had to settle for Hairy and American Pipit. White-crowned and Vesper Sparrows were also new for the trip. A Pika called at the top, but I couldn't find it. There were a number of Yellow-bellied Marmots around. There's a pretty good view from the top (PHOTO) and you can see Cedar Breaks (PHOTO).
The last stop on this loop was Cedar Breaks National Monument. I did the Alpine Lake Trail (about 2 miles). I started at the Chessmen Overlook. The upper trail was in ok condition, except for some blowdown areas near the other parking area. The lower trail was a different story. It was fine until I got past the lake. Then there were snowdrifts, big snowdrifts blocking the trail. Some were strong enough to cross, but sometimes I was in over my knees! If it had not been so far to go back I wouldn't have persisted in getting through. Even as it was I was contemplating going back the long way when a woman appeared on the other side of the biggest snowbank yet. She had come for the other direction. We discussed the situation, and it became clear that I should continue and she should go back (i.e., we both went in the same direction). Just before all of the snowdrifts started, I had flushed a bird that I hoped was a grouse. But it seemed small and thin for a grouse. The reason was simple, it was a Red-shafted Flicker. Almost immediately after I flushed another bird, but it had "Junco" written all over it. The only new bird was a calling Hammond's Flycatcher (seen and heard).
Later on, I was back in Bryce to visit some viewpoints (Paria View, (PHOTO2, PHOTO3) Inspiration Point, Sunset Point) and have dinner at the Lodge. In the evening I went to Bryce's Star Party. It's a pretty good view of the stars, but I still think the best view was from high up in the Chiricahuas. It took quite a while to get back as they are working on the road at Bryce. The construction is mainly at night and they only let traffic through on the hour.