Birding Trip

I took two days off work and drove to Gunnison. Colorado to see the Gunnison Sage-Grouse (next post). I left home about 7:30 and headed to Cañon City. A Lewis’s Woodpecker has been hanging out in a residential neighborhood, but I couldn’t find it. I walked the Arkansas River Trail in town for a couple hours and saw four new birds for the year including an Eastern Phoebe.

After lunch at Jimmy John’s, I headed west through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Two Golden Eagles were soaring over the road near Parkdale. I managed to find a place to pull over to get a better look. I stopped at almost every parking area in the canyon, scanning the river for dippers or anything else I could find. I even drove up to Hayden Creek Campground where I birded back in 2012, but unlike that time, there were several people camping there, so I didn’t stay.

I drove over Monarch Pass and down into Gunnison. After checking into the Holiday Inn Express ($144), I drove further west to Curecanti National Recreation Area. I hiked a trail along the Gunnison River. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t maintained. I did see my first dipper of the year, but not much else. I drove further west to the first bridge over the reservoir. A large flock of ducks were along the shore, so I grabbed my scope and walked to where I could get a good look. 

When I got back to Gunnison, I headed south on a dirt road into sagebrush country just on the off chance that I might see a sage-grouse wander across the road. I didn’t see any grouse or much of anything else. I did see the engine light lit up on my dashboard, and didn’t want to get too far out into the middle of nowhere. 

I bought supper at McDonald’s and headed to my room. I only stayed up a short while. I hadn’t slept much the night before and had to get up very early the next morning, so I was in bed by 8:30.

After I saw the grouse on Thursday morning, I headed back toward home. I saw a herd of Elk just west of Monarch Pass. I stopped in Salida for second breakfast (I’d had a couple Pop-Tarts at 4:30), then drove back to Cañon City. I drove over Skyline Drive, parked, and walked around a little while. I saw my first Colorado White-winged Dove.

The Lewis’s Woodpecker had been seen the previous afternoon, so I went back to look for it again. This time I found it. It was still early, so I went back to the Riverwalk and retraced my steps from yesterday. I added my first Colorado Evening Grosbeaks and Black Phoebes. I struck up a conversation with a birding couple who just moved out here from Racine. I mentioned Wind Point and they laughed and said they birded there often.

I drove through Florence, then headed home after two fun and bird-filled days.

Or as bird-filled as Colorado ever gets. I ended with 68 species, including one lifer, 15 new birds for the year, and seven new birds for Colorado. Those seven birds push Colorado past Wisconsin into second place on my state lists. 

Here’s a video compilation of things I saw over the two days.

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