Itinerary A detailed itinerary will be provided prior to the trip. With nature trips, itineraries may be revised due to weather, sightings or other events that may necessitate changes.
Day 1, Sunday, July 29, 2018 – Denver to Montrose
Motorcoach will pick up participants in Denver at a place to be determined. Birding stops may be made at Kenosha Pass in South Park and at the Neversink Trail in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, each of which will give us an opportunity to look for birds of the lower montane forests, like Warbling Vireo, Red-naped Sapsucker and a variety of nuthatches and flycatchers. This evening there will be an orientation and get acquainted pizza party. Overnight Red Arrow Inn and Suites, Montrose, Colorado. (L,D)
Day 2, Monday, July 30, 2018 – Colorado National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
We will make an early start to begin our day at Colorado National Monument, one of the “Colorado Plateau” geologic phenomena, whose canyons and spires are carved from ancient red sandstone, to spectacular effect. Not only is CNM a scenic wonder, but it hosts many birds of arid desert and pinyon-juniper habitats that attract birders from the Front Range. Gambel’s Quail wander among the desert vegetation, while Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons nest on the cliff faces. We will also look for specialties such as Black-chinned Hummingbird, Gray Vireo, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher and Pinyon Jay. After we have had a good look around at CNM, we’ll move to higher country at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, whose precipitous walls form some of the steepest, tallest cliff faces in North America. Within the canyon, White-throated Swifts and Violet-green Swallows perform their acrobatics, while Common Ravens and Golden Eagles soar on the updrafts. At High Point we will have an opportunity to look for birds of the scrub-forest of the canyon rim, including Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Juniper Titmouse, Mountain Chickadee and Virginia’s Warbler. Dinner included tonight at one of the western slope’s most popular local restaurants. Overnight Red Arrow Inn and Suites, Montrose, Colorado. (B,D)
Day 3, Tuesday, July 31, 2018 – The Uncompahgre Valley
Our travels today will take us along the course of the Uncompahgre River through some of Colorado’s most scenic country, including our first close-up looks at the towering San Juan Mountains. We will visit Ridgway State Park, where the lake will present an opportunity to see some waterfowl, and in its forests and meadows we will check for Broad-tailed hummingbird, Plumbeous Vireo, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Mountain Bluebird, Black Phoebe and others. When we have finished at Ridgway, it’s off to one of the real highlights of the trip, nesting Black Swifts at Box Canyon in Ouray. These mysterious birds (their wintering grounds in Brazil were discovered only recently) nest only near waterfalls, and this is the best place to see them without making a long trek into the mountains. But they are not the only attractions here; Steller’s Jay, Evening Grosbeak, Red and White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-headed Grosbeak and Ruby-crowned Kinglet all frequent the area, and the feeders at the park are always worth spending a leisurely half hour. Time permitting, we may make a stop at Billy Creek State Wildlife Area, another birding “hot spot” in the valley. Overnight Red Arrow Inn and Suites, Montrose, Colorado. (B,D)
Day 4, Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – Travel through heart of San Juan Mountains
Lunch will be included in the Victorian mining town of Silverton. Today we pass through some of the most spectacular terrain in North America, the San Juan Mountains. Born of volcanic cataclysm, the San Juans combine scenic wonder and mining history in equal measure. We will visit Red Mountain and Coal Bank Passes, where Gray Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Hermit Thrush are all possible. After lunch, our descent from the San Juans will take us through Durango, where we will visit the Animas River Trail. This lower elevation riparian area will furnish an opportunity to look for a somewhat different suite of birds, including Willow Flycatcher, Lewis’s Woodpecker, MacGillivray’s Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Black Phoebe and many others. Overnight at Sky Ute Resort, Ignacio, Colorado. (B,L)
Day 5, Thursday, August 2, 2018 – Mesa Verde National Park
Today is a day of awe and mystery, as we enjoy a guided tour of Mesa Verde National Park led by a National Park guide. While our attention will be primarily upon the astounding constructions of the Ancients, we will certainly not overlook the many avian inhabitants of this arid landscape. Among the canyons and pinyon-juniper we may see Rock and Canyon Wrens, White-throated Swift, Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay (a product of the scrub-jay split of 2017), Sagebrush Sparrow, Juniper Titmouse, Sage Thrasher and the jewel of Mesa Verde, the Black-throated Gray Warbler. Scott’s Oriole is also possible here. Overnight at Sky Ute Resort, Ignacio, Colorado (B,L)
Day 6, Friday, August 3, 2018 – Ignacio to the San Luis Valley
On our way from Ignacio to the San Luis Valley, we will take a break at Pagosa Springs to visit the Riverwalk Trail. This is a great place to see Lewis’s Woodpecker, a sought-after and elusive species. Also reliable here are Great Blue Heron, Wilson’s Snipe, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Bullock’s Oriole, Cedar Waxwing and a variety of swallows. After our stop here we will proceed into the southern part of the San Luis Valley, where time permitting we will check out Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, a true hot spot for ducks, geese, grebes, shorebirds, Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Northern Harrier, Sage Thrasher and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Overnight at Best Western Movie Manor Motel, Monte Vista, Colorado. (B)
Day 7, Saturday, August 4, 2018 – Return home Though it is our last day, we are far from finished with our birding sight-seeing. Our first stop today will be that most unique example of North American geography, Great Sand Dunes National Park. This riveting landscape lies at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and attracts visitors from around the world. It also attracts a nice suite of birdlife, and we may see Olive-sided Hammond’s and Dusky Flycatchers, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager and more. After crossing La Veta Pass, we will make our final birding stop at Lathrop State Park, another fine location for a wide variety of waterfowl. Among the pinyon-juniper of the park are also found Bushtit, Juniper Titmouse, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadee, and everybody’s favorite, the Roadrunner. (B)
Transportation: Transportation will be by motorcoach, mini-coach or other vehicle depending on number of participants.
Accommodations and Meals: On July 29, 30 and 31, we will be staying at the Red Arrow Inn & Suites in Montrose, Colorado. There will be a pizza party/orientation meeting the first evening. The hotel offers a hot breakfast. On the south side of the hotel is a large lawn area with trees and birding possibilities. Included dinners on July 30 and 31 will be in local restaurants. On August 1 and 2, we will stay at the Sky Ute Resort in Ignacio, Colorado. The resort offers a full hot breakfast daily. There are three dining options within the hotel for dinner. This resort is well situated for birding. There is a large expanse of lawn and trees. A short distance away is the Southern Ute Cultural Center with interesting landscaping with trees, flowers and water. There is open farmland nearby. August 3, accommodations will be at the Best Western Movie Manor Motel near Monte Vista, Colorado. The hotel has a large parking lot and grassy area and a great view of Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the hills to the west. The property is also unique for its drive-in movie theater. You can watch the movie from the comfort of your room, with sound piped into your room. Lunches are included on Day 1 enroute, Day 4 in Silverton and at Mesa Verde. On the other days, lunches will be in the field each day. Grocery store stops will be made to pick up lunch items on those days.