Genesee Mountain Park – CO 2nd Stop

I left off my December Colorado trip with the noise of airplanes and geese at the Denver Airport Road. The geese weren’t quite as loud as the day back in Jan 2015 or the planes as bad as London in April 2016 , but together they made enough noise to be noticed. Especially compared to Genesee Mountain Park.

Genesee Mountain Park
The view north from near the peak of Genesee Mountain Park 12/3/16

Going forward on Colorado trips I plan to take different routes to Grand Junction and bird different areas. Since this was a winter trip I decided to stick close to I-70. I had picked out 3 spots within a couple of miles of the interstate which would give the best chance of seeing species I probably wouldn’t encounter in the Grand Junction area. And since the goal of the trip was to prepare for June’s BBS routes I wanted to hear Pygmy Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees, species I will encounter in June.

The first stop was Genesee Mountain Park about 20 miles west of Denver. With the chance of snow at higher elevations this was the only high elevation site I planned to bird on the trip. Plus, it is very convenient with the entrance right off the exit ramp.

Upon arriving I was flagged down by Forest Service Workers which didn’t bode well. But all they wanted to know was if I was going to cut my own Christmas Tree. Seems they keep the tree population in check by letting people cut their own trees. I headed to the back of the park to avoid the crowd which meant I had to negotiate through vehicles, adults, kids, and dogs along the narrow park road. And of course it was in a light snow.

The lightly covered path at Genesse Park. 12/3/16

Upon reaching the end of the road my fears of mass people were unfounded as there was only a couple walking their dog. So I expected I would be able to hear the birds. I proceeded up the trail towards the 8300′ peak and it was Quiet.

Quiet.

Unlike the noise at the airport road it was just me and my thoughts. And the wind blowing through the trees.

No birds, just the wind blowing through the pine and fir trees. 12/3/16

It goes on like this for a half hour of walking.

No peeps, chips, or even a Common Raven flying over. Quiet. Knowing I still have over three hours to Grand Junction I decide it’s a bust and take another trial back to the car.

About 10 minutes from the car, which meant about 45 minutes total walking, I finally hear a peep. It is distant in the trees. Should I go on or track it down? I decide to track it down and see birds darting in the tops of the Pine Trees.

Finally Pygmy Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees. The species I was hoping to see. It’s an active flock and I follow them from tree to tree hoping for a good look and/or photo. I get looks but never a decent photo.

The nuthatches spent most of their time moving rapidly from one pine tree to the next. 12/3/16

With the impending drive I head back to the car where I get one and only one photo of a chickadee.

I got extremely lucky as this Mountain Chickadee only sat still for a second. 12/3/16

On the drive back to the interstate I see a couple more birds and end up with 6 species on the list. At least they were the species I wanted to see. What else should I have expected at elevation on a cold winter’s day?

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