Why Western Colorado?

First, I would like to start by saying I have a new respect for people who blog on a daily basis.  Especially ones that blog from vacation or trips.  After birding for 11-12 hours every day, I really didn’t feel like writing a post. I kept thinking I would head in early one day after lunch to write, but that didn’t happen. So I didn’t get around to posting as planned. But I kept good written and voice notes to write posts.

Why Western Colorado?

I have been asked this more than a couple of times. To understand just look at a map of the U.S.  Sibley has these types of maps in the front of his guides.  The U.S. is basically broken down into 3 major regions for birds.  The area east of the Rockies, the area between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada’s/Cascades – The Great Basin, and west of the Sierra Nevada’s/Cascades – Pacific Coast.  Plus there are also the smaller areas of South Florida, South Texas, Southern Arizona, and Alaska.  And Northern Minnesota in the winter should probably added.

Birding Areas
As you can see that Grand Junction(marked with a star) sits on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. FreeWorldMaps.net

I live east of the Rockies and have birded Oregon and Southern California.  That left The Great Basin.  I could have gone to Salt Lake City, Flagstaff, or Las Vegas for example.  But I chose Grand Junction, Colorado, since I could fly from Indianapolis to Denver for $200, rent a car, and be in Grand Junction in 4 hours.  The air fare for any of the other destinations would have been more than the airfare and car from Denver.  Also the area has many state and federal lands of various altitudes which make for good birding.

Why the middle of June?

If you have been reading this blog you’ll remember I went to South Texas last June.  The reason for traveling mid-June is that I try to visit an area at the end of migration but before the local breeders are done calling.  By following that plan I can concentrate on the local breeders without the distraction of migrants. Plus it is usually less expensive in June than in July or August when the rates are usually much higher for “normal” vacationers.


I had two concerns about the trip.

First, the average high temperature in Grand Junction in mid-June is clear and almost 90F.  That didn’t worry me too much since I like dry heat.

Grand junction Weather Averages
Averages from the National Weather Service.

Second, the altitude.  Grand Junction is at 4600 feet and some of the areas I planned to bird were over 9000 feet.  Headaches and dizziness from altitude had me a lot more worried than the heat.

Otherwise I didn’t have any other concerns.  So with the chance to see approximately 40 new species and plenty of new habitat to explore, I headed west.

There are birds on the other side of the Rockies. Looking west from north of the Denver International Airport. 06/20/15

Next installment: First some birding east of the Rockies.

3 Replies to “Why Western Colorado?”

  1. Hope you had a great trip there! Since May, I’ve been interning at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge out in Utah, and while temperatures have easily hit 100F, the number of breeding birds out here have been remarkable. I have no idea when fall migration will begin here, but I’ll be ready!

    1. Andy, it was good to hear from you. I assumed you were out of state for the summer since I hadn’t seen your name pop-up anywhere lately. I hadn’t heard of Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge before so I just checked the map. Doesn’t look like it is near anything! But it does look like an oasis in the middle of the arid area and would attract all sorts of birds.

      The rest of my Colorado trip was good, as I’ll post as time permits. I like hot, dry weather so the 100F wasn’t great for afternoon birding but I enjoyed it.

      Check in again when you get a chance. Maybe you can take a few pictures that I can post?

      1. Bob, I just came back this week from training in Idaho, and I just saw your response. Despite its remoteness, Fish Springs NWR is definitely worth the trip, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve also taken quite a few pictures already, and I would be more than happy to share a few.

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