One of the main species I wanted to see on my Western Colorado trip in June was a Canyon Wren. Most field guides state the wren is more often heard than seen and this had been the case on my previous trips. I had heard Canyon Wrens numerous times but one never presented itself in the open. So when one popped out of the rocks the first day of the trip I took the opportunity to observe it. Along with a Rock Wren I present a Couple of Western Colorado Wrens.
On the way to the Uncompahgre Plateau Colorado State Route 141 winds through the canyons cut out by East Creek. There are several pull-offs which give the opportunity to see different species. And a Canyon Wren was calling at my first stop.
Another one of those encounters when I didn’t know to watch or take photos. Luckily the Canyon Wren stayed out long enough because even though I heard several more I didn’t see one again on the trip.
Now Rock Wrens are more inviting and I haven’t had a problem viewing them. But I’m amazed at where they turn up. On the Douglas Pass BBS run one turned up at the top of the pass, right on the edge of the rocks. Was it gawking at the scenery with the rest of us?
And when I hiked up Devil’s Canyon there was another one out on a ledge.
With the temperatures already well into the 90’s by mid-morning it was time to head back down the trail.
Time to wrap up the Colorado trip. This post and one more should do it.
After birding the Grand Junction area for 4 days I planned to spend the last full day in the area walking/hiking and see if I had actually learned some of the western birds without having to stop and think about it. I decided to head back to Colorado National Monument and hike up No Thoroughfare Canyon to the first waterfall. It would be one mile up a ravine/creek bed and take a few hours. Plus hopefully see a few birds on the way.
The habitat wouldn’t vary much and it ended up not being real birdy, but I had a nice hike.
Gambel’s Quails were calling to start the day again. Along with Mourning Doves cooing. And for the fifth straight day I think Black-throated Sparrows were the first birds to come and check me out. Plus the rabbits were all over the place. (Unlike Rabbitt Valley)
Plumbeous Vireos were the most numerous bird going up the trail with a pair in about every cluster of Cottonwood trees. eBird even made me confirm the quantity – 8.
One of the neater things on the trail was a rock outcropping that must have had White-throated Swifts nesting. They were constantly flying in and out of the rocks. Perched at the base if the rocks were some juvenile Red-tailed Hawks that called the whole time I was walking by.
A little farther past the outcropping I heard a distant caw. At first I thought it was Common Ravens since they had been flying around earlier. But the closer the noise got I could tell they were Pinyon Jays! After not getting good looks the day before I was hoping they would stay out in the open in the narrow ravine. Finally a group of three came down the side of the cliff and one actually stayed out in the open while the other two hid.
So I finally got good looks at a Pinyon Jay.
I finally reached the waterfall, which turned out not to be a waterfall in the dry season. But I ran into a park volunteer who said the next waterfall was about another mile. I hadn’t planned going that far and hadn’t brought enough water. But he brought plenty of extra water in his backpack for people that went up the trail in sandals, no sunscreen, and with no water. So he gave me a bottle and I carried on. I really didn’t expect more birds but felt like hiking.
The walk to the second waterfall was about the same walk as to the first. Except the ravine narrowed and there were even less birds as the day heated up. But I ran into another hiker who said that his buddy was hiking in from the backside to meet him. This was also government land and was higher elevation. I ran into him later and he never did meet up with his friend. Listening to him I think the guy was lost.
The hike back down was uneventful. It was late morning so I decided to try the higher elevation outside of the park. I am glad I did because I finally came across a Juniper Titmouse. A bird I really shouldn’t have missed on the trip.
With a rare storm approaching and not wanting to get caught up on the ridge, I called it a day.
Birding Rabbit Valley was exciting in a different way than the previous Western Colorado habitats. I had never birded a strictly semi-arid environment so the birding would be different than the other days.
I left the motel at 5AM to be at Rabbit Valley by 5:30, a 25 minute drive almost to the Utah border, to listen for Common Poorwill and Common Nighthawk. The area is a typical sagebrush area with sparse pinyon and junipers mixed in with the sagebrush. It was as quiet as previous days so I should have heard either species if they had been calling. But no luck. The noise from I-70 could easily be heard, making the day a little different from other days with the constant backdrop of semis. But it felt good being out early.
At dawn around the north entrance there wasn’t much happening except Rock Wrens, Lark Sparrows, and Black-throated Sparrows. So I drove several miles along the north boundary road. Nothing. So I decided to tun around and head back.
I finally saw a red finch that I hoped might be a Cassin’s Finch. I stopped to check it out and it turned out to be a House Finch and it’s flock. But the stop proved very productive as I then heard several other birds. I’m not sure if it was the geographic location, or that the day was finally getting into full swing, or my presence, but the few birds that were there started calling. So I stayed and birded the area for several hours with good results.
The area had more Rock Wren and Black-throated Sparrows plus many more Lark Sparrows. While watching these species I heard a raucous “caw” down the road. Took me a minute but it dawned on me that it was Pinyon Jays heading my way. One of the few birds I really wanted to see on the trip. So I then proceeded to spend probably an hour chasing them around the dry, arid, sagebrush area. They would fly from bush to bush, never giving good looks, and never coming out in the open except to fly. But I did get a few looks and in the chase saw several other species.
A Gray Vireo started calling from the top of a bush giving good looks. Then Sagebrush Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Say’s Phoebe, and an Ash-throated Flycatcher all appeared at one time or another. And the Lark Sparrows were still thick.
Unlike the previous days I wasn’t at altitude and the day started to warm up quickly. And there was no wind. Hindsight says I should have walked to Rabbit Canyon and spent the day birding in the shade of the canyon. But it would have been a good walk in the hot sun to get to the canyon since it wasn’t accessible by car, 4WD only.
So I headed across to the Interstate to Brewster Ridge were Scott’s Orioles sometimes nest.
The day was not “officially” hot and there wasn’t anything on Brewster’s Ridge except Black-throated Sparrows. I got out and walked for a half hour and didn’t hear anything else.
I then stopped by a local lake that might have birds. Nothing there. And lastly went by a local wetland that had Prairie Dogs.
I then called it an early day at 2PM to go back and catch up on my notes.