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South Park Gunnison 2016 Tour

Our three day April 2016 tour had amazing weather. It was clear, light winds and high in the 70”s. Leaving Denver at sunrise, we headed for Genesee Mountain Park. At 8,000 feet, this area contains Douglas-fir, Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pines. Highlights were a pair of Red Crossbills feeding right by the road and 5 displaying Wild Turkeys. Loveland Pass at the Continental Divide was chilly and still covered in snow. We found 6 White-tailed Ptarmigan’s that were still all white with their winter plumage. It was a life bird for Margie and Brian. Silverthorne feeders were active again giving u

White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass

White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass

s great looks at about 150 Gray and Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. Other highlights include a Gray Jay and several Evening Grosbeaks. The buffet bar at Whole Foods provided a healthy lunch. Heading south, the Pinyon Juniper habitat yielded Bushtits, one Juniper Titmouse, a Townsend’s Solitaire and more Mountain Bluebirds.  Two quick stops as State Wildlife Areas around Salida added a Cinnamon Teal plus a few strange domestic birds with some great photo opportunities. As we notice every year, this area along the Arkansas River is so rich in wildlife. Finally, we enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner in downtown Gunnison. Great first day!

 

Day two started early at the Watchable Wildlife lek trailer while we anxiously awaited sunrise. The morning sounds were memorizing as we heard a winnowing Wilson’s Snipe, and many Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks and Song Sparrows. We saw 27 total Gunnison Sage-Grouse including 18 males. One female flew in close for an uncharacteristically close look. They danced and performed for us for several hours. We headed back to Gunnison for a scrumptious breakfast at a local favorite W Cafe. Roaring Judy provided a Red-naped Sapsucker, American Dipper and an unexpected close walk by of a Red Fox. The next stop was Sweitzer Lake State Park for a happy leg stretch. Flushing a group of 8 Gambel’s Quail gave everyone a start. Other highlights included a boisterous Marsh Wren, Clark’s Grebes, Sage Thrasher and our first Long-billed Dowitchers. Fruitgrowers Reservoir is always a great birding spot and it didn’t disappoint this year. The north shore had 80 Sandhill Cranes, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, American Avocets and our first swallows of the year. Our last stop of the day was in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. With

Inside the Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek trailor

Inside the Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek trailor

plenty of time, we birded our way up through Pinyon Juniper habitat. Hearing Bushtits, a Juniper Titmouse and plenty of Spotted Towhees kept our attention. After driving the south rim road and walking the campground for most of the evening, we dipped on the Dusky Grouse. We did watch three Fox Sparrows a heard a distant Northern Pygmy-Owl which is always a treat in Colorado. The temperature range today was 16 in the trailer and 79 out at Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

 

Day three started a little later than the 4:30AM departure of the previous day. We caught the last of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse birds dancing on the lek. Heading east up Monarch Pass added Red Crossbills, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Pine Grosbeak and a Clark’s Nutcracker. On the way down we bagged both sapsuckers before breakfast in Salida. As the trip took us along the Arkansas River, White-throated Swifts, Rock and Canyon

Male Scaled Quail

Male Scaled Quail

Wrens were seen. Holcim Wetlands was the perfect depth for teal and shorebirds. We had all four teal species including a record 52 Green-wings and Lesser Yellowlegs were added. Stopping at Royal Gorge, Canyon City Riverwalk and parts of Pueblo Reservoir weren’t very birdy as the wind started to pick up. We had great looks at Scaled Quail and a Curve-billed Thrasher before we headed back to Denver. With the beautiful scenery of Colorado and life birds for many, it was a successful trip. The total bird species for the three day trip was 111.