Archuleta, Mineral, Hinsdale, etc (long)
- I left GWS last Wednesday and drove to Monte Vista to help my daughter
move some larger items into her new home. I got up early and headed to
Pagosa Springs. Then I drove 500 Road from there all the way to Navajo
State Park. It has an amazing collection of habitats and I took a half
day making the drive. My best birds were Rock Wren, Lazuli bunting and
Ash-throated flycatcher. Despite a lot of PJ and scrub oak, I could
not find many of my PJ-scrub oak goal birds (Bewick's Wren, Gray
Navajo SP was full of people even on a Thursday. I skipped the park
itself and visited Sambrito Marsh. Very few birds at mid-day. Best
ones were Blue Grosbeak, Northern Mockingbird, and Common
Yellowthroat. The marsh had all ready greatly dried out.
From there I drove west of Chimney Rock to First Fork Road (FR 622).
i drove all the way to the end of the road and camped there. Great
ponderosa and pine forest. Despite monsoon rains and winds, I found
hike the main trail and found a couple of American Three-toed
Woodpeckers, and Hammond's Flycatchers.
Friday morning I slowly drove back down the mountain. On the way, I
found Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Townsend's
Solitaires. Despite great canyons, I could not find a Olive-sided
Next I went further west and drove up to the end of FR 135 - very good
aspen and conifer habitat. Several good birds found me there - Gray
Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, Hermit Thrushes, and Band-tailed Pigeons.
Rain also found me again and refused to slow down.
After waiting for more than three hours, I headed back down the
mountain and drove back through Pagosa Springs (still raining) and up
to the overlook above Wolf Creek Pass. Rain stopped and I hiked the
ridge trail that evening. Lots of birds but nothing unusual but many
Grays Jays. One surprise finding was Orange-crowned Warblers in the
pines at over 12,000 feet. I camped there and woke to an amazing
sunrise and a 360 degree view.
Saturday morning I drove to South Fork and headed towards Creede. On
the way, I took a side trip up the Wheeler Geographic Area Road to the
picnic area and trailhead. One Dusky Grouse did wander into the road
from the aspens. I did not attempt to go up the clearly marked four-
wheel drive road. Instead I walked a couple miles of the Wheeler
trail. Unfortunately I found very few birds during my hike.
After returning to the Hwy. 149, I went into to Creede and checked out
hummingbird feeders. I did see a Calliope Hummer there. Then I
continued up the road to Brown's Lakes SWA. Few waterfowl but did see
another Calliope at the Hermit Lakes store.
I later stopped at North Creek Falls but could not see any of the
nesting Black Swifts. Then I went up to the top of Slumgullion Pass
and drove in the dark on down to the Mason Family SWA where I camped.
Great Horned owls were calling that night.
Sunday morning I extensive birded the SWA but saw nothing I hoped for
in the extensive willows. Maybe I was too late for OC Warblers and
Lazuli buntings. Next I retraced my route back to the top of Wolf
Creek Pass. On the way I found Western Kingbirds, Barn Swallow and
Sora - all good Hinsdale County birds. I looked hard for Crossbills
and Three-toed Woodpecker without luck but did see Gray Jays, Pine
Grosbeaks and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
Believe it or not,the I then went back down towards the Mason Family
SWA but turned off just prior to that and drove over the Los Pinos
Pass Road to Hwy. 114. I was surprised to find lots of small sagebrush
along the road in Hinsdale County. I was able to call up one Brewer's
sparrow there. I think despite the small size of the sagebrush more
sagebrush species may be there earlier in the summer.
I did not spend time birding in Saguache County on the far side of the
pass but headed directly for the Gunnison Alder Flycatcher site I
described in my earlier posting.
On Monday after seeing and hearing the Alder Flycatcher, (Note I only
saw one bird making the Alder call), I went home over Kebler and
McClure Pass. On the way I did visit the Lake Irvin Campground. Within
five minutes there, several Gray Jays , Clark's Nutcrackers and Pine
Grosbeaks quickly revealed themselves to me.
Another great trip. Missed birds give a great excuse to go back again.
I highly recommend others to try out these birding areas.
My biggest surprise was the absence of many expected species from the
large amount of willows along my entire route. Have birds bred and
already moved out?