After Rocky Mountain NP and Estes YMCA camp we headed to Montrose Colorado to visit with an old friend of Jack’s.  While there we checked out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  I had never heard of this park before but  I’m glad we took the time to explore what a ‘black canyon’ would reveal.  What a beautiful area.  High (think 2,000+ feet) canyon walls of convoluted rock faces, side canyons, and amazing rock formations.  From this bird’s eye view you could just spot  the  Gunnison River flowing along the bottom of the canyon.

Our friend alerted us to a waterfall canyon near the historic mining town of Ouray (pronounced U-ray).   What a quaint town, worth the visit, but culture aside, it is all about birds, and the canyon boasts nine active Black Swift nests!  The Black Swift can only be found at waterfall locations – its preferred nesting habitat – so a rare bird.  We once spent an evening in Oregon staking out a waterfall in search of this bird and came up empty so this would be a life bird if we observed any swifts.


Female Gambell’s Quail on a roof top


Black Canyon


Love the old twisted trees


Another view of the canyon


The canyon wall to the right is at least 2300 feet.


A lot of view points along the auto route. A few required walking several hundred yards.


What is this???


The only National Park that I know of that ALLOWS dogs on the trails.

At the visitor center for Box Canyon, Jack asked the person taking the entrance fee if there were any swifts still nesting as it would be a life bird for me.  The guy then said, “well others have seen the bird before”.  He thought a life bird was a bird no one else had ever seen before.  He understood the term to “tick it off” my list, but not life bird.  The guy then gave us instructions on where we could find at least three of the nine active nests in the canyon.  So off we went full of that life bird conquering spirit.  Okay, maybe you have to be a birder to understand……


Ouray, Colorado


Part of the falls. Couldn’t see much of the falls beyond this.


Can you find the Black Swift nest? Its a black spot on the rock in the middle of the photo.


Black Swift on a nest. Woohoo!!! Life Bird.


Golden Mantled Squirrel at a feeder near the entrance/visitor center.


This chipmunk is small in relation to the squirrel at the upper left hand corner of the photo.


Rufous Hummingbird …


… at the feeder near the visitor center.

The next day we headed to Durango by way of Telluride.  I have never been to either place. Telluride was nice, but way out of my budget or most Americans – a ‘cheap’ home here starts at $1.6 million.  We enjoyed window shopping at various real estate offices and wondering who buys all the many $6-10 million homes that were listed.  Walking  the streets is free so we explored the downtown area of this historic and scenic playground (major ski area and they offer free gondola rides) checking out the shops.  Alas we had to keep our visit short (about an hour) before heading to Durango to visit another long time friend of Jack’s.


View of main street


The corner house is for sale. Three bedrooms, two baths, about 2800 square feet (believe it or not) – all yours for only $2.38 million dollars.


Thought this was a cute sign. I wonder if the dogs that get “parked” get along with each other?

We only stayed one night in Durango and get this, we went to a chuckwagon BBQ with cowboy music thrown in.  Next day we recovered and headed southwest to Mesa Verde National Park, which is a hop, skip, and jump from Durango.  Many of you may have heard about the toxic mine contamination that polluted the Animas River.  This river runs through Durango and we luckily saw the river just days before the spill.

Next stop … Mesa Verde National Park.  Until then it’s always a “Great Day to Bird”.  Happy birding.