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.
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……
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.
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.