It's a Great Day to Bird

Mesa Verde National Park

This was my first visit to Mesa Verde National Park.  I hate to admit this, but I’m not much into cultural resources.  I much prefer the “natural” world.  But I did enjoy our visit.

We lucked out and were able to get a campsite in the campground for two nights.  This was one of the most expensive NPS campsites we’ve camped at.  After securing our campsite, we drove the road out to a series of ruins.  While Jack went to the museum, I checked out the Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwelling.  There was a site along the way that held a lot of good birds so I got detoured from the archaeological ruins to watch the birds.  I hated to leave this area.


View from the road


White-breasted Nuthatch


Black-headed Grosbeak – Hatch year I believe


Juniper Titmouse finding food left by humans


House Finch


Not sure what the bird on the left is? Any ideas?


Lots of deep valleys and high cliffs.

Oh you thought you were going to see pictures of ruins?  Okay here goes……….


A view of Spruce Tree House from above.


A part of the Spruce Tree House ruins.

Next we went on a guided tour of the  Balcony House Cliff Dwelling, followed by another guided tour this time the Cliff Palace.  Of the two tour guides, the first was the best.  He engaged the young children (former grade school teacher), and readily answered questions.  Much of what I had learned of this culture was debunked by our guide.  The Anzasis did not just “disappear”, but left the area because of a combination of conditions – a 24 year drought (that should be enough) but prior to that was a continuing immigration population taxing the ability to provide food, possible soil depletion, and the Pueblo belief that they are to search for the Center of their Culture and Mesa Verde was not considered in such reverence (one reason the area was not repopulated in later years).

Balcony House Ruins


We had to climb this ladder (put in by the park service for us tourists) up to the ruins. I was never so happy to get to the top. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  The Indians actually used tunnels to get their dwellings.


The ledge along the middle of the photo is where the Indians walked to get from room to room.


A view of the ruins, including the Kiva in the foreground.

A Kiva would have a roof and is thought to be a community gathering area with some spiritual significance, but may also have served as a warm place to escape winter’s harshness.


Another view of the ruins.

Cliff House Ruins


Cliff House Ruins – a view from the top.


Don’t fly from me Turkey Vulture.  I never thought I’d see you.  All through my bird days.  My mad obsession.  You kept your distance.  I kept on searching… (song to the tune of “Evita”).


A portion of the ruins. I found these ruins more impressive than at Balcony House.


Cliff House Ruins


Several stories high …


Listening to the tour guide – or at least Jack was listening.  I was looking for birds.


Pretty impressive huh?

The next day we visited several ruins or pit houses (the early inhabitants lived on the mesa and only later descended to cliff houses, possibly for protection) and then made our way to the Longhouse Cliff Dwelling ruins and another  guided tour.  But first, we went to Step House Cliff Dwelling.  This was a self-guided tour (no tour guides provided – a Ranger with a serious face was present overseeing the eager tourists climbing amongst the ruins).

Step House Ruins


We saw this flycatcher sp. on our way to the ruins.  Wood Pewee or Olive-Sided???


Jack on a ladder checking out the ruins


Pictographs – what do they mean. The one on left looks like a lollipop.

 Long House Ruins


View of the ruins.


Upclose view


Up we go again


The ruins


You can see where it gets its name “Long House”.

Each of the Cliff Dwellings had ‘indoor plumbing’ – an essential water seep along the back edge of the ‘Alcove’ (not a cave).  We were told, however, not to drink the water.  According to our tour guide, a couple of years ago a park ranger drank the water and subsequently ended up in the hospital for three days.


These Ravens now occupy the ruins and let us know it with their raucous calls

We did see some wildlife other than birds.  On the way back from the Cliff House we came upon a black bear just off the road eating vegetation on a tree.  We also saw deer and elk in the park.


Black bear


Two fawns in our campground. So cute….




What a beautiful moth


There are trails you can hike in the park as well, but I think those are better left for a spring or fall day when the temperatures aren’t in the high 80s and low 90s.

We did enjoy our short time in the park.  Maybe some day we will return.

It’s a Great Day to Bird (and get out and just enjoy nature – all of it).



1 Comment

  1. Nina Faust

    Culturally, Mesa Verde is pretty impressive!

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