I started the day by birding around Canyon de Chelly for about an hour. I didn't find any new birds, but was surprised by the number of Bullock's Orioles. I checked out, gassed up the car, and headed north.
My plan had been to visit the Four Corners Monument. However, it was closed for repairs (surprised I didn't find this out in the planning process). So I made a u-turn, and headed toward Shiprock, NM. The real attraction was Shiprock the rock (aka Tsé Bit' A'í, the rock with wings), not Shiprock the town. I photographed the rock from many angles, even climbing up on the volcanic ridge that leads to it.
I'd gotten a couple of new New Mexico birds at Shiprock, but only a couple, so I improvised a birding loop on the edge of Shiprock the town. It worked pretty well, adding Blue Grosbeak and Black-billed Magpie to the trip list, and a number of species to my New Mexico list. I also got a life mammal. A Gunnison's Prairie Dog was standing up at the edge of its hole, and popped down as I approached.
I then drove through Cortez, Colorado on to Delores to visit the Anasazi Heritage Center. It also serves at the visitor's center for the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, which I'll visit in a few days. After looking through the museum, I took the paved path up the hill to the Escalante Pueblo. I found some Black-capped Chickadees along the path. Besides the ruins, there is a nice view from the top.
I stopped at McPhee Reservoir while looping back to Cortez. There were only a few birds present, including one American Avocet. At Cortez, I stopped for supplies, then headed for Mesa Verde National Park, my home for the next three nights.
The park road is being rebuilt, so there were construction delays getting in. After checking in at the Farview Lodge, I headed to the visitor's center to get tickets for ranger-led walks to Balcony House and Cliff Palace tomorrow. While walking up the ramp to the visitor's center, I heard a different towhee call. Then a Green-tailed Towhee appeared on the railing (later on I saw one from my room's balcony).
I took a drive around the mesa, just to get oriented. I did stop at a couple of overlooks, but took no pictures. At one, I could see the Cliff Palace and a group visiting it. I'll do that tomorrow. I also stopped several times for birds, adding Juniper Titmouse to the list.
As I drove back, there were a lot of birds evident, especially Audubon's Warblers. They were present in these numbers the next day, except possibly early, so I think they were migrants passing through.
I had dinner at the Metate Room at Farview. I normally don't expect great food at national parks. Good bread is usually an indicator of a quality restaurant, and the moment I tasted the bread I became very hopeful. The rest of the meal lived up to it, and may have been the best food I've had at any of our national parks. There've been other great dining experiences, but that has been partly based on location and other amenities. In terms of the food itself, I don't recall any I liked so much. Certainly, no others have had both high quality and interesting food.
So far, I have found 130 bird species and 11 mammal species during the trip.
Farview Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park, CO