San Juan Skyway

Most of the day was occupied by the drive around the San Juan Skyway, which took quite a bit longer than expected. The first delay was due to construction getting out of Mesa Verde. Then I decided to do some birding near Durango (adding a flock of Evening Grosbeaks to the list). Finally, large sections of the road are slow mountain roads. You just aren't going to travel that quickly on roads with double hairpins!

I stopped at 3 mountain passes above 10,000 feet. Just past Molas Pass, a Gray Jay flew across the road. Near Ouray, I spotted a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I stopped in Ouray to revisit Box Canyon Falls, which I visited in 2002. As expected, this time I was too early for the Black Swifts. However, the feeders there had both Black-capped and Mountain Chickadee, and Cassin's Finch. Besides the Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrels, which were there before, there was also a Colorado Chipmunk.

The drive around the skyway was generally pretty scenic. Unfortunately, many of the most scenic areas were on stretches with no place to pull off. I found it interesting how the more western parts of the loop (along the Delores River) have an appearance that is in-between the eastern part and the drier lands to the west. Some of it seemed like red rock county with vegetation.

I took the short detour into Telluride. A field outside Telluride had lots of Gunnison's Prairie Dogs. As you can see from the photo, the falls there are still more ice than water, with peak spring runoff yet to come.

The area along McElmo Creek is an oasis in the middle of pinyon-juniper land. I arrived at Kelly Place around 5:30. They have bird feeders, and some trails to pueblo ruins on the property. I devoted some time to both, ending the day with 25 bird species from Kelly Place. These included three species of Passerina bunting: Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, and Indigo Bunting. A Colorado Chipmunk was also present.

So far, I have found 138 bird species and 13 mammal species during the trip.

Kelly Place, McElmo Canyon, CO