Sunday, June 28, 2015

Black Canyon to Gunnison

Colorado has been going through a heat wave, over 100 in some areas.  We found a nice RV park in Olathe on the Uncompahgre River for a couple of days of air conditioning.  We then left for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  First stop Hays Falls where we found the American Dipper and nesting Townsend's Solitaires.  A stop at a picnic area was a great place for Cassin's Kingbirds.
Am. Dipper loves the rapids

Cassin's Kingbird

The Black Canyon is amazing!  The park road runs along the rim 2,800 feet above the rapids of the Gunnison River.  Fantastic views of the jagged rocks, but photos never do it justice.

Bloody Cicada

Birds, insects and flowers were abundant, a pleasant surprise as the habitat didn't look like there would be much here.

Callippe Fritillary

Claret Cup Cactus

Mariposa Lily

Western Tanager

Virginia Warbler

Northern Sagebrush Lizard

Prickly Pear Cactus

After a few days of camping at the canyon we drove along the Curecanti National Recreation Area, three reservoirs of the Gunnison River. The Blue Mesa being the largest lake at 20 miles long and sitting at 7,500 feet above sea level.

Sage Thrasher

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Rock Wren at Blue Mesa

We camped at Elk Creek and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Black-tailed Bucks in the Sage

We drove up Soap Creek Road into the National Forest and found a great campground where we decided to stay.

Black-tailed Bee Fly

Ty found the (rare for us) Williamson's Sapsucker and we watched the nesting cavity where the pair diligently fed young.  Early next morning a large Cinnamon Black Bear came to check out the camp dumpster hoping someone had forgotten to lock it.  No luck!  It was too dark to get a photo.

Soap Creek Pinnacles 

We then drove into Gunnison, made a stop at the Visitor's Center hoping for some locations of the elusive Gunnison Sage Grouse.  They were a little helpful and we headed east to search the vast miles of sage brush.  Like looking for a needle in a haystack!  Beautiful rock formations were along the way.

Took a site at the Tall Texan RV Park and would try again early the next day.  After a couple hours we stopped at prospective habitat on a gravel road.  As we scanned the hillside, a hen walked out on the road right in front of the RV followed by two half-grown chicks.  A few minutes later farther ahead another hen came out on the road with at least one small chick we could see.  A true blessing to see this elusive and impressive bird.

This weekend was also a great time to catch up on recharging batteries and to get the laundry done.  A part of living "on the road".  The RV park had quite a few nice birds including this resting Com. Nighthawk that made itself known by calling every once in a while.

Moving onward tomorrow.

God Bless you all.
Ty & Ida Baumann

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