Jackson to Vernal

Sunday, June 30: I left Jackson at about 7am this morning (a little late!). My first birding stop was unexpected...at a farm pond a little south of Jackson. What was the attraction? 23 Trumpeter Swans!

The way out of Jackson Hole is rather interesting. The Snake River cuts its way though the hills at the south end of Jackson Hole. Again, I am reminded of some eastern landforms, but on a more dramatic scale—this time it's Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware cuts its way through the Appalachians.

The first planned stop was to be Lower Green River Lake, in the foothills of the Wind River Range. The area is supposed to be incredibly scenic, even compared to the Tetons. However, when I found it involved a 45 mile (round trip) drive over dirt and gravel roads, I decided to go to New Fork Lake (also adjacent to the Wind Rivers), which was only about 12 miles of dirt and gravel. I didn't find anything new there, but a more determined search may have turned up something.

[Juniper Country] [Monuments] [Flaming Gorge Dam]
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

The next real stop was the Wyoming juniper country, just west of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This involved another dirt road (Little Firehole Road). The county there is very interesting, with nice soil and rock colors and formations. It's similar to nearby areas of Utah. I was there in midday, so I didn't find a lot of birds. But I did get 3 trip birds: Western Scrub-Jay, Bewick's Wren, and Sage Sparrow (no Sage Grouse today). Little Firehole Rd. ends at Big Firehole Rd., which goes down to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. I drove down there to take a look, and a few photos. Then I returned to US-191 and continued toward Vernal, UT.

US-191 actually goes over the Flaming Gorge Dam. I stopped at the visitor's center (more photos), and then went on to Vernal. After finding a room for the night, I went over to the Utah portion of Dinosaur National Monument. The county is arid, but scenic. I took pictures of both rock formations and petroglyphs.

[Petroglyph] [Dinosaur NM]
Dinosaur National Monument

White-tailed Prairie Dog was a life mammal. I also found the "throated" birds I missed on Little Firehole: Black-throated Gray Warbler, Black-throated Sparrow, and Ash-throated Flycatcher. Two juniper country birds are still missing...Juniper Titmouse and Virginia's Warbler. Maybe tomorrow.

The heat finally caught up with me today. I've been avoiding it, partly by staying at higher elevations (Canyon Inn was at over 7900 feet). Vernal and Dinosaur are in the Uinta Basin, and it was hot down here today. The car's thermometer isn't really accurate at these temperatures, but it's safe to say it was over 95. In the evening, the TV weather said it was currently 95 degrees and 14% humidity...a little different from 95 degrees in Miami!

I drove a bit over 400 miles today, saw 50 bird species, and the triplist now stands at 200.

Vernal, UT

Red Rock Canyons

Monday, July 1: I started Monday at the Colorado portion of Dinosaur National Monument. It took all morning to cover the place, including a 2-mile hike above the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers. At one point I found a flock of about a dozen Pinyon Jays (lifer #6). While waiting for the Pinyon Jays to move upslope, the tree I was standing under was invaded by Bushtits. I also got Juniper Titmouse and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (!) making four trip birds at Dinosaur.

After Dinosaur, I headed down toward Grand Junction, stopping at the nearby Colorado National Monument. It too has spectacular red-rock canyons. The nature trail near the visitor's center ends in something resembling a slot canyon. It was hot, hot, hot (100) and CNM, and the birds were quiet, quiet, quiet.

[Balanced Rock] [Balanced Rock] [CNM] [Independence Monument]
Colorado National Monument
[Coke Ovens] [Coke Ovens]
Coke Ovens: Colorado National Monument

It's true it is a dry heat (9% humidity), but it's still hot! The trip total is 205.

Clifton, CO

Uncompahgre and Ouray

Tuesday, July 2: Tuesday started with an unsuccessful Chukar hunt at Coal Canyon in the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area near Cameo. I walked the road for about 1 1/4 miles (+ return), and climbed up one of the sides to look into the next canyon over. I listened quietly, I scanned visually, I scanned with binoculars. No Chukars (no wild horses either, although there were signs of their recent presence).

On impulse, I then changed the day's plan and drove to Ouray for a visit to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon has an interesting waterfall (evidently even better before it was altered by a flood). It also has nesting Black Swifts! None have hatched yet, but you could sometimes see the egg in the nearest nest. Black Swift was lifer #7 for the trip. Cooper's Hawk an Cordilleran Flycatcher were trip birds, bringing me to 208. I walked up to the top of the canyon (there is a nice trail) and was surprised to see how the rocks have moved around. In some places, the sides of the canyon appeared to have been tilted by more than 100 degrees from the horizontal. The layers of the rock were oriented almost vertically, and looked like they'd gone beyond vertical.

Box Canyon Falls

[Dolores River Canyon] I came back by circling the Uncompahgre Plateau. This involves more canyon county with wonderful views, including the canyons of Naturia Creek, San Miguel River (and their confluence), and the Dolores (and its confluence with the San Miguel). The loop I followed went into the Paradox Valley, called so because the Dolores doesn't follow the valley lengthwise, but cuts straight across, with and entrance canyon carved in the encircling wall to the west, and an exit canyon carved in the eastern valley wall. I wonder what sequence of events led to that...

The loop also goes though another valley where the water runs out both ends. There is some weird land around here!

Again, it was extremely hot (except in Ouray at 8000 feet), and a good day to spend in the air conditioned comfort of the car looking at scenery.

Clifton, CO