29 - 31 August 1995
by Rose Petersen & Ian Smith
This is the third trip report of a three state trip taken by Ian and I this summer. This was a wonderful, not planned, addition to our trip. We went because the description sounded like good bird habitat and it would be cooler than the desert. The campground is HUGE (over 400 sites) with lots and lots of good spots. No need to reserve, $14. a night). Again there are fee showers (.75 for the shower plus .10 to open the door!) There are places to eat in the park but it wasn't wonderful and it was expensive, but it beat driving all the way back to Cortez. It looked like there were inexpensive motels in Cortez.
The roads are very winding and the speed limit along them are justifiable slow so it takes a while to go from A to Z. It is impossible to bird along the road, either by driving or trying to walk along the main roads. But there are great canyon walks and trails and places at the lookouts or around the Anasazi sites.
There is a bookstore, mostly about the Cliff Dwellers and a museum. The museum was quite good. Learning the history of the Anasazi Indians from the beginning pit houses to the incredible cliff dwellings was a side treat for us.
It is necessary to register before hiking some of the trails. The Spruce Canyon hike is a 3 mile loop descending to canyon bottom and then back up. It was super. Great birds, no people. We saw all of the warblers on the list here. They evidently were in fall migration.
We saw our life Green-tailed Towhee at Park Point, the highest point in the park. Amazing scenery.
The morning we left we hiked along the Knife Edge Trail (no need to register) Unbelievable. Wild flowers were in full bloom and we couldn't believe how many hummingbirds there were. This is a good place to find Calliope HB in migration. We thought we might have seen one but didn't count it. There were Rufous, Black-chinned, and Broad-tailed hummingbirds here, thousands of them. We also saw a pair of Peregrine Falcons, Rock Wrens and more Green-tailed Towhee. All these birds plus fantastic views of the valley below. This was a highlight of the entire trip.
On the way to Mesa Verde from Monument Valley we saw a perched Prairie Falcon on a fence post along the road. Ian was asleep at this point but I pulled over and woke him up as this was a life bird for him. We only saw the one the entire 3 state trip.
Black-throated Gray Warbler
The blackbirds, starling and meadowlark were seen after descending from Mesa Verde and were in the farm fields area.