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   Rocky Mountain National Park area, Colorado

Rocky Mountain NP map

Even before we left Denver, in fact not even outside of the perimeter of the overnight stop at the Embassy Suites Hotel near to the airport, there were some Stateside birds to be munched on, even if they were all fairly common. The new airport has also spawned a new hatchling clutch of servicing hotels nearby, so they look potentially stale from a birding point of view. Yet a short pre breakfast walk around the perimeter found a batch of Western Kingbirds, both noisy and approachable. Brewer's Blackbirds were in only slightly lower numbers, but were just as brash, and held the morning light well in the glossy sheen on the plumage. American Robins were a little more shy, but a couple of singing Western Meadowlarks were easily located in the low stubble.

Behind Embassy Suites Western Kingbird Mourning Dove
Open fields behind the Embassy Suites, Denver airport Western Kingbird Mourning Dove

The real holidaying began on arrival at Estes Park,our base of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Or to be exact, just before arriving here. Only a couple of miles short of the town, we pulled into a popular roadside stop. The main attraction for the populace was the performance by Least Chipmunks and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels. A Red Squirrel skulked in the background. Mingling with these was a Steller's Jay, and a slightly more evasive Clark's Nutcracker.

Steller's Jay

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Steller's Jay

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Least Chipmunk

Red Squirrel

Least Chipmunk

Red Squirrell

From our accommodation at Discovery Lodge on Big Thomson Avenue, which seems to be the main "strip" of hotels in the town, the common residents of the area could be seen well even in the back yard - House Finch, Violet Green Swallow, and Broad-tailed Hummingbird were all noisy, boisterous, and easy to see. The 4 miles walk around Lake Estes is also on the doorstep from here, with most of the birds seen again being the expected ones - Common Grackles and Turkey Vultures in particular. The walk is pleasant and flat,  although the herd of calving Elk presented something of a barrier at the time of our visit, with a portion of the walk cordoned off. Even more common than the Elk are numerous Wyoming Ground Squirrels, which are very hard to miss. The lake itself offered no more than common Mallard and Canada Goose, and these in low numbers. A sit down on the northern shore did turn up a pair of Spotted Sandpipers and lone Mountain Chickadee. Overhead was productive, with three different raptors in the form of Ferruginous Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Prairie Falcon.

Lake Estes

Lucy Lake

Lake Estes

Lake Estes - a few miles South of Estes Park

American Robin Broad-tailed Hummingbird Broad-tailed Hummingbird
American Robin

Broad-tailed Hummingbird - territory in the front yard of the accommodation in Estes Park

House Finch Mountain Chickadee Turkey Vulture
House Finch Mountain Chickadee Turkey Vulture
Violet-green Swallow American Coot Brewer's Blackbird
Violet-green Swallow American Coot Brewer's Blackbird
Ring-necked Duck Red-winged Blackbird Raven
Ring-necked Duck Red-winged Blackbird Raven

Pride of place in the Estes locale is the RockyMountain National Park. Even without the addition of wildlife it contains, this is worthy of a visit due to the stunning scenery throughout. Costing only $20 for a week long pass, this peach of a park has glades and loose forest at its lower end, which thins out to surround brilliant vistas from many lookouts and short trails, to the still snow-covered tops of the spartan alpine peaks. The Elk take pride place in the lower altitudes, and you must be extremely unlucky not to come across these on any given visit. Taking the route 34 first along the Trail Ridge Road means skirting the meadows of Horseshoe Park, where these beasts are more or less guaranteed. A closer inspection is also worthwhile, since Wyoming Ground Squirrels are also here. In one of the trees adjacent to the road, a male Mountain Bluebird shared a branch with an American Robin, and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird was busy feeding and occasionally resting, picked up by its high pitched trilling. The conifers are also the home of Pygmy Nuthatch.

One of the best stops was 3 miles short of the Alpine visitor centre, where a trail led to some impressive rocks. Yellow-bellied Marmots seem to be almost touchable here, with one sunning itself next to the toilets. Buff-bellied Pipits were performing song flights, with Shorelarks visible when their song was followed. Most impressive was a pair of Mountain Bluebirds building a nest - amongst the woodwork of the visitor centre itself! They were even watched and photographed through the window of the coffee shop.

Horseshoe Park

Rocky Mountain NP

Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain NP

View from the Alpine Visitor Centre, Rocky Mountain NP

Mountain Bluebird Mountain Bluebird fem Buff-bellied Pipit
Mountain Bluebird Female Mountain Bluebird Buff-bellied Pipit

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Wyoming Ground Squirrel

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Wyoming Ground Squirrel

Elk

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Elk

Yellow-bellied Marmot

 

Home

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Introduction

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