We drove out into the desert towards the Arkansas River Valley and once away from the highway spotted a few Scaled Quails beside the road. One individual was extremely confiding and showed very well, even calling form a fence right in front of us.
Continuing on we searched the Junipers for any sign of life in the gale force winds but it was hard work, although a Rock Wren gave point-blank views.
We finally found ourselves at an overlook with a grand view of the Arkansas River below us. A Mountain Bluebird was quite close, whilst some Chipping Sparrows and a Canyon Towhee gave fleeting glimpses. A flock of Franklin’s Gulls appeared, along with American White Pelicans, and we scoped Clark’s and Western Grebes side-by-side. Also on the water were American Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Double-crested Cormorant, and other common wildfowl. Hirundines were plentiful and included Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and a few Violet-green Swallows.
We returned to the motel to collect our luggage before setting out on the drive west, and this took us through a scenic river valley. A stop along the river produced a pair of American Dippers feeding young at a nest, plus a male Audubon’s Warbler, and a herd of Bighorn Sheep a little further on. Another roadside stop was made to view a flock of 20+ Pinyon Jays that performed very well although it wasn’t great photo opps.
The road then wound ever upwards to Monarch Pass (11,321 feet). A quick stop at the gift store for some souvenirs and even ice-cream for some was followed by a few stops where we searched for American Three-toed Woodpecker without luck, and our best find was a Townsend’s Solitaire.
Then we drove out into the plateau and found a pair of Sandhill Cranes and flocks of wildfowl before reaching our motel in Gunnison.