Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Colorado birding tour features one of most spectacular North American birdwatching events, the spring lekking of the prairie-chickens and other grouse. Our Colorado tour features the most comprehensive itinerary available and usually produces no fewer than seven grouse, including White-tailed Ptarmigan, and very often all three rosy-finches.
Wednesday 29th March —
Monday 10th April 2017
Leaders: Mike Watson and a second Birdquest leader
Group Size Limit: 11
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations
Is early spring in Colorado the most spectacular birding experience in all North America? Yes!
First explored by the Spanish in the mid-1600s, Colorado was settled by Europeans only relatively recently. The Santa Fe Trail, a major trading route across the southern part of the state, extending from St. Louis, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was blazed in 1820 and the year 1858 saw a major gold rush. During this period the Front Range, an area of foothills on the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains, was settled and this area of Colorado, centred on Denver, remains the most populous in a relatively sparsely populated state.
Straddling the Continental Divide, Colorado is a land of superlatives. Stretching from north to south, the spectacular and awe-inspiring Rockies form the central backbone of the state. This mountainous area is three times the size of the Swiss Alps and Colorado has no fewer than 1,000 peaks over 10,000 feet (3,300 metres). Half of these are over 13,000 feet (4,000 metres) and no less than 54 peaks top 14,000 feet (4,300 metres)! With many mountains still snow-covered in the early spring, the views as one travels through Colorado are truly breathtaking, providing some great photographic opportunities. Teddy Roosevelt once said that the scenery in Colorado bankrupts the English language, and it is certainly difficult to find the words to adequately describe this extraordinarily beautiful place. To the east of the Rockies lie immense prairies and plains, a land of almost limitless vistas and vast skyscapes. To the west is a rugged landscape of lower mountains punctuated by magnificent canyons and remarkable rock formations.
In this fantastic land we will be searching for an exciting collection of avian specialities, most notably the world’s most spectacular set of grouse. Within its borders Colorado boasts no fewer than eight breeding grouse species, more than anywhere else in the world. Most of these are lekking species inhabiting the vast plains and interior basins, and we will have the opportunity to visit leks of all five such grouse. Early morning vigils at these leks provide some of the most memorable spectacles that nature has to offer in the entire North American continent.
Ours is the most comprehensive early spring tour of Colorado available, hunting out more of the states’ specialities than any other. Indeed, we usually see seven species of grouse on our tour, almost always including White-tailed Ptarmigan! Travel around the region is generally easy, with comfortable accommodations, although there are some long drives.
Beginning in Denver, we will travel a short distance west to Georgetown in the Rocky Mountains. At the high passes, driven down to lower altitudes by winter snowstorms, endearing White-tailed Ptarmigans congregate, providing an excellent opportunity for observing this elusive species at close range in its pristine white winter plumage, while the coniferous forests hold the uncommon American Three-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Pine Grosbeak and Cassin’s Finch. Feeders in the Colorado Rockies attract winter and early spring concentrations of rosy-finches and Colorado is one of the best places to see all three North American species together.
Next we will travel out into the plains to Wray in northeastern Colorado in order to visit a spectacular Greater Prairie-Chicken lek.
Our clockwise route around the state will then take us to the Lamar and Springfield areas in the southeast. Here the sagebrush-yucca prairies are inhabited by the equally fascinating Lesser Prairie-Chicken, as well as Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon, and if we are in luck we will come across Lewis’s Woodpeckers hawking insects from the treetops in one of the canyons. The wetlands of the eastern plains host many migrant waterbirds at this season and in particular large numbers of Snow Geese and smaller numbers of the rare Ross’s Goose.
Moving west to the edge of the Rockies, we will search for Scaled Quail and Curve-billed Thrasher before continuing to the Gunnison Basin where we will visit a lek of the remarkable Gunnison Sage-Grouse, one of North America’s most recently described species. Also in this area we will search for the unobtrusive and extremely confiding Dusky (or Blue) Grouse at the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Still further west we will search for Gambel’s Quail, Pinyon Jay, Sage Thrasher and Sage Sparrow, and also enjoy some awesomely beautiful canyons and red rock pinnacles, before heading northeast to the Steamboat Springs area. Here hyperactive Sharp-tailed Grouse gather at yet another lek site.
After an encounter with displaying Barrow’s Goldeneyes, the grand finale of our ‘Grousequest’ will be provided by the unforgettable sight of magnificent Greater Sage-Grouse lekking at close range.
Before we complete our circular route around the state we will spend some time in the grasslands around the Wyoming border where Mountain Plovers and both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs nest.
Colorado is also a great place to see a wide variety of mammal species with Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep all likely to be encountered during our travels.
Birdquest has operated tours to Colorado since 2003.
How the Birdquest Colorado tour stands out: The Birdquest early spring tour of Colorado is both earlier and longer than most other tours. As a direct result we get to see more of the specialities (in particular, rosy finches get harder later on). As seeing the three rosy-finches and White-tailed Ptarmigan is so weather-dependent, we may have to be flexible and rearrange the tour itinerary while in Colorado in order to maximize our possibilities.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/motels are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van or car.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there will be some moderate grade walks and possibly one optional fairly strenuous hike.
Climate: It will vary from quite cold in the early mornings, especially in the Rocky Mountains, to relatively warm in the middle of the day, particularly on the eastern plains and in the far west. Sunshine is the norm, but there are likely to be some overcast periods, either with or without rain (or snow at high altitudes).
Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £2990, €3530, $3920 Denver/Denver.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room Supplement: £504, €595, $660.
Deposit: £350, €450, $550.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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