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Skull Guy

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We are planning to visit friends near Boulder next year and I am trying to focus my time for the "best" birding. We have never birded west of the Mississippi except for Houston and Hawaii, so many birds will be new. We have flexibility in the month we go, I am thinking mid May to mid June would be best for maximizing birds but am open to suggestions (migration?). We will be doing a lot of birding during the visit so can travel a distance from Boulder. Any advice is welcome!

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Well I have very little experience birding in Colorado, perhaps @Phalarope713 or someone else can give you more info!

However, I would suggest going in early to mid June and focusing on seeing breeding birds. It might still be snowy at the higher elevations in May, by June all the breeding birds will be present, roads in the mountains should be open, etc...

From Boulder, there are 2 primary areas I would suggest going.

First, I would suggest going into the northeast portion of the state, such as Pawnee National Grassland, in the shortgrass prairies. Here, you can look for grassland birds such as Mountain Plover, Lark Bunting, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, McCown's Longspur, etc...

Second, I would suggest birding in Rocky Mountain National Park. Up at higher elevations, there are a few different habitats - coniferous forest, where you can look for birds like American Three-toed Woodpecker, Red Crossbill, Steller's and Canada Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees, and breeding warblers such as Yellow-rumped, MacGillivray's, and Wilson's Warbler. There is also alpine tundra, where you can look for the prized Rocky Mountain specialty birds, White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy-finch. Your best chance for these birds is up on Trail Ridge Road. Mountain Bluebirds are also found in alpine tundra.

Other birds of interest for you (as someone who hasn't birded in the west) may be Black-billed Magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, American Dipper - all possible in the Rocky Mountains. Black-billed Magpie is pretty easy to find up there but you may want to do some research on eBird for tougher birds, for example I find American Dipper can be kind of tough to find.

 

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2 hours ago, AlexHenry said:

Well I have very little experience birding in Colorado, perhaps @Phalarope713 or someone else can give you more info!

However, I would suggest going in early to mid June and focusing on seeing breeding birds. It might still be snowy at the higher elevations in May, by June all the breeding birds will be present, roads in the mountains should be open, etc...

From Boulder, there are 2 primary areas I would suggest going.

First, I would suggest going into the northeast portion of the state, such as Pawnee National Grassland, in the shortgrass prairies. Here, you can look for grassland birds such as Mountain Plover, Lark Bunting, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, McCown's Longspur, etc...

Second, I would suggest birding in Rocky Mountain National Park. Up at higher elevations, there are a few different habitats - coniferous forest, where you can look for birds like American Three-toed Woodpecker, Red Crossbill, Steller's and Canada Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees, and breeding warblers such as Yellow-rumped, MacGillivray's, and Wilson's Warbler. There is also alpine tundra, where you can look for the prized Rocky Mountain specialty birds, White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy-finch. Your best chance for these birds is up on Trail Ridge Road. Mountain Bluebirds are also found in alpine tundra.

Other birds of interest for you (as someone who hasn't birded in the west) may be Black-billed Magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, American Dipper - all possible in the Rocky Mountains. Black-billed Magpie is pretty easy to find up there but you may want to do some research on eBird for tougher birds, for example I find American Dipper can be kind of tough to find.

 

Yeah, I definitely agree with this. You should be able to find magpies fairly frequently in the farmlands and open spaces anywhere around Boulder. Rocky Mountain NP is a good spot for most of the mountain species. Brainard Lake can also be a good spot for species such as crossbills and especially three-toed woodpeckers. American Dipper is fairly reliable around the town of Lyons (try Bohn Park). Pawnee is probably the best locations for prairie species such as burrowing owls and longspurs as AlexHenry mentioned. If you are thinking of coming in May, I’d definitely go to Walden/Sawhill ponds for migrant songbirds and waterfowl (you can get upwards of fifty species there on a good day). Hope this helps, and I’d be glad to answer any other questions about local birding as I live in the Boulder area. 

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I agree with the above.I birded CO last June and had most of the prairie species such as Mountain Plover, Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Lark Bunting, longspurs, Cassin’s Sparrows, etc at Pawnee and the fields around CO Springs and most of the mountain species in Rocky Mountain NP such as White-tailed Ptarmigan, Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, Canada Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Olive-sided Flycatcher, etc... The lower elevations in the park are very reliable for things like Wilson’s and MacGillvray’s Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrow,  Green-tailed Towhee,  woodpeckers, etc...

The town at the base of the park, Estes Park, is crawling with magpies. We stayed in a cabin and had things like a Mountain Chickadees and Pygmy Nuthatches right outside the window, in addition to the omnipresent elk.

If you bird around CO Springs you can get things like Virginia’s Warblers, Cinnamon Teal, Hammond’s Flycatcher, etc. 

If you’ve never birded west of the Mississippi and you’re birding for a month, I’d expect 80-100 lifers. I’m jealous.

Good luck.

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Thanks for the reply's! We have a lot of planning to do but this helps greatly. I'll focus in more once we start getting the dates and locations sorted out

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