Date: 6/9/19 12:19 pm
From: John Rawinski <mvjohnski...>
Subject: [cobirds] Birding John James Canyon

John James Canyon in the southern San Luis Valley is always a birding
adventure. It’s rugged canyons contain steep basalt hillsides that rise to
a relatively flat mesa top. You can see New Mexico landscapes to the south
and with NM so close, this creates the possibility for some really exciting
birds. Today I spent a day hiking in the formidable John James Canyon
(JJC) in Conejos County. It is a trip I try to do annually. I wrote a CFO
article years ago about the Black-throated Sparrows that make these dry
canyons home. It is the only place (including a few nearby dry canyons east
and west of JJC) they are known to breed in the Valley.

So with snake gaiters covering my legs, and an early start, I headed for
the upper elevations of the hills. Enroute, I saw 3 Black-throated Sparrows
and a number of them were singing. It was good to know they still are here
after 19 years. You can usually see them in the first mile up the canyon
from the trailhead. Since this is a Wilderness Study Area, all access is by
foot, and no motorized use is allowed beyond the parking lot. About 2.3
miles up the canyon, the trail steepens, and in the pinyon-juniper, I was
surprised to find a species I had never recorded here before…a
Black-throated Gray Warbler. The day was already an adventure. I then
moved on up the steepest part of the trail to where it levels off.
Unfortunately the winds were gusty today and that kept the birds quiet and
in cover. On the north ridge, the landscape falls 1100 feet below and is
worth the hike even if no birds were seen. I took many pics of the great
views, and birded/bushwhacked my way back to the parking area via the west

Highlight Birds were:

Black-throated Sparrows (4 total)

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Virginia’s Warbler

Other Species Included:

Spotted Towhee


Rock Wren

Hermit Thrush

Dusky Flycatcher

Plumbeous Vireo

Chipping Sparrow

Pinyon Jay

It was a challenging and rewarding 8 mile round trip with wonderful birds
and landscapes. Was it wise to wear the snake gaiters? Most definitely as I
was lucky enough to see a prairie rattlesnake in my trail. It had a missing
rattle, so no warning buzz, and I was glad to see it first!

Birding JJC was another adventure for me and it did not disappoint. If you
wish to see this area, I recommend an early start, and bring lots of water
as there are no springs. The first few miles of the canyon are an easy
walk, but getting to the top takes considerable effort. The access road to
the trailhead is best accomplished with a high clearance vehicle, although
an SUV probably can make it. And wherever you walk, do watch your step…

John Rawinski,
Monte Vista, CO

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Colorado Birds" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to cobirds+<unsubscribe...>
To post to this group, send email to <cobirds...>
To view this discussion on the web visit<a37d5992-c502-4e7c-84eb-b453869b0663...>
For more options, visit

Join us on Facebook!