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Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Uncompahgre Plateau - Montrose County
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Ownership: None Listed
Description: The Uncompahgre Plateau runs northwest to southeast through the middle of Montrose County. This old mountain range has been eroded away by the many streams and rivers that drain the plateau. These streams and rivers are encased in deep canyons and ravines and have produced wonderful habitat for birds. Not only is the birding great--so is the scenery.

The top of the plateau is just over 10,000 feet elevation. Most spruce/fir birds can be found on top of the plateau especially around the radio towers located near Divide Road also known as FR-402 and Transfer Road also known as FR 508. This may be the best place to find American Three-toed Woodpecker in the county. Other alpine species include Northern Saw-whet Owl, Gray Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pine Grosbeak and Red Crossbill as well as all the more common species. Purple Martins can be seen especially where the spruce/fir give way to large stands of aspens. Keep in mind that the roads on top may not be open until around the 1st of June.

Descending the Uncompahgre 2000 feet will change the habitat completely. The alpine and aspen forest will give way to ponderosa and mountain shrubland. Grace's Warbler may be the most sought after species but many other interesting birds use this habitat. Dusky Grouse, Flammulated Owl, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Dusky Flycatcher, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Virginia's Warbler MacGillivray's Warbler, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee and Black-headed Grosbeak are all expected, as well as Nashville, Townsend's and Wilson's warblers in fall migration.

Descending to 7000 feet the dryer, hotter pinyon/juniper forests become dominant. Now it is time to look for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Gray Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Pinyon Jay, Bewick's Wren, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Spotted Towhee, and many other common birds. A good day on the Uncompahgre Plateau either starting low and moving up or starting high and moving down can produce over 100 species in mid May. Seven species of woodpeckers, nine species of flycatchers, eight jay species, six swallow species, eight chickadees through creepers species, five wrens and dippers, five thrushes, seven to ten warbler species depending on the season, and a dozen sparrow species would be expected on a full day trip on the plateau.

Habitat: Spruce-Fir Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Ponderosa Forest, Aspen Grove, Scrub Oak Forest, Lowland Riparian, Pinyon/Juniper Forest, Sagebrush, Grassland/Prairie
Elevation:
Directions: If coming from Nucla take CR 25 northeast out of town and stay on this road to Columbine Pass. Twenty Five Mesa Road as it is called locally will become FR 503 at the Uncompahgre National Forest Boundary. If coming from Montrose take CO 90 west out of town. At the forest boundary the road becomes FR 540. In three plus miles an intersection is reached. To stay left on FR 540 also known as Old Highway 90 will take a route back down to Nucla. If the right fork is taken, FR 402, this route will connected with FR 503 near Columbine Pass. Be sure to note that there are lots of ways to get up on the plateau. FR 402 in mostly flat and runs the full length of the mountain. Study a map well before planning a trip. It is possible to come from Grand Junction, Delta, and Norwood.
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