We had visited the US four times before, but all of these trips were to coastal areas (California, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey/New York) so we thought it was about time we explored part of the huge area in the middle. With about two and half weeks to play with, we planned an anticlockwise itinerary that started in Denver, and took us via western Nebraska, southwest South Dakota and northern Wyoming to Yellowstone & Grand Teton national parks, where we stayed for a week, and then on via western Wyoming and eastern Utah to western Colorado, and then finally back to Denver. We flew into Denver on 27 June, arriving about 8 hours later than planned because a delayed flight caused us to have to replan our connections. As a result we had to juggle our plans for the first two days but other than that our itinerary worked out as planned. We knew that this trip would involve a lot of driving; in total we covered 4,267 miles. Given the number of national parks and monuments that we planned to visit, we invested in the $80-per-vehicle Inter-agency annual pass.
In total we saw around 130 bird species, with around 40 lifers. This was our first trip to the western US in summer, so many of the new birds (e.g. Western Kingbird) were common western summer visitors, but we also connected with a number of highly sought-after Rocky Mountains / Great Plains specialities (as well as missing one or two). With a few days in Yellowstone, big mammals and geothermal features were also going to feature highly, and the bears, bison, moose, mud pots and geysers didn't disappoint. This short report doesn't list everything we saw, but concentrates on western specialities and other scarce and localised species.
If you can get hold of the ABA bird-finding guides to Colorado and Wyoming, these will prove invaluable. Both are out of print, though easily found through web-based booksellers. The Colorado guide in its most recent edition seems to be selling for a hugely inflated price – we bought the much cheaper second edition, which was fine.
For the full pdf report click here