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Birding in the Plains and Foothills of Colorado

Program Number: 21020RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/18/2014 - 5/23/2014;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
Price starting at: $897.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Colorado ranks in the top states for total bird diversity. By searching for specific birds in specific places, this program emphasizes the interplay of geography and habitat and how that determines which birds live where. This will help both new and long-time birders develop their skills, particularly in finding birds on purpose rather than by serendipity and then how to identify them once they are found. From Fort Collins, we take an eco-region approach that reveals the lives of birds, develops the skills necessary for learning about birds and ways people interact with birds. Lectures provide background for field trips that will be both on-site walking and by van to other birding locations.


• From the 5,000-foot base in Fort Collins, explore summer Colorado plains and foothills birds and their habitats including plains species such as Burrowing Owls, Kestrals, and Lark Bunting.
• Locate birds and other wildlife along Trail Ridge road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

• Discover why Colorado ranks among the top 10 states for total bird diversity, a status achieved by its geographic position sprawling across the seam between Rocky Mountains and Great Plains.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one-half mile per day over uneven terrain. Bird viewing is dependent upon ability to walk and the unpredictable presence of birds. Elevations of 3,500-9,000 feet. Program is appropriate for beginning birders and/or those unfamiliar with Northern Colorado bird species.

This program is based in Fort Collins and will feature the birds of the Eastern Colorado Plains, the foothills and canyons of the Rockies. Elevation. Kevin Cook is the Instructor for this program. Daily birding field trips by 12 passenger van to locations including Pawnee Buttes National Grassland, Lory State Park in the Foothills; Cache la Poudre River Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Coordinated by Mountains and Plains Institute.

Fort Collins

Founded as a military fort in 1864, Fort Collins is a city known for its thriving arts community, active university and Old West history. Nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills, Fort Collins is a prime spot for hiking, bicycling and rafting along the Cache la Poudre River.

Motel in central Fort Collins, CO.
Meals and Lodgings
   Best Western University Inn
  Fort Collins, CO 5 nights
 Best Western University Inn
Type: Motel
  Contact info: 914 S College Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80524 USA
phone: 888-484-2984
  Room amenities: Cable satellite television, Coffee/tea maker, Hairdryer, Iron, ironing board, Dataports, High-speed Internet access available in some rooms free, In-room safe, Poolside rooms available.
  Facility amenities: Complimentary coffee, Complimentary newspaper, Year-round glass retractable roofed pool including hot tub and fitness room, Guest laundry, front loading washers, 24-hour front desk, Free parking.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call motel for information Reserve directly with hotel.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call motel for information Reserve directly with hotel.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check-in hotel by 5:00 pm; Required Briefing meeting followed by dinner at 5:30 You will be staying at Best Western University Inn that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after breakfast. Room check-out is 10:00 am. You will be staying at Best Western University Inn the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. "Acknowledgement of Risk Form" -Please mail to: Road Scholar Programs Mountains and Plains Institute 155 W. Harvard Street, Suite 202 Fort Collins, CO 80525
  Parking availability:
Parking is free
To Start of Program
  Location:  Fort Collins, CO
  Nearest highway: I25; US287
  Nearest airport:  Denver International (DEN)
  From End of Program
  Location: Fort Collins, CO
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Fort Collins


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
1. SuperShuttle 2. Greenride Colorado
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Call for current rates
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


DIA to Fort Collins 2 hours total 


Reservations required. Participants can choose either service: the SuperShuttle 800-258-3826 or Greenride Colorado 888-472-6656 from Denver International Airport to Fort Collins. Request in advance to be dropped off and picked up at the Best Western University Inn.

Driving Directions
  Denver to Fort Collins Fort Collins is North 60 miles from Denver via Interstate 25. Best Western University Inn: From: Interstate 25. Take Exit 268 (Prospect Road) west 4 miles. Turn right (north) on College Avenue (HWY 287). Travel 4 blocks to 914 South College Avenue (we will be on the right hand side) . The Best Western University Inn is located across the street from Colorado State University and walking distance from historic downtown
Elevation Note: 5-10,000 feet during field trips

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-in to hotel 3-5 pm/Orientation and dinner.
(Sunday, May 18)

Note: Meet at 5:30 pm in hotel lobby for dinner planning information and other welcome details.

 Afternoon: Arrival/check in by 4:00 pm. Required orientation at 5:00 pm.
 Dinner: Restaurant meal
 Evening: Orientation and course introduction: "For Better Birding"
Accommodations: Best Western University Inn
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: All Day Birding Field Trip-Pawnee National Grasslands
(Monday, May 19)

Note: Itinerary listed is a sample of all locations that will be visited. Schedule may change according to availability of birds, weather, and group considerations. Walking up to two miles over uneven terrain should be expected during daily birding walks.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in Motel
 Morning: All day birding field trip to Pawnee National Grasslands: Van and walking. The Pawnee National Grassland lies 35 miles east of Fort Collins and 25 miles northeast of Greeley in Weld County. Contained within the 30-by-60 mile area are 193,060 acres managed by the Pawnee National Grassland. The rest of the land is a checkerboard of private land, State of Colorado ownership and the Central Plains Experimental Range. The Pawnee is an internationally known birding area. It supports many bird species, especially during migration. The Colorado State Bird, the lark bunting, is very common on the grassland in spring and summer. The grassland also has many unique high plains bird species such as the mountain plover, burrowing owl and many birds of prey. Pronghorn, mule deer, coyote, swift fox, snakes and prairie dogs are just a few of the species that make the prairie their home. The windswept plains have witnessed the pageant of the frontier, the tragedy of the “Dust Bowl” and the wonders of modern agriculture. The rich history of the area is represented by old cemeteries and nearby museums. A person can explore the old homesteads and gain an appreciation of the area’s history. The network of numbered forest service and county roads will take you within easy walking distance of almost all parts of the grassland. A visit to the grassland is unique. Take a moment to experience the abundant wildlife, spring wildflowers and peaceful serenity of the prairie and let your imagination run wild.
 Lunch: Box lunch in field
 Afternoon: Continuation of field trip with a possible return through the Southern Wyoming plains.
 Dinner: Restaurant meal
 Evening: Free Time
Accommodations: Best Western University Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Foothills: Watson Lake, Lory State Park, Buckhorn Canyon
(Tuesday, May 20)

Note: Discover the rugged and diverse "foothills" area just west of Fort Collins.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in Motel
 Morning: Birding walks in several Foothills of the Rockies locations; van rides between stops. Over 175 species of migratory and resident birds are known for this area, including the grassland species lark bunting, horned lark and western meadowlark, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds attracted to the open water of adjacent Horsetooth reservoir, and park wetland and riparian habitats. Conspicuous birds include the canyon wren, yellow-breasted chat, western tanager and broad-tailed hummingbird. Mule deer, coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, Abert's squirrel, cottontail rabbit, porcupine, ground squirrel and red fox are common sights. Occasional observations of black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, elk, and white-tailed deer also occur.
 Lunch: Box lunch in field
 Afternoon: Continue field trip returning through Hogback scenic route
 Dinner: Restaurant meal
 Evening: Free Time
Accommodations: Best Western University Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Ponderosa Pine and Spruce Forest Region-Poudre Canyon
(Wednesday, May 21)

Note: The Poudre Canyon is a narrow verdant canyon, approximately 40 mi (64 km) long, on the upper Cache la Poudre River (called the "Poudre" for short, which locals pronounce as "Pooder") in Larimer County, Colorado in the United States. The canyon is a glacier-formed valley through the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains northwest of Fort Collins.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in Motel
 Morning: All day birding field trip to Ponderosa Pine and Spruce Forest region (van and walking). The Montane Ecosystem occurs at elevations between approximately 5,600 and 9,500 feet. Dry, south-facing slopes of the Montane often have open stands of large ponderosa pines. Spacing of ponderosa pines is somewhat related to available soil moisture. Grasses, other herbs and shrubs may grow between the widely spaced trees on dry slopes. As the pines become old, their bark changes from gray-brown to cinnamon-red, and the bark releases a pleasant fragrance when warmed by the sun. The long needles of ponderosa pines are attached to the stems in groups of two's and three's. North-facing slopes of the Montane escape some of the sun's drying action, so their soils contain more available water. As a result, the trees grow closer together and competition for sunlight produces a tall, slender growth form. The trees may be a mixture of Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and an occasional Engelmann spruce. A few shade-tolerant plants grow on the floor of the forest. Montane soils with high moisture content may support groves of quaking aspen, whose leaves turn golden-yellow in the autumn and whose whitish bark is easy to recognize. Along streams or the shores of lakes, other water-loving small trees may be found. These include various willows, mountain alder, and water birch with dark-colored bark. In a few places, blue spruce may grow near streams and sometimes hybridize with Engelmann spruce. Flat Montane valleys may frequently have water-logged soil and be unable to support growth of evergreen forests.
 Lunch: Box lunch in field
 Afternoon: Continue field trip up Poudre River Canyon to Cameron Pass
 Dinner: Restaurant meal
 Evening: Free Time
Accommodations: Best Western University Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Rocky Mountain National Park
(Thursday, May 22)

Note: Rocky Mountain National Park is a living laboratory. Everyone from preschoolers to Ph.D.'s can study their favorite natural sciences while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of this park.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in Motel
 Morning: All day birding field trip to Rocky Mountain National Park-Trail Ridge Road, van and walks. Since the designation of Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915, there have been 280 species of birds reported for this area, including the park, Arapaho National Recreation Area, and the towns of Estes Park and Granby. Many of the species of the park are unique to the mountainous habitats - aspen, ponderosa pine, high elevation willow, spruce/fir and alpine tundra - found in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Specialty species include White-tailed Ptarmigan, Blue Grouse, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Dipper, Western Tanager, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, Townsend's Solitare, Wilson's, MacGillivray's and Virginia's Warblers, Brown-capped Rosy Finch, Black Swift and Northern Pygmy Owl. In 2000, Rocky Mountain National Park was designated as a Global Important Bird Area. This designation recognizes the vital role of the park in the perpetuation of bird species.
 Lunch: Box lunch in field
 Afternoon: Continuation of field trip
 Dinner: Restaurant meal
 Evening: Farewell, compile week's bird list
Accommodations: Best Western University Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Departures after breakfast
(Friday, May 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Motel, end of program. Room check-out by 10:00 am.
 Morning: Departure after breakfast
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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