where, when, and what to find

Abajo Mountains -- West Side

posted by Tim Avery at
on Sunday, April 5, 2015 

The Western Abajos from Google Maps User

The west half of the Abajo or "Blue" Mountains is definitely an under-birded location.  The east half which has easy access form Monticello rarely sees much in terms of birds, so the west end which is only accessible via dirt road really has a lot to be discovered.  In terms of what the area consists of--it is generally everything west of the main spine or "east group" of peaks which consists of Twin Peaks East, Abajo Peak and West Mountain.  From here the mountains level out  a bit and various canyons dot the landscape for 6-10 miles going west. Then the "west group" of peaks including Horse Mountain, Seven Sisters Buttes South, and Mormon Pasture Mountain can be found.  This area has commonly been referred to as "The Gooseberry".  The mountains/buttes/mesas continue to the west and include a number of smaller notable "peaks" as the mountains turn into canyon lands and desert.  You could literally create dozens of hot spots in the area if trying to come up with a solid list of what is in the area--but birders generally don't visit so there are a lot of unknowns here.  The habitat in the lower reaches of the mountains are mostly juniper woodlands with some oak as well.  Various shrubsteppe covered hills can be found, while small riparian lined creeks are not uncommon i the draws and canyons.  As you travel higher mixed aspen and coniferous woodland can be found.  I am keeping this very general in hopes that others will stop in and create various points in the area in the future, and hopefully help build a better data set.

We can assume the birding here is very similar to that on the east end of the Abajos--except with more range in habitats, likely meaning more possible species.  For the little amount of access to the east side, the west is even more isolated, and generally roads in the area are only open in the summer and fall, meaning birding is best here in June and July.  Passing through various habitats means you could see a lot of different species.  The small amount of checklists submitted to eBird show the range with species such as GRAY VIREO, GRACE'S WARBLER, WESTERN TANAGER, PYGMY NUTHATCH, BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, and WESTERN BLUEBIRD being reported.  These high elevation sites could potentially hold some very interesting birds given their remoteness, birders just don't make it to them.  Do Hermit Warbler and Hepatic Tanager creep into southern Utah here?  How many pairs of Spotted Owls breed here?  Are there Rosy-Finches above the tree line?  Could Brown-capped nest here?  What is the status of Pine Grosbeak? Northern Goshawk? American Three-toed Woodpecker?  These are questions that birders can answer by visiting areas like this and submitting a checklist to eBird!

Here are the directons into "The Gooseberry". From the intersection of Main and Center Street in Blanding head south on Main Street for 3.9 miles.  Turn right onto SR-95 and travel 6.3 miles west. At this point you will turn right on to Cottonwood Road and go 5.3 miles before taking a slight left onto Elk Mountain Road for another 2.7 miles.  Here turn right onto North Cottonwood Road and continue 17.5 miles into the hear of the mountains. From here you can travel east of west on Gooseberry Road.  If you go west you end up in the Horse Mountain area eventually.  If you go east there are a number of small canyons, ridges, peaks, and other high elevation sites accessible via various roads.  The area is there for your exploring!

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