State wildlife agency expands popular network of bird-watching sites into the western part of Colorado
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Bird watchers have some new options in the Mile High State, as the popular birding trail has expanded westward to include 13 new routes and 200 sites in the southwestern part of Colorado.
The new area gives travelers some outstanding outstanding opportunities to see unique species in Colorado’s most spectacular environments. From shorebirds along the edges of Fruitgrower’s Reservoir near Eckert, to the sandhill cranes in the San Luis Valley, the southwestern routes highlight some of the best places for bird watching and wildlife viewing in Colorado.
The birding trail web site provides a variety of helpful information, including: Species you’re likely to see, habitats you’ll encounter, location maps, directions, availability of public and private facilities, latitude/longitude coordinates of sites and a general description of each site. The web site also explains techniques and etiquette for watching birds, descriptions of other wildlife you’re likely to see, and resources for learning more about birds and the environment of Colorado.
The Colorado Birding Trail was launched in 2007 by the Colorado Division of Wildlife in partnership with Audubon Colorado, Colorado Field Ornithologists, Colorado Scenic Byways, Great Outdoors Colorado, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and several heritage tourism groups.
The first part of the Colorado Birding Trail, which includes 14 routes, was established in southeastern Colorado. Those routes also are described on the web site.
“The web site provides valuable information for novice and experienced birders and wildlife watchers,” said Jennifer Kleffner, watchable wildlife coordinator for the DOW’s southwest region. “Our goals for the birding trail are to lead the public to locations where they can enjoy Colorado’s natural resources, to economically link funds spent on wildlife watching to rural Colorado communities, and to increase awareness for species and conservation efforts with the general public and private landowners.”
Bird watching can contribute significantly to the economies of rural Colorado communities. A formal economic study in 2008 found that birders who traveled more than a mile from home to watch birds spent more than $700 million on their pastime in Colorado, which supported almost 13,000 jobs in the state.
Southwest birding aficionados can learn about where to see birds in three national parks, along county roads and scenic byways and on trails that lead deep into the high country.
“Because the habitat is so diverse, from red rock canyons and windswept sage flats to alpine tundra, there are a wide variety of birding opportunities,” Kleffner said.
Some of the birds found primarily or only in the southwest region of Colorado include: the Gunnison-Sage grouse, white-tailed ptarmigan, black swift, acorn woodpeckers, Lucy’s warbler, and boreal owls.
Free printed guides for southwest and southeast Colorado will be available in July at DOW offices and all Colorado State Welcome Centers.
For the best places to see birds in Colorado, go to: www.coloradobirdingtrail.com.
Some other wildlife viewing opportunities in Colorado include a spectacular bat cave in the San Luis Valley and the autumn elk fest in Estes Park. Get the details here.
Orient Mine Bat Viewing-Near Villa Grove, San Luis Valley (June-August)
At least once in your life you must experience this extraordinary event. A one-hour hike will take you to the abandoned mine from which you will see nearly 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats emerge! The Orient Mine is the summer home of the northernmost and largest bachelor colony of Mexican free-tailed bats known in North America. Call (719) 256-4315 or visit www.olt.org for visitor information.
Fall Birding Festival at Barr Lake—Brighton (Mid-September)
Fly over to Barr Lake State Park to celebrate the fall bird migration, an experience worth sharing with others. Be entertained at this festive community event filled with food, fun, and lore—something for everyone. Plan for a day packed with free food and activities. Admission to the festival is $2 per person and $5 per vehicle.
For more information about the Fall Birding Festival, call Barr Lake Nature Center at (303) 659-6005 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Elk Fest—Estes Park (Late September or early October)
A two-day festival, as described on the event’s Web site: “Elk Fest offers visitors a chance to view elk during the rutting season in the wild, as well as expand their knowledge of elk. Learn more about elk, their habitats, and how to observe them in the wild. Held in Bond Park, located in downtown Estes Park,
Elk Fest will offer bugling competitions, educational areas, seminars, music by the Elktones, Mountain Man Rendezvous, Native American story telling and music, guided elk viewing tours, and vendors that offer art from oils and pastels, hand made elk-ivory jewelry, scrimshawed antler knives, elk antler lamps and chandeliers, elk hide pillows, silver and gold jewelry, and elk antlers.” Find out more from the Elk Fest Web site, including schedules and costs (for elk viewing tours), or write to the event organizers.
Northern Colorado Birding Fair—Fort Collins (Late September)
Crazy about birds, or just curious? Enjoy a free day of fun and learning! Compete in the Bird Olympics, go on a guided bird walk and scavenger hunt, or listen to presentations from experts in the field. No matter what tickles your fancy, birders young and old, beginner to experienced, will find something at this exciting event to fit the bill.
Event sponsors will discuss and demonstrate the latest in bird viewing equipment and resource materials. Held at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space, between Fort Collins and Windsor. For more information, please call (970) 679-4534, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit the Birding Fair’s website for details.
“Cranes for Kids” Festival—Monte Vista (Mid-October)
Kids, bring your parents to Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy the fresh fall air, migrating Sandhill cranes, food, fun, and educational activities. The festival includes a barbeque lunch, a puppet show, watchable wildlife workshops, nest hunts, bird migration games, learning about the water cycle, and horse drawn wagon rides. For additional information, contact the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge at (719) 589-4021.
Filed under: biodiversity, Summit County Colorado, Travel, wildlife Tagged: | bird-watching, Colorado bird-watching, Colorado Birding Tral, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado wildlife, nature trails, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, wildlife