On a wing and a prayer - Bird Watching in Saguache County

golden-eagleThe San Luis Valley is a unique area for migratory birds, and for many species this represents the northern most extent of their range. Vast swaths of remote undeveloped habitat and sparse human population help make Saguache County a bird’s (and birder’s paradise). Most sites can be viewed from a car. If fact, rarely can you drive a road on the valley floor in Saguache and not see a raptor and shrub land songbirds.

The excellent bird watching opportunities change as you move through the different landscapes. In the spring as the snow pack melts in the high country, the low-lying wetlands fill and waterfowl hop from pond to pond. Wetlands provide migratory species sightings of white faced ibis, sandhill cranes, and the occasional whooping crane. Semi-desert shrub lands cover the valley floor yielding sightings of larks, doves, and invariably hawks and golden eagles circling overhead. The scarcity of trees leads to competition for nesting sites, a pair of Great Horned Owls may nest in February and the same nest could be used by a Swainson’s Hawk to raise a brood the same year. Moving up in elevation, passing through bands of pinon/juniper, ponderosa/spruce, and eventually emerging onto alpine tundra, a kaleidoscope of birds can be viewed. Some of the best undisturbed treed habitat can be accessed through the north entrance of the Sand Dunes National Park across the foothills to the north side of the dunes. Above the Park lies the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area, which offers wild mountain terrain without motorized vehicles interrupting the peacefulness.

Birding information websites:

www.wildlife.state.co.us

www.coloradocountybirding.com

The following are some of the best places to view birds in Saguache County:

  • Cochetopa Canyon
  • Moss Lake and State Wildlife Area
  • Cebolla Trail
  • Dome Lakes State Wildlife Area
  • Marshall Pass Road
  • Moffat (area), and County Road T
  • Carnero Pass Road
  • Cochetopa Pass and Rabbit Canyon
  • Russell Lakes State Wildlife (area)
  • Hot Springs Canyon (area)
  • La Garita (area)
  • Los Pinos State Wildlife (area)
  • Elephant Rocks
  • Baca National Wildlife Refuge
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park (north entrance)
  • Crestone (area)
  • Bonanza (area)
  • Saguache (town of)