Hundreds of species of birds, several wildlife areas and prairie as far as the eye can see make this area a bird watcher's paradise. There are many diverse habitats in this part of the state which attract a wide variety of birds. Many of the sites listed are noted as "hot spots" and several tour groups frequently visit this area. Migratory songbirds can easily be found in the spring and fall and several rare species are right at home on the grasslands.
The Comanche National Grasslands near La Junta are a bird watchers paradise. The area is home to over 200 species, including the Curve-billed Thrasher, Cassin's Kingbird, Black-throated Sparrows, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Golden Eagles and the Canyon Wren to name a few. For easy access to the grasslands enter through Vogel Canyon.
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta has recorded over 135 species of birds. Many of the birds visit the marshy wetlands near the fort and others are known to nest on the grasslands nearby. The large grove of Cottonwood trees just east of the fort is another great place for viewing. Resident birds include Hawks, Quail, Kestrel, Killdeer, Owls, Woodpeckers and Grosbeak. Rare varieties of Herons, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Thrushes have been seen as well.
Lake Henry and Lake Meredith, near Ordway, are popular for Grebes, Waders, migratory songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and Gulls. During fall and winter, these two lakes are a major stop for thousands of Geese and Ducks on their annual migration south. The woody area on the eastern side of Lake Henry attracts songbirds in the spring and fall. The marshy areas along the north and western edges of Lake Meredith, are filled with tamaracks and are a perfect place to prowl around for some great sightings.
John Martin Reservoir State Park and Lake Hasty near Las Animas are two more great places for birding. Warblers, Buntings, Grosbeaks and Vireos are just a few of the 373 species that have been spotted there. The shoreline is one of the few remaining nesting areas in Colorado for the threatened Piping Plover and the endangered Interior Least Tern. During the winter months, Bald Eagles winter here and can be seen throughout the area, especially the large trees at the Lake Hasty Campground.
Bent's Bird Sanctuary, located behind the Bent's Fort Inn near Las Animas is an ideal setting for bird watching. There are five trails and feeding stations, taking you along the waterways and under the shade trees. Spend the night and wake up to the sounds and songs of the inhabitants or take a long nature walk and then stop in at the restaurant for a nice meal and a cool glass of iced tea. The sanctuary is open to the public and bird feed is available for purchase at the front desk of the hotel.
Other great viewing areas include Ryan's Ponds, two miles east of Rocky Ford on Highway 266, Cheraw Lake, just south of the town of Cheraw, Holbrook Reservoir, five miles north of Swink, and anywhere along the Arkansas River.
Bring your binoculars, and field guide to enjoy a few days discovering the fabulous birds of Southeastern Colorado.