Stop a moment and look. Listen. Peer through your field glasses at the top of that pine tree. Is that a bald eagle eating a fish it has just snatched from Lake Estes?
The Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park are home to more than 315 bird species, including geese, raptors, great horned owls and ospreys. More than 150 bird species migrate from here to Costa Rica.
Estes Park and the neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park are a birdwatcher’s paradise. Here are a few favorite places to view birds:
- Rocky Mountain National Park’s Lumpy Ridge is home to prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and peregrine falcons nesting among the cliffs. Hike along the trail that borders the MacGregor Ranch pasture with your field glasses.
- Walk around Lake Estes and see if you can spy a bald eagle or a hunting osprey. On the south side of the lake at the Matthews-Reeser Bird Sanctuary look for mallards and mergansers as well as the smaller teal and coot. Of course there are always the Canadian geese.
- Wear a red hat while hiking the Cub Lake Trail and listen for the buzz of wings as a broad-tailed hummingbird dive bombs your head. Search the bushes for the dusky grouse and the ring-necked duck and American dipper among the lilies on Cub Lake.
- Stop for a picnic anywhere and you will certainly be visited by the fearless “camp robbers,” the Steller Jay and Gray Jay. Remember, do not feed the wildlife!
- Along Trail Ridge Road keep your eyes peeled for the white-tailed ptarmigan. Has it changed from white to brown?
- Stroll along the trails in Upper Beaver Meadows and search for nuthatches, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and warblers. It’s always a thrill to spot the first mountain bluebird of the season in March.
Let a trained naturalist show you how to spot birds during a class offered by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Learn about owls, hawks, falcons or take the always popular Summer Birding with a Naturalist. Visit www.rmconservancy.org for details.
Birdwatching is a great way to explore the Rockies, and it’s free!
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