Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Weld County is that it draws visitors from around the world for birding. You see, we’re home to hundreds of species of birds making it a great place for bird watching. Travelers from across the country, and even across the ocean, travel here to spot Burrowing Owls, Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Mountain Plover, and even the America White Pelican.
Bird watching as a hobby is increasing in popularity as it can be done anywhere with little expense. A pair of binoculars and a little patience is really all you need to get started. And while you can begin bird watching in your own backyard, Weld County has some great spots to find feathered friends.
While a visit to any lake or pond will likely result spotting a variety of birds, a visit to the Pawnee National Grasslands may be your most surprising bird watching trip. While the short-grass prairie lacks a variety of vegetation, including trees, it is home to hundreds of birds many of which you can spot and learn about on their self-guided bird tour route.
This 21-mile drive along rural county roads on the grassland will take you by the habitats of American Kestrels, Swainson’s Hawks, Long-billed Curlew and even the Colorado State Bird, the Lark Bunting. The tour will take you approximately 2-3 hours. Be sure to plan accordingly for your trip as there are no facilities along the tour. In fact, the Forest Service recommends the following: make sure you have a full tank of gas, bring plenty of water with you and pay attention to the weather forecast; bring a field guide for the area as well as binoculars and/or a spotting scope; and, be patient – early morning and later afternoon are often the best times for viewing.
The Pawnee National Grasslands encompass more than 193,000 acres of short-grass prairie and provides great opportunities for spotting numerous species of birds. A self-guided birding tour directs drivers along a 21-mile route through various habitats, and pullouts and signage help birders of all skill levels learn more about bird species found throughout the prairie. (To make the most of this tour, be sure to have plenty of gas in the tank and bring water, sunscreen and a jacket as amenities are extremely limited and the weather can change quickly).
Learn more about the grasslands on the forest service website.
Head over to Saint Vrain State Park in Firestone and walk along the paths that wander between the ponds and look for Great Blue Herons, American White Pelicans, Osprey, and Red Winged Blackbirds just to name a few. This 604-acre oasis in an otherwise urban setting is a great place to enjoy nature without having to drive far. Bring a bike, a boat or even a tent – miles of walking and biking trails are open to visitors and hand/foot propelled boats, or boats with electric trolling motors, are permitted on all ponds. Campsites are available to reserve spring, summer and fall.