A Bent County birding hotspot that should never be missed is John Martin Reservoir, especially the down side of the dam, Hasty Lake, and campground. An entire day can be filled in the spring and summer, beginning with quietly walking in the campground shortly after sun-up when the birds become most active. Driving on top of the dam in the summer can give you a bird's eye view of raptors: turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, and American kestrels—not to mention thousands of swallows!
There are trails that can be walked to look for road runners and birds that love the shrubs. During the winter months, thousands of snow geese, Ross's geese, mergansers, mallards, and other ducks will dot or even cover the reservoir on the west side of the dam, while eagles soar above the dam and dive for fish right in front of your eyes.
The Great Plains Reservoirs in Kiowa County are a collection of waterways that provide irrigation for nearby farms. These bodies of water should not be missed by anyone who finds birds fascinating. Upper and Lower Queens as well as Nee Noshee Reservoir are especially active during spring and fall migrations. Shorebirds love the sandy beaches and rich sediments along the shore lines. Plovers, sandpipers, longbilled dowitchers. Marbled godwits can be seen sharing the shorelines.
During winter, hundreds to literally hundreds of thousands of snow geese are known to rest there. Keep in mind that some winters are too cold, and the water freezes, making water resting impossible. Even when that happens, you will often find the geese gleaning the nearby milo and corn fields before returning to a watering place that is not frozen.
The canyons of Baca County are one of the best kept secrets in Colorado! When people think of southeast Colorado, they think of great expanses of agricultural fields and ranch land. But nestled between these fields are deep canyons that harbor diverse species in a setting of sheer cliffs of red rock. In Cottonwood Canyon blue grosbeaks, tanagers, wild turkey, and many more can be found.
It is important to note that all of the property in the canyons is private property, part of many Centennial farms. The county road is, of course, fair access, but land just past road easements is all private and should not be trespassed. That's okay. You should never need to go beyond the road to see everything that you want.
It is also important to note that, in the summertime, these canyons are very isolated and can be up to 10 degrees hotter than the land above the canyon in the summertime. For the person who wants a primitive adventure, this is it. There are no facilities and only sporadic cell phone service if you have a carrier that will link with Viaero. So go with lots of water, a snack and a dependable vehicle.
The melodious songs, whistles, hoots, whispers, calls, and chips of birds are the comforting and dependable sounds that can be heard across the southeast plains. Come smile with us as we enjoy our feathered friends.