Birdwatching in the Ridgway Region
The trees and vegetation in the town of Ridgway attract migrant warblers and other landbirds in spring and fall but almost any time of year birders might find Evening Grosbeaks or Cassin’s Finches. A small pond north of town in the Golden Eagle development has a remarkable variety of birds such as Sora, Pectoral Sandpiper, Willow Flycatcher and Common Yellowthroat. A very pleasant walk along the river trail just north of town has interpretive displays about Bald Eagles that winter between Ridgway and the Ridgway State Park just to the north.
The large reservoir in Ridgway State Park provides waterbirds with one of the few stopping places on migrations through the San Juans. The reservoir attracts many species of ducks and shorebirds in spring and fall, along with Great Blue Herons, White-faced Ibis, and occasionally loons. Bald Eagles can be spotted soaring over the water from fall through spring. Many species that birders have found around the reservoir are rare in western Colorado including the Pacific Loon and Glossy Ibis.
The habitats in Ridgway State Park are dominated by Pinyon-Juniper which attracts species like Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. The south end of the Park has a riparian gallery forest that attracts Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Tanager, American Dippers and many other species of migrants. Bird migration in the fall can include Cassin’s Vireo, Northern Waterthrush, and Magnolia and Hooded warblers. Besides bird species and wildlife, like the mule deer, and the beautiful Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, views of the San Juan Mountains are not to be missed.
For one of Colorado’s most scenic adventures and more excellent birdwatching, especially in spring and summer, drive the 40 miles north on Hwy. 550 from Ridgway to Montrose and then Hwy. 50 east to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Along the way to Black Canyon, visit the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose. The canyon has an excellent range of hiking trails, cross country skiing in the winter, and is a world-class destination for rock climbers and fly fishing. Unlike any other canyon in the state or even in North America, the Gunnison River tumbling out of the mountains rushes past the tallest sheer cliffs in the state on the way to magnificent Black Canyon with its abundance of waterfowl and stunning variety of bird species. Birders will discover Dusky Grouse strutting about in April, hear White-throated Swifts whizzing overhead in June, the fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine Falcon, zips around in the vicinity of the Painted Wall, beautiful Blue Grouse inhabit sagebrush areas, and birds of prey such as the Cooper’s Hawk and Red Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Golden Eagles riding thermals.