Delta County offers a broad range of Birding opportunities, with environments ranging from salt-brush desert, to pinon-juniper uplands, and alpine ecosystems. Investigate the opportunities, and the ecosystems with an afternoon expedition to one of the many viewing areas in Delta County. Celebrate the return of the Sandhill Cranes with the annual Eckert Crane Days held in early spring. Delta County is truly a hidden gem in Western Colorado.
Confluence Park in Delta:
This 265-acre park is named for the confluence of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers.
Trails: extensive walking trails in the park.
Birds: Bewick’s Wrens, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Screech-Owls, Gambel’s Quail, the lake attracts waterbirds.
Crawford State Park:
From Hotchkiss continue on Highway 92, east to the town of Crawford. The Crawford State Park is several miles south of Crawford. The reservoir can be a migration location for the Sandhill Cranes, as well as waterfowl.
Birds: pinyon-juniper habitat can be good for Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Black-throated, and the Gray Warbler.
Escalante Canyon State Wildlife Area the Cap Smith Tract:
The Cap Smith Tract is located on the Escalante Canyon Road, in addition to the birds, spectacular canyon scenery, historical cabins, and mammals (including rock squirrels, mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes) make this a place worth visiting.
Birds: Chukars, Black Phoebe, Canyon Wren, Pinyon Jay, Western Bluebird, and Brushtit. The creek bottom (fenced and private) is Wild Turkey habitat.
Mammals: Mule Deer, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Rock Squirrels, and Coyotes.
Escalante State Wildlife Area the Eastern Tracts:
The Lower Roubideau Tract contains large and extensive cottonwood gallery forest, though it is closed from March 15 to July 31 to protect nesting waterfowl.
Birds: (when open), Western Screech-Owl, migrating warblers, & sparrows. There is a heron rookery near the confluence of the Gunnison River and Roubideau Creek. Road access is possible year-round, and birds possible from the road include Gambel’s Quail, Wild Turkey, and Western Bluebird, among others.
Fruitgrowers Reservoir is one of the best water birding spots on the Western Slope.
Birds: shorebirds and waterflow, Willet nesting area, American Bittern, Sparrows, Migrant Passerines, and raptors. Sandhill Cranes visit in early spring and return in the fall. In the southwest corner there is a small Great Blue Heron colony.
In Eckert, Crane Days is an annual spring festival.
Grand Mesa South:
Grand Mesa is the largest mesa in the world, topped by excellent spruce-fir forest, pine and aspen forest, with over 300 lakes, good access by vehicles, and extensive trail network, and elevations reaching just over 11,000 feet.
Birds: American Three-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, and a wide variety of owls including, Boreal, Northern Saw-whet, and Northern Pygmy Owl.
Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area:
Just north of the Peach Valley area is the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Best access can be found continuing north from Austin (14 miles from Delta) to Pleasure Park Road (CR 28.10) on the right.
Birds: Sparrows, Migrant Passerines, Golden and Bald Eagles, Osprey, Ferruginous Hawk, and Great Blue Heron. The region has pinyon and juniper covered hills, sightings include Gray Vireo, Chukar, Pinyon Jay, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Juniper Titmouse.
Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery:
Further up the North Fork of the Gunnison River is the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery. From Highway 92, take CR 31.00 1.5 miles to the end and go east on Lazear Road. Signs for the Hatchery will be on the right. Habitats include, Lowland Riparian, Cliff Face, featuring the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
Birds: Ducks, Eagles, Swifts, Wrens, Dippers and Great Blue Heron have been sighted in the area.
Paonia State Park:
Located north of Paonia, in a narrow canyon, the park is a refuge not for water birds, but mountain shrub land birds.
Birds: Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, MacGillivray’s & Virginia’s Warblers, Mountain Bluebird, and Cordilleran Flycatcher. The cliffs above the park campgrounds can contain Swallows, Wrens, and Swifts. The scrub oak hillsides are good for Spotted and Green-tailed Towhees.
Peach Valley Recreation Area:
Travel from Delta to Austin and watch for CR 22.00, go south to CR F and take a left traveling east. This area is part of the Bureau of Land Management, Peach Valley Recreation Area which includes the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area & Wilderness.
Birds: Sage Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Sparrow, Golden Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier.
Sweitzer Lake State Park:
Located just on the east side of Delta, CO, Sweitzer Lake State park is a reed-edged reservoir that is prime waterfowl habitat.
Birds: Grebes, Loon. Cambel’s Quail, Sparrows