Introduction

Birders and occasional birdwatchers are always thrilled after a time spent outdoors on arrival to Estes Park, why you ask? The National Audubon Society, dedicated to conserving birds and their habitat, labeled the park a Global Important Bird Area with over 280 different birds local to Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park.

Birding in Estes Park
Birding in Estes Park

These parks are blessed with wildlife so much that you can encounter them everywhere and at any point in time as they search for food, as has been the case with many herbivores observed on some golf courses and trail runners talking about their encounters with some animals during their runs as the said wildlife nibbles on succulent grasses. In addition, you would see some fauna during the fall and winter months as you drive or hike through town and along roadways.

Watching wildlife here in Estes is not only possible by going deep into the backcountry. Most animals seen around are the non-aggressive fauna, sightings of the aggressive ones are sporadic, and measures are put in place to prevent any engagement. 

Having received visitors for decades, Estes Park has put measures tailored to every individual’s or group’s vacation interest. Birds are a gift to any environment; no matter how beautiful such a place is, the freedom of flight is incomparable to any other.

Birding 

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”

David Attenborough

Everyone likes birds; they are probably one of the few appreciated faunas, even when they are not the focus of attention. So whether you are into it as a hobby or your profession, or you have never paid any close attention to them, this quote by David Attenborough resonates with us all, unifying us in its truth.

Here is a bit of information for you, first-timers who have little or no knowledge of what Birding entails and are interested in it. Let’s do a quick one. 

Birding is a hobby or, for some individuals, a profession in which birds of all variety, including the entireness of their activities, are studied. The study is often primarily carried out right where the birder is situated or based, referred to as the local patch. However, the early morning is the time of the day that favors Birding anywhere around the world. And for as many who wish for more additions to their listings, they make trips to other specific areas, known for their abundance of birds like Estes Park,  to study more birds in that environment.

Since birds are migratory, proper knowledge of their mobile calendar will give ample opportunity for Birding. Therefore, get the best out of your birding vacation at Estes Park; the time of the year for migration takes place in April till May (spring), then jumps to August continues through September, this being the fall season. And the breeding period, which starts from May through July, would be the finest time to visit. In addition, and apart from the natural movement of birds, the distribution of birds might change due to the weather factor; birds that not born to a particular environment may find their way to such a place due to a weather condition which is half of the time unpredictable; this is known as drift migration which will, fortunately, allow some rare birds to be documented by birders.

Birding in Estes Park 

Estes Park is well known for its mountains, the wilderness, the rivers, and the snow during the winter months, scenic views, and the wildlife. However, for most visitors, the most treasured parts of their vacation involve some wildlife sightings. The natural plants and animals here at Estes Park are bountiful both at higher altitudes and lower elevations.

There are so many bird species here, the majority are native to this mountainous region, and there are a few non-natives, almost all are present, and a selected few are unconfirmed. The abundance of these birds vary, as some are very common, some others are occasional, a few are uncommon, and finally, some rare variety.

There are the breeders, the migratory, and the vagrant; this is a birding paradise.

To get the best of your birding vacation, the time of the year for migration which takes place in April till May (spring) then jumps to August continues through September, this being the fall season, and the breeding period from the end of May through July would be the best times to visit. Although we have many year-round residents, the four seasons of the temperate region have different bird types that favor them.

Here at Estes Park, you will always do some checking-off on your list no matter the season you decide to visit.

Of the 278 species, which will make this article tiresome to read, here are some to familiarize yourself; Audubon’s Warbler, Oak Titmouse, Loggerhead Shrike, Ring-billed Gull, Steller’s Jay, Hepatic Tanager, American Dipper, Oregon Junco, Pine Siskin, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Catbird, American Avocet, Least Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Kestrel, Virginia Rail, Sora Bushtit, Chukar, and Lazuli Bunting. 

Birding Areas

The Big Thompson River: with the run of the Big Thompson from Rocky Mountain National Park following along the stretch of the river are birds coming for a drink of water, birds like Hammond’s/Dusky Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, and the Gray Flycatcher makes it a golden spot to watch. 

Moraine Park: A looped route of about 3.41 miles, birds such as Stellar’s Jay, House Finch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire, and many others have been listed. Curved Bill Thrasher has been sighted at Visitor Center. 

Estes Park YMCA Camp: Plumbeous Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak been listed by some birders, seen here in the YMCA of the Rockies, and surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Bear Lake Road: Starting at Bear Lake Loop Trail, the half a mile course from the lake to Nymph Lake has mountains and wildflower all around. This scenic trailhead sits at an elevation of 9,450 ft; Bear Lake itself rests below the steep flanks of Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide. 

Endovalley: this is a popular birding spot in Rock Mountain National park. The Fox Sparrow was listed when a birder saw it here, and even though it is a newly discovered place located along Old Fall River Road, about 1.8 miles from the intersection with Highway 34, birders have found that it is a Birding wonder. 

East Longs Peak Trail: Whitetailed Ptarmigan and many birds resident in high elevation can be observed on this alpine trail. There are many trailheads; these elevated areas are home to many occasional visitors to the lower elevation. 

Lake Estes: Marbled Godwit, Willet, Forster’s Tern, Prairie Falcon, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, are some of the abundances of bird found as you walk the pathway along with Lake Estes, goes through the bird sanctuary. It is an excellent birding area. April-May migratory period would be the best time to go Birding. 

Lumpy Ridge: is a well-known area for Birding; during the nesting period, the site is sealed off to allow repopulation. Too many birds to name, almost pointless to start, you to visit see for yourself. 

Limber Pine Trail to Krueger Rock through Saddle Trailhead: This is a wildlife-friendly area; if you are hiking on this trail, the round trip is about 7.51 miles. The top of Krueger is a wonderful place to see the entire layout of Estes Park; this makes it the perfect spot for birding. 

Prospect Mountain Trail: This trail is just 0.99 miles long and on a high altitude surface. On this mountain are beautiful wildflowers, and its track is primarily used for running, nature trips, hiking, and bird watching.

Bible Point: this is a trail that attracts light traffic; it goes on about 1.30 miles out and back and features beautiful wildflowers. It offers the opportunity to carry out one’s birding exercise peacefully. Usage should be profitable from May through to October.

Ypsilon Lake Trail: is a round trip of 8.88 miles long; it has a lake and is wildlife-friendly, although you have to deal with some heavy traffic depending on the time you decide to visit, of course.

How do you identify birds in Estes Park?

Appearance 

  • Check the Sizes: one has to be careful in determining body size due to different movements of their body parts. Watch for head size, legs length, bill size, tail length and if possible, to get a wing size or length.
  • The Shapes: the bill shape, the head, the wing’s shape, does it have a bar? Other questions that will need answers are what shape is the tail? 
  • The Patterns and Colors: check for patterns on the head, back, belly, wings and even around the eyes. Note the areas where there are no patterns at all; are they all of a single plumage.
  • Movement: What part of the body does it consistently move? What sort of movement does it make? In what position are the features of its body held?

 Sounds

  • Bird Songs: the songs are longer than the calls, more complex and have an obvious pattern. They are usually heard during the breeding season to attract mate, defend nesting territories; by the end of the nesting season, you barely hear them anymore.
  • Bird Calls: calls are shorter and every day since they are used to alarm, contact, beg and synchronize flight.

Some Birding Equipment In Estes Park

These are some equipment you need to have in your possession as begin your Birding

Exercise, most experienced birders probably have all if not most of these, but everyone who do not have them can get them easily, even here at Estes Park.

  • The Binoculars: Almost all optical equipment makers offer specific binoculars for Birding; in fact, some have made it their purpose to provide the best birding tools. Binoculars are available in all shapes and magnifications. Different specifications such as eight by forty-two or seven by fifty show the magnification by the diameter of the primary objective lenses.
  • Spotting Scope: It delivers the maximum magnification and is not as expected because the binoculars are lighter, spotting scopes are heavier. If you are doing a lot of waiting (standing), you will most definitely need this. They are compared to telescope when it is an issue of magnification.
  • Portable Media Players: Smartphones to take and hold pictures and videos in large quantity and quality. And there are cameras used to get the photograph of said birds, and it is not an indispensable tool since some birders do not rely on pictures. 
  • Tripods: this is an essential tool for stability, especially on rough terrain, and is often used as a base for a spotting scope.
  • Drones and VR Headsets: these new inventions can be used from a remote location, and they will get data from inaccessible places.
  • Smartphone and Portable Field Recorders: Using your smartphone to record birdsongs is free, easy to use, and you can obtain the recording at any time you want. But, the phone microphone is not very sensitive; the background noise is equally captured. Using portable field recorders will improve your work considerably.

Other vital items include;

  • A notepad which has to be preferably waterproofed, especially if you are planning a trip.
  • A birding exercise needs a birder to guide whether we are doing it on our local patch or an adventure. Guides may contain descriptions, illustrations, the locality’s range maps, and some photographs.

Conclusion

Estes Park seeks to share with the world the beauty of nature, especially you who respect and appreciates it. So, we welcome you with open arms, there are many areas where you can carry out Birding exercises, here, in Estes Park too many to be mentioned, and many others yet to be named even. We are open to receive you all year round regardless of the season. So, are you making plans to visit already? Fly into the freedom of Estes Park wildlife. Attenborough was right; everyone does like birds.

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