Flickr album link: Birding At Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Summer season birding is a fun pastime and the best places to go tend to be where there is ample feed, water or suitable nesting areas. Fortunately most of the western wildlife preserves meet all the criteria and the best part is these destinations are often overlooked by mainstream tourists, so overcrowding is rarely a problem. A nice example of this statement can be found in the vast San Louis Valley of Colorado. The San Louis Valley stretches from Highway 50 all the way south to Highway 160, which are both major tourism routes through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in this region and the highest percentage of tourists go to this spot and nowhere else. Part of the reason why is the travel distances are lengthy in this big flat valley, which is a deterrence during the current fuel industry price gouging scheme. For those who do zoom in on a mapping system, there are several unique destinations to experience and there are two big wildlife refuges that offer plenty of wide open spaces.
The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is located just south of Highway 160 in the southern end of the San Luis Valley and modern amenities can be found in the neighboring namesake town. This area is where the grassy plains meet the towering mountains, so the views are as majestic as can be. The Rio Grande River runs through this lush preserve, so plenty of wildlife is attracted to the life giving waters. Migrating birds of all kinds nest in the marsh reeds and large flocks of white pelicans can even be viewed here. Alamosa is also a major large wild animal migration corridor and huge herds of elk can be seen passing through during the rutting season.
The dirt roads in the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge are smooth enough for an average passenger car, but a high ground clearance vehicle will provide a better ride. The best spot for birding is the Rio Grande Nature Trail, which runs along the high ground overlooking the river wetlands. Several information placards can be found along this trail that provide insight into what to look for. A few picnic tables and basic facilities can be found in this viewing area, so a lengthy outing can be planned. The birding distances tend to be longer than 50 yards, so packing a powerful lens will be necessary. I used a 200-500mm zoom lens on a 1.5 crop sensor camera to get a few closeups, so an avid photographer should plan on carrying a super telephoto lens. The Alamosa NWR Rio Grand River Nature Trail certainly is well worth checking out, especially when seeking an opportunity to capture some once in a lifetime summer season birding images!
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