Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located just outside Alamosa, Colorado. This wildlife refuge has a driving tour and you can see many birds along the marshlands. We visited in August, and the mosquitoes were bad, but we still enjoyed a short hike that only ran about a quarter mile.
This wildlife refuge is a haven for sandhill cranes. If you go at the right time of year, you can see them congregate in this part of Colorado. Though we weren’t around for the crane migration, we still saw a lot birds on our short tour.
First, drive in the west entrance of the refuge. We arrived an hour before sunset, which was a great time to see a lot of birds, but when looking west, it was almost impossible to identify them. Drive past the headquarters and through the gate to the first pond. The nature trail starts in this area, and we saw the greatest variety of birds in this area. There was even a great-horned owl resting in the tree beside the marsh.
Just as the road turns to go around the pond, there is a trail to the right. We parked at a wide spot in the road and followed the Meadowlark trail around to the right. We saw a lot of birds, such as coots, a variety of ducks, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, and grebes. Most beautiful of all, were the nighthawks. They dove and flitted after the plentiful mosquitoes in the area, with the white bands under their wings flashing in the twilight. This trail is only 1/4 mile long and ends just a little further down from where you parked your car, so it is easy to walk back.
Speaking of mosquitoes, they were plentiful. We wore long pants and put on jackets, even though the temperature was fine. This helped to keep our skin covered so that we avoided bites.
There are a few places to stop and look over the rest of the driving route. There were a lot of birds at all of them, but generally, they were the same we’d already seen. We enjoyed this short drive. If you are a birder, you will, too. For directions and more info, visit their website. The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is also in this area, and is worth driving to if you are a bird lover.