Delta County is a haven for birdwatchers with opportunities to view American three-toed woodpeckers, canyon wren, white pelicans, purple martins, bald eagles and many other birds.
Within a 20-mile radius of the town of Delta, birders can view fowl in a number of geographic habitats — from canyon walls to desert-like clay dunes and high alpine mountains.
But, according to the Delta County Tourism Cabinet, a local tax-funded tourism promotion group, the area may be best known as a migration stop for the Greater sandhill cranes, which flock to Fruitgrowers Reservoir at Eckert every spring as they return to their nesting areas to the north.
Each year as many as 18,000 cranes turn up in Eckert to rest, feed and regroup before lifting off the next morning to continue their journey northward.
People from all over the region come to celebrate this annual migration, with Eckert Crane Days taking place March 15-17 and sponsored by the Black Canyon Audubon.
Fruitgrowers Reservoir is part of Fruitgrower's Trail in Western Colorado, which is known as one of the best places on the Western Slope to see water birds.
Eckert Crane Days activities include breathtaking liftoff and landing viewings each day, as well as refreshments, presentations and a winery tour. To reserve a spot call 874-9532.
To ensure the best birdwatching experience for yourself and your fellow feathered-creature celebrants, a few suggestions are offered.
Use binoculars to see the birds rather than getting too close so they have plenty of space to feed and rest. By not disturbing the birds you will enhance the experience for the birds, as well as the other birdwatchers. Also, the cranes tend to land on private property so heed signs about parking, trespassing and viewing.
Schedule of Events
The primary attraction of Eckert Crane Days is the arrival and departure of the sandhill cranes from Hart's Basin. For viewing, turn east on North Road from Highway 65 in Eckert (turn at Big E). On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, volunteers from the Black Canyon Audubon will be on hand along the roadway with viewing stations with spotting scopes and guides to help answer questions. There is no charge to sit and watch.
On Friday, March 15, the viewing is from 9 to 11 a.m. Watch the birds in the pastures surrounding Fruitgrowers Reservoir and as the day warms they will lift off to continue their northward migration.
The volunteers will break for lunch at the Wildfire Pizzeria in Cedaredge, and birders are welcome to join them there.
At 1 p.m. naturalist and author Evelyn Horn will offer a presentation on sandhill cranes at the Eckert Presbyterian Church. At the conclusion of the program the ladies of Eckert Presbyterian Church will be serving coffee and pie as a fund raiser for the church's renovation project.
Volunteer guides will again man viewing stations along North Road at Hart's Basin in the afternoon to watch the arrival of the sandhills. Usually, the first signal of the arrival of a new group is the distinctive trilling of the soaring birds, and then a sighting of the circling birds high overhead. As they rapidly drop towards the pastures, watch for graceful maneuvers during the descent.
A similar schedule of viewing is set for Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17. Cabela's will have an optics demonstration table during the Saturday morning viewing where birders can try out spotting scopes and binoculars.
Everyone is encouraged to take in the viewing of the sandhill cranes at Hart's Basin. It is a thrilling spectacle to watch the cranes lift off in the morning en masse, making Eckert Crane Days a "must do."blog comments powered by Disqus