- Otero County
Aliases: Rocky Ford State Wildlife Area, Dye Reservoir
Ownership: None Listed
Description: For some reason this town seems to be a dove magnet. The first state record of Eurasian Collared-Dove was found just outside of town, the first regular Inca Doves in the state have spent the past few years in the southern part of town, and White-winged Dove occur with increasing regularity. In addition to being a dove Mecca, Rocky Ford sometimes has wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (look for wells on large conifers. Walking around town and birding the many brushy and well-treed spots may yield surprises (i.e., the Pygmy Nuthatches that spent a winter here). As with most other SE towns, summer residents can include Red-headed and Lewis's Woodpeckers, and Mississippi Kite. Also be sure to check the Valco Pond a mile or two east of town north of US 50 for ducks, geese, and maybe even a swan. The water is visible from the highway. The "access" road can be found just west of the gravel piles belonging to Valco, Inc. The lake itself is private and off limits, but can be easily scanned from the access road.
The Rocky Ford Sewage Ponds are legendary for waterbirds of every kind, although in recent years they have been allowed to run dry. They are worth a stop on every trip through the area. The wet meadows to the west can have some waterbirds too, including flocks of ibis. Note that there are some ponds to the east of the ones visible from the road, but these eastern ponds are off limits.
Though the riparian habitat here is a bit too extensive for this to be a great migrant trap, Rocky Ford State Wildlife Area can be good for some awesome sparrow flocks during the colder months (often with White-throated and Harris's), and other scarce winter species (Carolina and Winter Wrens, Rusty Blackbird). Just because it's not a great migration spot is no reason to neglect it during the spring or fall; you never know what you'll find. This is probably the best spot in the county to find Western Screech-Owl. Rarities that have shown up here include American Woodcock and Red-shouldered Hawk.
Unfortunately, the good-sized Dye Reservoir is not really all that scannable. A small part of the lake is viewable from along the road along the canal to the south, and large rafts of ducks are usually frustratingly beyond ID distance. However, a few are close enough to ID, and Green Heron can occur along with other waders along the south edge. The canal itself supports a good number of breeding Mississippi Kites and a few Lewis's and Red-headed Woodpeckers in season.
Habitat: Urban/Suburban, Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Lowland Riparian, Wet Meadow
Directions: Rocky Ford is along US 50 about fifty miles east of Pueblo. To get to the sewage ponds, Rocky Ford SWA and Dye Reservoir, from US 50 in the middle of town, head north on CO 266. After this highway curves around to the east and heads out of town, turn left (north) on CR 20.5. The sewage ponds are just down this road on the right. To get to the SWA, continue on CO 266 across the Arkansas River; the SWA is on the right and can be accessed via CR 80.5. Just beyond CR 80.5, CO 266 crosses the canal. To scan Dye Reservoir, turn left onto the canal road that is on the north side of the canal. The reservoir is visible on the right in about a mile.