Site Details

descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Sterling - Logan County
Aliases: Overland Trail Recreation Area, Columbine Park, Pioneer Park
Ownership: None Listed
Description: The county seat of Logan County is also one of the largest towns in eastern Colorado, and contains several very worthwhile birding spots. The Overland Trail Recreation Area provides access to the South Platte River and associated riparian habitat. Check this area for migrants as well as for northeast specialty breeders such as Bell's Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Red-bellied Woodpecker, etc. There is also a small lake here. More ponds can be seen to the south of the Highway 6 bridge over the South Platte River.

The Museum Park, on the south side of US-6 just west of the river and east of the railroad crossing, contains some small evergreens that could potentially contain an owl or some interesting migrant/winter wanderer. Columbine Park, at South 3rd Avenue and Delmar, has some trees that can be decent in migration, and in recent summers it has become the only known nesting location along I-76 for Mississippi Kite. However, the best birding spot in town is Pioneer Park, just west of town on SR 14 and CR 37, which has a nice open woodland with a variety of different tree sizes, all made beautifully accessible by a system of gravel trails. A canal with underbrush increases the place's attraction to birds. This spot is begging for a rarity, and Eastern Screech-Owl is resident. The other spot not to miss is the Sterling Cemetery, south of town along US 6, which has also had Eastern Screech-Owl, as well as sparrows including White-throated and Harris's. The cemetery has produced some decent migrating flocks in the past.

Sterling wastewater treatment plant: From US 6 just west of I-76, take CR 370 to the north for about 4.5 miles to visit these ponds in the winter as they offer a resting place for ducks using open spots in the South Platte River. Although this municipal property is posted, the managers are quite birder-friendly. Enter on foot at the gate, walk to the building at the end of the drive to check in at the treatment plant. The best pond is the smaller one on the left, but the larger treatment pond on the right can hold a couple hundred Common Goldeneyes. Best birds here on the Sterling Christmas Bird Count over the past few years have included Barrow's Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck and Glaucous Gull.

Finally, just north of Sterling on CR 39, 2.9 miles north of CR 32, there area a couple of small ponds that can have dabblers and maybe even shorebirds when the water levels are low enough.

Habitat: Urban/Suburban, Lowland Riparian, Park/Cemetery, Pond/Lake/Reservoir
Directions: Sterling is along I-76 at exit 125, 130 miles NE of Denver and 55 SW of Julesburg. The Overland Trail Recreation Area is at Riverside Road (CR 370) and Hwy 6, just west of the interstate exit. As you drive west on Hwy 6, you will see the Museum Park on your left about a mile past the river. Continuing into town, follow Hwy 6 south by turning left on 4th Street. In two blocks you can turn right on Main (CO 14) to get to Pioneer Park, which is two miles west along this road, at the intersection of CO 14 and CR 37. To get to Columbine Park and the cemetery, continue south on 4th Street (US 6) through a couple of bends. Columbine Park is about ten blocks south of Main, on the right just past Delmar. The cemetery is another couple of miles beyond Columbine Park, on the right outside town.
Other Wildlife:
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CBRC Records from Sterling

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird2011-193 10/3/2011 - 10/10/2011
Purple Gallinule2011-083 6/7/2011
Yellow-billed Loon1944-0011/19/1944
Alder Flycatcher1910-0016/10/1910
Purple Finch2007-107 12/21/2007
Cape May Warbler2012-130 9/22/2012