Site Details

descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Fort Lyon Area - Bent County
Aliases: Van's Grove, Wood Thrush Grove, Fort Lyon Wildlife Easement
Ownership: None Listed
Description: Starting just east of the tiny town of Fort Lyon is the enormous Fort Lyon Wildlife Easement. Birding this area thoroughly can take some time, but it's well worth it. As with any migrant trap, it can be completely dead or hopping with migrants. Almost everything has appeared here, from flocks containing multiple eastern rarities to mountain species invading the plains. There is a pair of resident Barn Owls that can usually be found on any thorough check of the grove. Western Screech-Owl breeds here as well, but you are only likely to hear it at night. Northern Bobwhites can often be flushed from the more open areas of the easement, and Scaled Quail has been seen also. If the area is hopping, be sure to check the small finger of trees across CR 16 from the main part of the easement. A good bird or two has been found in this area as well.

Just across CR HH from the FLWE is another small grove, this one centered around a small inlet canal. This grove is not as famous for rarities, but flocks do appear here as well. Northern Cardinal is occasionally found here in the winter, along with good-sized sparrow flocks. The canal often has multiple Wilson's Snipe along it, and has produced Green Heron before.

Starting at the corner of CRs HH and 16 are the John Martin Marshes, an amazingly large area of cattails spreading from here at least a couple of miles to the east, and measuring a couple of miles wide in some places. The most famous resident of this marsh is Black Rail, of which one can often hear 15 or 20 along CR 16 on a night in May. The rails usually arrive in very late April, and can be heard through early to mid August. Other species usually heard at the marsh include Marsh Wren, Virginia Rail, Sora, and American Bittern. Even Least Bittern, Common Moorhen and King Rail have been heard here before. On the edges of this marsh, in the winter, there are occasionally multiple Swamp and LeConte's Sparrows among the more common Song Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrow has been seen during a couple of winters. An amazing number of rails occur here in the winter, with this probably being the only regular place for wintering Sora in Colorado. Short-eared Owls are also present during some winters, but given the size of the marsh, and the amazing number of Harriers that occur here, chances of seeing one are slim. Blackbird flocks that frequent the marsh in the winter can be the best place in the area to find wintering Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles.

The Grove at JJ and 16, also known as the Wood Thrush Grove, is a small area of trees at the corner of CRs JJ and 16. Usually you will not see much here, but during good migration fallouts there may be a good bird or two to be found here. Be sure to bird the trees on both sides of CR JJ.

Van's Grove is a little over a mile east of the Wood Thrush Grove on CR JJ. While one would not think this collection of small trees would be a great migrant trap, almost as many good migrants have been see here over the years as at the FLWE. You will not want to miss this spot if there are any migrants in the area.

CR JJ has a number of good vantage points from which to check out the marsh, and, if you are here at night, hear more rails. Sometimes the open areas of water (which have been shrinking in the past couple of years) contain flocks of shorebirds or waders. A maze of small dirt two-tracks take you to the northern edge of what is either the cattail marsh or the actual reservoir, depending on water level. It is not advisable to try to find your way around here without a detailed map.

Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Marsh, Hedgerow/Shelterbelt, Grassland/Prairie, Tamarisk
Directions: To get to the Fort Lyon area, head east from Las Animas on US 50 about five miles and turn south on CO 183. One mile south, turn left onto CR HH to get to the Fort Lyon Wildlife Easement. For more specific directions, see the above text.
Other Wildlife:
Other Attractions:

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CBRC Records from Fort Lyon Area

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Black RailN-17-596/11/1975 to 6/25/1975
Hudsonian Godwit19-93-1145/21/1988
Least Bittern2000-0075/15/2000
Glossy Ibis2000-0164/16/2000
Dusky-capped Flycatcher1883-0025/11/1883
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher34-96-5010/5/1996
Acadian Flycatcher2009-032 5/12/2009
Gray Flycatcher2011-041 5/1/2011
Gray-cheeked Thrush44-95-675/18/1995
Gray-cheeked Thrush2011-079 6/4/2011
Wood Thrush44-95-685/8/1995
Purple Finch56-95-10211/19/1995
Eastern Towhee2009-007 2/26/2009
Mourning Warbler2000-1405/14/2000
Bay-breasted Warbler52-93-1185/21/1993