Author(s): Hugh Kingery
County Seat: Castle Rock
County Size: 841 square miles
Low Elevation: 5,370 ft. - South Platte River below Chatfield
High Elevation : 9,836 ft. - Thunder Butte
Best Birds : Arctic Loon (2002), Long-billed Thrasher (1993)
Checklist : Download pdf | View HTML
Introduction: Despite its fast-growing people population Douglas County offers a diversity of habitats and hence of birds. Spread from 5,370 feet below Chatfield Dam to 9,836 feet at the top of Thunder Butte, habitats include high-elevation prairie in its southeast, riparian stream bottoms, scrub oak and other shrubby thickets, ponderosa pine woodlands, and mixed conifers. The county embraces three state parks (each an Important Bird Area), numerous county open space parcels, and the Pike National Forest, which covers a third of its territory. The South Platte River serves as the northwest-side county line, and Douglas shares with Jefferson several top-notch bird sites. The most important of these are Waterton Canyon and Chatfield State Park (one of the IBAs), both of which are covered under Jefferson County.
Platte Canyon Reservoir
Description - Just up the hill from the Waterton Bridge, this reservoir attracts gulls, diving ducks, and cormorants during migration.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir
Directions - From C-470 in southwest Denver, head south on South Platte Canyon Road (CO 121) from the Wadsworth exit. Drive south across the South Platte River; the road swings easterly and uphill to reservoir. Park safely off this busy road.
Delorme - 50 A2
Roads of Colorado - 72 C3
Roxborough State Park
Description - With the most spectacular scenery of any Front Range site, Roxborough provides the typical birds of the scrub oak ecotone among towering sandstone spires. It is an IBA due to breeding Prairie Falcon and MacGillivray's Warbler. The ramparts pull in summer visitors such as White-throated Swifts and Violet-green Swallows that swoop around the sandstone pillars, as do occasional Golden Eagles and Prairie Falcons (year-round). The Visitor Center, with a back wall of Lyons sandstone, has restrooms and a gift shop, and usually a nearby Canyon Wren. Trails lead both north and south, and one climbs Carpenter Peak. The park offers an active series of volunteer-led nature walks. Read more about Roxborough State Park here.
Habitat - Cliff Face, Scrub Oak Forest, Foothill Shrub, Streamside Willow
Directions - From Waterton (where South Platte River/Wateron Road crosses the river), continue southerly/easterly to T; turn right on Rampart Range Road and go about 2 miles to entrance to Roxborough Park subdivision; turn left and then immediately right by fire station to entrance road.
Delorme - 50 A2
Roads of Colorado - 72 C4
Description - Another dual-county site: you park in Douglas to look at the migrants on this mostly-in-Arapahoe reservoir. It attracts a wide variety of both dabbling and diving ducks during migration, along with grebes, loons, coots, cormorants, and gulls. It once sported a Yellow-billed Loon.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir
Directions - From Santa Fe Drive, turn east just north of C-470 on County Line Road; go about a quarter mile to reservoir.
Delorme - 40 D2
Roads of Colorado - 73 D3
Description - This Denver Mountain Park features scrub oak birds.
Habitat - Scrub Oak Forest
Directions - From the south: from US 85 between Sedalia and Castle Rock, turn north on Daniels Park Road. The park is about three miles north of US 85.
Delorme - 50 A3
Roads of Colorado - 73 D3-D4
High Line Canal (Douglas County portion)
Description - This westernmost portion of the Canal trail winds around between McClellan Reservoir and Waterton Canyon. Walking the canal can produce the typical Denver-area suburban and semi-wild riparian birds. The trail is discontinuous on either side of Plum Creek in the SE corner of Chatfield State Park. Read more about High Line Canal here.
Habitat - Lowland Riparian
Directions - Trailheads with parking can be found at the Kassler Center in Waterton Canyon (along CO 121 south of C-470); on Roxborough Park Road, 1.4 miles north of Titan Road; and on the south side of County Line Road, 0.5 miles east of Lucent Boulevard.
Delorme - 40 D2-D3
Roads of Colorado - 72 C3, 73 D3
Parker Regional Park
Aliases - Salisbury Equestrian Park
Description - (Submitted by Glenn Walbek): A bike trail runs along Cherry Creek, sometimes through good habitat. Look here for spring and fall migrants. Across the bridge and to the southwest, a small pond sometimes has a typical assortment of water birds – ducks and grebes. If the water level is low during late summer and fall, the south shore can be a good place to observe and photograph shorebirds at close range. Further north (downstream), along Twenty Mile Road in Parker, a small sewage pond can hold a good assortment of diving ducks in migration and winter.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Lowland Riparian, Wet Meadow
Directions - Parker Regional Park is adjacent to Salisbury Equestrian Park, which you can access from the west off Motsenbocker Road, two miles south of Main Street in Parker. Parker Regional is accessed from the East, by turning west on Indian Pipe from Parker Road about a mile south of Main Street. You can get into the regional park from the Equestrian Park. You can drive closer to the pond this way and have better views of the adjacent sod farm which can hold many geese, shorebirds, and even Sandhill Cranes.
Delorme - 41 D4
Roads of Colorado - 73 E3
Description - An old gravel pit, now a small, deep pond. During migration up to a few hundred dabblers and diving ducks stop over here. Canada Geese, coots, and killdeer, stop here. Migrating swallows pour over the water on cloudy days. In recent years it attracted a Trumpeter Swan, a Surf Scoter, and Colorado's first Arctic Loon. Look for Red-tailed Hawks that nest in the cottonwoods along Cherry Creek, on the east of the road.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir
Directions - From the intersection of Colorado 83 and 86 in Franktown, go west ¾ mile to Walker Road. North ¼ mile; the road turns left, and stop around the corner so that traffic on the road can avoid your parked car.
Delorme - 50 A4
Roads of Colorado - 73 E4
Castlewood Canyon State Park
Description - The third county IBA, because Prairie Falcons, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Virginia's Warblers, and Western Tanagers breed in the park. The park has two points of access: Park Headquarters and Visitor Center (east side) and Castlewood Canyon Road (west side).
On the east side, visit park headquarters, which has a small exhibit area, a gift shop, and restrooms. From this section it offers a Canyon Rim trail and two (connected) trails down into the canyons of Cherry Creek and Lake Gulch. These give access to its main habitats: ponderosa pine woodlands, scrub oak brushlands, mixed Douglas-fir/Ponderosa forest, and rocky cliffs. Here you can encounter Canyon Wrens year-round and, in summer, Violet-green and Cliff swallows.
Spectacular flights of vultures originate on the west side from April to September. At the first parking lot walk down the Homestead Trail to Cherry Creek. In summer, over the Cherry Creek bridge and up the east side, birders sometimes find an Indigo Bunting singing among the Lazulis, and maybe a Black-and-white Warbler. For two summers (10 years ago) a territorial Blue-winged Warbler sang from the bridge area. In recent years, Ovenbirds and Red-eyed Vireos have added to the morning chorus. To sample all park habitats, continue on that trail to walk a circle route from the east rim to Cherry Creek, Castlewood Dam, and back along Cherry Creek to the Homestead (about 6 miles). Or drive to the next parking lot (restrooms) or the last one (Falls Parking Lot) and explore trails either right or left. Right-side trails take you through scrub oak (Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Virginia's Warbler, Spotted Towhee), and west side trails lead through ponderosa and mixed conifers up to the cliffs, where you can see, close-up, roosting vultures, nesting Violet-green Swallows and White-throated Swifts. Here you can also see breeding Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and Cordilleran Flycatchers. Common Poorwills call at dusk and dawn.
From the west side road, continue through the park to the open ranchland to the south. Here both species of bluebird and Tree Swallows nest in a l00-box bluebird trail. Lewis's Woodpeckers, not seen for several years, occasionally show up in the stream bottom east of the road. Beyond the entrance to the Winkler Ranch, look in the hayfields to the east and southeast for Bobolink (usually across the stream), Brewer's and Red-winged blackbirds, and rarely, Grasshopper Sparrow (both sides of the road) and Dickcissel. Read more about Castlewood Canyon State Park here.
Habitat - Cliff Face, Ponderosa Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Scrub Oak Forest, Grassland/Prairie
Directions - To east side: from Franktown go south on CO 83 about 3 miles to main park entrance; right (west) into park. To west side: From Franktown go west on CO 86 one quarter mile, just across Cherry Creek; south on Castlewood Canyon Road 2 miles to park entrance.
Delorme - 51 B4-B5
Roads of Colorado - 89 E1
Jarre Canyon Road and Platte River Road
Aliases - Platte River Road, South Platte (town)
Description - Jarre Canyon Road (CO 67) passes through patches of scrub oak and horse pastures before climbing into the foothills ponderosa pine habitat. A few pull-offs, mostly on the right (north), provide possible places to explore for ponderosa birds such as Hairy Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy and Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red Crossbill year-round and, in summer, Western Wood-Pewee, Plumbeous Vireo, House Wren, Western Bluebird and Western Tanager. At Sprucewood (right) the Nighthawk Road (FR 515) plunges directly down to the South Platte. Otherwise continue on CO 67 to the river, where a few stream-tied species occur. Turning right (downstream) keeps you in Douglas County. Heavy recreational usage (fly fishing, tubing, swimming, and picnicking) detract from bird-watching. At South Platte (the farthest downstream [northerly] you can drive, where a bridge takes you into Jefferson County) a Northern Pygmy-Owl sometimes shows up on fall and winter afternoons. Otherwise, look for American Dipper and, in summer, Spotted Sandpiper, MacGillivray's Warbler, and various swallows.
Habitat - Ponderosa Forest, Stream, Scrub Oak Forest
Directions - Take CO 67 (Jarre Canyon Road) south and west from US 85 in the town of Sedalia.
Delorme - 50 A2-B3
Roads of Colorado - 72 C4, 88 C1
Description - At the top of the ridge along CO 67, the Rampart Range Road goes south to Colorado Springs. Most of the trails between CO 67 and Devils Head, due to heavy off-road vehicle usage, lack satisfactory bird watching sites. However, the trail up Devils Head (9,748 feet), restricted to foot traffic, passes through ponderosa, Douglas-fir and aspen zones with a chance for birds more typical of the higher mountains. Spectacular views over the plains temper the climb to the lookout. Look for, year-round, Steller's Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Common Raven, both chickadees, all three nuthatches; in summer look for Olive-sided Flycatcher, Plumbeous and Warbling vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Audubon's Warbler, Western Tanager, etc.
Habitat - Ponderosa Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Aspen Grove
Directions - From CO 67 roughly fifteen miles southwest of Sedalia, take Rampart Range Road (FR 300) south about 9 miles to trail and campground.
Delorme - 51 B4
Roads of Colorado - 88 C1
Aliases - Hayman Burn (Douglas section)
Description - This community lies on the edge of the Hayman fire (2002). In burned areas look for woodpeckers: Northern Flicker, Hairy, Downy, and Three-toed (occasional). Bluebirds, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Hermit Thrush breed here.
Habitat - Burn Area, Stream
Directions - From Deckers, on the South Platte, take CO 67 to Westcreek, then try the circle route south on FR 340 to CO 67 and then back northerly on 67. Note that the southern half of the loop is in El Paso County.
Delorme - 50 C1-D2
Roads of Colorado - 88 C2