Garden County is the confluence of eastern and western bird populations and part of the hour glass north-south migration of birds to be seen at Lake McConaughy and Clear Creek Wildlife Refuge to the east, in Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge to the north in the worldly unique rolling sandhills and along the bluffs and river valley at Ash Hollow and the North Platte River.
According to Dr. Paul Johnsgard*, Garden County and Lake McConaughy make up the third best birding area in the United States with widely diverse eco-regions including the sandhills with many lakes, the North Platte River valley, wetlands at the head of Lake McConaughy and the lake itself.
Lake McConaughy: Over 360 species have been counted in the Lake McConaughy area, earning it the reputation as the best birdwatching locale in the state. Ornithologists attribute the high number of species to the area’s location on central flyways as well as local habitat diversity. Spring and fall migration periods provide especially good opportunities to spot Sandhill cranes, white pelicans, ducks, geese, and shore birds.
Ash Hollow State Historical Park: This historically interesting park, located 2 miles southeast of Lewellen, has a wide variety of habitats, from exposed rocky bluffs that are used by Great Horned Owls, American Kestrels, and sometimes Prairie Falcons, through grassy wet meadows where Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks are present, to riparian wooded habitats used by Warbling Vireos and other woodland songbirds. There is also upland grassland, with Blue Grosbeaks and Spotted Towhees in shrubby areas, and scattered yuccas where Field and Grasshopper Sparrows sometimes perch. A one-mile trail leads from the parking lot off US 26 to Windlass Hill, where Overland Trail wagon ruts are still easily visible.
Garden County roads are generally gravel and require reduced speeds. Please be cautious if/when stopping to view birds, check for traffic behind and in front of you.
*(Paul Johnsgard, 89, emeritus professor of biological sciences, renowned ornithologist, and prolific author)