Bird Photography at Barr Lake State Park – Colorado
Barr Lake state park is located in Adams County. Plug the address into your GPS and it should get you there. 13401 Picadilly Rd, Brighton, CO 80603. Just like all state parks in Colorado, there’s an entry fee, unless of course you have the state park yearly pass.
If you are going for bird watching, or bird photography, get there early. Not only are the birds more active in the mornings, this park is popular, and if you go in early afternoon, or even in the afternoon, your probably going to be waiting in line to get into the park. This is especially true during summer time.
As of September 4th 2017, according to ebird.org, there have been over 333 species of birds reported here. That currently leads all hotspots in Colorado, with neighboring state parks Chatfield and Cherry Creek not that far behind. That doesn’t mean its the best place for bird photography, it just means your chances of photographing ‘rare’ birds are probably greater.
My first trip to Barr Lake was in the winter of 2014. If you want to see Bald Eagles at Barr Lake State Park, the winter time is a pretty good bet. There were several all over the lake just hanging out. There’s also an active nest around the lake as well.
Raptors can be found at Barr Lake year round though. Particularly American Kestrels. Red-tailed Hawks. Bald Eagles. I’ve yet to make a trip there where I haven’t witness all three of these birds of prey.
The American Kestrals keep the family tight. I’ve had most success viewing them around the Neidrach Nature Trail. Their style of hunting makes them pretty easy to spot as they’ll hover in a stationary spot before swooping down for their prey.
If your looking for Raptors at Barr Lake State Park just keep your eyes in the sky. There always seems to be some hawks flying around. Getting close enough to get a good picture of them in flight is a different story though. If your just looking to get your bird count up, look up. There should be plenty of hawks to count.
Swainson’s Hawk sightings are not that common from my experience, nor are they that rare according to eBird sightings. Still got a little excited when this one was sitting in a tree just hanging out.
Look to the lake for birds and that’s just what you’ll find. All sorts of Grebes, ducks, gulls and many other types of waterfowl. If that’s your thing. The problem is if your here for bird photography you’re going to need a long lens. The one I use is 420mm and nowhere near long enough in my opinion. As the lake is huge and the rare birds rarely come close enough to get a print worthy photograph of them. If you photographing just for id purposes though, then by all means shoot at the water.
If your walking the trail around Barr Lake you will notice several wildlife viewing blinds available. For photography purposes, I’ve never gotten any good photos by sitting in one of these. I’m not the type to wait for something to come to me either. I prefer to be out walking around and using my ear to listen for bird calls that I’m not used to hearing. Unfortunately, I usually just hear a bunch of house wrens and red-winged black birds.
There’s a visitor center at Barr Lake state park that provides great bird photography opportunities. If you are looking for print worthy pictures where the birds tend to let you get a little closer to them, then hang out by the feeders. Although your chances of finding some elusive type rare migrants isn’t as good around the feeders from my experience. Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Grackles, Blue Jays, White-crowned sparrows, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds are some of the commonly seen birds that hang around the bird feeders by the visitors center.
Brown Thrashers are also seen every once in awhile at the visitors center in Barr Lake State Park.
Back in 2014 there was a group of captive Chukars that were released in the state park. Whether they are still there or not I’m not sure. I haven’t seen any reports on eBird about them. So maybe they’re long gone.
Bird footage and Recordings – Barr Lake State Park
House wrens can be heard everywhere at Barr Lake State Park. For a small bird, House Wrens are less skittish then other birds of similar sizes.
Not much in the Swainson’s Hawk call. This raptor was just hanging out by the picnic benches in a tree, near the visitor’s center. He made a couple of calls.
3 juvenile Bullock’s Orioles were hanging out on a tree branch right next to the lake. Only one of them got to eat in this video. As the parent swooped in to quickly feed one of the young then went back out to gather more food for the young Orioles.
There is an active Osprey nest at Barr Lake State Park, and on this morning I got to record some pretty decent footage of the small family of Osprey that call this place home.
A small group of Western Grebes, along with one Clark’s Grebe, swimming around in the lake. Note the white under the eye on the Clark’s Grebe. This is a major indicator on how to tell apart Western and Clark’s Grebes.
Tips for great Bird Photography at Barr Lake State Park
1. Get there early. Bring a long lens, and plenty of water. Dress warm and wear gloves if it’s in the winter time, this place gets stupid cold.
2. I’ve gotten the most action right off the nature trail. If you want bald eagles, your best bet is to walk a couple miles up the nature trail.
3. Besides the visitor center, and the boat ramp, there’s no water fountains. Bring plenty of water if you plan on walking around the whole lake.
4. There’s plenty of open space. If your after raptors you probably don’t need a tripod (unless your lens is huge, in which if it is you probably don’t need to be taking any tips from me anyways) if your goal is footage, bring a tripod.
5. Walk out on the long bridge they have there. It lets you see more of the lake and birds that like to hang out far away from the shore.
Have any suggestions for getting good pictures of birds at Barr Lake State Park? See anything wrong in this post? Drop me a comment.