The 14th annual Bent on Birding and Historic Trails event was held May 16-20, drawing birdwatchers, nature lovers and history buffs from throughout the state and beyond to Bent County.

On May 16, the participants met at the John Martin Dam Visitor Center to see dinosaur tracks and take a guided internal dam tour by the Army Corps of Engineers. Then they returned to Las Animas to choose between the Rawlings Heritage Center and Museum tour or the Bent County Courthouse rooftop tour, followed by a cowboy meal at the library, a movie on hummingbirds, and a night hike of the Fort Lyon marshes, seeking the elusive black rail.

The next day, a choice was offered between visiting private ranches to observe wildlife and study petroglyphs or bird-watching in the lakes of Prowers and Kiowa counties under the expert guidance of birdwatcher and photographer Jill Smith of Lamar.

The group also visited Tempel’s Grove to look for migratory warblers, noticeably scarce this year.

On May 18, Tucker Feyder, John Martin ranger, took the group to see the remarkable petroglyphs in the area of John Martin Reservoir.

That afternoon, a volunteer from the Pueblo Raptor Center brought three rescued raptors to illustrate the work they do in rescuing injured birds. She had with her Theo, a beautiful Peregrine falcon (which can reach a speed of over 200 miles per hour in a dive), a great horned owl and a golden eagle, whose name had to be changed from Attila to Lady Attila when, after seven years at the center, she laid an egg.

All of these birds had recovered from injuries but were unable to return to the wild. The high point of the presentation was the release of a beautiful American Kestrel, which had been found injured near John Martin Dam. Its rescuers were present to watch it fly.

On May 19, Bent on Birding wound up with bird-watching at the marsh of Fort Lyon State Wildlife Area, followed by options to visit Boggsville or Bent’s Old Fort.