The rural town of Karval is known as a friendly farming community in southern Lincoln County with a population of about 35 full-time residents. But to bird watchers from around the world, this little town is one of the best places to see mountain plovers up close.
Birders, locals and wildlife enthusiasts will descend on the town the weekend of April 27 through April 29 for the Sixth Annual Mountain Plover Festival. This year’s event includes new bird watching sites, a photography contest and a bevy of viewing activities including a Friday night field trip.
“The Mountain Plover Festival is a big event with some small town flair,” said John Koshak, watchable wildlife coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in southeast Colorado. “Not only do birders get an up-close look at an incredible bird, they can experience small town friendly in Karval by staying in locals’ homes and attending several organized community events during the weekend.”
The festival features three day-time tours and one evening tour. The tours are conducted in conjunction with private landowners who offer exclusive access to their land for the best viewing locations. The festival provides a ‘Saturday only’ option that includes two tours, three meals and evening entertainment. The ‘Saturday only’ cost is $120 for two participants. Anyone who wants to participate in the full weekend of tours can register for $200 per person or $350 per couple. The full weekend price includes tours, meals and lodging in a local family’s home. RV camping sites are also available in Karval but some of those do not have electric hook-ups.
The Sixth Annual Mountain Plover Festival is sponsored by the Karval Community Alliance and features bird experts from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Full details about the festival can be found online at www.karval.org.
The area around Karval is a haven for bird watchers with several sites included on the Colorado Birding Trail. In addition to seeing mountain plovers, bird watchers could see many other species, including burrowing owls, golden eagles, Wilson’s snipe, lark buntings, and bluebirds. Last year birders reported seeing more than 70 different types of birds during festival weekend.
The mountain plover is listed as a species of concern in Colorado. The short-grass prairie nesting birds can be found scattered throughout the western United States but experts estimate that more than half of the mountain plover population nests in Colorado. These insect-eating birds are known for elaborate mating displays characterized by the males engaging in flight displays, ground displays and mock-nest scraping.
Saturday and Sunday morning tours begin at 6 a.m.. Breakfast is served at 5:30 a.m., so birders can get out to the prairie just when the mountain plovers are becoming active. The morning tours ends about 11 a.m., giving the groups time to make it back to Karval for lunch. An afternoon tour begins at 2 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m.