After a two-year pandemic hiatus, a tiny town on Colorado’s eastern plains welcomes visitors to see the ‘ghost of the prairie’

· Apr. 26, 2022, 4:00 am
The Mountain Plover is a bird that begins arriving to Colorado’s Eastern Plains in early April. Plovers find the short grass prairie and fallow fields in the area to be excellent nesting grounds.The Mountain Plover is a bird that begins arriving to Colorado’s Eastern Plains in early April. Plovers find the short grass prairie and fallow fields in the area to be excellent nesting grounds.Courtesy Mountain Plover Festival
The Mountain Plover is a bird that begins arriving to Colorado’s Eastern Plains in early April. Plovers find the short grass prairie and fallow fields in the area to be excellent nesting grounds.

The Mountain Plover Festival takes place each spring in Karval, Colorado, about 65 miles east of Colorado Springs.

Dan Merewether with the Karval Community Alliance refers to the six or seven-inch tall mountain plover as the "ghost of the prairie." The brown and white bird is camouflaged by the short grass prairie and fallow fields where it nests each spring.

"Unless it moves, you can't see it," Merewether said. "You can be watching it and it suddenly ducks down or stands still and you lose sight of it."

Courtesy Mountain Plover Festival
The Karval Mountain Plover Festival began when Karval community members were looking at economic opportunities for this small community.

The bird was nearly put on the endangered species list in 2006, and populations are still struggling due to the loss of habitat. Along with the plover, Karval is home to as many as 60 species of birds in the spring.

"We're on a flyway, so we see lots of shorebirds and other birds and a lot of prairie birds that may not show up in the mountains," Merewether said.

The festival is an opportunity for amateur and expert birdwatchers alike to observe and learn from one another, as well as build community, he said. All of the money raised at the festival goes back into the unincorporated town of Karval, Merewether added. 

Courtesy Mountain Plover Festival
Birdwatchers at the Mountain Plover Festival on Colorado's southeastern plains can expect to see at least 60 different species of birds during the three-day festival.

When it comes to accommodations and food for the event, the town's 40 residents work together to house and feed visitors because according to Merewether, "we don't have a hotel or motel in town."

"We call it a 'home stay' where you can stay with the local family," Merewether said. "We also have the ability to plug in campers if somebody wishes to do that or set up tents."

The festival runs from April 29 to May 1. Accommodations are limited so pre-registration is necessary. More information is available at www.mountainploverfestival.com.

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