If you go
Highlights: Birds, prairie dogs and other wildlife; mountain views; large lake open to boating and fishing
Distance: 1.6 miles
Elevation: About 5,100 feet, no elevation change
Access: From Pike Road, halfway between North 75th and North 67th streets, turn south into the large parking lot
Last year while searching for ferruginous hawks not far from Boulder County's Lagerman Reservoir, naturalist Steve Jones focused his binoculars and muttered in disappointment, "They're just bald eagles!"
In the mid 20th century, bald eagles were endangered, but now they often perch on telephone poles and catch fish and prairie dogs at Lagerman Reservoir. They were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
Ferruginous hawks, however, are declining along with northern harriers. Nevertheless, you can sometimes see both raptor species flying over the 659-acre Lagerman Agricultural Preserve in winter.
Other rarities that have been reported here include long-billed curlews, red phalaropes and both black-bellied and snowy plovers.
In winter, you can circle the 115-acre reservoir in either direction. We like to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, starting by heading west. Prairie dogs yip from the colony bordering the trail, and the snow-capped Indian Peaks and Longs Peak loom ahead. You might even spot a red fox or a coyote attracted by the noisy prairie dogs.
As you bend south along the gravel path, look for the osprey nesting platform to your right. The pair may return by March and start repairing their bulky stick nest. By April this trail section will be closed until the end of August to protect the ospreys and other nesting birds.
The trail continues east and then north across the dam. If winds are calm, look for mountain reflections in the lake. Look below and to your right for even more prairie dogs and for the remnants of old irrigation ditches that can be seen now that the grasses are beaten down and brown.
Sometimes Canada geese seem to fill the sky and the lake, and the air resonates with their cacophony.
Frederick Lagerman founded a Lutheran congregation at the Ryssby settlement in this area near Longmont in 1878. Church members — immigrants from Ryssby, Sweden — bought and farmed 160 acres as a "prastgard," or pastor's garden, paying a portion of his salary in crops.
The Swedish homesteaders also dug irrigation ditches and built a reservoir called Swede Lake that later became known as Lagerman Reservoir.
The Ryssby Church, a national historical site at 9000 63rd St., was built in 1882 and still holds Christmas services on the second weekend of December as well as a Midsummer Festival and a candlelight Santa Lucia Festival.
The 4.9-mile Open Sky Loop — just opened this past June--connects to the Lagerman Loop Trail at the east end of the parking lot. It winds through agricultural land to the north, connecting several roads and irrigation ditches. Future expansion planned to the south will almost double the size of the preserve and add another trail.
Ruth Carol and Glenn Cushman are the authors of "Boulder Hiking Trails," published by Graphic Arts Books