Drivers, slow down for flycatcher

Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife CDOT adjusted the construction schedule on U.S. 145 to protect the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Accommodating for an endangered bird is the reason for mysterious gap in the construction schedule on Highway 145.

Timing for the project was adjusted to limit disruption of nesting habits of the Southwestern willow flycatcher, said CDOT representative Nancy Shank.

"Initial roughing of the road needed to take place before the bird arrives in the area," she said. "That is why there is a delay between the first phase and actual paving."

People have questioned why there's a construction zone between Cortez and Dolores with a 40 mph speed zone even though no apparent work is being done.

CDOT's environmental officials required the altered timing of the project, Shank said, and she asked that the public be patient.

"The road has been roughed up pretty good, and it is required to have a lower speed limit for public safety. Motorcycles especially need to use caution," she said.

Paving begins July 21, at the Colorado 145 bridge in Dolores and moves south in 2-mile sections. It's scheduled to be done in August.

Shank said be prepared for delays, slow going, and alternating traffic during the paving process. As for the bird disruption, "that is part of the process."

Since 1995, the Southwestern willow flycatcher has been listed as endangered, meaning extinction is imminent.

The bird is down to an estimated 900 to 1,300 breeding pairs across the Southwest.

After migrating to Central America for the winter, the small bird returns to the Southwest in spring to breed and raise young in willows, shrubs and small trees.