Author Archives: travisduncan23

FIELD NOTES OF A ROOKIE SPORTSMAN: Evaluating the Harvest

Hunting blind and turkey decoys.

At an early meeting of the 2019 Rookie Sportsmen Program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Frank McGee told us we should each have our own individual response to the question: Why do you hunt?

“Because I guarantee you,” McGee said, “at some point, you will be asked that question.”

After a couple turkey hunting trips with our Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) mentor, District Wildlife Manager Logan Wilkins, and with my daughter, Natalie, I feel like I’m a little bit closer to knowing my answer.

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Studying Beetle Impacts on Wildlife

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Wildlife Technician Tim Hanks with one of the game cameras installed in a recent study.

As Colorado’s private and public forests recover from insect and disease outbreaks and other disturbances, humans and wildlife are adjusting to significant environmental changes. Spruce beetle and mountain pine beetle outbreaks may have changed the way you recreate, but have you thought about how wildlife are responding?

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The True Meaning of the Christmas Bird Count

CPW Wildlife Biologist April Estep and volunteer Bobby Day participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count at the United States Air Force Academy.
All photos by © Travis Duncan/CPW

2018 was The Year of the Bird, a year in which Colorado Parks and Wildlife joined organizations like National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and BirdLife International to help rally local and worldwide awareness and support for birds and their habitats in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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CPW seeks comment on CWD Management Plan

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 Mule deer buck. Photo by © Wayne Lewis/CPW.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife along with the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Advisory Group seek public comment on CWD management plan.

CWD-Plan-ShadowFrom October 1 – 31, 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is asking for interested individuals to review and comment on the chronic wasting disease (CWD) adaptive management plan created by the CWD Advisory Group. Your comments will be carefully considered before management actions are voted on by the CPW Commission in January.

Please provide feedback using this public comment form.

There are many problems facing our state’s deer and elk herds and CPW is working to overcome these challenges to stabilize, sustain and increase populations and habitats throughout the state. Read more

New camping options for last-minute planners

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Tent camping at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Photo by © Thomas Kimmel/CPW.

The ability to make last-minute camping reservations is coming to some of Colorado’s state park campgrounds.

My dad sends me a text on Friday: Hey, let’s go camping this weekend! Want to head up to Eleven Mile State Park, go fishing, and camp on Saturday?

Yes, yes, I do. I’ll see if I can book us a campsite.
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Castlewood Canyon Birding Adventure

Birding team at viewing station 6

All photos by © Doug Skinner/CPW.

YOTB_stacked_KThe day after Governor John Hickenlooper declared 2018 the Year of the Bird in Colorado, I had the good fortune to join a group of birders that included CPW Resource Stewardship Program Coordinator Jeff Thompson and CPW Volunteer Karen Metz at Castlewood Canyon State Park. Beginning at sunrise, our group traveled to 13 different birding stations – each station associated with specific habitats – and spent exactly eight minutes at each location to survey what birds were present. Thompson and Metz do this survey work together three times each year and the work has been informing park management for the last eight years.

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Celebrating 30 years of the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies

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A spring snowstorm pounded the roadways for most of my white-knuckle drive to Barr Lake State Park the morning of April 21, while my 13-year-old daughter, Natalie, slept peacefully in the passenger seat. I had awakened her early in the morning with the promise of live raptors and kite flying at the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies’ 30th-anniversary celebration. The weather caused the Kite Festival celebration to be canceled, but plenty of birders still showed up at Barr Lake to check out some raptors and support 30 years of work by the Bird Conservancy

Soon after arriving, Natalie and I ventured into the Barr Lake Nature Center and were engaged in fun activities. Natalie made a bird feeder out of a pine cone, shortening, and seeds while I explored the many tables with interesting bird displays. We stopped by the Bird Conservancy table and learned lots of cool bird facts, like how a woodpecker’s tongue wraps around its skull and protects the bird’s brain while it hammers on trees for insects. A volunteer told Natalie the NFL is studying the birds to see if they can offer insights into designing helmets that protect players’ brains.

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My daughter, Natalie, learned about raptors and other birds at the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies table at Barr Lake Nature Center.

We also learned about the Bird Conservancy’s work placing geolocators on the backs of black swifts to find their migratory nesting grounds. These secretive birds make their nests on sheer cliffs and behind waterfalls and have been hard for scientists to track. Bird Conservancy biologists were able to measure light cycle data from the geolocators and determine where the birds had been over the past 12 months. It turns out, many of the black swifts in Colorado actually have nests in Brazil and Paraguay.

Natalie and I found a front row seat for the live raptor presentation at 9:30 a.m. Emily Davenport from Nature’s Educators told the group we should be very quiet because the raptor she was about to bring out “can hear your heart beating from inside its kennel.”

It was a great-horned owl. Davenport told us interesting facts about him. How he was hit by a car and lost an eye, which is why he couldn’t be released back into the wild. How his tufts “aren’t ears, and scientists aren’t exactly sure what they’re for, but they know the owls use them for communication.” And we learned that one of his ears is smaller and asymmetrical than the other, contributing to the owl’s ability to locate prey underneath Colorado snow.

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Emily Davenport from Nature’s Educators answered questions about a great-horned owl.

Then they brought out a Swainson’s hawk. Every fall, these hawks leave Colorado and travel 8 to 12,000 miles, as far south as Argentina following their favorite food, grasshoppers. Davenport said the hawks come back to Colorado around April 15, although we haven’t seen too many so far this year. When they migrate, they follow thermals in what looks like a swirling black cauldron with hundreds of birds. This is why a migrating group of Swainson’s hawks are called a “kettle.”

We learn that Swainson’s hawks can digest bones, so they bring up a “cast” of fur instead of a pellet-like an owl that includes the bones.

After the presentation, Natalie and I decided to hike a bit on the trail around Barr Lake, even though it was still snowing quite hard. We were rewarded with lots of wildlife. We saw a small herd of deer, pelicans, red-wing blackbirds, geese, ducks, cranes, and even a bald eagle that took flight from the top of a tall tree as we approached from the Fox Meadow Trail.

We returned to the nature center in time for coffee and tea from Birds and Beans and a good seat for the Bird Conservancy’s 30th-anniversary presentation, Nelda Gamble Award and guest speakers.

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies Board member Yvette Martinez presented Chairman Larry Modesitt was with the Nelda Gamble Volunteer of the Year Award for his many years of dedicated service.

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Bird Conservancy of the Rockies Board Chairman Larry Modesitt was honored with the Nelda Gamble Volunteer of the Year Award.

CPW Director Bob Broscheid spoke to the group afterward, saying, “Conservation is about passion, commitment, and dedication. I’d like to personally thank every volunteer for what you do. At the Bird Conservancy, people stand out as part of the solution.”

Then Bird Conservancy of the Rockies Executive Director Tammy VerCauteren thanked CPW for its help with bird banding and for “helping us take our monitoring to 15 states around the U.S.” Vercauteren said CPW had helped with BCOR’s private land conservation and had invested in their first biologist for the Prairie Partners Program.

Natalie and I wrapped up the day with lunch provided by the Bird Conservancy: burritos, nachos, and cupcakes topped with pictures of birds.

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The snow finally stopped as we were eating and gathering our things for the drive back to Colorado Springs. Natalie stayed awake this time for the drive back. The whole way, it seemed we were pointing at the birds we spotted in the fields beside the highway, our senses awakened to all the wildlife in the sky around us.

Year of the Bird
2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate 2018 as the “Year of the Bird.” Learning more about birds in your area is a great way to participate in the Year of the Bird. Find out how you can participate and take the Bird Your World Pledge.

Raptor monitoring program leverages power of citizen scientists

In order to understand the health of an ecosystem on the ground, wildlife biologists often look to the skies. Top predators like raptors are sensitive to changes in the environment and can serve as an indicator of environmental health. That’s why Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Raptor Monitoring Volunteer Program is so important.

On Thursday, April 5, I had the privilege of joining CPW volunteers from the Colorado Springs area to learn more about the Raptor Monitoring Volunteer Program and discover some of the rewards and challenges volunteers face. Read more