Tag Archives: Year of the Bird

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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What to See Now: Shrikes

YOTB_stacked_KIn celebration of the Year of the Bird, we will highlight some of the birds and their behaviors that you can observe at certain times throughout the year.

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A pair of loggerhead shrikes from the Pawnee National Grasslands. All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

Driving down County Road 57 on the edge of the Pawnee National Grasslands, I saw a flurry of avian activity on a barbed-wire fence just ahead. I pulled over to see three of the four birds had moved off a bit, leaving one little bird sitting alone. Well, “sitting” isn’t quite right, because its legs were sticking out at odd angles. “Resting” isn’t correct either, because there wasn’t much peaceful about the scene. The small brownish bird was “stuck.” I edged my truck a few feet ahead to try and get a better idea what species I was looking at, but that didn’t help. It’s hard to identify a bird when it is missing its head. Read more

What to See Now: Red-winged Blackbirds

YOTB_stacked_KIn celebration of the Year of the Bird, we will highlight some of the birds and their behaviors that you can observe at certain times throughout the year.

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A male red-winged blackbird. All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

If you cruise along just about any road in Colorado that passes through marshy or wet land, or hike by a lake or stream, you are likely to see red-winged blackbirds. Sleek and black, with bright orange, red and yellow shoulder patches, the males are what you will notice first — sitting on a cattail, wire fence or power line singing their conk-la-lee! song. Males sing to mark their territory and attract females, both of which they will aggressively protect. I once saw a red-winged blackbird repeatedly dive-bomb a belly boater that had ventured too close to its territory. Read more

Grouse Getaway

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Greater sage-grouse display on a lek in northwest Colorado.  All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis.

YOTB_stacked_KIn the pre-predawn haze on a northwest Colorado prairie, every dark spot, smudge or blot you see is a greater sage-grouse — until the gathering light proves they’re not. As sunrise approaches, the “sage-grouse” become the rocks, sagebrush and clumps of dirt they actually are. But you know the birds are there because you hear them — everywhere. It’s not the distinct call of a western meadowlark (also heard in the mix) or other prairie bird, but much more otherworldly. It’s like the sounds the exotic-cute indigenous critters would make as they surround the Zachary Quinto version of Spock on some far-off planet in a Star Trek movie. Whether we know it or not, the occupants of Mick and Nancy Sommer’s 4Runner are in a contest to see the first real greater sage-grouse. I end up taking bronze. Read more

Searching for Gunnison-sage Grouse

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Nate Seward, CPW Wildlife Biologist, searches for Gunnison sage-grouse. All photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW

YOTB_stacked_KBy 6 a.m. most mornings from mid-March through mid-May, Nate Seward is sitting on cold ground – or snow, or mud ‒ peering through a spotting scope watching Gunnison sage-grouse perform their annual dance. But he’s not just bird-watching for fun. He’s counting the birds at areas known as “leks”, where males gather to establish their dominance and where females gather to choose a mate. The daily work by Seward is an essential component in the long-term conservation effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to sustain this iconic species of the American West. Read more

Celebrating 30 years of the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies

YOTB_stacked_KA 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 Read more

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

With Eyes on the Sky, Raptor Monitors Help Protect the Ecosystem

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YOTB_stacked_KWere you one of more than 14 million visitors to a Colorado State Park in 2017? People have been flocking to our parks in record numbers over the last few years. And there are good reasons. Our state parks are located in some of Colorado’s most spectacular landscapes and they host a plethora of recreational activities, ranging from fishing and hunting to hiking, biking, kayaking and climbing. The increased popularity is a reassuring sign of people’s interest in the outdoors; however, the popularity brings with it the dynamic challenge of balancing recreation and the human impact on the ecosystem. Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff is tasked with identifying methods to monitor and strike a balance between nature and human interaction so that the park system remains healthy and available for generations to come. Read more

Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

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Brown-capped Rosy Finch. All photos by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW

YOTB_stacked_KThe brown-capped rosy-finch goes by a delicate name, but it is one tough little bird that lives year-round in Colorado’s high country. While biologists don’t have much information about the brown-capped rosy-finch, there is concern that the population might be declining. Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers, along with other collaborators, have started a project to learn more about the species and are inviting the state’s bird watchers to help gather information.

In CPW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the brown-capped rosy-finch is identified as one of the 55 tier 1 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)” in Colorado. Based on anecdotal evidence from the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, numbers of brown-capped rosy-finches are down, raising concern among scientists that climate change could be affecting the finch’s high-altitude habitat. Read more

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