Bird is the Word
Birding: the practice of observing birds in their natural habitats as a hobby.
Birds bring people together.
On an early brisk August morning, 20 people gathered at MALT’s Sacramento Creek Ranch in Fairplay to go birding.
It was an eclectic group of attendees…from seasoned professional birders and naturalists to the very beginner birder who had never used binoculars. The “Birder’s Eye View” summer workshops are the result of funding MALT received from the Cornell Land Trust Small Grant program, and a partnership with Evergreen Audubon and Colorado State University’s Master of Conservation Leadership.
The participants were there for different reasons. Joyce and John consider themselves novice birders who enjoy watching the feeders in their yards. Cay joined the group because she “works too much and doesn’t play enough” and is looking for a reason to get outdoors. Kathleen and Frank moved to Colorado in 2020 and found the bird workshop a fun opportunity to try something different. Harry, who is retired from the Army and U.S. Postal Service, is an Evergreen Audubon member who lives in Arvada and is looking for a hobby. Dale just completed the Denver Audubon Master Birder program and decided to put his skills to work. And Melanie moved to Evergreen from California during the pandemic. She loves nature journaling and the outdoors and found the workshop a fun opportunity to meet new friends.
After a mini orientation and welcome, the birders set out on the ranch with their binoculars and smart phone eBird apps, guided by Chuck - an expert birder who leads nature walks for Evergreen Audubon. Within minutes he spotted a Great Horned Owl perched on the MALT barn, cautiously eyeing the excited group of humans huddled together, staring at him through their binoculars.
From there they walked along Sacramento Creek, whispering amongst themselves and straining to capture a glimpse of another species to identify. A Red-tailed hawk soon made a majestic appearance, swooping, soaring and putting on a show. And just a few minutes later a Spotted sandpiper appeared, bobbing its tail and hopping around the beaver pond - an unusual and exciting species to see!
Chuck explained to the group that it’s important to not only know what features to look for in birds, for example their coloring, beak shape and song when trying to make an identification, but to also understand the natural environment. He shared that it is just as important to understand the species of trees, and to be mindful of habitats like water features and grasses which will be home to a variety of different birds. Thanks to Sacramento Creek Ranch’s many Lodgepole pines Chuck suggested to watch for Yellow-rumped warblers, woodpeckers and nuthatches just to name a few.
As the day wore on, the determined group moved from Sacramento Creek Ranch to an even higher elevation site, The Pika Trail – located on a MALT owned property just over 11,000’ called the Pennsylvania Mountain Natural Area, about 15 minutes from the ranch. There weren’t many birds around by mid-day, as the best birding is generally during the early morning when birds are foraging and singing; by mid-afternoon they often disappear to rest in the shade and avoid predators.
The group found that the scenery, colorful wildflowers and sweeping views of the Mosquito Range and the majestic 14,000 peaks of Mount Lincoln, Democrat, Bross and Quandary Peak more than made up for the lack of birdsongs, and everyone enjoyed the quiet peace of walking across the mountain top.