Eleven Reasons I Love Birding in Colorado

boreas-pass-tarryall-2008jun07-lah-110I recently posted my ten favorite reasons to garden in Colorado. This got me to thinking about how much I love birding here too. It’s true, we’re not a Cape May, Monterey, or Rio Grande Valley, but 493 species of birds have been sighted here. Only six states* have more.

Having a lot of birds to see is certainly a good reason to bird in Colorado, but it’s not the only one. Since today is 11/11, I’m posting ten more reasons I’m thankful that I can bird here, bringing the total to… eleven!

  • Habitats run the gauntlet from high altitude sage and mesquite to riparian cottonwoods, from the Arikaree River valley (where it flows into northwest Kansas (and then Nebraska) at 3,315 feet elevation) to 14,433 ft, Mt. Elbert. We have short-grass prairies, pine forests, cholla cactus and cattail-filled marshes.
  • Water is scarce throughout most of the state. This means that any waterfowl in the area will be concentrated into a limited number of lakes, ponds, and wetlands, where birders can more easily find them.
  • The lack of rain puddles encourages birds to take advantage of the bird bath in my yard. My yard list isn’t limited to species that come to seed feeders.
  • western-bluebird_turkeycreek-ftcarson-co_lah_9761Our shrubs and trees lose their leaves early in the fall and grow them back late in the spring. It’s much easier to spot a bird in the bush when the branches are bare.
  • At least half the state is more vertical than horizontal. Most of the good birding spots aren’t immediately accessible from the car windows. Combine those two facts, and it’s quickly clear why birding involves getting a good workout while looking for those elusive sapsuckers and crossbills.
  • Our summers aren’t too hot (most of the time). Freezing winter days are interspersed with periods of relative warmth. The sun shines most of the time. Humidity is low. Both the birds and the birders enjoy being outside year round.
  • sandhill-cranes_montevistanwr-co_20100320_lah_0517Birds that winter in the tropics and summer in the Arctic have to pass through Colorado coming and going, so we get to count them too.
  • A lot of lost birds show up here. Most birders call those “accidentals.” I call them “tourists.” Here is sampling of the bird species that have inadvertently visited Colorado: Eurasian Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Pacific Loon, Brown Pelican, Wood Stork, Iceland Gull, Scarlet Tanager, Brambling, … you get the idea.
  • summit-views-cottonwoodpass-15july05-lah009Colorado is beautiful. Whether you’re in the mountains or on the plains, the views are so incredible you (almost!) don’t care if you see any birds.
  • The birders here are really nice—but I bet that’s true where you live, too.

What do you like best about birding where you live?

*States having longer bird lists than Colorado are: California (641), Texas (634), Arizona (541), New Mexico (523), Oregon (517,) and Florida (503).

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