Birding Carrizo & Cottonwood Canyons

(Last week I promised a post on my final CFO fieldtrip. Here you go…)

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After several days of desiccating wind and heat, Sunday dawned with welcome relief in the form of much cooler temperatures and a light breeze. My trip was to the Comanche National Grasslands. I’d driven through the area years before and hadn’t been impressed. Apparently, that was because I didn’t know where to go. Oh my. I can’t wait to get back!

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Saturation Birding

2015-06-07 14.06.33I just spent five days in one of the prettiest parts of Colorado. Even better, those days were spent looking for birds. Over 200 birders gathered in the charming town of Salida to talk about birds, learn more about birds, and best of all, see birds! Yes, it was the annual Colorado Field Ornithologists’ convention.

Imagine five days of total avian immersion: a banquet with an entertaining guest speaker, tempting vendors, scientific papers, an evening game of Jea-birdy (I’ll take “Avian Newcomers” for $200 please), and the primary reason everyone came—birding, birding, and more birding!

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Fall Birding, Part 3

Eurasian Collared Dove-CO_LAH_2386_fLast Chance. It sounds as if it’s a small town in the middle of nowhere, and that’s about right. Situated at the intersection of Colorado Highways 71 and 36 (the same road that goes to Boulder, some hundred miles to the west) we found several houses, a fire station, and a church, along with some abandoned buildings piled with broken furniture and other castoffs.

The big draw is a small roadside rest (complete with portable “facilities”) right next to a small pond surrounded by green shrubs and some trees. It’s a birder’s dream. Surrounded as it is by miles of dry fields, the tiny riparian area at Last Chance is a migrant trap.

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Fall Birding, Part 2

(Continued from last week’s post about the Colorado Field Ornithologists’ (CFO) 2014 convention.)

Yellowlegs_JacksonLakeSP-CO_LAH_2104Leading up to the CFO convention, which happened over Labor Day weekend, forecasters were calling for weather in the high 90s. It was a delightful surprise to discover that their predictions were wrong. Instead of sweltering under the hot prairie sun, we enjoyed days in the low 80s, with scattered clouds (and one rapidly-moving thunderstorm). What a relief to be focused on the birds instead of the heat!

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Fall Birding

Vesper Sparrow_RamahSWA-CO_LAH_1899-001Imagine that every bird you see is brown. Little brown jobs. Big brown jobs. Streaky, plain, identical. They’re no longer in their bright (and easily identified) breeding duds. Rather, they’re playing hard to see—and hard to identify.

Now imagine that they’re all far, far away—at the water’s edge on the far side of the reservoir, waaay out in the field, sitting on that distant fence rail—and if you try to sneak up for a closer look, they fly away.

And finally, imagine that an entire summer’s worth of baby birds have all left their nests and joined the crowd, sporting their juvenile plumage.

Got it? That’s the downside challenge of fall birding.

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Bird Nerd Heaven

CFO GroupBirding and Nature Festivals are springing up all over the country. Start in January at the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival in Arizona, or the Morro Bay Bird Festival in California, and continue to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and New Mexico’s Festival of the Cranes in November—if you have the airfare and the time, you can spend an entire year flitting from festival to festival, returning home just in time for the Christmas Bird Count.

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The CFO Convention: Part 3

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Saturday morning. Wakened by my alarm, I snuggled down into my sleeping bag and  listened. Trucks rumbled by on the nearby highway. The bird in the trees overhead kept up a constant chatter. But no drops were hitting the tent. The rain had stopped!

Thankfully, our field trip this morning departed at a leisurely 6:30 a.m., the first of two days photographing birds with Bill Schmoker. This was my primary reason for attending the convention, and I was eager to get started.

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The CFO Convention: Part 2

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The saga continues…

The alarm on my phone chirped into the pre-dawn blackness. My friend Debbie and I both groaned. Between the 18-wheelers on near-by Hwy. 50 and the louder truck parked across the narrow driveway from us—the truck whose owner decided to idle for ten minutes, then rev the engine for another ten, and then finally to drive around the crunchy gravel loop a few times at 2:40 am!—we hadn’t slept at all well.

Still, an exciting day was waiting. We had each signed up for different trips, and mine was headed up Grand Mesa to look for (among other species) Chukar, Gray Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, eight warbler species, and Black-throated and Fox Sparrows. Since several of these would be new birds for me, the anticipation was enough to get me up at 4:30, and into the car by 4:45.

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Bird Mania—The 2011 CFO Convention

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I just got back from my first birding conference—the annual Colorado Field Ornithologists’ Convention. This year it was held in Grand Junction, on the western slope of the Rockies. My friend Debbie (above) and I enjoyed three days of beak-geek heaven, plus a full day each way for the 5 hour drive from home. Sometimes life can be pretty sweet.

As a newbie attendee, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I had heard about the amazing field trip possibilities. After reading all the glowing descriptions on the conference website, I signed up for three outings, one a day. As far as the rest of the activities… well, I’d just have to wait and see.

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