If you’re itching to take a walk on the wild side, look no further than your own backyard, for that’s where you’ll find the fascinating world of birding.
It’s spring, so birds are coming back from their winter vacations down south and are eager to return to start a new family.
The Roaring Fork Valley is a mecca for bird watchers. From tiny chickadees to magnificent bald eagles, your avian neighbors are drawn to the many of the same things people are: mountains, rivers, high desert, red rock cliffs, deep gorges, lakes, high tundra above treeline and thick forests.
All these can total eleven different life zones, each rich with a variety of birds to observe.
Roaring Fork Audubon Society board member and conservation chair Mark Fuller, explained the best ways of attracting birds.
“Put out bird feeders — most species enjoy black oil sunflower seeds — in protected areas safe from squirrels, cats, large birds and other threatening critters,” he said.
Birdfeederhub.com gives tips for backyard birding with a specific page on how to get started feeding wild birds.
Fuller recommended planting shrubs like serviceberry, chokecherry. crab apple trees and sunflowers. He also encouraged the recipe for hummingbird food: four cups water and one cup sugar.
Many species enjoy chomping on insects, mulch and leaves. Flowers with nectar also draw insects, which will keep the birds happy with full bellies.
“Please,” Fuller stressed, “Don’t forget water, year-round if possible. A shallow pan or plate will work just fine.”
He added a heated birth bath would be terrific.
The society is helping catalog bird species especially during spring and fall migration, winter residence and summer breeding. After recording the type, numbers, time, date, altitude and locations, the society encourages people to send their observations to email@example.com as part of this citizen science project.
Allison Holloran, regional executive director and a national vice president for the Audubon Society, recommended the tools a birder needs. She said a normal pair of binoculars (nothing too expensive), a good bird guide and a notebook are all someone needs for basic watching and recording.
Other options include a closeup scope and a camera.
The online site ebird.com, managed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, also tracks sightings around the country and the world. Ebird also provides a wealth of interactive information and other resources.
Which birds are you most likely to see here? The list is long and includes over 500 different species in Colorado.
Colorado Field Ornithologists at cobirds.org posts about Garfield County birds specifically. These include bald and golden eagles, black bird, red winged blackbird, black tern, bluebird, canada geese, crane, crow and raven, falcon, hawk, heron, house wren, hummingbird, mallard duck, mourning dove, owl, sage grouse, swan, great blue heron, wild turkey, turkey vulture, owl, robin, sage grouse and many more.
The American Birding Association (ABA) has published the ABA Code of Birding Ethics, starting with always bird and report with honesty and integrity. Respect the interests, rights and skill levels of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience and be especially helpful to beginning birders.
Additionally, avoid stressing birds and their nests or exposing them to danger and minimize habitat disturbance.
With the skyrocketing interest in birding you may want to take a look at local groups organizing birding field trips (many have been cancelled for 2020).
To help set up your own group outing when the pandemic subsides, check out “Bird Watching for Dummies.” But remember that if you’re not sure what experience your friends have, assume they are all beginners.
As Peter Dunne, author of many birding books, said,“The difference between a beginning birder and an experienced one is that beginning birders have misidentified a few birds. Experienced birders have misidentified thousands.”