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News: Features & Opinions Archive (2014)

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Date: January 30, 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count between Friday, February 14 & Monday, February 17. Have You Watched Any Birds Lately?

by Ann Bonnell

Website: www.birdsource.org

Birdwatching has become a leading national pastime/hobby. If you enjoy watching birds consider joining with other birdwatchers in keeping a list of birds you see between Friday, February 14 and Monday, February 17; it's the Great Backyard Bird Count, or GBBC for short.

Over 135,000 individuals recorded their bird sightings from 100 countries in last year's count. They counted 3,610 different species of birds. You count species and numbers of birds you see for at least 15 minutes in your backyard, driving somewhere, or in a park. If you Google the word Birdsource, you will be taken to the joint National Audubon/Cornell website where you can download a data form ahead of time and watch a video tutorial on how to go about your count and record it on eBird.

All this information is added to the Christmas Bird Count and the Cornell Feeder Watch projects. This massive amount of data from birding volunteers helps determine the habits and locations of wintering birds. If you need some help turning in your bird count information, you can check with The Front Range Birding Company 303-979-2473, or Wild Birds Unlimited stores 303-987-1065. The Front Range Birding Company is also having a Big Year Contest. You enter the birds that you've seen in 2014 on eBird and whoever has the highest number of different bird species at the end of 2014 wins. Front Range Birding Company also sponsors monthly bird trips.

If you are interested in learning more about birds in Colorado or the U.S., there are many opportunities in the Denver area. For example: I have a monthly subscription to Birdwatching Magazine. In the February issue I learned there are 10 different forms of Red Crossbills. They are differentiated not by their plumage, but by their calls! The forms may have slightly differently shaped bills depending on what species of cone they are usually extracting seeds from. In our area we could have the Ponderosa Pine Crossbill whose call sounds like "chowpchowp." We might find the Lodgepole Pine Crossbill whose call sounds like "clip-clip." The Crossbills are truly fascinating because their bills appear to cross over each other at the tips.

The same magazine had an interesting article on the history of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Many of us learned a few years ago that the bird we call a Rock Dove that looks just like the pigeons in the park had its name changed to Rock Pigeon. I just received notice from eBird saying that all of the Rock Pigeons (formerly called Rock Doves) in the U.S. should be documented as Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon), as none of ours are really wild and all came from domestic stock. There are some places in the world which have truly wild pigeon stock, but the U.S. is not one of these.

eBird is a wonderful website where you are able to enter any list of birds you have seen on an outing or static location (like your back yard). It helps you keep track and helps Cornell University understand where birds are found year round.

Other ways to learn more: Check out the Denver Field Ornithologists website,for free birding trips each week. If you join, you can get their Lark Bunting newsletter in hard-copy or electronically. They have meetings many months of the year at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, with outstanding speakers on various birding topics. Check out Colorado Field Ornithologists for more in-depth information about Colorado Birds at www.cfobirds.org. They have a quarterly journal Colorado Birds. Jefferson County Open Space sponsors bird walks. The Audubon www.dfobirders.org for free birding trips each week. If you join, you can get their Lark Bunting newsletter in hard-copy or electronically. They have meetings many months of the year at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, with outstanding speakers on various birding topics. Check out Colorado Field Ornithologists for more in-depth information about Colorado Birds at www.cfobirds.org. They have a quarterly journal Colorado Birds. Jefferson County Open Space sponsors bird walks. The Audubon Society of Greater Denver sponsors many birding programs; some are free and some have a minimal charge, www.Denveraudubon.org. Their newsletter, The Warbler, has a separate section on birding excursions. Evergreen Audubon's newsletter The Dipper (www.Evergreenaudubon.org) lists many opportunities to learn about birds. The city of Denver and Highlands Ranch both have bird walks. Many of the State Parks have special bird programs; check out their websites and your nearby State Park at Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the web. Boulder Audubon has special programs and walks. Tuesday Birders go out weekly contact Mary Keithler - mkeithler@yahoo.com. South Suburban Park and Rec's Carson Center, close to Mineral and Santa Fe, sponsors special bird walks and national and international trips for bird watchers. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science sponsors monthly bird walks. Enjoy your birds and soon you will find yourself noticing more wild flowers, butterflies, trees, the sound of running streams, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a light rain shower, "Wow, what fun."

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