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Recent Articles of Interest

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CFO Spring Field Trip—SE Colorado Migrant Weekend

Bill Kaempfer - CFO Director
April 17, 2014

A Carolina Wren can be seen at Lamar College.
Image by Wikipedia (file photo)

Join CFO President Bill Kaempfer for a weekend of birding in Southeast Colorado on May 9-11. The trip will be limited to 15 participants and only CFO members are eligible.

After pre-registration, car pools will be organized to get participants to Eads, Colorado where we plan to stay on Friday night. Saturday we will continue south and bird at hot spots like Tempel Grove, Lamar Community College Woods and points in Baca County. Saturday night we will stay in La Junta with a try for Black Rail. Sunday we will visit spots like Oxbow SWA and Cheraw, Holbrook, Meredith and Henry Lakes before breaking up for the trip home.

Again this trip will be limited to 15 participants and only CFO members are eligible. To register, please send an email to:

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Flood Assistance: Help for Birders From CFO

Bill Kaempfer - CFO Director
September 19, 2013

If anyone needs some peace of mind that can only be afforded by being out in the field looking at birds, but you have, because of the events of the great Front Range Flood, lost your binoculars, field guides or even scope and tripod, please let me know by emailing me at: and I will bring to bear all of the resources and compassion of the CFO to try to set you right for the time being. I know how important that can be.

I’m pretty sure that few of you know this about me, but 12 years ago this week I was stuck in Newfoundland. On September 11, 2001 I was on a flight from London to Chicago that changed my life forever. Shortly after our inflight lunch service, the plane slowed abruptly and made a sharp turn to the right toward Greenland. The pilot came on the intercom with words that I will never forget. “I want to assure everyone of the integrity of the aircraft, but there has been a situation in the U.S. that is causing us to land in Newfoundland. I’ll let you know more when I can.”

Shortly thereafter we landed in Gander, Newfoundland—the 42nd of 43 planes to land there that day; and then we sat. 23 hours on the plane on the tarmac before we could finally get off the plane and enter that tiny airport. Then off on school buses to Gambo, Newfoundland where I spent the better part of the rest of the week sleeping on a wooden pew in a Salvation Army Church by the side of a stony inlet in this little hamlet.

It wasn’t too long before one of the wonderfully welcoming Gambo-ites came in and asked if anybody needed anything. So that is how this group of stranded, frightened travelers got showers, did laundry and came to know the residents of Gambo.

For my part, I asked, “Can I borrow a pair of binoculars?” So I was set up the rest of the week with my pair of borrowed binoculars to bird the rock shore and pine-wooded hills of Gambo. Now I didn’t see all that much, of course. That possible Ringed Plover (I was in northeastern Newfoundland, after all) was really only a Killdeer, but it kept my mind off of what everyone in the rest of the world was preoccupied with. What a blessing a pair of non-too-great, but still functional binoculars was.

Sorry for the long story, but that brings me to the point, does anyone need me to try to find some of the tools of our love for you? Binoculars, bird books or whatever? If so, please let me know by emailing me at:

Bill Kaempfer, President Colorado Field Ornithologists

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The new Colorado Bird Records website will be live soon!

Doug Faulkner - CFO Director
August 15, 2013

You may recall that earlier this year I posted a note to Cobirds requesting proposals for the design of a new Colorado Bird Records Committee website and online database. At its April Board meeting, the CFO Board accepted the proposal from Ann Johnson (AJEndeavors) for this work. Ann is the secretary of the Iowa Bird Records Committee and has developed similar committee websites for Iowa and Missouri. Since April, a team of CFO members has worked with Ann to develop the new site and I'm excited to announce that we are now ready to make the transition from the current site to this new one.

You will notice some new functions, such as the availability to query the entire dataset (40+ years worth) of Committee records by species, county, and year. We have also incorporated a Google Maps tool to illustrate where these records occurred in the state. The online reporting process is also more robust. You will have the ability to import text from any word processing software so descriptions, etc., can be written off-line then pasted into the documentation text box, upload photos in excess of 1MB in size, as well as upload PDFs and other image and sound formats not currently accepted on the current site.

While launching a perfect product might sound ideal, the reality is that it is rarely possible (see any recent iPhone launch). So, we will "go live" with the anticipation that feedback from public users will serve as an expanded beta-testing phase that will help us improve the site beyond what the CFO test team could do this summer. The site will be live and active, but with feedback you can expect to see some changes over the coming months.

So, in order to make this transition possible, on Thursday, August 15th the current CFO website link for reporting rare birds will direct you to our new CBRC website. At that time you will see a message that the site is offline for maintenance. All of the current online records (including incomplete documentations) will then be moved to the new site. We anticipate that the new site will be ready for you to report your new sightings and complete any unfinished reports by this weekend. Please note that the new site will require you to create a new account.

I will make another announcement when the new site is ready.

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Last Chance - First the Fire and Then the Flood!

Joe Roller - CFO Director
August 13, 2013

What is left after the fire and flooding.
Image by Doug Kibbe

After a fire swept through Last Chance, Colorado, in June, 2012, birders joined Woodlin Lions Club members for a clean up day last November and a planting day in April.

Caretaker Jim Kleinschmidt diligently watered shrubs and trees through the drip irrigation system we installed, and they have thrived. Rose Cronk worked to keep invasive thistle from overwhelming native plants. None of the tall trees in the riparian survived, but cottonwood saplings and Golden Currant recovered vigorously.

On Saturday, August 3, the clouds opened. Over 7 inches of rain fell abruptly, causing flash flooding on Plum Brush Creek through Last Chance. Farm ponds upstream that had been dry for years filled up, mitigating the flow a bit, and ranchers were grateful for the rain on their pastures, corn and milo. At Last Chance gushing water swept away the irrigation system, scoured the banks of the riparian area and generally made a mess.

The drip irrigation system was damaged.
Image by Doug Kibbe

Migrating birds are arriving daily, and we’ll see how they tolerate the changes. We’ll assess the scene over the next six months, replace the irrigation system and perhaps replant a few trees next spring. Funds from generous contributions by the CFO, DFO and many of you have been kept in reserve and are adequate.

Thanks again to all of you who toiled at and donated to Last Chance.

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Colorado Field Ornithologists Welcomes Peter Burke to the Editorship of Colorado Birds

Ted Floyd - CFO Director
August 7, 2013

Outgoing Editor Nathan Pieplow

Unquestionably, one of the most vital and enduring functions of CFO is its quarterly journal Colorado Birds. The journal has enjoyed sustained excellence during the long tenure of outgoing editor Nathan Pieplow. Quite simply, Colorado Birds is the definitive source for the analysis and interpretation of the rich, complex, and constantly changing birdlife of the Centennial State. All birders in Colorado owe a huge debt to Nathan for his long and distinguished service as Editor. But he’s moving on now, to complete work on a major book project.

On that note, and on behalf of the board of directors of CFO, I am pleased to welcome Peter Burke as the new Editor of Colorado Birds. Peter brings to the position extensive experience in journalism, public relations, and feature writing--not to mention a degree in English from the University of Colorado. Peter is a professional, and he is already at work on the October 2013 issue. But there’s something else: Peter is a birder’s birder, and a field ornithologist’s field ornithologist. That is the matter I’d like to address in the rest of the space allotted to me here.

I met Peter Burke during a brutal “spring” blizzard on May 1 of this year. The snow at Boulder Reservoir was horizontal. The rare birds were glorious--and not entirely unexpected. But what was unexpected was some guy out there. He was in the best of spirits, as if it were just another balmy spring morning. He was simply delighted to be out birding. That’s the Peter Burke way: He just loves watching birds, talking about birds, sharing with others his infectious enthusiasm for birds and birding. He even found my lost lens cap, buried in the deep and drifted snow.

Incoming Editor Peter Burke

Peter and I next met up for birding down in the sunbaked canyons of Las Animas County. With Duane Nelson, we were there on behalf of The Nature Conservancy to document the many red-colored tanagers and other great birds of the sprawling Beatty Canyon Ranch and environs. On our second morning, we ascended O V Mesa, finding a Hepatic Tanager along the way. We saw the bird for about a tenth of a second, but, somehow, Peter managed to get a marvelously diagnostic and really beautiful photo. Yes, Peter is contributing to field ornithology in Colorado.

One more anecdote. About a week after our Las Animas County excursion, Peter and I found ourselves owling in the middle of the night in the steep foothills of Boulder County. Eventually, the sun rose. I went home, but Peter kept on birding. He had to work on his Boulder County year list--not so much for the competition, as for learning about the birds, and getting to know all the birders, around his new home. Peter Burke is all about community--about the diverse bird communities of Colorado, and, just as important, the diverse community of birders in Colorado.

I’m really looking forward to Colorado Birds during “The Peter Burke Era.” I expect that the journal will be thorough, authoritative, and, most of all, fun. Peter will play a defining and essential role in the future successes of the journal--and so will you, members of the birding and field ornithological community in Colorado. The journal Colorado Birds depends on YOU--on your articles, your photos, your bird records, your good ideas. Be in touch with Peter about your ideas for Colorado Birds, and let’s all blaze a bright path into the future.

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CFO Fall Field Trip to NE Colorado: Find out what Fall birding is all about!

Bill Kaempfer - CFO Director
June 15, 2013

Prewitt Reservoir

The CFO is considering holding its 2014 annual convention in Sterling in the late summer or early fall of next year. If you are curious what late summer birding in NE Colorado might be like, come with us on our CFO overnight, two-day trip to be held August 24/25, 2013. Join CFO President Bill Kaempfer for an early morning departure from the Front Range in order to explore NE Colorado hot spots like Jackson State Park, Prewitt Reservoir and North Sterling State Park on Saturday.

We will stay overnight in Sterling on Saturday night, basing our operations at the Comfort Inn (although you could choose among a Super-8, Ramada or Best Western as all are very nearby.) Sunday we will continue east to Julesburg, Ovid, Jumbo Reservoir and other spots before a departure for home with an expected arrival at about 6:00 p.m.

Expect migratory shorebirds including chances for Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden Plover; NE Colorado breeding and resident specialties like Upland Sandpiper, Great-crested Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo and Northern Cardinal; and migratory songbirds including flycatchers, vireos, warblers and sparrows over the course of these two full days of birding.

Northern Cardinal
Image by Wikipedia

The weather should be warm and possibly buggy. Be prepared for cool mornings and sunny afternoons, as well as changeable weather (this IS Colorado). Contact Bill Kaempfer for details on what to bring.

This field trip will be an exciting prelude to our 2014 CFO Annual Convention. Find out what Fall birding is all about! We hope to see you there!

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Learn “S&D,” Know Chip Notes, and Find Swamp Sparrows

Ted Floyd - CFO Director
November 23, 2012

On Monday morning, Nov. 19th, I had seen a grand total of zero (0) Swamp Sparrows in 2012. I was determined to change that. So my kids and I went to the Cottonwood Marsh parking lot in Boulder County, hopped out of the car, “pished,” and instantly conjured a Swamp Sparrow. Next we drove over to the nearby Sawhill Ponds parking lot, repeated the process, and found another Swamp Sparrow. A bit later, and less than a mile away, we found three more Swamp Sparrows. Then another at McIntosh Reservoir, and then yet another at the county fairgrounds in Longmont.

Sheesh. You’d think Swamp Sparrows are fairly common in Boulder County. And yet I’d seen none anywhere until that morning. What’s up with that? Here’s the deal. I knew that, in fact, Swamp Sparrows are regular, even fairly common, migrants through Boulder County--but you have to know WHEN to look for them, WHERE to look for them, and what they SOUND like. Let’s start with WHEN. Check out the screen-capture for eBird birding hot spots for eastern Boulder County: Swamp Sparrows are rare in or absent from the county--except for a very narrow window in late November.

Next is WHERE. Despite their name, Swamp Sparrows don’t live in swamps. They live in marshes. They live in cattail marshes. They live in cattail marshes with standing, open water. That narrows it down a lot. If you want to find Swamp Sparrows, go to cattail marshes with standing, open water. In Boulder County, that means extensive marsh complexes like Walden Ponds. But tiny marshes like the one at the county fairgrounds will do just fine. And remember: Visit those marshes in late November. October and February aren’t as good. June and August make no sense at all.

Image by Bill Schmoker

Okay, so you’re standing at the edge of a marsh. Now what? Well, Swamp Sparrows respond to “pishing,” the funny sound birders make. Make that sound, and you have a good chance at hearing the Swamp Sparrow’s far-carrying chip note. A good transliteration of that chip note is—wait for it—“chip!” For what it’s worth, the call reminds me of the Eastern Phoebe’s chip note. Keep at it; soon, the bird will pop up for a view. If you’re persistent, you may see another. Proceed elsewhere in the marsh, and you may well find others.

It’s funny. I think most people would instinctively say that the essential “tools of the trade” for a birdwatcher are a picture book, a pair of binoculars, and, ideally, a good pair of eyes. For sure, those things are important. But they’re not all there is to it. With so many birds in Colorado, it is at least as important to know “S&D”--shorthand for “Status and Distribution.” Know WHEN to look, and know WHERE to look. If you know S&D, the haystack magically disappears, and all that’s left is the needle you’re looking for.

As I’m sure many of you noticed, this past Thanksgiving day was beautiful in Colorado: clear, dry, and warm. I had a bit of time in the early afternoon, so I went birding. I decided to explore portions of the Sawhill and Walden ponds complex my kids and I hadn’t visited earlier in the week. There were some Swamp Sparrows out there, right on cue. The birds were beautiful, and I was delighted to see them. But they were practically expected: With a little bit of S&D, a little bit of pishing, and a little practice with the bird’s calls, I was guaranteed an encounter.

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