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Joe Roller - CFO Director
April 7, 2013
Birders and other friends: most of you are aware that the famous migrant trap, the Last Chance Oasis, suffered from the June 2012 wildfire. Last November birders joined local folks and held a clean-up day there to show our appreciation for the generous and open access we have enjoyed for decades at this birdy site. Although many shrubs and trees are bouncing back, lots of trees and grassy slopes were burned black, burned down and won't be coming back.
Yesterday, April 6th, an even dozen birders*, tools in hand, joined members of the Woodlin Lions Club to help mitigate habitat losses from the fire. A lot got done, and we also strengthened friendships among us birders and local residents. Johnny Miller, whose grandfather pioneered the area, helped out. Lois Scott, local news reporter, delighted us with tales of the old days.
We prepared the soil and broadcast a blend of native grasses (switchgrass, bluestem, side-oats, blue grama) and wildflowers (yarrow and prairie coneflower). We planted 100 fruit-bearing bare-root shrubs (sumac, sand cherry, chokecherry, native plum) and container trees (Hackberry, Juniper, oak). A drip irrigation system was laid to water each plant during the dry summer. Piles of downed and burned limbs were sorted, smaller branches to be hauled off and larger limbs set aside as artists' materials. In May, eco-artist Lynne Hull** and CU art students will repurpose these and fabricate a Bat House, Kestrel and Barn Owl box.
Illustrative of the project are nice photos taken by Tom Wilberding at this link... http://bit.ly/ZGyT98 . The noon we enjoyed a pot-luck lunch and social hour, then back to work. Not everything we planted will thrive and turn the place into Sherwood Forest overnight, but we do hope 75% will become established...and there we can replant next Spring if need be. None of this could happen without the water tank local caretaker Jim Kleinschmidt will place on the west slope of the Oasis and keep filled with water to supply the drip irrigation system until plants get established, which may take years. What a guy!
Birders are grateful to: Rose Cronk, Woodlin School Superintendent and horticultural expert who tirelessly gathered supplies and energetically led the group by her example. Noe Marymore, habitat specialist with RMBO and NRCS, who gave us needed professional input. Landowner Johnny Miller and other Lions like Ken Cronk. Tom Thompson, pastor at Howard Methodist Church at Last Chance, the effective community leader who helped us get together in the first place. The project could not have happened without a grant from DFO and checks from birders and tour groups to defray the cost of materials. We are close to our $1,500 goal.
Watch for an article about the history, birds and people of Last Chance in this month's Colorado Birds, the CFO quarterly. *Birders who participated were: Chuck Hundertmark,Tom Wilberding,Edie Israel,Kevin Corwin,Betsy Shaw,Doug Kibbe,Lisa Edward, Maggie Boswell,Tina Jones,Gwen Moore and Paul Slingsby. **Lynne Hull's work can be seen at http://www.google.com/search?q=lynne+hull+eco+artist&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=zNhhUeOYApG6qQGPpIGoBw&ved=0CEsQsAQ&biw=1989&bih=1228
Jim Beatty - CFO Director
December 19, 2012
The CFO Board has selected Cortez in Montezuma County for our 2013 Convention. While not all arrangements have been completed, we are planning for arrival trips on Thursday, May 16, and departure trips on Monday, May 20, with the normal schedule of events on Friday through Sunday. Our Keynote Speaker will be John Vanderpoel who did an ABA area "Big Year" in 2011. There will be our usual assortment of wide-ranging field trips and who knows what we may find.
This is a change from our 2012 Convention announcement that Durango would be our 2013 location. The Board approved this change on the prospects of better birding potential in Montezuma and adjoining counties and accommodations that fit our needs better.
We expect to finalize arrangements including hotel accommodations shortly and will announce details at that time. We hope to see many of you in Cortez!
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.
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.
Joe Roller - CFO Director
October 11, 2012
Birding friends, Here's our chance to help say "thanks" to Last Chance!
I am sure that we all feel grateful for the easy access birders have had to the crossroads community of Last Chance, Colorado, over the years. Soon after the devastating fire of June 25th swept through almost 50,000 acres of range and farmland, the community and the Oasis, many birders have expressed a desire to do our bit to help, in any way we can. At a recent community meeting, it was agreed to hold a Last Chance Oasis Appreciation and Clean Up Day on Saturday, November 3, from 11 til 3 PM. There will likely be some food, and a truck will be on hand to haul away debris. We're all set!
Here's our chance to say "thanks" to the Woodlin Lions who maintain the Charlie Harbert Memorial Park, meet the property owner of the Oasis, as well as residents and members of the vibrant Last Chance/Woodlin School community. Although one notices only a small hamlet at the crossroads, there is a large and strong Community of great people nearby. Who knew? You will enjoy meeting them, and they are keen to hear birders share stories about how great the Oasis has been to us and to the birds.
The area suffered a great blow from the fire, with houses destroyed, major property losses, but no injuries to residents. It costs $8,000 to $10,000 to replace a mile of fence, and many miles burned. We can't do much about that except express our sympathy. But we can clean up trash from the Oasis, spread some straw, maybe get there early for some birding and express our gratitude about having such open and welcome access to Last Chance. Every place we go there is private property, and we can't take it for granted.
A grant is in the works to mitigate fire damage and enhance habitat for birds. We've agreed on the steps to take this fall, namely cleaning up and spreading seedless straw on the bare slopes (which burned very hot, destroying all grass seed). Next spring we'll plant grass to prevent further erosion (which is already happening). We are getting experts' opinions and are leaning toward planting native shrubs to enhance the habitat for birds. All that is in the discussion phase.
Get a carload of friends, grab your work gloves and I'll see you there on Last Chance Oasis Appreciation Day, November 3rd. Even if you can't find your work gloves of find a shovel that is just your size, come anyway to say thanks and we'll find something for you to do!
Larry Modesitt - CFO Director
August 23, 2012
Jim Enderson loved falcons as a boy, so he became an ornithologist, specializing in falcons. Especially peregrines, which he bred and trained. His studies led him to become a leading expert on their precipitous decline which led to the banning of DDT. This author of Peregrine Falcon: Stories of the Blue Meanie will be speaking August 25 about his fascinating adventures in the world of aeries and other places of power.
The second event will be presentation of the coveted Rich Levad Award. Rich was the researcher most involved in studies of the black swift. His book about them, The Coolest Bird, was published posthumously after Rich succumbed to ALS. You may have seen the Denver Post lead article this year, in which researchers Jason Beason, Carolyn Gunn and Kim Potter revealed the previously unknown wintering destination of the swifts. Hint: Brazil did not even have them on their country list. The Levad Award is given to a person who has provided distinguished service to the ornithological community.
The peregrine falcon talk and presentation of the Rich Levad Award will take place at Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s annual BBQ for the Birds Saturday, August 25th, at RMBO headquarters at Barr Lake. Other family events are part of this picnic, including all things bird: hikes, banding, plantings, sketching, photography, kids' games, exhibitors (including live raptors) and auctions (live also). All this plus a catered lunch with music. Refer to www.rmbo.org for details or call 303-659-4348, extension 17.
Larry Modesitt, Secretary, Colorado Field Ornithologists and Chairman, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
Bill Kaempfer - CFO Director
August 16, 2012
The CFO Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Tom Wilberding of Boulder to an open seat on the Board. Tom, an active and accomplished bird and birder photographer (note the credits scattered throughout our website) will be helping with financial matters and Cobirds administration. Look for Tom's bio in the Across the Board feature of a future issue of Colorado Birds.
Ted Floyd - CFO Director
August 7, 2012
If you're a CFO member, you're doubtless aware of Colorado Birds, our excellent quarterly journal. Likewise, you're surely aware of our annual birding conventions, and, chances are, you've attended one or two (or ten!) of them. CFO also provides the birding community with field trips, COBirds, an informative website, and other goodies. No question about it, CFO is a great commodity for Colorado's birders--at a great value of only $25 per year. But CFO is more than a commodity. Your CFO membership also contributes to an important cause--which matter we turn to now.
CFO provides financial support to students, researchers, and institutions whose work promotes the understanding and conservation of Colorado's birdlife. One such beneficiary is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In 2010 the Museum announced that its Ornithology Fellowship would be supported by a matching grant from Jack Ferguson, a Trustee Emeritus of the Museum. In response to Ferguson's challenge, the CFO board swiftly and unanimously approved a generous donation to help match the grant. Individual CFO members also contributed to the Ornithology Fellowship.
The Museum's Ornithology Fellow is Andrew Doll, a master's degree candidate at the University of Colorado at Denver. Andrew brings a wealth of experience in field ornithology, having worked on bird-related projects with such organizations as the National Audubon Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and SWCA Environmental Consultants. Andrew's research at the University of Colorado applies stable isotope analysis toward improving our knowledge of complex migratory patterns in Dunlins.
The Ornithology Fellow's responsibilities at the Museum are diverse and important. These include but are not limited to the following: data cleanup for the Museum's bird collection; establishment of a publicly accessible electronic database for the Museum's bird specimens; creation of revised or new specimen preparation and inventory procedures; general reorganization of the Museum's physical collections space; and a special focus on reorganizing the Museum's collection of Mexican birds donated by the late Allan R. Phillips.
The Ornithology Fellow's activities also include outreach to the birding community in Colorado. Andrew Doll and former Ornithology Fellow Sarah Manor have trained museum volunteers, developed innovative educational programs, and interacted with the general public. In the image at left, Andrew Doll and Museum guest Hannah Floyd discuss how osteology provides insights into avian taxonomy. In the foreground, note a tray of Warbling Vireos; those particular specimens are relevant to a study that was reported on at the 2012 CFO convention.
Exciting times lie ahead! In early 2014, the Museum's bird collection will migrate to a new facility. The Museum's birds will be less crowded and better organized, ensuring their relevance to science and conservation for generations to come. In the future, as well as at the present time, the Museum will benefit from contributions from CFO members. Please deposit salvaged specimens ("dead birds") with the Museum, please consider volunteering, and please continue to provide financial support for the Museum's Ornithology Fellowship and other worthy programs.