The Cortez Christmas Bird Count scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 30, offers an excellent opportunity for birders new to the area or anyone interested in birds to become acquainted with local species.
Participants should arrive at the Cortez Cultural Center at 25 Market St. to pick up route assignments between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Start time for the Christmas Bird Count will be 8 a.m. at the latest.
Birdwatching, or “birding,” stands among Colorado’s most popular outdoor activities during the spring, summer, and fall months. However, colder temperatures and snow do not terminate birdwatching activities. Amateur and professional birders throughout Colorado persistently seek, photograph and tally bird species for personal, local and state records. Many Four Corners species migrate to warmer climates such as Argentina with the advent of fall, conversely, other species migrate to our area from further north.
The winter season enhances opportunities for encountering year-round avian residents such as northern flicker, Lewis’ woodpecker, Steller’s and Scrub jays, spotted Towhee, or white-breasted nuthatch. Dark-eyed Juncos, gray-crowned rosy-finches, and mountain chickadees descend from alpine habitats into lower elevations, while other species, like the northern shrike, might arrive as a migrant from far northern regions.
Robins and bluebirds often take refuge within protective arroyos, canyons and valleys. While some raptors head south for the winter; golden eagles and Ferruginous and red-tailed hawks remain to soar over open fields. A crafty sharp-shinned hawk might perch with a bird’s-eye view of a garden feeder. Bald eagles congregate around open water to fish or snag a duck.
Winter waterfowl lists can include bufflehead, wood duck, common goldeneye, green-winged teal, mergansers, and even a canvasback. A birder in the right place at the right time might add pygmy owl, gray jay, Clark’s nutcracker, common redpoll, or snow goose to a winter list.
Sandhill cranes headed toward playa wetlands around Wilcox, Arizona, have passed through the Four Corners during the Twelve days of Christmas. As in any season, winter weather patterns influence which avian species define the when and where of winter birdwatching.
The first birding records within the Four Corners area date to the 1880s. In 1900, the Audubon Society launched its first official national winter bird count. Known today as the Christmas Bird Count, this important annual event provides critical data pertinent to species viability within designated regional locales. During set hours, teams of birders scour pre-established map segments to count not only every species but how many of each species are observed. The data provides insights into the stability of local populations, influx of new species, absence of common species and other factors that support an overall understanding of the distribution and well-being of avian populations throughout North America.
For more information, contact Jason at 248-245-3081 or dial the Cortez Cultural Center to leave a callback message at 970-565-1151 ext. 14.