EAGLE POST - The newsletter of Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness, apprising you of important activities in and around Eagles Nest, Holy Cross, and Ptarmigan Wilderness Areas.
Our topic this month:
BIRDS OF EAGLES NEST WILDERNESS
By Dr. Susan Bonfield in THREE DIFFERENT VENUES:
on Rock Creek MAP
Introduction: Sue Bonfield's roots in Summit County, like her passion for birds, go deep. She has had a home adjacent to Eagles Nest Wilderness for several decades, and in the 1990s she directed educational and research activities at the A.M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area on Rock Creek.
At present, Sue is Executive Director of EFTA (Environment For the Americas), "conserving birds by connecting people" (www.birdday.org/). In the autumn, when our migratory birds funnel down south, Sue is there, working to protect their habitat in Mexico and Central America, aiming especially to recruit local young people to the cause.
After reading Sue's essay (below), please join us on June 15 (see sidebar) for an informal, illustrated talk - "Birds of Eagles Nest Wilderness" by this dedicated and inspiring leader.
The Birds of Eagles Nest Wilderness
Dr. Susan Bonfield
Spring is a short, indecisive season in Summit County. One day sunny, the next day snowing, it toys with our patience as we put away our skis and pull out our hiking boots. If you aren't paying attention, it's easy to miss the willow catkins emerging, followed by their long, oval leaves. One day, you look out and suddenly notice that the aspen have leafed and that the first of the spring flowers have emerged. It is also easy to miss the return of the birds, until the first of the American Robins awakens you at an early hour.
It's on those mornings that I think of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, nearly 133,500 acres of pristine wilderness in the heart of the Gore Range. This area has long been recognized by birdwatchers and ornithologists for its rich diversity of bird life, including the Hermit Thrush, whose flute-like song often rings through the thin, clear air, and the American Dipper, which exhibits its aquatic prowess in the cold mountain streams.
Within this wilderness is an especially important place, the Alfred M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area, located on North Rock Creek. Roughly 4,000 acres in size, this nesting area is known for its great diversity of Southern Rockies habitats, including lush meadows, damp bogs, and dense spruce-fir, lodgepole pine, and aspen forests, which support many different species of birds. In a short stroll through the grassy meadows, you may see several of the 29 migratory bird species that have been observed here, including a Red-naped Sapsucker as it drills its sap wells into the willows; you might hear the bold song of a White-crowned Sparrow; and, if you're fortunate, you could catch a glimpse of a Fox Sparrow kicking up leaves as it searches the forest floor for food.
This rich nesting area is named for Alfred Bailey, one of North America's most accomplished ornithologists, who served as the director of the Denver Museum of Natural History for more than 30 years. A devoted member of the Denver Field Ornithologists (DFO) and skilled photographer, Bailey was a prolific researcher who co-authored Birds of Colorado, an impressive two-volume set published in 1967 that remains an authority on the state's birds to this day.
From 1988 to 1998, the Colorado Bird Observatory, now the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, monitored migratory birds at this site. Using mist-nets to safely capture the delicate animals, researchers placed tiny metal bands on their legs to study their breeding success and longevity. This painstaking research revealed the compelling story of one Swainson's Thrush who returned each spring from wintering grounds in South America to the same area within the meadow to nest. The studies also recognized Wilson's Warblers as the dominant warbler species, compared to the more elusive McGillivray's Warbler, and completed difficult measurements of slight differences in bill width and wing length that showed that flycatchers previously identified as Hammond's were actually Dusky Flycatchers.
In the early 1990s, a sign was erected at the Rock Creek Trailhead identifying this site as the Alfred M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area. The Colorado Division of Wildlife later recognized the area as a Watchable Wildlife Site, and in 2013, the National Audubon Society designated it an Important Bird Area due to the significant role it plays in conserving bird populations. Even in summer, the Bailey Nesting Site is not easy to find; it is located just far enough off the Rock Creek Trail that spruce and fir trees obstruct a view of it, and researchers no longer hike to the site to avoid leaving paths that could lead others there. This very seclusion contributes greatly to the wonderful diversity of bird life found at this jewel of a nesting site, a wonderful thought to ponder the next time an American Robin's song calls you outside into the chilly mountain air.
About Dr. Susan Bonfield: After studying Black-legged Kittiwakes in Alaska, she returned to the lower 48 where she has since gained more than two decades of experience in bird research and education. She has conducted bird surveys, run banding stations, and been a part of bird research in Maine, Virginia, California, and Colorado. Because of her interest in education and bird conservation, she enjoys applying her knowledge of birds to programs that involve people of all ages. She has created education programs in the U.S. and Mexico, assisted with workshops on bird monitoring and conservation in both countries, taught basic identification courses, and led a course for the USFWS National Conservation Training Center. Susan holds a B.S. in Biology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College, an M.S. in Ecology, Fisheries, and Wildlife from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University.
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JUNE 15, 4:30PM (talk at 5PM) - ILLUSTRATED TALK BY DR. SUSAN BONFIELD: "BIRDS OF EAGLES NEST WILDERNESS" - SILVERTHORNE LIBRARY MAP
JUNE 26, 9AM - GUIDED BIRD WALK WITH DR. SUSAN BONFIELD. ROCK CREEK MAP
Make a difference!
Visit the FENW website for in-depth information at www.fenw.org/
Become a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger! Applications close June 1 -> extended to JUNE 5. Details
2016 Trail projects:
Day Projects Saturdays: June 4, June 18
Pack-in weekends (Fri-Sun): July 15-17 and August 12-14. Details
We also need volunteers
develop and implement communications plans to keep FENW members informed and involved... and maybe have some fun too.
Details: contact Bill Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Friends, Friends, Friends! Check out our sister 'FRIENDS'
CITY MARKET COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM
Please register your City Market Value Card in 2016. This year, City Market will once again make a contribution to area non-profit organizations. The program allocates funds (rebates) to the organizations based on purchases made using the City Market Value Card. Organization members must go online at www.citymarket.com to register their Value Card, and link their card to FENW's organization name and/or registration number - 46910. Individual purchases will be counted towards FENW's rewards allocation without compromising your earned fuel points. Please note that each card holder may only sign up for one tax exempt organization. THANKS!