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Local birders celebrate National Bird Day

A brown capped rosie finch photographed recently on Rick Spitzer's property in Eagle County. Spitzer has photographed more than 40 different kinds of birds from his home over the last 5-6 years.
Rick Spitzer | Special to the Daily |

THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT

Feb. 12-15, 2016

Local bird watchers document what they see over a four day period each year.

From gbbc.birdcount.org: “Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are ... No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.”

EAGLE COUNTY — Local photographer Rick Spitzer said he had his eye out for birds on Tuesday’s 14th annual National Bird Day.

But then again, he always has his eye out for birds.

Described on http://www.nationalbirdday.com as “a good day to take time to appreciate the native wild birds flying free outside our windows,” Tuesday brought an interesting mix of birds to Vail and the Eagle River Valley.



Spitzer’s attention on birds is often focused through the lens of his camera, which he has used to amass a large collection of stunning bird photography over the years. In the past five to six years, he has photographed 46 different kinds of birds from the yard of his Eagle County home.

“Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been seeing dark-eyed juncos, brown capped rosie finch, black capped chickadees, and the Stellar’s jay,” Spitzer said.



WINTERING GROUNDS

Vail Daily photographer Townsend Bessent captured the beauty of a red-tailed hawk in flight on Tuesday morning — one of the raptors birder Mark Vodopich, of Gypsum, says often leaves and heads south this time of year.

“It’s really weather dependent,” Vodopich said. “This is the time of the year when red-tailed hawks and our normal soaring raptors leave and go south, and we’ll see rough legged hawks, which summer up on the taiga and the tundra, way up north, and their wintering grounds are here.”



Vodopich has been observing different species of birds in the Eagle River Valley for more than two decades. Traveling from the mountain peaks to the river bottoms on a good year, he says you can see 45 to 50 different species of birds in Eagle County.

“In the springtime, we’ve seen everything from sandhill cranes coming through to exotic species like the rose breasted grosbeaks on our feeders,” he said.

EAGLE COUNTY BIRD COUNTING

Coming up in February, local birders will participate in what Vodopich calls one of the most important annual events in the world of birds, the Great Backyard Bird Count.

“Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time,” according to http://www.gbbc.birdcount.org. “Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the four-day count each February, to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.”

Vodopich is among them. He says during the four-day period, he’s seen anywhere between 12 and 30 different species of birds.

During the February count, Vodopich says “you’re likely to see waterfowl, you’ll often see eagles and a lot of the little birds that stick around in the winter in (western Eagle County), those are the ones you’ll see on the tops of the mountains in the summer.”

Vodopich says if you’re interested in learning more about the birds you might see here in Eagle County, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

“It’s a great resource,” he said.


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