On the trail of Colorado’s birds

Southwest Life

On the trail of Colorado’s birds

Snow Goose Festival explores Southeast Colorado
Diana Miller, wildlife rehabilitation manager for the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo, talks about massive feet and sharp talons that golden eagles use to grasp their prey, which have been known to include animals as large as small sheep. Holding Aquila, a resident of the raptor center, she also talked about the center’s mission to rehabilitate injured raptors. The center expects to get more than 300 raptors this year and will be able to rehabilitate about half of them for release back into the wild.
A group of birders on the South Canyon Tour of the High Plains Snow Goose Festival stop near a creek in Picture Canyon in an effort to spot a bird. The 12-hour tour took birders and others throughout Baca County to visit national grasslands and learn about the history of the region.
Debris in the east fork of Carrizo Creek was carried by floods last year, when the area got 23 inches of rain compared with its normal 14 inches, according to Parks and Wildlife Officer Natalie Renneker. The creek runs through Carrizo Canyon, part of the Comanche National Grassland, where visitors can hike to see petroglyphs and wildlife, including various species of birds.
The Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo is open to visitors 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. There is a $5 daily pass fee. It houses several species of raptors in a public viewing area, including golden eagle Aquila, great horned owl Jasper and turkey vulture Lurch. These are the so-called educators birds that were too injured to be returned to the wild but have personalities that allow them to be handled in public. The center took in more than 300 injured raptors last year; usually about half of the injured birds received are able to be returned to the wild.
Aquila, a golden eagle who has been at the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo since she was hit by a truck in 1984, gets a little impatient as Diana Miller, wildlife rehabilitation manager, talks about the species on Feb. 4 as part of Pueblo Eagle Days. Aquila, whose wing was too badly injured for her to be released into the wild, is one of the center’s most popular “educator birds.” Golden eagles are common around the world, including in Colorado.
Upcoming bird events

March 9-11: Monte Vista Crane Festival. See thousands of migrating sandhill cranes as well as ducks, geese and raptors at this hugely popular event. The website is regularly updated, including photos of the cranes’ arrival into the region. http://mvcranefest.org.March-April: Eckert Crane Day in Delta County. An open invitation to view sandhill cranes as they make a migration stop at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, generally between March 10 and April 20. http://eckertcranedays.com.March-April: Wray Greater Prairie Chicken viewing, tours. These tours were started in 1994, when the bird was endangered (it no longer is). There’s information on several sites, but the Wray Chamber of Commerce offers tours. http://www.wraychamber.net/GPCT.html. April 27-29: 12th annual Karval Mountain Plover Festival in Lincoln County. Unique event on mostly private ranch and farm lands, including community-cooked meals and possible homestays. http://www.mountainploverfestival.com.May 9-13: 14th annual Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival. Offers an array of tours, speakers and social events over five days. https://cortezculturalcenter.org/events/birding-festival.For more birding events and general Colorado birding information: http://coloradobirdingtrail.com and https://coloradocountybirding.org.

On the trail of Colorado’s birds

Diana Miller, wildlife rehabilitation manager for the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo, talks about massive feet and sharp talons that golden eagles use to grasp their prey, which have been known to include animals as large as small sheep. Holding Aquila, a resident of the raptor center, she also talked about the center’s mission to rehabilitate injured raptors. The center expects to get more than 300 raptors this year and will be able to rehabilitate about half of them for release back into the wild.
A group of birders on the South Canyon Tour of the High Plains Snow Goose Festival stop near a creek in Picture Canyon in an effort to spot a bird. The 12-hour tour took birders and others throughout Baca County to visit national grasslands and learn about the history of the region.
Debris in the east fork of Carrizo Creek was carried by floods last year, when the area got 23 inches of rain compared with its normal 14 inches, according to Parks and Wildlife Officer Natalie Renneker. The creek runs through Carrizo Canyon, part of the Comanche National Grassland, where visitors can hike to see petroglyphs and wildlife, including various species of birds.
The Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo is open to visitors 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. There is a $5 daily pass fee. It houses several species of raptors in a public viewing area, including golden eagle Aquila, great horned owl Jasper and turkey vulture Lurch. These are the so-called educators birds that were too injured to be returned to the wild but have personalities that allow them to be handled in public. The center took in more than 300 injured raptors last year; usually about half of the injured birds received are able to be returned to the wild.
Aquila, a golden eagle who has been at the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo since she was hit by a truck in 1984, gets a little impatient as Diana Miller, wildlife rehabilitation manager, talks about the species on Feb. 4 as part of Pueblo Eagle Days. Aquila, whose wing was too badly injured for her to be released into the wild, is one of the center’s most popular “educator birds.” Golden eagles are common around the world, including in Colorado.

On the trail of Colorado’s birds

A group of birders, on a tour as part of the High Plains Snow Goose Festival, line a path into Picture Canyon in the Comanche National Grassland. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer Natalie Renneker joined the group to point out the location of pictographs and petroglyphs in the canyon and also told the visitors about wildlife they might encounter.

On the trail of Colorado’s birds

Volunteer Rich Walker talks about the importance of raptors in the ecosystem during a demonstration Feb. 4 at the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center’s raptor center near Lake Pueblo as part of Pueblo Eagle Days. He’s holding Jasper, a great horned owl that lost one of its eyes when it was injured. Jasper is one of the center’s educator birds, which visit schools and events to help people learn about raptors.

On the trail of Colorado’s birds

Two Rocky Mountain Bighorn rams eyed a tourist bus from a hillside in Cottonwood Canyon, an area of mostly private land near the Comanche National Grassland in Baca County. The sheep were transplanted from a herd in Rocky Mountain National Park and have adapted to the more desert-like climate of Southeast Colorado but look slightly different because of the three-quarter curl of the horn, said Parks and Wildlife officer Natalie Renneker. The shorter horn likely is because they “broom” off the tips on their rocky canyon environment.
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