Thank You to Our Birdathon Teams and All Who Supported Them This Year!
What is Birdathon?
The Birdathon is an annual fundraising event that involves all Denver Audubon supporters, their friends, family, co-workers, and others in one of America’s most popular hobbies and the number one sport: bird watching! And the great part is you don’t have to be an expert birder to participate.
And Now, The 4 Vets Adventure…
New Birders, New Birds, and Police Action! Could There Have Been Fowl Play?
This year’s 4 Vets in Search of a Bird Birdathon team incorporated a new route and new participants, Elaine and Betty, who replaced Judy, who had a lame excuse (knee replacement surgery) and Jeff, off to Africa. Who knew what adventures this new team would generate!?
The week preceding the event was spent by all team members tracking down those rarer species that we could, we hoped, find on Saturday. These scouting trips were hampered by a spring snowstorm which dumped more than 3 inches in the Colorado foothills. The storm produced a fallout of shore and mountain birds throughout the Denver area, which heightened our anticipation. Would they stay around to be counted on the May 25? Or would they vanish as the temperature soared back toward the 70’s? For practice, two members of the team staged a (nearly) big day the weekend preceding Birdathon. Actually it was more like a ¾ day. Elaine, having just returned from a birding trip to Hungary (164 species there in case you are interested), fretted about having dropped from #1 in Denver County to #2 for the year. As she scurried around Denver trying to make up for lost time, her teammates sought out snow free routes through the foothills.
Saturday morning at 2am (some may consider it still the middle of the night), the team departed heading for a series of “staked out” species. The female Cooper’s Hawk was almost certainly on her nest, but dense canopy prevented the team from tabulating her. The Eastern Screech-Owl and Common Poorwill were more cooperative and the team headed south for the foothills filled with optimism. This dwindled rapidly until, on the 7th or 8th stop, we got a response to our Northern Saw-whet Owl call. All efforts to entice responses from Flammulated and Northern Pygmy-Owls were, however, unrewarded. Our route, through the “berg” of South Platte, is extremely scenic but many of the birds seen there just two days before had flown to higher elevations now that the severe weather had abated. Despite this, we found most of the expected forest species, albeit in lower numbers than normal for late May. It was on this leg of the trip that we scored the first Evening Grosbeaks we had ever found on a Birdathon. Since several of our challenge pledges pertained to new birds, i.e., birds not seen in the ten previous Birdathon(s), this meant that this species was worth $67.00. After a decade of Birdathoning, we rarely find a species we have not previously recorded. This year proved to be an exception to the rule.
Leaving the mountains for the Denver area, we were faced with an array of tempting birding locales, all of which had hosted, over the past week, species we needed. Which birds, we wondered, still lingered? Starting from the South, we descended upon the Audubon Nature Center at Chatfield, which was teeming with ….. people. This proved fortuitous as among the horde were a couple who have supported us in all our past Birdathons. They clued us in to the location of 3 targets: Red-eyed Vireo, Least Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe. Racking up these and several other species we sped north to Chatfield State Park. A Rock Wren rewarded us at the dam and we spotted several Western Grebes and American White Pelicans playing chicken with dozens of motor boats on the reservoir. The best wooded habitat at Chatfield is still inaccessible due to the astonishing amount of earth moving required for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation/expansion so we fled the state park and headed farther north to Marston Reservoir, which had hosted a great variety of shore and water birds the past week. These had vanished, literally overnight, but thankfully, the only gulls of the trip remained.
Given the departure of the water birds from Marston, we approached Main Reservoir with skepticism. Although in recent days it had provided excellent birding, we feared that most of the species we now sought would have departed. Fortunately, we were wrong and it proved to be a bonanza yielding our first ever Hooded Warbler plus a number of other species we seldom tally (e.g., American Pipit, Cordilleran and Dusky Flycatchers, Wood Duck and Brewer’s Sparrow).
By now we were hours behind schedule, but could not resist stopping at Belmar Park where we had been told a Blackpoll Warbler had just been seen. The parking lot was filled with a pink stretch limo, and there were young girls in ballroom gowns parading beneath a drone.
We were undaunted by the crowd but unfortunately the directions to the bird left much to interpretation and we searched in vain before heading to Clear Creek Park where we expected to find clean rest rooms and some shorebirds.
Imagine our surprise, upon parking, when two Adams County police cars raced up behind our car and officers jumped out pistols in hand. The girls took appropriate action indicating either prior experience with the law or hours of watching Miami Vice? Fortunately (surprisingly?) no one on the team was the actual target of the enforcement action and we were permitted to leave (while a couple sitting handcuffed on the roadside declared to all present that they “didn’t do it”). We never ascertained what “it” was.
A glance at Jim Baker Reservoir, yielded the Common Loon we had expected at Marston and across the street the heronry in Lake Sangraco completed our sweep of locally breeding long-legged waders. At this point everyone else took a nap while Doug sped north to Weld County. There Stewart’s Pond produced the hoped-for slate of shorebirds plus a Colorado first ever for all of us: A Red Knot foraging along the far side of the pond. Shorebirds are a scarce commodity in Colorado and most migrate through in April or early May. By delaying our count until late May we had seriously jeopardized our chances of finding many. Finding one we had never seen in the state was a totally unexpected bonanza. Our luck around water held as our energy ebbed. The sun was sinking and with it went our chances of breaking our record. Still the team sped on, driven by a desire to tally birds at three more wetlands and reach the next restroom. Each wetland hosted several new species, including several hundred Red-necked Phalarope, normally an uncommon species.
When all was said and done, the results surprised us all: 5 owls, 16 ducks, 16 shorebirds, 9 flycatchers, 8 warblers and 13 sparrows, plus nearly 100 other species for a total of 165 species, all tabulated in over 30 eBird checklists.
3 Ways You Can Participate in 2020:
FORM A TEAM
Count birds within a continuous 24 hour period – give or take – and collect pledges from sponsors: friends, family, coworkers, your auto mechanic, businesses, and anyone else you can think of. You don’t have to travel far and wide, and you don’t have to do the full 24 hours on your Birdathon. You can count birds at your feeders over the course of a day, or you can go all out and visit all the parks in Denver region. You choose whether you want to do a marathon Birdathon or just a sprint.
JOIN A TEAM
Many teams are heading out in May to locations throughout Denver and beyond. Just give us a call to register for one of those listed below or to sponsor one of these teams. Each team member must raise at least $50 to support their team. Call 303-973-9530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more team details.
SUPPORT A TEAM
Pledge your support to one of the teams that will be out in the field counting birds. Pledges can be based on the number of species you see, or you can pledge a flat amount.
Our 2019 Teams
Out of Office; Into the Field – aka OOF (Staff & Volunteer Team)
Friday, May 10
Team Members: Karl Brummert, Rhonda Shank, Kate Hogan, Emily Hertz, Suzy Hiskey, Carolyn Roark, Betty Glass
Contact: Karl Brummert, email@example.com
Target Species Count: 100
The Plan: We will begin out Birdathon journey at the Audubon Center to visit the variety of habitats in the area. From there, we may head up Waterton Canyon, or move to Deer Creek Canyon to get the foothills species. After than, we head to Red Rocks to hopefully get the falcons. Finally, we end the day to rack up the waterfowl numbers at Harriman Lake Park.
Donate to the OOF (Out of Office; Into the Field)
May 12 -ish (sometime that week)
Team Members: Diane Hutton, Benny Mullis, Lanny Mullis and Penny Hutton. The team will also welcome others if they would like to join in our fun. Our destination is not determined yet..
Contact: Diane Hutton
Target Species Count: 100 birds
The Plan: TBD
Team Members: Urling & Hugh Kingery
Contact: 303-814-2723; firstname.lastname@example.org
Target Species Count: 100
The Plan: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge & Franktown area
Donate to the Kingbirds
4 Vets in Search of a Bird
Saturday, May 25
Team Members: Mackenzie Goldthwait, Doug Kibbe, Elaine Wagner, Betty Glass
Target Species Count: 170
The Plan: From the foothills to the plains. We encourage challenge pledges, such as $10 for every owl; $5 for every species found before sunrise; $3 for each species photographed. The more original the challenge, the better.
Donate to 4 Vets in Search of a Bird
Saturday, June 1
Team Members: Reed Gorner, Santiago Tabares, Sebastian Tabares, Gabriel Wiltse
Team Leader: Reed Gorner and Santiago Tabere
Target Species Count: 100
The Plan: Four teenage birders will set out on a daring quest. With the power of our bikes, we will travel from Cherry Creek State Park to Bear Creek Lake Park, birding the whole way. We will stop at nothing to see all the birds, from biking and hiking to wading through icy streams and climbing trees to find as many bird species as we can in one day.
Donate to Little Fledglings
Team Member and Leader: Kathy Bollhoefer
Target Species Count: 50
The Plan: Kathy runs the greenest Birdathon: she rides her bike to find the birds!
Donate to Green Birdathon
All contributions to the Birdathon are tax deductible and support the Audubon Society of Greater Denver. Donations can be based on the number of species seen, or they can be a flat amount.
- Get your pledges lined up before the day you select to conduct your outing. These may be either as dollars per species or a lump sum. Some donors may even seek to challenge you further, offering extra dollars for every species you find breeding!
- Plan your outing during any continuous 24 hour period in May for the best weather and to the habitats where you are likely to find a variety of birds.
- Conduct your tally (species seen or heard only, no need to count individuals) within any period during May in Colorado.
- Let your supporters know how you did, and let them share in your excitement while you collect the pledged amounts. Let them know everything you saw, the surprises you found, including the missed “sure bets” you thought you had pinned down, and the excuses you generate en route (e.g “our navigator fell asleep so we were lost for an hour”, “we were so mesmerized by the Bobolink that we couldn’t tear ourselves away”. etc)
- All pledges are tax deductible and donors will, upon request, be given a receipt.