See robins on guided tour
Yampatika naturalist Karen Vail will lead a snowshoe tour up Mile Run at the Howelsen Hill ski area and beyond Saturday. There is a good chance the group will see numbers of robins feeding on dried serviceberries.
Details: 10 a.m. until noon, meet in front of Olympian Hall. Fee is $12. Take water, a snack and snowshoes. Call 871-9151 to register.
Yampatika Executive Director Sonja Macys said the environmental education nonprofit group is closing in on its winter fundraising goal of $25,000. The balance for the account has grown from $15,000 in October to $19,300 as of Dec. 30.
A portion of the funds will be used to develop a K-12 environmental education plan.
Steamboat Springs The dozens of robins hanging out above Howelsen Hill this winter likely are not local birds but might be snowbirds in the truest sense of the term.
Tom Litteral, of the Yampa Valley Birding Club, said the unusual numbers of robins in the valley this winter probably migrated south from Canada and stayed for the abundance of berries.
"I've never seen a winter like this. We're really scratching our heads on this one," Litterall said. His group counted 110 robins during its annual Christmas bird count Dec. 14. That compares to just four on the same date last year.
Group members also tallied four bald eagles, 10 downy woodpeckers, six hairy woodpeckers, 108 Stellar's jays, two kingfishers, 187 black-billed magpies, six Townsend's solitaires, 53 evening grosbeak's, one each of coot, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier, spotted towhee and morning dove, plus 200 of the seldom spotted rosy finches.
The four robins spotted during the count in December 2007 probably were local robins who lingered instead of flying south to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, or even as far as the Yucatan Peninsula, with other Yampa Valley robins.
However, Litteral thinks the robins noticed by residents of the Fairview neighborhood this winter probably migrated from farther north and stayed after finding an abundance of dried fruit still clinging to the branches of several species of berry-producing bushes.
"Robins are very opportunistic and are able to change their diet from insect to berries with the season," Litteral said. "We had such a heavy crop of berries at low elevation, as long as they're getting caloric intake, they'll probably hang around."
Yampatika naturalist and guide Karen Vail agreed with Litteral. Combine the observations that the robins are feeding in flocks and are prevalent in areas where they typically aren't seen in such numbers, and it suggests they are a migrating population, she said.
Vail will lead a snowshoe tour up Howelsen Hill to Emerald Mountain on Saturday. She said this year's berry crop is the best the valley has seen after several drought years.
"The birds are finding mountain ash, chokecherries and hawthorn to eat," as well as serviceberries packed with sugar, Vail said.
"It's so cool, with all the activity up there. It's like a symphony with grosbeaks and robins calling."