Steamboat Springs As mud season approaches and locals flock to warmer grounds, almost 350 species of birds make the opposite journey north from Latin America to spend summer in North America.
When we think of heading south for warmer weather, we must consider logistics. When should we leave? Should we drive or fly? Will we pack lunch or buy it? These are small worries compared with what our feathered friends have to contend with during spring migration.
Some migratory birds have been known to fly 14,000 miles to their summer destinations. They confront numerous obstacles on their journey. Food sources and daily calorie counts are of primary concern, but there also are predators, inclement weather, accidental electrocution, “rest-stop” habitat loss and accidental collision with structures.
After looking at their concerns, our logistical considerations seem pretty minor, even if we hit road construction or suffer flight delays.
Unlike us, once the birds arrive at their destination, their primary focus is not rest and relaxation. They focus on replenishing their fat reserves, locating breeding grounds, establishing a territory, mating and raising young. Migratory birds have a short window of time to make their journey. Let’s just say they can’t take the scenic route.
Many migratory birds pass through the Yampa Valley, and some even end their journey here.
Just the other morning, the vibrant and distinct call of the Sandhill cranes was audible. The sound means not only that spring is finally on its way, but also that another pair of cranes successfully has made the treacherous journey of migration.
Migration Headache is a game that can be played with children and adults alike. There are two locations, north and south, with rest stops along the way.
As the game progresses, rest stops are removed because of changes in habitat such as an oil spill. There also are times when rest stops are added because of a habitat being cleaned up by a community group or a nature preserve being secured. By the end of the game, some birds have passed because they cannot find shelter, but other lucky birds successfully complete the journey. This game is a testament to the challenges of migration. It provides a great conversation starter about migration and how we can help birds along their way.
Come celebrate the amazing journey of migration. International Migratory Bird Day “Go Wild, Go Birding” is May 14 at the Carpenter Ranch. Activities include a geocaching event, a workshop on landscaping for birds, kids’ activities, guided bird walks, a recycled birdhouse contest, a screening of the movie “Fly Away Home” at Bud Werner Memorial Library and more.
The American Birding Association, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, The Yampa Valley Birding Club and Yampatika have partnered to make this a family-friendly event that you won’t want to miss.
For details, call Yampatika at 970-871-9151. Meet Woodsy Owl, enjoy a picnic and learn more about our feathered friends.
Melissa Calhoon is program coordinator and Sonja Macys is executive director at Yampatika.