Steamboat Springs In the clear azure skies above Carpenter Ranch, several large white birds with black wing tips soared in wide circles over the heads of a crowd of about 50 bird enthusiasts and their families.
They were American White Pelicans, slowly climbing the thermals without even the minutest flap of their wings, saving their energy for a long trip ahead.
A group of young children participating in story-time during the annual International Migratory Bird Day at the ranch pointed to the skies, oohing and aahing.
“Look, Dad,” shouted Hazel Ciufo, 5.
“I see them,” her father, Scott Ciufo, called in return.
The story-time group watched the birds for a few moments, transfixed as the birds glided around the sky, then turned back to Linda Litteral, who was leading a story about a mischievous raven.
Linda’s husband, Tom Litteral, a Yampatika volunteer and Yampa Valley Birding Club member, said the daylong celebration was a chance to honor all of the migratory birds that are starting to fill up Routt County’s skies and trees.
“There are lots of birds that came in with the recent change in temperature,” he said. “The sandhill cranes, there’s a blue heron back there and the yellow-headed blackbird. Most of them are just passing through, but some of them will make their home right here.”
The event, put on by Yampatika and the Nature Conservancy and supported by several wildlife entities, involved artistic, interactive and educational opportunities on the topic of birds and their habitats.
The morning started off with several bird walks around the ranch, in which facilities manager Betsy Blakeslee said the participants reported 48 species of birds.
Adults were treated to lectures from bird enthusiasts on topics from bird feeders to landscaping to attract birds, and children had options like story-time, bird-related crafts and a nest-making project involving pine needles and twigs.
Blakeslee said the event is meant to educate and inspire people about the magic of what she calls a “parallel universe” of birds.
“When you enjoy them and are aware of them, that whole world it draws you in and soon you’re the one out there with the binoculars,” she said.
On Saturday afternoon, Michelle Mahosky, a Yampatika naturalist, helped children as young as 3 make colorful mobiles of paper birds on a picnic table. She said bringing awareness about migratory birds and their habitats to young children was especially important.
“As they get older, it’s going to be their role to take care of the birds and honor their environment,” she said.
Matisse Ciufo, 10, already knows how birds make their nests because on Saturday she got to make her own with materials she found lying in the grass. She said she watches her father feed birds almost every day and always has been fascinated by them.
“It’s just that they’re animals, but they’re so different than most other animals,” she said, explaining that she’s seen everything from magpies to bald eagles.
And, of course, there’s the allure of an animal free of the restrictions of earthbound life.
“I wish I could fly,” Matisse said. “It looks like a lot of fun.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com