Birdwatchers take stock of Steamboat’s feathered friends | SteamboatToday.com

Birdwatchers take stock of Steamboat’s feathered friends

Melinda Dudley

Steamboat Springs — During Saturday's annual winter bird count, aimed at identifying all species of birds in the Steamboat Springs area, local birdwatchers endured the cold to “put the 'brr' in birding,” Yampa Valley Birding Club count coordinator Tom Litteral said. — During Saturday's annual winter bird count, aimed at identifying all species of birds in the Steamboat Springs area, local birdwatchers endured the cold to “put the 'brr' in birding,” Yampa Valley Birding Club count coordinator Tom Litteral said.

— During Saturday’s annual winter bird count, aimed at identifying all species of birds in the Steamboat Springs area, local birdwatchers endured the cold to “put the ‘brr’ in birding,” Yampa Valley Birding Club count coordinator Tom Litteral said.

“Most people think birdwatchers are crazy, and going out on a day like today, it’s easy to see why,” Sonja Macys said, with temperatures hovering near zero as she headed out to hunt for magpies with her binoculars.

The Yampa Valley Birding Club, which Litteral described as a “casual social club” with about 20 active birdwatchers, has taken part in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count for the past eight years. The club also coordinates a May Day count with Yampatika.

The winter bird count took place within a 15-mile radius of the radio tower site on Emerald Mountain. Last year, birdwatchers sighted 45 different species.

“The ultimate goal is to see every single bird here, and identify it,” Litteral said. “Realistically, you just do the best you can.”

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Participants included roughly a dozen volunteers on foot, who met Saturday morning at the Stock Bridge Transit Center to split up the terrain, as well as snowshoers on the west slope of Emerald Mountain and skiers at the Steamboat Ski Area, where the Yampa Valley Birding Club sponsors a birdfeeder at the top of the Bar UE lift.

Participants in Yampatika’s snowshoe hike Saturday morning were also tasked with keeping their eyes peeled for feathered friends.

In the winter in the Yampa Valley, most bird activity is restricted to feeders and the few remaining unfrozen water sources.

“The hardest part of doing a Christmas Bird Count is finding open water,” Litteral said.

Winter bird watching is mostly restricted to the hot springs-fed Yampa River through Steamboat, Lake Catamount and intermittent springs across the valley floor, Litteral said.

Saturday’s participants ranged from first-timers to long-time bird enthusiasts, including eight-year winter bird count veteran Lisa Williams.

“I’ve been a member of the Audubon Society probably since I was born,” Williams said. “My parents birded, and my grandparents birded.”

Williams’ bird-watching activities got an early start Saturday morning when she and her husband spotted a bald eagle on their drive into Steamboat, before the official Christmas Bird Count even got underway.

For the birds

Local birdwatchers saw 40 species of birds Saturday.

The most common bird was the black-billed magpie, with more than 230 sighted in the “count zone,” which spanned 15 miles.

The rarest sighted were two Harris sparrows, a bird rarely seen in Routt County.

Other birds seen include bald and golden eagles, western scrub jays, a redhead duck and a rough-legged hawk.