Birds and More | All Blogs


By Nic.Korte

What would you think if you looked out from your porch and spied 15 people walking slowly and stealthily. Even more, what would you think if one or more seemed to be peering at you or into your yard with binoculars or a spotting scope? 

(OK, not in a yard, but you get the idea. Photo by Mark Peterson)

I wondered about answers to those questions, being part of the 15, as we walked about various small towns in SE Colorado and NW Oklahoma. Ever been to Springfield or Kit Carson, Colorado, or Boise City, Oklahoma? These small rural towns are supposed to be deeply conservative and very gun-friendly. “Should I be worried?” I asked myself.

Apparently not. We were either ignored or received a friendly wave. You see, in this part of the country, there are almost no trees except those humans have planted. From late April through much of May, these small-town trees are havens for migratory birds needing both rest and a place to refuel as they fly north. These trees concentrate the migrants which concentrate the birders.

This is why the annual convention of the Colorado Field Ornithologists ( was held recently in the small town of Lamar. Lamar was invaded by more than 200 birdwatchers there for a four-day weekend. I always enjoy stressing a small town, as we clearly did, with our presence. Finding a venue for the convention dinner was a challenge. Similarly, 200+ people arising around 5AM challenged the hotel to provide enough coffee, muffins and cereal all at once.

How about these numbers, taken from a recent article in “Parks and Recreation” magazine?

• $15 billion: Estimated trip-related expenditures for birders in 2011.

• $26 billion: Estimated equipment expenditures for birders in 2011.

• $107 billion: Total birding industry output across the United States in 2011.

• 666,000: Number of part-time and full-time jobs created from birding expenditures in 2011.

• $31 billion: Estimated employment income created from birding expenditures, consisting of both employee compensation and proprietor income.

I only wish we had a political impact commensurate with our economic impact. It was clear they were happy to have us. We were welcomed by the mayor, and drawings of birds by local school children were included with our packed lunch.

We didn't descend on Lamar only because it was a small town with its own and nearby groves of trees. This general area is a crossroads. For example, among the birds observed on convention field trips was a Magnolia Warbler on its way to its nesting grounds in Canada. Especially fascinating to me was simultaneously observing a Red-headed Woodpecker and a Vermillion Flycatcher. The former is mostly associated with the east and the southeast, while the latter is a distinctly tropical species mostly found along the US/Mexican border.

Many Colorado birders associate Lamar with Mississippi Kites—handsome small raptors that for the most part are found only in Southern states. These kites have nested near or on the Lamar Community College campus for quite a few years. 

(Mississippi Kite by Bill Schmoker,

Finally, readers of this blog are well aware of my love of tropical birding. One US bird, also a species of the South and Southeast, can challenge any species I have seen in tropical jungles in a beauty contest.
(Painted Bunting by Bill Schmoker,

This handsome Painted Bunting was photographed just inside Colorado’s SE border. I was fortunate to be with the lucky few whose hike on a hot windy afternoon was rewarded with this view of a singing male. No wonder the residents of these small towns are accustomed to birders in their midst.

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at and “like” us on Facebook!]


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