Fall Birding Festival drew spectators’ rapt(or) attention

Ray Rickard is shown with one of his peregrine falcons.

Several months ago, my wife and I and a couple of friends decided we’d try to do something new and different once a week. After perusing all the options in The Daily Sentinel’s “Out & About” one day, we realized that there is no shortage of activities in this valley. And to those who say they are frustrated because there’s nothing to do, we’d respond we’re frustrated because we can’t get it all done.

We’ve not had a perfect record. There are weeks in which we resort to the old standbys, dinner and a movie, for example. But there have been enough new experiences in the past few months to make us realize that this community is filled with a wonderfully diverse and creative bunch of people who like nothing more than to share their passions with the rest of us.

This past weekend was so full of events that it would have been difficult to take them all in. There was a car show on Main Street, a dog show at the Mesa County Fairgrounds and the Fruita Fall Festival, just to name a few. In the high country, autumn color was at its peak, and that, too, drew lots of people.

There was also the first annual Fall Birding Festival. Kathy and I, early Saturday, were at the Audubon Nature Center on Dike Road, surrounded by 50 or 60 (not a bad turnout for an inaugural outing) birders and others who, for one reason or another, wanted to learn more about the abundant bird life in the valley.

The festival was sponsored, appropriately enough, by the Grand Valley Audubon Society, a group that’s 450 strong and led by one very dedicated Karen Levad. She was making the rounds Saturday morning, telling attendees of the vision she and the Audubon Society have for the 86 acres along the Colorado River they are slowly but surely rehabilitating. They are creating a sanctuary for the valley’s dozens of species of birds and the birders who like nothing more than to spot them.

A building adjacent to that would be the headquarters of the nature center and is at the top of her wish list. It would be the centerpiece of the property, and house exhibit space, multi-purpose rooms and classrooms. The latter goes to the heart of the Audubon Society. It is about education if it’s about anything.

The times being what they are, the building is nothing more than a vision for the time being. First might come such new amenities as a multi-sensory trail through the marsh and cottonwoods.

All of that takes money, of course.

In the meantime, the local Auduboners will continue to host events such as the one held Saturday.

They’ll introduce the community to people like Ray Rickard, who was showing off a couple of his raptors Saturday morning.  He’s been practicing the ancient sport of falconry for more than 30 years and likes nothing more than giving people an up-close look at some of the most magnificent birds that make their home in the Grand Valley and letting people know about his sport. Some think falconry dates to somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 B.C., when it was first practiced on the steppes of Mongolia.

Rickard and his peregrine falcons may have been the star of the show Saturday morning, but they weren’t the only thing going on.

There was Alexis Holmes sharing her considerable knowledge of owls, and Cabela’s had representatives to demonstrate the latest and best scopes and binoculars for birders.

And there was Ronda Woodard, who seemingly knows everything one can possibly know about birds, and was happy to enlighten neophyte birders with the ABC’s of birding.  Birding is a relatively minor pastime, but there are some ardent adherents in the Grand Valley. The Grand Valley Audubon Society last year hosted 18 field trips, with nearly 400 people participating.

Saturday’s first-ever Fall Birding Festival may not have been the draw that other annual events, such as, say, JUCO, are. But it was a good start. And one I hope continues for many years.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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