Fourth-graders get feel for a bird in the hand

Certified bird bander Amber Carver of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory tells students from Mesa View Elemenatry about the habitat found around Conected Lakes State Park. More than 450 of the valley’s fourth-graders were able to visit the Grand Valley Audubon Society’s fall bird-banding station.

By early Friday, approximately 450 of the valley’s fourth-graders had visited the Grand Valley Audubon Society’s fall bird-banding operation at Connected Lakes State Park.

Overseen again this year by certified bander Amber Carver of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Carver found this site busier than other sites used in recent years, thanks in part to what Carver said was the better bird habitat inside the park.

Fall bird banding may catch some rarely seen migrant on its southerly migration, but Friday the most-seen bird was the White-crowned Sparrow, a common year-round resident of the Grand Valley.

“The birds really like this thick skunkbrush,” Carver said during one of her morning rounds to check the mist nets, poking a forked stick at the thickets of skunkbrush (also called skunkbrush sumac) that grow throughout the park. “This is pretty good habitat, and sparrows really like to nest in this stuff, so I’m not surprised we’ve caught so many of them.”

On this particular morning, the scorecard already was up to 14 birds of various species well before the first bus full of students arrived.

At least one bird evoked a surprised comment from Carver, who also just finished a similar banding operation at Ridgway State Park.

“I didn’t expect to see this,” said Carver as she skillfully removed a tiny bundle of gold-and-olive feathers from the mist net. “It’s a Wilson’s Warbler, and they’re usually gone by now. This guy’s got to get out of here.”

Bird banding is little understood by most of the public, and this year a few people have arrogated to themselves the right to create disarray.

At least one irate person confronted the birders and demanded they stop their research, her unfounded argument being the birders were killing the birds.

Another passerby stopped to demand a bird be immediately released from a mist net, not realizing how often the nets are checked by trained observers and that once raveled in the net, a bird stays quiet and unmoving until removed by well-trained hands.

Watching bird-banders in action is like watching Old Faithful — lots of standing around interspersed with a few minutes of excitement.

But hopefully you took the time during Saturday’s public day to join fellow citizen scientists in their quest to learn more about our natural world and also appreciate the time and effort our valley’s teachers take to introduce their students to the wonders of life outside.

Preserving wildlife 
habitat preferred

A recent survey conducted for the National Wildlife Federation indicates hunters and anglers believe protecting public lands should be a priority, even when it means limiting energy production on those lands.

According to the poll by Chesapeake Bay Consulting, “an overwhelming majority of sportsmen believe it is a priority to conserve fish and wildlife habitat.”

This sentiment was the underlying factor in having 58,000 acres of valuable fish and wildlife habitat in northwest Wyoming recently withdrawn from oil and gas development, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The Trust for Public Lands, a TRCP partner, will purchase energy leases in Wyoming’s Hoback Basin from the Plains Exploration and Production Company and then retire the leases.

According to the TRCP, conservation of this portion of the Wyoming Range is critically important to mule deer herds already impacted by energy development on Wyoming’s Pinedale Anticline, which has seen 60 percent losses in mule deer numbers over the past decade.


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