Innovative partnership provides water for people and habitat for ducks

This magnificent mule deer buck was seen near downtown Grand Junction during a recent trip down the Colorado River during the Christmas Bird Count. The river reveals many secrets in midwinter.

Before the new year completely takes over the news, here are a few items hanging over from 2011.

Ducks Unlimited partners with water board: Ducks Unlimited Colorado recently selected the Colorado Water Conservation Board as the conservation group’s 2011 Partner of the Year.

According to Ducks Unlimited, the state water conservation board has worked with DU since 1987 developing conservation projects that conserve waterfowl habitats while improving management of Colorado’s water resources.

“The CWCB staff members are passionate individuals dedicated to their work,” said Greg Kernohan, DU manager of conservation programs in Colorado. “They recognize that successful programs depend on successful partnerships, and we are happy to be one of those partners.”

CWCB was created in 1937 to provide policy direction on water issues. The board’s mission to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.

Ducks Unlimited reported it has received significant CWCB funds through the board’s Water Supply Reserve Account. These funds were used to leverage money from other federal, state and local sources to fund innovative water projects that benefit diverse interests through wetland recharge.

Some of the projects on which DU and CWCB have partnered include South Platte River Ranch; Drake Land Farms in Denver; the DT Ranch along the South Platte and River Valley Ranch, near Monte Vista.

Weather records tied to climate change: At least 32 record-breaking extreme weather records for Colorado were set in 2011, according to a new interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review released by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the NRDC, the mapping tool allows Colorado residents to draw connections between climate change and extreme weather in their cities and towns.

The records set for Colorado include 18 rainfall records, 10 heat-related records, and 4 snowfall records. These records impacted 20 counties — nearly one third of Colorado’s 64 counties.

“From heat waves to floods to fires, 2011 was a year of extreme weather for communities throughout the United States,” said Kim Knowlton, the NRDC senior scientist who spearheaded the development of the web-based tool. “This alarming, yet illuminating data is indicative of what we can expect as climate change continues.”

The weather map and information about preparing for intense weather occurrences can be found at

A national survey of state-by-state extreme weather found at least 1,302 heat-related records, 1,090 rainfall records and 549 snowfall records established across the nation.

Birders tally 100 species during holiday count: Final numbers for the 2011 Grand Valley Audubon Christmas Bird Count shows 78 participants recorded 100 species and 40,596 individual birds counted during the daylong pursuit.

This was seven more species than seen in 2010 but still well off the species record of 114 seen in 2004.

The only new species seen this year was the black phoebe, of which two were seen by the Colorado River crew.

The most common birds were the 16,927 European starlings (of course they counted every bird).

The owling crew spotted 54 western screech owls, which is a record. Lots of volunteers (37) split into 17 teams and took advantage of pleasant weather to set this mark.

Maybe the most-curious bird was what initially was thought to be a hybrid between a Canada goose and a snow goose. However, after looking at the photos, several sources suggest the gray-and-white goose more likely is a hybrid offspring of a Canada goose and a domestic goose, which do cross-breed, since there’s no evidence that snows and Canada geese will cross-breed.

You can be sure this debate isn’t over.


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