Passion for birds brought couple together and keeps them active

Fran and Paul Didier share a love of each other and bird watching. Photo by Amy Hamilton

“Somebody’s calling,” said Fran Didier, suddenly detecting a bird’s faint shrill piercing the seemingly silent air.

The wetlands area at the Audubon Society’s headquarters near Connected Lakes State Park seems just about like any other area in Grand Junction. But for Fran and Paul Didier, who are seldom seen without high-powered binoculars hanging from around their necks, it’s one of many places of wonder the couple has discovered in their lifelong love affair with birds.

It’s a passion, too, that brought Fran, 71, and Paul, 72, together in the first place and keeps them together 25 years later.

Though the couple has bounced around the U.S., living in New Jersey, New York, California and Oregon, it’s their home in Grand Junction for the past eight years where they’ve located the most species, 77, on their “window list.”

Their window list records all the bird species seen in the backyard of their north Grand Junction home. The couple’s “life list” registers more than 500 species, but that doesn’t slow them down from exploring far-flung bird habitat in the hopes of spotting something new.

About two years ago, a fellow birder called the Didiers early one morning to report seeing a Vermilion flycatcher at Highline Lake State Park. Though Paul was feeling ill, he jumped from bed and he and Fran raced to the lake, only to learn the bird had flown.

For hours, the couple drove and hiked around, scanning the countryside for a glimpse of the small male bird with a crimson head and underbelly.

As some indication of the excitement among birders to see the rare bird here in the area, upon hearing the news, a couple from Nucla also began driving here in hopes of spotting it.

After hours of searching, the Didiers began to feel forlorn. But they decided to go back to the park and see if thie bird had shown back up, as birds sometimes frequent places they deem safe.

To their amazement, the bird was perched on a bush right in front of their vehicle as they pulled into a dirt turnout.

“The sun on the head of that bird was just spectacular,” Fran beamed. “You just can’t describe it. Ecstasy.”

The Didiers hope to share some of their passion for birding during this year’s annual Christmas bird count, which falls on the weekend of Dec. 12-14.

About 60 people, a good turnout, participated in spotting and identifying birds last year.

Species are counted within a 15-mile diameter in the Grand Valley. To get involved, call the Didiers at 242-8643.

This story first appeared on Wednesday morning as part of “Mobile Junction.”


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