Rare visitors highlight Ouray County bird survey

This black-and-white warbler was photographed Sept. 7 by Jackson Trappett of Grand Junction at the Billy Creek State Wildlife Area south of Montrose. This was the first recorded sighting of a black-and-white warbler in western Colorado since 1988.

There always is something to do during a bird count, even during lunch. Here, Coen Dexter of Nucla tallies the birds seen and those missed during a break on the recent Ouray County bird count.

Two first-of-county sightings, including a rarity not reported in western Colorado for nearly 25 years, were recorded during this year’s Ouray County bird count Sept. 7-8.

Fall bird counts are fascinating because of the migratory “fall-out” you might see, and this year particularly has been interesting.

The highlight for many of the participating Ouray County birders was Sept. 7 with Jackson Trappett spotting a black-and-white warbler, the first such warbler officially recorded in Ouray County.

Trappett managed a couple of quick photographs before the tiny bird disappeared into the thick brush.

These warblers usually hang out in the eastern U.S. and Canada, but it’s thought this individual might have found itself with a mixed flock of other small birds and was following them through migration.

“I haven’t seen one of these for more than 20 years,” said lead birder Coen Dexter of Nucla, who was watching the bird move through some hawthorne bushes at the Billy Creek State Wildlife Area south of Montrose.

Dexter said the last time he saw a black-and-white warbler in western Colorado was a 1988 sighting at Highline Lake.

All 14 of us in the group got to view the warbler, and most of us added it to our lists of life birds, state birds and county birds.

Then on Sept. 8, two red-eyed vireos were seen in Ridgway, also a first and second record for the county.

Other notable birds seen during the weekend and at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s station at Ridgway State Park included a marbled godwit (usually in the Prairie Pothole Region) and an American redstart, normally an eastern U.S. bird. 

Dexter said preliminary results showed 128 species during the two-day count.

“Every now and then, when the weather is right, birding the Uncompahgre Valley is as good as it gets in western Colorado,” Dexter said. “This year rates right up with the best ever.”


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