International Migratory Bird Day to be celebrated in the Yampa Valley |

International Migratory Bird Day to be celebrated in the Yampa Valley

One of Nancy Merrill's favorite signs of spring is seeing the flocks of migratory birds arriving to the Yampa Valley like this yellow-headed blackbird.
Nancy Merrill
If you go: What: International Migratory Bird Day When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 5 Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave. If you go: What: Bird walk When: 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, May 5 Where: Nature Conservancy Carpenter Ranch, 13250 U.S. Highway 40, Hayden Be on the lookout for… The Bobolink “To me the most amazing is the bobolink, a small blackbird that ventures all the way from Argentina in mid-May to nest in our Routt County hay meadows,” said Betsy Blakeslee, Carpenter Ranch facilities manager. “Bobolinks are declining in most of the U.S. because of habitat destruction, so we take care not to harvest our hay meadows before the young have had a chance to fledge in early July.” Bird song “Use all your senses when out birding,” said Tom Litteral, Yampatika volunteer and Yampa Valley Birding Club member. “Bird song in the spring is the best time to hear how each species has a unique song to attract a mate or defend a territory.” Rare species  "When a rare species shows up (maybe one that got blown out of its usual range), it's always exciting," said Nancy Merrill, co-founder and president of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. "This doesn’t happen every year, but when it does happen, it creates great excitement." Other species to lookout for:
  • Hawks such as red-tailed hawk or Swainson’s hawk
  • Bald eagles
  • Greater sandhill cranes
  • Hummingbirds, such as the broadtailed or black-chinned hummingbirds
  • Waterfowl
  • Swallows
  • Warblers
  • Western Tanagers
  • Orioles
  • Osprey

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Spring is a master in the art of subtlety.

A babbling brook becomes a surging stream of snowmelt, and sunlight is sought after as if recharging an internal battery. And for those who stop to listen, there is bird song.

This sound also signals the start of migratory bird season, and on Saturday, Steamboat Springs, which is home to more than 70 species of migratory birds, will be the site of a number of activities that celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.

Festivities start at 7:30 a.m. at the Carpenter Ranch, a Nature Conservancy facility located along U.S. Highway 40 in Hayden about 20 miles west of Steamboat. There will be scones and coffee for visitors, and starting at 8 a.m., hour-long bird walks, which leave every half-hour, will be offered.

“Birds add a beautiful dimension to our experience and understanding of life on this planet,” said Betsy Blakeslee, facilities manager at Carpenter Ranch. “Their colors, their music and their perfect aerodynamics. They sing so sweet, mate so intuitively and live so minimally. We are lucky to witness their adaptation to so many niches in nature.”

Guides will point out birds found in the area along with characteristics and behaviors of the various species.

“These birds make us realize how inter-connected our world is,” said Nancy Merrill, co-founder and president of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, who will be guiding some of the bird walks.

The Nature Conservancy purchased the Carpenter Ranch specifically to protect the native forest and wetlands along two and a half miles of the Yampa River, where a rare combination of riparian plants and wildlife flourish with the narrow leaf cottonwood trees, box elder and red-osier dogwood trees.

“We’ll see waterfowl in the sloughs and the river, birds of prey hunting over the meadows and songbirds that sing from the trees,” Blakeslee said. “The swallows are showing up, happily catching insects in the air as they fly. The fences are full of mountain bluebirds, red-wing blackbirds and meadowlarks.”

For the past 17 years, the Yampa Valley Birding Club has guided the bird walks on International Migratory Bird Day. Last year, 1,246 birds representing 69 species were spotted on the ranch.

In addition to the events at Carpenter ranch, Yampatika, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and Nature’s Educators will host events from 9 a.m. to noon at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat.

The family-oriented day aims to bring awareness to the community about the wealth of local migratory birds with live raptors, presentations, discussion and viewing of various birds.

“Seeing the joy of discovery reflected in the eyes of what we call ‘K through grey’ — people of all ages — it’s incredible,” said Mike Loots, camp director at Yampatika. “There’s excitement of what’s to come, the next season ahead.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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