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More than 2,800 birds spotted during annual Steamboat count

Steamboat Springs residents and devout birders Tresa and David Moulton take part in Saturday's ninth annual Christmas Bird Count. More than 2,800 birds were counted and identified over the weekend by around a dozen volunteers.
Austin Colbert

— More than 2,800 birds were counted and identified during the weekend as part of Steamboat’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

About 18 volunteer counters and another 20 or so volunteer bird-feeder watchers took part in the count, which lasted from dawn until dusk Saturday, according to Tom Litteral, a coordinator and compiler for the count, which is a joint effort of the Yampa Valley Birding Club, Yampatika and the National Audubon Society.

“It was a snowy day, and it was challenging to be out there in the cold, but the birds cooperated, and it was really successful,” Litteral said.



Some of the highlights of the count included the spotting of a high number of sharp-tailed grouse and the sighting of a Northern Goshawk among the 2,841 birds counted.

“That’s a really unusual bird. They’re around in the summer but not usually in the winter, so that was a great find,” Litteral said.



Another odd sighting was a Wilson’s Snipe, enjoying the outflow of the Old Town Hot Springs where it meets with the Yampa River.

A group skiing in the Steamboat Ski Area with Yampatika to look for birds spotted several grey jays, a friendly species of bird that will often eat right out of your hand, Litteral said.

“It’s a treat for people to kind of interact with some of the wildlife out there,” he said.

Volunteers spotted 45 species of birds, with the most plentiful species seen being the house sparrow (394) and the black-billed magpie (327).

Overall, 42 participants drove a combined 263 miles and walked, skied or snowshoed another 22 miles in an effort to scour the 15-mile zone where birds are counted.

“It was a great outing, and everyone had a great time,” Litteral said.

The group also noted some interesting animals seen, including 88 elk, pine and fox squirrels, a snowshoe hare and a muskrat.

The count is one of many overseen by the National Audubon Society, which will give the information to scientists studying bird populations.

Saturday’s event was the ninth annual count for Steamboat. The highest number of birds spotted so far was 3,200 in 2013. Last year, volunteers spotted about 2,500.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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