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Steamboat Springs birders report record-setting bird count

Teresa Ristow
Nearly 400 Bohemian waxwing birds were spotted Saturday as part of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
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— Frigid temperatures didn’t stop local birders from counting a record 4,817 birds Saturday during the 11th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

“Sometimes, when the weather is the worst, the birding is the best,” said Tom Litteral, a coordinator for the count, which is organized by the Yampa Valley Birding Club and Yampatika.

Litteral said 24 birders identified 42 species of birds, including many robins, rosy-finches, a Wilson’s snipe and a Lapland longspur, a particularly rare bird to see in Routt County.

One highlight of the count was a flock of a few hundred Bohemian waxwings, a bird typically found in the northern forests of Canada.

“It’s a bird that’s only around here in the wintertime, and some years, we never see them at all,” said Tresa Moulton, an avid birder who has participated in the local count since it began.

Moulton said the flock was perched on several trees next to a house on Anglers Drive and included about 10 percent cedar waxwings, a variation of the bird.

Litteral described the birds as an irruption, which is a dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of birds to an area in which they aren’t typically found.

“That’s very special,” he said.

The 4,817 birds counted Saturday was up from 2,841 last year and 2,300 in 2013.

Litteral said the cold weather may have led to more birds congregating in expected areas, which could have led to the record-setting count. He said the group was also fortunate to have knowledgeable volunteers.

“What was really exciting for us was the outstanding effort of one team led by Jason Szyba, along with Tatiana Achcar and McKenzie Brown,” Litteral said. “This trio found, identified and counted nearly 1,500 birds. This kind of passion, expertise and energy was exceptional. I wish we had more young birders like them in our area.”

The count takes place in a 15-mile radius around Emerald Mountain, with birders splitting up to cover the territory and additional feeder watcher volunteers reporting from home.

The count was one of about 50 similar counts throughout Colorado Saturday, all part of the 117th annual Audubon Citizen Science Project, which incorporates about 2,300 counts across the United States. The data allows researchers, conservation biologists and others to study bird populations nationwide.

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


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