‘Birding by Ear’ workshop and year five of forest bird monitoring kicking off


By Herb Grover, Weminuche Audubon Society, and Keith Bruno, Audubon Rockies community naturalist | Special to The SUN

Have you ever thought about how much the “songscape” adds to our enjoyment of the Pagosa Country landscape? 

At this month’s Weminuche Audubon Society meeting, scheduled for Thursday, May 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m., Keith Bruno, Southwest Colorado community naturalist with Audubon Rockies, will be hosting a session on “Birding by Ear” (note the day change from our regular Wednesday evening time slot). 

We’ll explore the varied songs and calls of many familiar local and backyard birds. The purpose of this meeting is to improve everyone’s birding-by-ear skills, as well as encourage volunteers to sign up to help with the fifth year of our citizen science project monitoring bird communities in the forests surrounding Pagosa Springs.

Over the past four years, volunteer observers working with this project have identified more than 80 bird species and counted over 7,000 birds at four study sites in the ponderosa pine forests around Pagosa Springs. About half of the bird species that we have observed are resident species found year-round in Pagosa Country, with the other half migrating to our south, some as far as the southern tip of South America. Moreover, we’ve also discovered that about 40 of the bird species we’ve observed, some residents, but many migrants, are losing the battle in terms of population numbers. 

This notable concern makes understanding the linkage between habitat quality and bird community composition — a major focus of our project — even more important. 

But over and above the conservation goals of our study is the experience project volunteers gain through visiting established monitoring points several times during the six weeks of our sample season, from late May to mid-July, when most of the birds we have studied are building nests and rearing young. In fact, observing bird species like warbling vireos, house wrens, pygmy nuthatches and common nighthawks successfully raise their nestlings is one of the greatest rewards from participation in this citizen science endeavor. 

If you’d like to participate in our citizen science project this year, you don’t need to be an accomplished birder — helping observers improve their birding skills is a key goal of the project. We’d love see you at our next meeting, or you can contact us by emailing weminuche.audubon@gmail.com with any questions. 

Join us on Thursday, May 18, at the Community United Methodist Church on Lewis Street at 6 p.m. for social time before the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. 

In appreciation for our meeting space, we welcome donations of nonperishable food for the church food bank. 

A Zoom link for those unable to join us in person will be posted on our website, weminucheaudubon.org, prior to the meeting. Additionally at this site are more links to videos and reports about our forest bird monitoring project and many of the other things our chapter does under the “Projects” and “Events” tabs.