Fifth-graders participate in seventh annual Science on Snow Day


By Keith Bruno | Audubon Rockies

Last Friday marked the seventh Annual Science on Snow Day with over 100 fifth-graders from Pagosa Springs Middle School heading outside for a field day to inventory birds along the San Juan Riverwalk, learn foundational avalanche science and measure snow density in the snowpack to better understand where our water comes from. 

A tradition that was born from an excited conversation between fifth-grade science teacher Chris Couch and Audubon Rockies Community Naturalist Keith Bruno over missing their days of seasonal field science in the varied landscapes of the West has translated into a great opportunity to expose students to natural resource fields, work with the dedicated and knowledgeable birding expertise from our very own Weminuche Audubon Society chapter volunteers, and glean lifelong skills about traveling in the San Juan backcountry from Wolf Creek Ski Patrol Director Eric Deitemeyer.

Couch’s science students observed 30 species of birds, logging 451 total birds along the Riverwalk stretching on the southern end from the Apache Street bridge by the Ross Aragon Community Center to the north through Town Park and east down Hermosa Street beyond Cotton Hole, circling back along Lewis Street through downtown neighborhoods. The students’ findings have been logged on eBird, an ongoing global community science platform maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In contributing online observations each year, these students help to predict and protect bird populations while becoming more attuned to the health of their broader community. 

Novel sightings included a salt-and-pepper-covered juvenile bald eagle gracing us from the western edges of Reservoir Hill, American dippers, and both common and Barrow’s goldeneyes along the San Juan River, and the return of many migratory species to our region. Large flocks of American robins and the unmistakable sounds of the red-winged blackbird have returned to our wetlands, and thus it feels spring can’t be too far away. 

Thanks to all the volunteers that made this day a great opportunity for learning, including Ben Bailey, Gloria Bissmeyer, Becky and Eric Deitemeyer, Byron Greco, Addi Greer, Charles Martinez, Debbie McLain, Roger Organ, Josh Pike, Lisa Tedder and Jean Zirnhelt.