Mountain Mayhem: A bird’s eye view
As we adhere to the rules of social distancing these days, one way to stay upbeat is by finding solace in nature. I was recently speaking with my dear friend Christy Mahon, development director at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), about ways to be creative with topics for this weekly social column and she cleverly suggested I look to nature and specifically birding to showcase a “who’s who” in the bird world around us. While it’s a bit of a departure from highlighting people, it certainly seemed like a cute idea, as well as a great way to learn more about our ecosystem.
Christy connected me with Rebecca Weiss, a naturalist at ACES who specializes in birding, botany and interpretive program development. “People are looking to nature for cheer, therapy and well-being,” Weiss said. Despite uncertainty in society right now, “nature is continuing to do its thing and we can tune into it,” such as noticing the birds above and around us, which are even more accessible these days with less noise, less traffic and fewer distractions.
In 2018, Weiss published a field guide with fellow birder and longtime local Mark Fuller titled “Birds of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.” It’s not only become a helpful handbook, but also a great success on the local bestseller book lists with close to 2,000 copies sold. When the stores reopen, you can find it in Aspen at ACES, Explore Booksellers and the Ute Mountaineer. They chose photos from their book to share here — all birds you can find in this habitat.
“Activities that don’t require close contact, like birding, have been recommended as good ways to get outdoors and enjoy nature during the coronavirus emergency,” Fuller noted. “It is also something that can be done from indoors if there is a window onto any kind of natural habitat.”
“You don’t need binoculars to go birding,” Mahon added. “They’re helpful, but not necessary.”
“Birds can make your heart flutter when you see them,” added Weiss. “You feel a connection with them and the way they sing.” Along those lines, people tend to develop favorites, of which Mahon shared a few from locals.
Writer Tim Mutrie is partial to the great horned owl while Caribou Club owner Billy Stolz has a soft spot for the cedar waxwing. Pro skier Chris Davenport is excited to see all of the mountain bluebirds near his family’s “nest” on Capitol Creek Road. ACES’ Naturalist Program Director Jim Kravitz keeps an eye out for the red-winged blackbirds and Aspen Mountain ski instructor John Phillips takes note of the robins when they arrive in the spring. Rebecca Weiss loves too many birds to count, but at the moment has taken a liking to the golden crown kinglet, which lives here year-round. Her son Anders loves hummingbirds, which arrive in May, and her daughter Elsie is fond of the American robin, which sings beautiful songs loudly in the morning.
Visit https://www.aspennature.org/ for information about birds in our valley and to say abreast of when their Naturalist programs are scheduled to return.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.