For the Birds Radio Program: Colorado Trip

Original Air Date: April 19, 1996

Today Laura Erickson talks about planning a trip to Colorado. (3:37) Date verified.

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While you are listening to this program on the radio, I’m in Colorado. I set a goal for myself last year that I have to have 600 birds on my lifelist before January first in the year 2000, and that requires me to get crackin.’ I only have 40 species to go, but they’re all either difficult to find or far away, so I have to go afield to see them. The bird we spent our whole vacation in Yellowstone searching for last year, the Sage Grouse, is my number one priority. I could also see them in western North Dakota and Wyoming, but I can get another lifer in Colorado, too—the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. So this trip is intended to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. I didn’t really want to go all alone, so my sister-in-law is coming with. Jean’s not a birder, but she does love to travel and to hike in scenic places, so we’ll make a fine team, except perhaps on those mornings when I wake her at 2 to set out for the booming areas.

A lot of people ask me how I know where to look in an unfamiliar state for new birds. It’s really easy, since I’m a member of the American Birding Association. This club is organized to help members see new birds, and publishes a line of books to accomplish this. One of the most recent offerings is also the most encompassing. It’s titled Birdfinder: A Birder’s Guide to Planning North American Trips. This book details one way to plan trips through a calendar year in order to see over 600 species, and is what inspired me to go to Colorado in the first place, since trips this time of year should provide both the prairie chicken and the grouse. Since both of these are target species for April in Colorado, there are even specific directions to roadside display grounds, telling the precise spots to stop your car to look for them. Although these two are the most probable lifers, I have a chance to spot one more, the Black Rosy Finch, plus ample opportunities to see bazillions of western species that I’ve only seen a handful of times.

Unfortunately, although Birdfinder highlights prime birding locations, it doesn’t give in-depth descriptions of birding spots except to find specific target species. So to maximize the pleasure, I’ll also be using my old copy of A Birder’s Guide to Colorado. This book highlights many birdy places throughout the state, with precise directions and additional information, such as interesting non-bird wildlife like snakes. This is an old book—the American Birding Association is in the process of updating it and will release the newest edition this year—but it will do fine for my trip.

I’ll be breaking in my new Kowa scope and working hard to add birds to my Kowa list, so all in all this week promises to be a jolly time for me. Meanwhile, back in north country, migrants will be flooding through the whole time I’m gone. You listeners will have to keep track of them until I get back.