Chasing Light: Backyard birds

After an overnight rain, this neotropical songbird perched in the aspen trees next to the deck of the office, picking bugs from crannies in the bark and sipping fresh raindrops off the yellowing leaves.

I’m not a fanatical birdwatcher, but I have spent time with people who could identify half-a-dozen species in the forest around us just from their songs. Among them was David Gaines, founder of the Mono Lake Committee, and over-achieving grassroots group that helped bring about fundamental change to California water laws. Learning about Mono Lake helped me appreciate how birds fit into local, regional and global ecosystems — being mobile, avian species are the most far-ranging on Earth.

So when I wander around Summit County, I always have my eyes open and my camera ready, and autumn is a particularly good time to spot some of our fine-feathered friends. Migratory birds flow south like great living rivers, stopping at Colorado streams, lakes and reservoirs to replenish their fuel tanks for what often end up being trans-equatorial flights.

As part of its watchable wildlife program the past couple of years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has added some new segments to a network of self-guided birding trails around the state, including some outstanding areas in northwestern Colorado featuring bald eagles, ospreys, hummingbirds and even the occasional pelican!