Birders explore back roads for raptors

By Don Benjamin

Birders explore back roads for raptors | Black Canyon Audubon Society, birds, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Crawford

Binoculars are at the ready as enthusiastic spotters move into position to study a distant group of raptors. The group tallied 87 birds during a Sunday field trip led by Jim Le Fevre.

The Black Canyon Audubon Society sponsored two raptor field trips last weekend. On Saturday, Feb. 10 and again on Sunday, Feb. 11, nearly two dozen enthusiasts explored Delta County back roads between Hotchkiss, Crawford, and Paonia searching for a variety of raptors.

Although some raptors are present year-round, a large number occupy the area during the winter months. Rural areas in the North Fork Valley are ideal for viewing the elusive birds. There are lots of large trees, sizeable tracts of open land, lightly traveled roads, and plenty of critters for the raptors to prey upon.

The weekend field trips were led by Jim Le Fevre, biologist and raptor specialist with Bio-Logic, Inc., a natural resource consulting firm in Montrose. In five hours of searching, Sunday's volunteers racked up an impressive score of sightings: 30 red-tailed hawks (including one Harlan's hawk), 21 bald eagles, 14 golden eagles, 10 kestrels, seven northern harriers, two prairie falcons, two rough-legged hawks, and one Copper's hawk. Of these, the rough-legged hawks are one of the highlights to be found in western Colorado since they migrate more than 1,800 miles from northern Canada to spend the winter here. Saturday's field trip yielded similar results.