Bird festival tour reports a goose in a tree, other unusual sightings

Rare sighting of sandhill crane also reported by longtime birder

A group of birders look for birds along the Mancos River on Saturday during the Ute Mountain-Mesa Verde Birding Festival. The tour spotted dippers, Lewis Woodpeckers, blue herons and a sandhill crane as well as other birds. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

A group of birders look for birds along the Mancos River on Saturday during the Ute Mountain-Mesa Verde Birding Festival. The tour spotted dippers, Lewis Woodpeckers, blue herons and a sandhill crane as well as other birds.

Many swooping swallows, bright warblers, blue herons, a hyper little dipper and even a sandhill crane entertained enthusiastic birders on Saturday near Mancos.

The tour around the valley and nearby ponds and lakes was part of the 10th Annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival, which drew people from all over the world.

Saturday was also International Migratory Bird Day, and birders across the world were taking part in bird counts.

Bird counts are a way to measure the impacts of climate change, said Tim Reeves a retired Professor from San Juan College.

For example, he said that scientists have noticed warblers in Maine are arriving 30 days later than usual.

"We notice things that are fast on their way to extinction," he said.

The group counted the sightings but did not plan to submit them to Cornell University, the repository for the data, he said.

Among the more rare sightings of the day was possibly one of only two known local sandhill cranes, who have a nest in the area.

While the group waited patiently near the nest, the bird was sighted later in the day far from home by a longtime birder Eileen Kreisle.

One of the strangest encounters was a Canadian goose, normally a ground bird, perched in a tree.

Geese and ducks have also been spotted nesting in trees near Farmington, said Reeves.

He said this is very unusual behavior for the birds.

A continuing positive trend was a substantial number of magpies. The birds were almost wiped out by drought and the West Nile Virus in 2002.

The small tour of about a dozen people drew serious birders and beginners.

Kreistle and her husband came from Albuquerque to attend the festival and first fell in love with birding more than 20 years ago after her great aunt asked them to take her birding for her 85th brithday.

The couple wasn't particularly excited, but they indulged her and watch how she could identify birds by their flight patterns.

They have since been birding all over the United States and to Trinidad and Tobago.

"It was her birthday, but we got the gift," she said.