Wilderness Society's Big Birding Day soars

A half-dozen birders exclaim with pleasure- it’s a Blue Grosbeak, resplendent in lapis blue with russet bars on its wings.

We’re exploring the ancient and fascinating landscape of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, seeking birds on sandstone cliffs, in cottonwood groves and lurking in desert greasewood. Our trip is one of many being enjoyed by visitors from around the country as part of the Ute Mountain-Mesa Verde Birding Festival.

I have a particular mission this weekend though, to list as many birds as possible during The Wilderness Society's Big Birding Day. Organized by Senior Director of Legislative Affairs David Moulton, Big Birding Day gets staff outdoors and in touch with the natural world where we work.

Sally Miller was seeking a vagrant Rose-breasted Grosbeak in California. John Gallo exhorts us to chase the widespread American Kestrel. I’m pursuing special bird species of the Four Corners area, including Black-throated Gray Warbler and Gray Vireo, as well as the stately Black-headed Grosbeak.

Birding is a marvelous way to learn more about the outdoors, no matter where you live. You can bird in city parks or remote wilderness areas. Our public lands offer superior birding experiences, from Point Reyes National Seashore in California to Padre Island in Texas, and all the way to Everglades National Park in Florida.

Some of my favorite birding areas in southwestern Colorado are in the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, and near Gateway, Colorado where The Wilderness Society and conservation partners are seeking  National Conservation Area status for the area.

If you’ve caught birding fever, or even if you just are curious, birding festivals offer a fantastic opportunity to learn from experts and meet interesting people. This second weekend of May captured birding enthusiasts from around the country to count and celebrate birds through International Migratory Bird Day. You can likely find a birding festival near you:

Another excellent way to gain birding knowledge is through programs offered by nature centers, nature preserves and bird observatories. You might find the elusive Gyrfalcon with the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in northern Michigan, or the gorgeous Prothonotary Warbler at the William B. Clark Conservation Area in Tennessee. One of America’s premier spring bird migratory hotspots can be experienced at the Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey.

As our Big Birding Weekend winds down, I’m tired but exultant. I found the exotic White-faced Ibis near Cortez, Colorado, and the brilliant Lazuli Bunting near the Dolores River. Along the way, I realized how important it is to preserve natural habitat for these creatures that bridge earth and heaven.