Dispatches from Camp Colorado: Day 1

Hi folks- Bill Schmoker checking in here from the American Birding Association’s Camp Colorado at the YMCA of the Rockies in beautiful Estes Park, right on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park.  I can see the 14,259-foot summit of Long’s Peak out my dorm window and have 21 eager and talented middle- & high-school kids in the adjoining rooms resting up after a fantastic first day of camp.

2014 Camp Colorado participants enjoy the view over North Saint Vrain Creek in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park.

2014 Camp Colorado participants enjoy the view over North Saint Vrain Creek in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Our first destination today was the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.  This is the southeast-most area in the park, and we hiked up North Saint Vrain Creek past Copeland Falls towards Calypso Cascades.  Highlights included Western Tanager, Red-naped Sapsucker, Western Warbling Vireo, and a confiding American Dipper.  Most campers also encountered their life Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and Snowshoe Hare.

YouTube Preview Image

After lunch back at the Y we were treated to a phenomenal look at a Northern Goshawk stalking ground squirrels through a field next to our dorm.  It hunkered down and ran through the field velociraptor-style, eventually pausing for a while under a pickup truck to take in some shade and cool down a bit.  Not only an incredible bird, but incredible behavior that even many of the seasoned leaders had never observed!!

Why did the goshawk cross the sidewalk?  Camp Colorado participants were treated to this ground squirrel-stalking raptor in the field near our dorm at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.

Why did the goshawk cross the sidewalk? Camp Colorado participants were treated to this ground squirrel-stalking raptor in the field near our dorm at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.

We wrapped up our afternoon with a bird banding demonstration by Scott Rashid.  In-hand studies of Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds were perhaps the biggest hit but seeing comparisons of Cassin’s vs. House Finch as Band-tailed Pigeons flew overhead wasn’t so bad either.  To top it off a Prairie Falcon orbited high over the banding station to add another outstanding raptor.

Kai is thrilled to help release a Black-headed Grosbeak at a banding demonstration.

Kai is thrilled to help release a Black-headed Grosbeak at a banding demonstration.

I’m having a great time with the enthusiastic campers, my outstanding co-leaders & fellow Leica Birding Team members Jennie Duberstein, David La Puma, and Jen Brumfield.  We have Marcel Such on board as a super intern (& Camp Colorado alumni) for camp as well this year.  Thanks to Leica Sport Optics for their support as Legacy Sponsor of the American Birding Association’s Young Birder Program and to the ABA for having us up to Camp Colorado!!