May 022012
 

One of the best things I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in, for the past few years, is the Raptor Monitoring program of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP.) With conservation efforts, raptors have been recovering in Colorado, and even the re-introduced¬†Peregrine Falcons (PEFA) are gaining in numbers. Volunteers (like me) monitor the nesting area weekly in order to determine territory occupancy, and reproduction productivity.

Peregrine Falcon Monitoring with iPad and iPhone

Field Notes with iPad and iPhone

I’ve been visiting my assigned location for a few years now, and never cease to be amazed by how much I enjoy it. I think of each trip as “another beautiful day in paradise” and it certainly is. I get to watch the change of the seasons, from late winter when the birds return to the area, to deep into summer. The changes of spring are quite thrilling to experience, and each year I feel a little more connected to this place.

I’d barely seen peregrine falcons in the wild, but now I’ve watched the peregrines select their scrape site, mate, incubate their eggs and raise their chicks to fledglings. I’ve heard and seen the awesome PEFA stoops, watched territory disputes, seems PEFA consume their prey, and become party to a wide variety of behaviors. I’ve gone from barely knowing these birds, to feeling somewhat connected. I feel honored.

I carry a pack on each of my monitoring session, and in it I have a notepad and pen in order to record notes. I’ve never cracked open that pad. For some reason I began taking notes in my iPhone, in Apple’s Notepad app, and kept on doing so. It’s taken me a few years to finally get sufficiently frustrated with typing on that keyboard, entering (and re-entering due to typos) times, and spending too much time looking at the phone and not admiring/observing the birds.

I finally wrote this application in order to make taking timestamped field notes a lot easier. I’ve used it on the past few weeks of observations, and it allows me to both record more and observe more. More time watching the PEFA is a good thing.

Apr 012011
 

Back in February, when things were cold and snowy, this season’s raptor watch began. Boulder County Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) organize closures and monitoring for a number for nesting species, and when I volunteered I was lucky enough to get Peregrines. I hardly knew that Peregrines were in Colorado, and now I get to watch them. Closely.

Peregrine Falcons by Andrew Baksh

Peregrine Falcons by Andrew Baksh @BirdingDude

Last year I watched a pair preen, feast on prey, mate, and ultimately fledge two chicks. Last week I heard a stoop (loud above my head.) This week I watched an unsuccessful stoop. I feel so privileged to be able to write those words. Peregrines are amazing creatures, and I am lucky to be able to get to know this species. The ‘scream’ of a Peregrine is now in my blood for life. :)

This week’s hike up to the birds was quiet. A belted kingfisher greeted me at the trail head. A few spotted towhee are back to claim the airwaves with their song. A small group of Scrub Jay were a nice bonus for the hike, as were the rafter of Turkey at the top.

Last week the millipedes were out in force on the trails, and this week they were joined by grasshoppers, wasps, butterflies and caterpillars. Luckily for them, the bluebirds have been, flocked, staged and moved on up into the mountains, but with these staples of the food chain here, the other birds will soon be back. Not here, not quite yet, but the Meadowlark are back in town. Bugs beware.

Here is to a nice long season, welcoming in both spring and summer, and to lots of Peregrines.

This summer (after the Peregrine chicks have fledged) I’ve signed up for the Bat Monitor program, and I’m excited at that opportunity. Volunteering is a great way to regularly get outdoors. Give it a try where you are.

Note: OSMP have granted permissions for me to write about my Falcon Watch experiences. I do NOT post locations nor timing details in an effort to preserve critter privacy.

Feb 152010
 
Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon photo courtesy Boulder OSMP

This year I applied to be a Raptor Nest Watch volunteer with Boulder Mountain Parks & Open Space. I found out about the opportunity on the Boulder county nature-net mailing list (from the Boulder County Nature Association) and found myself thrilled at the opportunity to monitor nests of eagles, osprey, falcons (and other species.) Bird of prey are so spectacular, and yet other than the few standouts like the eagles/osprey so hard to identify in the field (for the non-native birder, like me.) As such, ever since I applied I’ve been excited about what I’d learn.

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program, and assigned a nest site not too far from my home, and in a beautiful location (not that they all aren’t around here.) I was assigned peregrine falcon, a bird I hadn’t even realized was around here. I saw my first Peregrine Falcon (at least first since perhaps in childhood) when in Cornwall, UK last year. I was hiking along the clifftops and a parent/offspring duo flew past me granting me a wonderful close-up. Having them here in Colorado, near my home, wow … awesome!

I’ve never been much of a joiner, and I like my nature empty (except for wild critters, my iPhone to record my wildlife, and my dog at camp) so this application was a first for me. Amusingly perhaps I’ve joined the volunteer program that suits this preference best, since observers perform their observation duties by themselves and exchange reports via e-mail. Still, I’ve met others in the team (for this site) at the orientation meeting and on a field trip, and both times enjoyed their company. It is nice to know who they are, to understand the pleasure we all share from the outdoors, and to get and share reports on the site. Working behind the computer of a day it is wonderful to be vicariously taken outside, to connect with this wildlife location.

My first solo trip for the weekly two hour observation duty met with decent weather, and clear skies. Falcons (other than Kestrels, which are partial migrants here) are only just returning to Colorado so there is not much falcon activity, however the Golden Eagle put in an appearance high above. A pair of these massive & majestic birds rode the thermals along the ridge-line (rising, tucking wings and diving to rise again as if having a roller-coaster of fun) before resting on the rocks above. Townsend’s Solitaire were the ‘dawn’ chorus, with American Robins soon taking over as the noise makers.

All in all a very pleasant time of putting the busy world aside for a while and sitting watching the natural world while contributing to natural science. I am so grateful of this opportunity, and am looking forward to the nesting season ahead.

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Note to those concerned: I’ve checked with OSMP on what I should (and should not) post on this topic, and now and during the nesting season will limit my comments to those that do not convey more information than can be found on the OSMP website.