| Madeline Bachner

Wings and Wilds and Wind!

Logan School 3rd graders had quite an adventure with the Cottonwood Institute last month.  On May 9th a group of 18 eager students, 3 remarkable teachers and 2 able bodied Cottonwood Institute instructors embarked on an epic road trip.  It took them throughout the wilds in and around Denver and up to the windy prairie of Pawnee National Grasslands, learning about the local and exotic visiting winged friends the entire way.

They started with an excellent program on bird migration with the Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park.  Here they learned the amazing distances some birds travel and the obstacles they face migrating from the South American rainforests through the U.S. and on to Canada.  Next up was an amazing experience visiting the Wild Bird Rehab center in Denver where the group helped out by building disposable birds nests out of toilet paper for new hatchlings being raised at the center.  To end their day, they traveled north to the Pawnee National Grasslands to set up base camp and enjoy a beautiful evening on the prairie.

The second day the group saw many species of birds as they walked, played and drove through the grasslands.  Kingbirds were a constant companion, along with Mourning Doves and the sounds of Killdeer.  Flocks of the Colorado state bird, the Lark Bunting, greeted them on the drive and many Red-tailed and Swainson’s hawks were spotted along the way.  In addition to birds, there were several encounters with snakes: a Western Racer was caught and examined as it zipped through camp, a huge Gopher snake wandered through a sit-spot later in the day and a beautiful corn snake was part of the evening presentation.  Nature’s Educators brought several animals to present on bird evolution and identification.  The Harris’ Hawk and Screech Owl were group favorites.

As the evening program ended the wind began and a front blew out onto the prairie with gusts over 40 mph!  It was a harrowing evening for some; facing the power of the wind.  Only one tent was damaged in the wind storm and there was an impromptu slumber party in the campground lean-to!  Everyone got some sleep and the next day took the group through Boulder for a rainy hike with a local bird expert from Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks.  There they saw power-diving Hummingbirds and singing Towhee in the wet, green, landscape. From Boulder the group headed home to Denver to enjoy a new found comfort in their warm windproof homes and will continue spotting the amazing jungle birds that fly through our region in the spring.

Many thanks to all of the inspiring and educational partners on this trip!


Categories: Notes From The Field

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