Book Review: Mountain Birds of Colorado

cover of Mountain Birds of Colorado book

Mountain Birds of Colorado: A Layman’s Guide to Birdwatching in Colorado’s Mountain Areas
Sylvia Booth Brockner

For 45 years, Sylvia Brockner wrote a weekly column for the Canyon Courier, describing the wildlife, birds, plants, and natural environment around Evergreen, Colorado and the Bear Creek Watershed. Her columns were  highly anticipated each week by local residents. Through those columns, we learned about the flowers blooming in the woods and meadows, as well as in our backyards. We discovered what birds were visiting our feeders and which ones were likely to stay around to raise their young. And, we learned of the personal experiences of Sylvia and Bill Brockner, who were instrumental in founding in 1968 the Evergreen Naturalists, Inc., which became the Evergreen Naturalists Audubon Society (TENAS), and is now Evergreen Audubon.

In July 2017, Sylvia Brockner has published Mountain Birds of Colorado, a compilation of 50 of her articles from the Canyon Courier, with assistance from Evergreen Audubon members. If you are a local birdwatcher, a budding birdwatcher, or just someone who would really like to know the names and identities of your feeder birds, you will find a wealth of information in this collection.

The collection is divided into the four seasons, beginning with winter.

Winter
The 15 winter residents that Sylvia focuses on include the ever-present Dark-eyed Juncos. “The little gray bird with white outer tail feathers and a rust patch on his back” is a year-long visitor to Evergreen. But in winter, Sylvia informs us that we may see all five subspecies that occur in North America: the Oregon, Pink-sided, White-winged, and Slate-colored in addition to the Grey-headed.

Spring
In spring, you learn about 13 birds that migrate into the mountains, often after journeys of thousands of miles. Read about our Mountain and Western Bluebirds, birds that nest in the boxes are set up at Elk Meadow and at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park. Sylvia even includes the directions for making your own bluebird house. She notes that the Broad-tailed Hummingbird is the first of the “hummers” to arrive in the spring, the “only one to nest with great regularity around Evergreen.” Sylvia tells us about friends who find a nest 40 feet above the ground in a Douglas-fir and another friend with a nest just 30 inches above ground.

Summer
Summer brings you 10 more regular visitors and nesters. You meet the small flycatchers, including the Cordilleran Flycatchers that build their nests “in a hollow or hole in a cutbank,” or “on rocky ledges and on tree limbs and logs.” They also like “newly excavated cellars, on beams in partially built houses, on narrow ledges over banging screen doors,” and more. They nest in “just about any place you can imagine.” If you hear a “pseet” out your window, you probably have a Cordilleran Flycatcher nearby. You might also see or hear the Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatchers, Willow Flycatcher, and Alder Flycatcher. You can find each of these flycatchers at various elevations in our mountain area.

Fall
In the fourth section, you discover the “fantastic movement of birds through our area” during fall migration. Sylvia tells of a trip down Kerr Gulch, Bergen Park, and the Hiwan ponds, where she and Bill observed an amazing 53 different species.

The final article in the book highlights the American Dipper, the mascot of Evergreen Audubon and a year-round resident of the Bear Creek Watershed. If you haven’t seen a dipper, Sylvia recommends walking Bear Creek from the Episcopal Church to the foot of the dam. “I can almost guarantee you will see at least one and perhaps two ….”

You can get your copy of Mountain Birds of Colorado at the Evergreen Nature Center on Evergreen Lake and at Chow Down and Hearthfire Books in the Bergen Park shopping center. The cost is $15 with a 10% discount for members of Evergreen Audubon (at the Nature Center only). You’ll discover the amazing wealth of avian wildlife we are blessed with in Evergreen and learn from the remarkable personal stories that grace the book.

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Author: JoAnn Hackos

As a long-time birder, I’m interested in the health of birds and birding in the Evergreen community. I’m concerned about the affect of climate change on bird migration and the problems with declining bird numbers.

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