Welcome to the Black Canyon Audubon Society
Black Canyon Audubon Society was formed in 1990 and is one of 11 National Audubon Society chapters in Colorado. The BCAS is committed to the conservation of natural resources through our birding, conservation, and educational activities. The region covered by the Black Canyon Audubon society encompasses nearly 8,300 square miles and includes Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray counties. Within this region, elevations vary from 4,695 to 14,309 feet above sea level. Rainfall ranges from less than 8 inches per year in the lower valleys to more than 50 on the higher peaks. Vegetation varies from desert scrub to boreal forest and alpine tundra.
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2024 Dues for the Black Canyon Audubon Society are now due
BCAS membership runs on an annual basis beginning on January 1 of each year. Please renew your membership by going to the Join BCAS Page on this website and using one of the two payment option buttons there. Your dues are very important in making it possible for us to have monthly speakers, keep our educational programs running, and to facilitate our local projects. We appreciate your being a BCAS member!
BCAS Annual Dinner
Thursday, June 6, 6:00 p.m. Save the date for the BCAS Annual Dinner. This will be held at The Grove Restaurant in Delta. More information will be forthcoming regarding details and how to sign up. The speaker will be Ben Godfarb, an author from Salida.
To Ecuador - Quito and the Galapagos
by Caroline W. Evans
What strikes me first about Ecuador is how genuinely happy the people are to welcome us into their country. The four of us (Susan Chandler-Reed and Alan Reed and Joe and Caroline Evans) are treated gently as honored guests and never feel we’re merely being tolerated. Secondly I am astounded by the physical diversity of Ecuador - snow-covered volcanoes, deep valleys, cloud forests, the Amazon rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands.
We consider skipping our November trip to Ecuador as it is on the State Department’s Travel Advisory Level 2 Yellow list stating, “Exercise Increased Caution” due to violence, political unrest, and the recent assassination of a presidential candidate who advocated cracking down on cocaine traffic and drug cartels. The strongest Travel Advisory is Level 4 Red meaning stay the heck out of there. We decide to go. It’s reasonably easy to get to Ecuador - we fly Montrose to Denver, connect to Houston, wait, and wait some more, then catch a 5 1/2-hour flight from Houston to Quito. We arrive shortly before midnight, 11 PM Montrose time.
Ecuador is about the size of Colorado, and like here it’s divided by a mountain range - the Andes. Quito, the capital city, is nearly 2 miles high at 2850 meters (9350 ft) and is in a valley surrounded by the Illinza Peaks, both over 5,000 meters, more than 17,000 ft.
Ecuadorians are set up for American tourists. Quito could use Montrose’s motto - “Stay here, play everywhere,” and like us, they appreciate the dollars tourists bring in. In fact their currency is pegged to the US dollar. Drivers and guides speak pretty good English and stay in business by avoiding dangerous locations. They welcome “guests” cheerfully and express pride in their country by frequently beginning sentences with, “In my country we … -have some of the highest peaks in the Andes including Mount Chimborazo which is 6,263 m (20,548 ft), -export the most roses of any country in the Southern Hemisphere, -honor the Virgen de El Panecillo, the tallest winged Virgin Mary in the world who guards Quito.
Think Quito, Ecuador, think Equator. We enjoy desayuno (breakfast) in the Southern Hemisphere and almuerzo (lunch) in the Northern Hemisphere. Our first stop is the Equator Museum where we do water flushing experiments. Just for fun, take a look at the direction your water spins down your own toilet; it’s the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, and spins not at all on the Equator.
Our guide takes us to Old Town, where we dance to the music of local musicians, and are lured into a chocolate shop to taste and buy local brands. Now fortified, we search for favorite gargoyles hunched atop the Gothic Basilica de Voto Nacional. We find an Andes Condor, iguanas, Blue-footed Boobies, dolphins, and Galápagos Giant Tortoises - animals we count on seeing during our travels.
From Quito we fly 1,312 km (815 miles) to the Galapagos. On approach, I imagine thirteen black basaltic volcanic islands under clear skies surrounded by deep blue ocean. It’s a scene from Master and Commander. I am not disappointed. Once landed we board a ship for a 7-day cruise of the southernmost and oldest islands of the archipelago. The Galapagos Island are a protected treasure. Only four of the islands have established settlements; 97% of the Galapagos are protected National Park lands. Licensed guides enforce limited numbers of tourists on protected islands each day, and keep people from wandering off trails where misplaced feet stumble over a nest, displace chicks, or interfere with an animal’s search for food. Among the endemic birds there are 17 species of drab, mostly black, brown, or grey Darwin Finches identified with some difficulty by body and beak size and shape. Some names describe what the birds eat such as Vampire Finches (yes, they do drink the blood of Redfooted Boobies), or where they live, such as Tree, Cactus, and Ground Finches, or what they look like such as the tiny Warbler Finch. And there is the Woodpecker Finch that uses twigs or cactus spines to dig insects and larva out of trees.
On most islands we identify sooty colored Lava Gulls, and in a tangled mangrove bay we see Lava (Striated) Herons preening on rocks, and watch diminutive Galapagos Penguins socialize at their nests, and cavort and hunt fish in the water. We also see the only Flightless Cormorants in the world who display short wings that are more like paddles for swimming than for flying. Although not unique to the Galapagos, Blue-footed, and Nazca Boobies do not fit the ridiculous images invoked by their names. These sword-billed birds plunge from a height 15 to 24 meters (50-80 ft) and slice 4.5-20 meters (15-65 ft) into the sea to snap up fish.
Guides keep us occupied throughout our ocean voyage as we sail and drop anchor among these volcanic islands. Daily activities include zodiac sight-seeing tours, kayaking, beach walking, trail hiking, and deep water or off-shore snorkeling. The water is clear when not turbulent and colder than we expected, but the chilly ocean currents carry plenty of oxygen to support plankton (the soup of the sea) for fish, Galapagos Sea lions, porpoises and whales.
We are not concerned when the captain announces, “We have a change in plan. We’ll anchor to the north of St. Cristobal Island tonight as wind and waves from the south make sleeping uncomfortable.” After a gentle night’s sleep on the quiet northern side of San Cristobal, we walk to Tortuga Bay on the southern side of the island with the intent of returning via local water taxi back to the north.
Tortuga Bay is a black lava cove that shelters a sparkling white sand beach. Today waves throttle the shore, little shorebirds called sanderlings rush back and forth between surges seeking tiny crustaceans brought in from the sea. Marine Iguanas surf between waves and mouthfuls of seaweed. We march along the beach until we reach a calm lagoon. This is a hangout for local families and friends who gather to picnic on this Saints Day holiday. A water taxi waits aside the jetty. It’s a partially enclosed boat called a panga, and now it is riding high in the water. “Follow me and we’ll have a look at Galapagos Sea lions,” says our guide. “Shouldn’t we board now?” I wonder. “Not to worry, our seats are reserved.”
We return a few minutes later. The boat full and is now riding low in the water. We cross a narrow plank to board, and a crew member hands us life jackets of variable sizes, with missing straps and broken zippers. I squeeze between a child and auntie in a partially covered cabin. The rest of our group scrunch together in the stern. It begins to rain. It rains harder. We push off and cruise out of the lagoon into open sea. Wooosh! As our boat rises up broadside to a 10 foot wave, the locals scream in unison like on a rollercoaster. Then all gasp, as we plummet down the steep back side of the wave and pound at the bottom; another whoosh, rise, screams, and pound. Repeat. I fiddle with a broken zipper and look at the gnarly basalt shore and plan what to do if we are tossed. Woosh, screams, and pound! On the rise of the next wave, the child beside me bolts across the small cabin into her grandmother’s arms. I eye my husband who doesn’t get alarmed by much. His cheeks are a bit green and he is unsuccessful in connecting straps so his life jacket doesn’t blow off! Our group is silent. We learn something more about Ecuadorians - we might enjoy the water taxi more if we scream along with them. As it is, thirty minutes later, we return to port merely wet. Time for another adventure.
Our days in the Galapagos pass by quickly. Not enough time for me. There are six more Galapagos Islands to explore and Galapagos Owls, Fur seals, sharks, and more finches to see. Ten days in Ecuador is not long enough to appreciate this extraordinary country. Too soon we return to the mainland for the next leg of our trip to learn more about Ecuadorian culture and to search for birds in the Cloud Forest and the Amazon.
Help BCAS Obtain a MOTUS Station
Want to join us in helping to increase knowledge about where migratory birds go? Black Canyon Audubon Society is leading the way to establish a MOTUS tower in the Montrose area. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative network of researchers that use automated radio telemetry to simultaneously track hundreds of individuals of numerous species of birds, bats, and insects. The system enables a community of researchers, educators, organizations, and citizens to undertake impactful research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Researchers can now place tiny tracking units on birds, bats, and even insects. Researchers are increasingly adding trackers to flying animals and insects, so the sceintific information expected to result will grow in importance. Signals from these can be picked up by MOTUS towers as they pass by, providing important insight into bird, bat, and insect migratory movements. As more MOTUS towers are added to the system, the more information can be gathered. The nearest MOTUS towers are currently in Grand Junction, and a Montrose tower could add important data for use by scientists regionally and throughout the world.
Getting a tower set up in the Montrose area will be rather expensive, so BCAS has created a Go Fund Me account to raise money. Here is the link: https://gofund.me/3a9eb83c
**If you are vaccinated and feel comfortable traveling with others that are vaccinated, carpooling can take place.
If you are not vaccinated, you should drive yourself and wear a mask when around others.**
**See the Field Trips page for participation guidelines**
First Tuesday Field Trips
Grand Junction Hot Spots
Eckert Crane Days
Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24. The 24th Annual Eckert Crane Days Festival is set to take place the weekend of March 23 and 24 at Fruitgrower’s Reservoir in Hart’s Basin. This is just east of Eckert on North Rd. This year’s sponsors include Western State Ranches, LLC (WSR). Members of BCAS will be onsite with spotting scopes and extra binoculars for viewing the roosting sandhill cranes, as well as other birds and waterfowl. Viewing begins each day at 9:00 AM for a late morning lift-off and again at dusk as more cranes come in to roost. WSR will host a free community BBQ at the ranch just north of the causeway in Hart’s Basin at noon on Saturday, March 23. The community is invited to attend free of charge and join in the festivities. Plan to stop by the BCAS table and find out what we are doing to support the local and migrating bird populations. Find out how homeowners can create an environment that attracts and supports bird species in the local area. This is a family event, so if you have school-aged children who would like to learn more about Sandhill Cranes, make sure to ask for a youth packet.
West End of Montrose County Field Trip
Wednesday and Thursday, May 8 and 9. Black Canyon Audubon will sponsor a mullti-day field trip to Paradox Valley, near Nucla, and other West End venues for a spring birding adventure. The opportunity to see over 70 species is very high. Expect several short walks to access bird habitat. The Paradox Valley and West End areas have a great mix of habitats ranging from desert scrub to classic alpine to riparian, allowing for a rich mix of birds during the spring migration. Expect to see a variety of waterfowl, black-throated sparrow, vireos, yellow-breasted chat, Grace’s warbler, black phoebe, and a host of migrants.
The group will meet at the Vestal House in Naturita Colo. at 9:00 AM on May 8. Day 1 will wrap up near Naturita, so participants can access either hotel accommodations or camp for the night. The Uravan Ball Park campground is open. It is 13 miles from Naturita along Highway 141 and the Vestal House in Naturita has nice rooms at reasonable prices.
There will be a potluck dinner the evening of May 8 at the hotel. The field trip is limited to 12 participants.
Birding the Colorado River
Friday-Sunday, May 17 to 19. Not a BCAS Fieldtrip, but we are promoting the trip. The Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) will again organize a fully supported raft trip focused on birding the Ruby/Horsethief section of the Colorado River. Visit CCA’s website for more information.
Escalante State Wildlife Area
100 Bird Challenge
Saturday, June 1. BCAS is throwing down the gauntlet by challenging interested members in spotting 100 bird species in a single day. The rules are simple. Go look for as many species as possible from dawn til dusk on June 1. Several of our members have done this in past years with good success. Members are encouraged to form teams of 3-4 people, then plan out a route. The team that spots the most species will receive the eternal admiration of all BCAS members. Will a Red-tailed Hawk be seen that day?
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Tagging Sandhill Cranes
Thursday, March 14, 2024, 7:00 pm, Montrose Field House. Evan Phillips, our friend and wildlife biologist based out of the Montrose Colorado Parks and Wildlife office, will share details about a recent partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Serviced to tag Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Delta area and track their movements thereafter. The goal is to learn how and why the populations of sandhills have been increasing on the Western Slope. This will be great information for our members to have and share with the public while we represent BCAS at the Eckert Crane Days event the following weekend. This event repeats on Friday March 22, 6:00 PM, at Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center in Cedaredge.
Improving Populations of Cavity Nesting Birds
Thursday, April 11, 7:00 p.m., Montrose Field House. Kevin Corwin, chairman of the Colorado Bluebird Project will be speaking about the group’s efforts to improve the populations of bluebirds and other cavity-nesting species like swallows, wrens, and chickadees. Kevin’s presentation will include a 15-minute video that spans the entire nesting process for one new bluebird family. He will also share up-to-date information on bluebird vitality in our state, which will be especially exciting because several of our BCAS members actively contribute data throughout the summer regarding the bluebird boxes we monitor at Ridgway State Park.
Survival of Desert Bighorn Sheep
Thursday, May 9, 7:00 p.m., Montrose Field House. Our guest speaker will be Joel Berger, Colorado State University professor and wildlife conservationist. Joel has nearly 50 years’ experience studying endangered mammal species in some of the most extreme environments on earth. Coming to us fresh from his field season with desert bighorn, he will make a case for why we should care about their survival in particular.
Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue
Brenda Miller is in need of lumber - scrap or new - posts, plywood, rails, boards - for construction of rehabilitation cages.
This is a very worthy cause, as Brenda has been the only wildlife rehabilitator in the Montrose/Delta area and is trying to reestablish her service and maintain her license.
Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue is a 501c3 charitable organization. If you do not have lumber for her, perhaps you would consider donating to her cause.
Brenda Miller, Executive Director
Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue, 501c3
15498 Transfer Rd., Olathe, CO. 81425
Click here for her Facebook page
- To promote the conservation of natural resources through informative public programs, our newsletter and this web site.
- To provide the opportunity for the observation and study of birds and other wildlife, through our field trips.
- To offer early education programs including bird banding stations and classroom bird skin programs.
- To empower our members and the public with the knowledge to be effective environmental advocates.
- To contribute to the recovery of the Gunnison Sage Grouse (GUSG) through joint efforts with GUSG working groups and federal and state agencies.
Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk near Solar Road south of Montrose. Photo taken by Robin Lewis on March 26, 2019.