by John Shenot
Although the vast majority of our members live in Fort Collins and Loveland, FCAS serves members in quite a few smaller communities in northern Colorado. One such example is the town of Berthoud. We have recently embarked on a new collaboration with the town?s Parks and Recreation Department to refresh and im-prove the 11-acre Hillsdale Park. When the park was first created in 2006, FCAS provided a “Birds of Hillsdale Park” checklist. But earlier this year we learned that there were no longer any checklists at the park, and no information about birds or birding. So this summer we cre-ated new checklists, and with permission from the town we will place the new checklists and some educational information about identifying common birds at a kiosk in the park. Knowing that town resources are stretched thin, we?ve even reached out to a Boy Scout troop to see if it might be possible for volunteer scouts to spruce up the kiosk and the trails in the park. Hopeful-ly our members in Berthoud will see signs of improvement this fall, and even more residents of Berthoud might take an interest in birds. If you live in one of the smaller communities served by FCAS and you know of a similar op-portunity, please let us know!/p>
By LIbby Edwards
IAs a long time birder who has lived in Fort Collins as well as overseas, I look for opportunities to widen my birding horizons. Cuba is a country that has always intrigued me and it has 30 endemic species of birds. In December, 2015, The Caribbean Conservation Trust helped me and a group travel to Cuba to take part in an ongoing bird survey. The Trust has taken groups legally into Cuba since the 1990s.We flew to Havana with a humanitarian visa for a 12-day stay, free to travel to natural areas used in bird counts of previous years.
As soon as we stepped out of the airport, members of our group began to count birds, including the Cu-ban crows. Before leaving Havana, we visited the home of Cuba's famous naturalist and ornithologist, Orlando Garrido. With field guides in hand, signed by the author, we set off for one of the wildest UNESCO biospheres, Guanahahcabibes National Park, on the furthest western tip of Cuba.
From then on we began searching and tallying, from before sunrise to after sunset, more than 160 species of birds, including almost all of the 30 endemic species. The roads we traveled had some of the most interesting sights: old cars, horse carts, horses and riders, goats, bikers, walkers, locals selling garlic and chickens, and plenty of birds were countable. As we drove the two-lane roads, swirls of Turkey Vultures caught the thermals. Shrines and references to national heroes were as com-mon as the Cattle Egrets.
Moving from place to place, we kept track of the birds, meeting every evening to compare notes and tally what we saw. We began to realize that Cuba is rich in biodiversity. The number of endemic plant and animal species is said to be as high as 40%; there are over 350 recorded bird species. In Guanahahcabibes, we saw the Bee Hummingbird, but the showiest birds were a flock of Spindalis, a colorful stripped-headed tanager. Bright migrant warblers were everywhere, but also the pretty Cuban Tody and the magnificent Cuban Trogan in vermillion, violet blue, and iridescent green. My favorite bird was the Great Lizard Cuckoo. We also counted Cuban Grassquits, Yellow-faced Grassquits, and Pygmy Owls.
In the Sierra de los Organos, we found the Cuban Soli-taire, known as Cuba's best singer, and the Giant Kingbird. In Cienaga de Zapata National Park, we found the Bare-legged Owl, Fernandina's flicker, the rare Zapata Wren, and the pretty Zapata Sparrow. In other areas we saw the Cuban Gnatcatcher, the Oriente Warbler, and the Thick-billed Vireo. It is satisfying that the bird data is shared with American and Cuban conservationists cooperatively as part of an ongoing census of migratory and endemic birds.
Cuba is certainly a country that is haunting in so many ways. It will stir the emotions even after leaving this beautiful island that has such remarkable flora and fauna.