by Sue Hirshman
with Kent Nelson
Living on the tundra makes them
Optimistic little creatures
Living the gospel of,
“Come storm or sunshine all is well”
--From Birds of America—
December of 2018 brought in snow and a good amount of precipitation that was needed for the
area of Ouray County. It also brought in the Rosy Finches in large numbers looking for food. They are fond of black-oil sunflower and nyjer seed (known as thistle seed).
A friend of mine that lives at Elk Meadows in Ridgway has a lot of Rosies, up to 300 at a time. She notified Colorado Parks and Wildlife, as they were wanting to band the species. They had been banding in Gunnison, Telluride and Hastings Mesa. They came to my friend’s house and set up a banding station that took place from Dec. 19 through Dec. 22 and were successful with the capture of 90 Brown-capped and three Gray-crowneds all showing their purple band on the left leg.
The colored bands make it possible for researchers to tell individual birds apart by sight without having to recapture them. Besides the banding of the leg, the researchers record the species sex, age, weight and condition of the bird. This information contributes greatly to the study of the bird’s habits that can lead to a greater understanding of their needs and even the survival of the species.
I have read that banding of birds goes back a long way in history to the 1800s. The famous naturalist and artist John James Audubon wondered if birds returned to their place of birth. He is probably the first person that came up with the idea of banding a bird.
As a young man living on his farm at Mill Grove, Pennsylvania Audubon befriended a family of Phoebes. He called them Pewees. It is noted in some of his writings that at first, he attached light threads to the legs of the young that their parents invariably removed with their bills. Later, when the young were about to leave the nest, he fixed a light silver thread to the leg of each, loose enough not to hurt the part, yet so fastened that the bird could not remove it.
The next year, in June of 1806, Audubon discovered...