Meet Santi, a 16 year-old amateur birder who attends Kent Denver School, volunteers with the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, and is launching a Young Birders Club there. The Land Preserve recently recently had the chance to speak with him firsthand about his experiences – as well as what makes the Village the perfect place to spark your own birding interests!
Q: So Santi, how did you get into birding?
A: When I was a kid, my family started joining Denver Audubon’s monthly walks around wetlands, meadows, forests, all along the Denver area. I attended a Young Birder summer camp through them – and I was hooked.
Q: What is your favorite part about birding?
A: #1 The people: Always fun and great people, easy to bond over our shared interest in birds. Birding connects people – and it’s fun to be outside with family and friends. #2 The birds: I love watching them and their behaviors. I am now learning more birdsongs because it’s easier to find them by sound than with my eyes. #3 The nature: I enjoy being out in nature. I start watching and listening more closely, sometimes getting to see a new species.
Q: What is a favorite species?
A: The American Dipper. It’s native to Colorado, close to the mountains. They like diving into streams and creeks to eat bugs and insects, and you can actually see them underwater. They make a weird sound – like a combination of a warbler, wren, and blackbird.
Q: Do you like to keep lists of the bird species you see?
A: Sometimes. Have you heard of the movie “The Big Year?” I am trying to have a “big year” with the Audubon Society and see more species than ever this year. One day this spring, I had a great day in Cherry Creek State Park and saw more than 80 different species. This was probably a “fall out”, where lots of migrating birds come down to the ground right before or during a storm to rest and refuel before continuing their journeys.
Q: Any recommendations for beginning birders in Cherry Hills Village?
A: Early morning is good time to go looking, and there is a LOT of bird noise and activity. I often ride my bike and stop near ponds and creeks to listen and watch. Some of my favorite birds in the CHV neighborhoods include:
- Red Tail Hawk, in the raptor family – See them circling overhead, on fenceposts and tops of trees. They have a distinctive reddish tail and white and brown pattern on the underside of their wings.
- Black-Capped Chickadee – They have a pleasant and easily identifiable song.
- Black-Billed Magpies – A western species, and this is as far east as you’ll see them. People come from the east coast to see their striking black-and-white coloring, long tail feathers, and bright black eyes. They are in the same family as crows and quite intelligent.
- Great horned owls – A large owl species all over Denver. In late May, the owlets are fledging, getting their flight feathers and practicing flight by hopping between tree branches. The parents mate for life and return to the same territory each spring. The owlets often stay nearby for their first summer of independence before they head out for their own territory. Listen for their calls at dusk. They sound like mourning doves with deeper voices.
Q: Would you recommend any resources for birders?
A: My favorite Google resource is AllAboutBirds.org (from Cornell), and there are several cool free apps to use:
- Merlin Bird ID
- eBird – letting you see migration patterns over time, which is pretty cool.
- iNaturalist – which lets birders report what they are seeing and help track trends over time.