If you are a “bird nerd,” you will enjoy listening to this podcast. The first in the series aired February 13, 2021. The free livestream connects bluegrass musicians and Arvind Panjabi for an “all bird concert.” Arvind is an Avian Conservation Scientist and works at the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. He also brought his mandolin, and he joined High Lonesome, a Colorado bluegrass band, in playing bird-themed songs throughout the livestream. His wife Susan Panjabi also joined in to play some songs. Random questions were asked on a variety of bird topics, from both the band members and the audience (via Chat). Podcast co-host and High Lonesome band member Chuck Sitero is a professed “bird nerd.” He lives in Longmont and that is home base for High Lonesome. They were joined by Tyler Rennix, podcast co-host and band member, with his guitar. Half the show was about interesting bird facts.
The first song they played was “Redwing” – an old tune… very popular, and traditional in NorthWest America and Canada.
“It’s a thrush that lives in Asia. Related to our robin,” said Arvind. “But I always think of the red wing blackbird. A rousing tune. In the old days in Appalachia, people played songs on their porches, and no one knows who wrote them.”
Other songs played were: “The Cuckoo,” “Little Pine Siskin,” “Grey Owl,” “Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Winter’s Come & Gone,” “Big Black Bird,” “Little Bird of Heaven,” and “Great Basin.” Lyons local musician KC Groves commented that “Little Pine Siskin” was written by my friend John Reischman who lives in Vancouver
“We live next to a nature preserve, and we bought some bird feed, and put a feeder on the back porch,” said Chuck. “No birds came for two weeks; and then, next thing you know, masses came.” Arvind explained that the birds see other birds, and a concentration happens. Also, bad snow storms or cold weather make them come to human feeders. He warned people to keep your feeder close to the window (three feet) or 20 feet away. They think the glass window is an escape route and fly into them. “I noticed that the cardinals like to eat the seed that falls on the ground,” added Chuck.
Arvind offered both general information about birds, and specific information about birds, either ones connected to the song they were about to sing, or ones that were brought up in the Q&A period. He is often asked if there are millions of kinds of birds; but the answer is that there are about 10,000 in the world, and in the US we have about 700. A lot are rare and restricted to some places, but some are almost everywhere, like the robin.
Raptors were a popular subject, from peregrines to eagles. Arvind said that the bald eagle is doing well now. One main reason was taking the DDT out of the environment. In Colorado, they feed on fish but also a lot of prairie dogs. “We have breeding ones, but we have ones that come down from the Canada interior, and we are seeing a lot this winter,” said Arvind. As far as Peregrine falcons, he pointed out that they are now living in many cities.
What’s the rarest Colorado bird? Arvind and Chuck did a lot of back and forth on the Grouse in Colorado. First, Arvind said that some birds are rare because they don’t belong here, but some are native – two are found here and nowhere else in the world: the Brown-capped Rosy Finch (medium size, and endangered) and the Gunnison Sage-Grouse (threatened; between the size of the greater sage-grouse and turkey). The population has dwindled by about 95 percent. Only 2,500 are left in the world, due to loss of habitat and climate change. They can be found in Gunnison, where they can find sagebrush in abundance. It has an incredibly beautiful mating dance. They noted the similarities between the birds dances and the Native American dances.
Non-native Russian Olive trees are hated by many conservationists as invasive, but many birds love them. They are often along our rivers (such as Gunnison area) and are now experiencing endangered Cuckoo birds nesting in them, and others.
The two discussed how birds survive the winter and more. They have incredible feathers; they craft air inside; they puff themselves up. They have counter-current circulation; that’s why their legs can stick out in the winter; there’s hardly any blood in the legs. The birds cache food everywhere during the warm months. The Parks Nutcracker has developed a pouch under its tongue so they don’t have to collect just a couple seeds at a time. Some birds disperse the seeds and plant them, and sometimes don’t come back to eat them, and it’s an important part of new tree growth.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was the largest in the US, but based on reports, it no longer exists, due to loss of habitat. Don’t worry about local woodpeckers pecking at your house. Not all are destructive. If you hear fast rapid pecking, it just a signal to other birds. If you hear single, irregular pecking, then they are looking for bugs in your wall.
During the pandemic year, a lot more people are walking outdoors and watching for birds. That’s a good thing. They become more aware of habitat. In Colorado there are 14 different species, which has a lot to do with the many different environments here (mountains, sand, arid, etc).
This is probably only half of what was discussed during the session. You will get quite an education. They will be interviewing other bird experts and scientists, and they promise to be more organized or focused with the bird topics discussed. To view this podcast, or future podcasts, go to the High Lonesome Facebook page “events” tab. @HighLonesomeLongmontColoradoBluegrass · Band https://www.facebook.com/HighLonesomeLongmontColoradoBluegrass
The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies was first founded in 1988 as Colorado Bird Observatory and later changed to Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. Its goal was to address bird conservation needs in the Western United States. Its headquarters are located in Barr Lake State Park, just east of Brighton, Colorado.