Welcome to the
Black Canyon Audubon Society

Black Canyon Audubon Society was formed in 1990 and is one of eleven National Audubon Society chapters in Colorado. We are committed to the conservation of natural resources through our birding, conservation and educational activities.

Chapter Goals

  • 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 the Gunnison Sage Grouse (GUSG) through through joint efforts with GUSG working groups and federal and state agencies.

Geographic Range

The region covered by the Black Canyon Audubon society consists of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray Counties. It encompasses nearly 8300 square miles, an area slightly larger than the state of New Jersey. Within this region, elevations vary from 4,695 to 14,309 feet above sea level. Rainfall ranges from less than eight inches per year in the lower valleys to more than fifty on the higher peaks. Vegetation varies from desert scrub to boreal forest and alpine tundra.


 Other Information of Interest

Hydraulic Fracturing and Surface Water Contamination

Jason Beason of the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies passed along a scientific study of Louisiana Waterthrush in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas that demonstrates surface water contamination is more prevalent than previously suspected in areas that have been subject to hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits for natural gas recovery.  Their findings include that "Widespread contamination of surface waters in areas where fracking occurs could be explained by migration of waters directly from the shale layers.  Fracking may allow the migration of contaminatnts through natural faults and fractures, or fracking might compromise supposedly impermeable layers of rock thousands of feet below aquifers through induced fractures and thus contaminate underground and above-ground water supplies....and that pressures exerted by the fracking can continue for up to a year, resulting in a high likelihood of chemicals reaching the surface in just a few years."  They continue that "geochemical evidence from the Marcellus Shale region also shows that pathways exist between deep underlying formations and shallower aquifers used for drinking water, leading to the conclusion that water resources are at risk of contamination.  In addition, case studies show that stray or fugitive gas from deep gas-rich formations has migrated from the subsurface into shallow aquifers where it has affected groundwater quality."  They go on to report that, "Evidence suggests, however, that leaks and spills associated with hydraulic fracturing activities may be much more frequent than reported.... In addition, reported violations may overlook inferior well-casings as a source of contamination, as recent research has implicated faulty cement and well-casings that allow the escape of methane and other contaminants to the environment."  Furthermore, they report, "The regulatory efforts and industry standards for hydraulic fracturing and the development of unconventional natural gas wells in the regions where  our study took place would apear to be inadequate for controlling contamination of surface waters with fracking byproducts."

The results of this study are thought provoking, as fracking is a common practice in our region and is likely to increase in areal extent in the future.  Although we do not have Louisiana Waterthrush in our area to serve as the canary in the coal mine, perhaps some comparable bird species could provide a case study of the same sort.  The wide regional scope of the research demonstrates that this problem may be endemic to shale deposits throughout the world, so should be of concern to us in western Colorado.  It certainly brings into question the recent rash of reassuring advertisements about the safety of fracking by the energy industry from supposed environmentally concerned insiders who would never do anything to degrade the place that they live.  This appears to be a very important article that shows how well-designed studies of birds can provide information about industry practices and human health.

You are encouraged to read the study for yourself, so it is available here:  Hydraulic Fracturing Article

Bird Deaths in Western Colorado and Bird Feeders - Updated

You may have heard recently on KVNF radio that Paonia residents have been finding numerous dead house finches.  It turns out the culprit is salmonella that is killing songbirds in the Paonia area. According to Brenda Miller of Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue in Olathe, salmonella carried in the bird’s feces/urine causes diarrhea, resulting in dehydration and death.  When birds congregate at feeders (not just house finches), their droppings get on or in the feeder and the ground, spreading the disease to other birds using the feeder or picking up spilled seed on the ground below.  

Colorado Parks and Wildlife advised KVNF listeners to wash their feeders with bleach at least once a week, then leave them to dry in the sun.  However, Brenda notes that as soon as a cleaned feeder is hung, infected birds show up in a matter of minutes, continuing the spread of the disease.  Instead, Brenda recommends that all birdfeeders should be taken down and not be put back up.  As hard as it is for those of us who love feeding birds and seeing them so closely, she recommends that we stop feeding birds forever, for the protection of the birds from disease.  She notes that birds in the wild do not naturally congregate in the same place to feed day after day, therefore, minimizing the spread of disease.


Finch Mortalities and Feeders

By Geoff Tischbein

With the recent outbreak of salmonella among house finches in the Paonia area, there has been concern about feeding birds. Without minimizing the unfortunate nature of this, it is not cause to stop feeding birds if done properly. Since our intent is to help the birds, the Hippocratic oath for doctors is most appropriate: first do no harm.

Any species of animal, from rats to humans, are more prone to disease when concentrated, which is what feeding does. So if it is possible, try to have several feeders spaced out in different areas in your yard. Also, having some feeders at ground level while others hanging will accommodate a greater variety of species. To prevent collisions with windows try to place the feeders at least three feet away from this potential hazard. Decals are available that can be put up on the windows which alert birds to this problem. Hanging mobiles in front of windows also helps.

Here are three steps to prevent your feeders from becoming a potential source of disease:

  1. Clean the feeders at least monthly with soapy water then dunk into a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. If you suspect there might be a disease present, wash the feeders every two weeks.
  2. Keep the area below the feeder clean of feces and the hulls from the seeds, especially if wet, spoiled or moldy. A regular raking should take care of this. Scraping off a few layers of snow in the winter is also important.
  3. As stated previously, spread your feeders out so there is less opportunity for sick birds to contaminate each other.

While numerous commercial mixes are available, a good mix for the birds around this area is cracked corn, white millet, and black oil sunflower seeds. These can be found at seed stores such as the farmers coops and Murdoch's. Mix two parts of the corn and sunflower seeds to one part millet. Suet and peanut butter (mix one part peanut butter to five parts corn meal to stuff in pine cones) in the winter provides much-need energy.

If you've started feeding the birds during the winter, don't suddenly stop (such as taking a winter vacation) as they have come to depend upon this source of energy and nutrition and do not have other sources of food available as they do in the summer.

Over one hundred species of birds in North America are known to come to feeders providing thousands of hours of enjoyment to those of us who love birds. We can continue to enjoy their presence while not contributing to their deaths if we take these simple, but necessary precautions.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoos

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo as an endangered species.  Three units of habitat in the BCAS area are under consideration: the North Fork of the Gunnison River in Delta County, the Gunnison River in Gunnison County, and the Uncompahgre River in Delta, Montrose, and Ouray counties.  Click on the links below to see maps of these units.  The critical habitats all appear to be the floodplains of these rivers that are well covered with trees.

North Fork of the Gunnison Map     Uncompahgre River Map     Gunnison River Map

This is copied directly from the USFWS information page about the potential listing:

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

On October 3, 2013, the Service proposed to list the western DPS of the yellow-billed cuckoo as a threatened species under the ESA in the western United States, Canada and Mexico. The listing proposal, which is based on the best scientific data available, cites threats from loss of riparian habitat and habitat fragmentation as a result of conversion of land to agriculture, dams and river flow management, bank protection, overgrazing and competition from exotic plants as key factors in the decline of the western yellow-billed cuckoo.

The Service is seeking information concerning the western yellow-billed cuckoo’s biology and habitat, threats to the species and current efforts to protect the bird. The Service also seeks information on the incremental economic effects of the proposed critical habitat designation.

Comments on the proposed critical habitat rule will be accepted through October 14, 2014. Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposed rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013-0011. Comments can also be sent by U.S. Mail or Hand Delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–ES–R8–2013–0011; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.




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