As spring gently arrives in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, the sweet sounds of birds chirping throughout the day return the mountains. Grab your binoculars and head out to these birding hot spots suggested by our guest blogger, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy:

There is a glimpse of color in the air with a sweet melody, which means that birds are back from their migration so now is a great time to go bird watching. There are 282 bird species identified in Rocky Mountain National Park, 150 migrate between the park and the Agua y Paz Biosphere in Costa Rica. Both areas have been designated by the Audubon Society as Global Important Bird Areas.

With the help of Jeff Maugans, one of the bird instructors for the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, formerly known as the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, we have created your summer birding checklist:

  1. Lake Estes - Walk around the lake and look for migratory birds like the warbler in this picture. Also look for geese in the golf course, ducks, shorebirds and waterfowl out on the water 
   
2. Upper Beaver Meadows- Stroll along the trails and see if you can find the red crossbill in this photo. See what types of nuthatches, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, hawks, swallows, sparrows, and warblers you can find. For more of a challenge look for the mountain chickadee, northern flicker, steller's jay, mountain and western bluebird, green-tailed towhee, warbling vireo, and cassin's finch.
   3. Cub Lake Trail- Hike along the trail listening for the buzz of wings and a glimpse of the broad-tailed hummingbird in this photo that was taken from the Hummingbird: Field Research class. Look in the bushes for the dusky grouse, then on the lakes for mallard, ring-necked duck, and in the air for black-billed magpie, and American dipper. Then for more of a challenge look for the belted kingfisher, red-naped sapsucker, hairy woodpecker, ruby-crowned kinglet, brown-headed cowbird, and dusky flycatcher.
   4. Trail Ridge Road - Drive along Trail Ridge Road making sure to stop and get out binoculars at Rainbow Curve, Lava Cliffs, Forest Canyon Overlook, Medicine Bow Curve, and Milner Pass. Look for the white-tailed ptarmigan in the picture to see if it has changed its color back to brown from white. This photo was taken by Phyllis Holst a Conservancy member. Look to the air for golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, prairie falcon, American pipit, horned lark, brown-capped rosy-finch, white-crowned sparrow, and clark's nutcracker ready to take your snack, but remember not to feed the birds.
   
5. Colorado River Trail or Coyote Valley on the West Side - Now that you have made it up to the top of Trail Ridge Road drive down to the Kawuneeche Valley on the west side of the park to look for many of the birds listed above including the mountain bluebird in the picture, woodpeckers, swallows and wrens or head to Grand Lake to see if you can find Osprey.

Jeff Maugans was a park naturalist for 32 years at many different national parks and came here in 1990 where he was the Chief Naturalist until 2009. His upcoming classes are Birds at Twilight on May 22; Summer Birding with a Naturalist on June 12, 26 and July 10, 24; and NEW! Bird of the Kawuneeche Valley on June 14.

If you're interested in bird migration then Jeff Connor's Birds without Borders: Migratory Birds of RMNP and Costa Rica on June 20 would be a great way to learn about bird's summer habitats and protection of both areas. Research plays a major role in understanding bird's lifespan, habits, and migration patterns. Help Tena and Fred Engelman band hummingbirds in this Hummingbird: Field Research class on July 15.

Register over the phone with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy at 970-586-3262 or online at www.rmna.org soon to become www.RMConservancy.org, just click on the seminar tab.