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Virtual Birding Takes Flight At The Aspen Center For Environmental Studies

May 8, 2020

Mountain bluebirds as seen by ACES naturalists near Aspen.
Credit Courtesy ACES/Samantha Stovall

 Bird watchers worldwide say they're hearing more birds lately. That's partly true; according to ornithologists, less ambient noise due to COVID-19 shutdowns means that local songbirds don't have to compete with things like traffic and airplanes. When they're chirping outside your window, it's not that there's more of them, but you can hear them more clearly.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) is shedding some light on who's making all that noise with its virtual birding lessons. Despite social distancing protocols, ACES community program senior manager Phebe Myers says that May is prime time for viewing mountain bluebirds at Aspen’s Hallam Lake. 

"We wanted to continue engaging with our birding community. Keeping in touch with our friends and our communities is so important during this time," said Myers. "One way that ACES is supporting that connection is to provide brief, virtual morning birding mini-lessons in lieu of our Tuesday morning birding outings."

"If you learn to identify the song of a bird you may not have put any thought into, but it's the bird call that wakes you up in the morning, you start hearing it all the time."

May's virtual morning birding lessons highlight bird breeding behavior, with informative videos and links to more resources included on the ACES website. Birders are also encouraged to send in their observations for Global Big Day on Saturday, when bird watchers around the world are encouraged to send in their own observations online. Myers says you don't have to be an expert to contribute; you can send in what you hear out your window.

"If you learn to identify the song of a bird you may not have put any thought into, but it's the bird call that wakes you up in the morning, you start hearing it all the time," she said. "It may not be that there are more birds, but it just might mean that you have the time to tune in and be curious about finding out whether it's a migrant, or if it's a resident bird that's here all the time all year round."

ACES is planning its next birding lesson on Tuesday, May 19 at 8 a.m., virtually or in-person depending on what social distancing guidelines will be in place. In the meantime, naturalists from the environmental organization hope their online videos inspire a burgeoning interest in local birds to take flight.