Date: 2/26/17 2:38 pm
From: Doug Ward <dougward...>
Subject: [cobirds] Front Range Bushtits-What's Up Wtih That?
“Long time Colorado birder, first time CoBirds poster”. After being away
for 17 years, I find myself back in the Front Range of Colorado on a regular
basis now. Being born and raised here, I had over 25 years of birding
experience before heading north to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2000; actually
splitting time between Colorado & Idaho now. With family down here, we were
back for holidays, but never really got out to do much birding – plus after
25 years, I had a pretty good idea of what, and how many, were where, or so
I thought.

Ted’s post last night (25 Feb.’17), “magpies, flickers, bushtits, and Bill
Kaempfer”, prompted me to write this note based on one of the significant
avian changes I’ve noticed along the Front Range since being away. Last
summer, my wife and I were working in the yard here in Denver (Denver, Co.)
and I heard the distinctive “twittering”, then “Holy s&#$, BUSHTITS!!!” (she
still thinks the AOU needs to change the common name of these guys; I for
one like it as I’m a perpetual adolescent). I immediately ran to eBird to
check recent occurrences as I was sure this was huge. Turns out, not so
much. Growing up, finding even a couple of Bushtits in the juniper patches
west and south of town (Waterton, Red Rocks, Dinosaur Ridge, …) was a real
nice surprise, and only happened once or twice a year.

So what happened in the interim? As you all know, they are now common in
numerous locations all along the Front Range. What gets me is that these
guys have hopped habitat preferences, as opposed to expanding along with
habitat creep like the Blue Jay following “forestation” across the Great
Plains. Up until that little pack of Bushtits came through the yard, they
were always a “specialty” of the piñon/juniper belts of the southeast and
West Slope in my mind in Colorado. Now I can see a growing population, for
whatever reason, spilling into the urban areas with all of the native and
ornamental conifers, but an outright move into cottonwood riparian areas,
that makes no sense to me – I smell a thesis in there somewhere.

Any thoughts from the “old timers” who have been here throughout this shift
would be welcomed. While stumbling on a rarity every so often is fun, these
little evolutionary mysteries are what I very much enjoy about our hobby
that is so linked to Nature.

Happy to Be Back,

Doug Ward


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