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The Great Outdoors

By Meghan Godby

Both Wheat Ridge and Lakewood are turning 50 this year, but there’s another organization reaching that milestone - Denver Audubon. Serving Denver and the greater metro area (including all of Jefferson County), the non-profit is dedicated to connecting people to nature and advocating for birds, wildlife and their habitats.

The past 50 years have been full of many varied projects. In the late 1980s, for example, Denver Audubon was involved in the opposition of Two Forks Dam, and years later began their environmental education with the Urban Education Program, which worked directly to bring the messaging of nature into our local school systems.

But it didn’t stop there. Most recently, in the early 2000s, Denver Audubon opened its nature center (11280 Waterton Road in Littleton), across from Waterton Canyon. While they perform outreach and educational programs all throughout the metro region, the center serves as their home base for larger events and presentations.

Karl Brummert, Executive Director, is proud of these accomplishments and is eager to plan for the future. And what’s next? Denver Audubon has a goal to make our region one of the bird friendliest places in the country.

“It’s sort of our grand vision, guiding what we do,” Karl explained. “Obviously, that’s a big audacious goal.”

A big goal, but not impossible.

“We’re not going to do it ourselves,” he shared. “There’s no way our small organization can meet that goal. We need to partner with other organizations and seize some of their data as well.”

It’s a multi-faceted approach. Educating the public on bird-friendly landscaping, while effective, is only one piece of the puzzle. They are also interested in how many programs in the area are focused on birds and nature. This information can then be compared to other cities as a baseline for where we’re at and where we need to go. Essentially, it’s a combination of collecting existing data and implementing new programs.

“We definitely want to get more people interested in birding [too],” says Karl. “So many people are interested in birds, [but] lots of people don’t know what Audubon is. We want to increase our visibility as an organization.”

In addition to developing new educational programs, part of increasing visibility involves working with other local organizations, such as the High Line Canal Conservancy and the Front Range Birding Company. Because it’s a partnership, everyone benefits, including the birds.

If you’re interested in learning more about birds in our area, now is a great place to start.

“Most people think of spring as birding season, and it is,” Karl explained. “But winter is actually really good around Denver, especially by open water. A lot of waterfowl nest up north, migrate here, and stay here for the winter.”

Where should you look? Any park with open water is a great place to start. Expect to see lots of waterfowl including Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Northern Shovelers, just to name a few. You can also spot the same songbirds that hang around the area all year, even robins, who switch to berries as their main food source in the wintertime.

Belmar Park, Prospect Park, Crown Hill and Sloan’s Lake are great neighborhood spots, but Karl also recommends Harriman Lake, near Kipling and Quincy.

“It’s not well-known and not obvious,” he says, “but it’s a hot spot for birders.”

Besides being beautiful to look at, birds serve important environmental functions. In fact, bird populations provide an important insight into the health of our overall environment. When we don’t see as many, we know habitats are in trouble.

To learn more about how you can help, visit denveraudubon.org or call 303-973-9530.