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Birding – it’s for the birds and for us humans

April 1, 2019

Birds. They may be the world’s most watchable, and listenable, wildlife. Even non-birders will turn their heads at the sight of a bald eagle perched over a river or strain to hear an owl’s hoot. And who doesn’t acknowledge the robin as a harbinger of spring?

Nationwide, 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, call themselves bird watchers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. What the rest of the population fails to recognize is that they are birders, too, seeing or hearing birds nearly every day. Birds are a ubiquitous connection to the natural world.


Agriculture takes root on open space

Two Roots Farm is poised to become the first certified organic producer of agricultural products on a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails property – the latest milestone for a program that now has 13 agricultural lease areas and more on the way.

Two Roots was awarded a lease for two areas of Emma Open Space in early 2018. Growers Harper Kaufman and Christian La Bar produced roughly 30,000 pounds of vegetables at Emma last year after creating a fenced-in garden plot, installing a permanent irrigation system and erecting a hoop house. New this year, Two Roots has installed a second, larger hoop house and plans to expand the cultivated area within its outdoor garden plot. Kaufman and La Bar have also been working through the considerable paperwork required to be certified as an organic grower – an effort that requires documenting their ongoing use of all things organic, from compost and soil amendments to potting mix and even seeds. They hope to receive the USDA certification in June.


Nature’s engineers at work at North Star

March 1, 2019

A beaver peers from the bank at North Star Nature Preserve in the spring of 2018.

Management of the ecosystem at North Star Nature Preserve is not entirely in the hands of its human overseers. The beaver population at North Star has been steadily growing for the past decade or so – putting the riparian landscape under the capable stewardship of North America’s largest rodent.

In fact, the flat-tailed animals’ ability to alter a landscape may be second only to that of humans. While North Star is perfect for beavers, with its slow-moving water, wide valley and preferred forage (aspens, cottonwoods and willows), the beavers are also perfect for North Star. They improve the health of the riparian ecosystem by flooding upland areas and creating new side channels that help improve habitat for birds and ungulates such as elk and moose. In addition, beavers foraging on willows stimulate vigorous sprouting of the plants.