Two longtime locals collaborate on guidebook on Roaring Fork Valley birds | PostIndependent.com

Two longtime locals collaborate on guidebook on Roaring Fork Valley birds

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Mark Fuller has a passion for birds, so much so that friends and acquaintances will often turn to the longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident for answers when they see something unusual or memorable.

While there are a couple of hundred species that can regularly be spotted in the Roaring Fork Valley, there are others that just pass through or are more secretive.

"Birds are so accessible. They're everywhere," Fuller said. "I always get asked, 'What the hell is it?'"

Now he can tell people: "Check out the book."

Fuller teamed this summer with Rebecca Weiss — who guides for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies' birding program — to publish "Birds of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley."

Weiss wrote the narrative on 155 bird species as well as introductory material on everything from feeding birds, birding etiquette and details of habitat in the valley. Fuller supplied the photographs.

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Fuller said a friend who is familiar with his passion for photographing birds urged him to do a book. Initially, he was thinking small and simple — maybe notecards and a pocketbook guide to 101 common species in the Aspen area.

He recruited Weiss to provide copy, but once they started talking the project started growing.

"It was clear I wasn't thinking big enough," Fuller said.

What resulted was a 327-page book with 263 color photographs and non-technical text that provides details on 155 residents and migratory species. There is a checklist of birds that can be found in the valley and a "Hotspots Map" that shares information on 21 great birding locations on lands accessible to the public.

"The thing that makes it unique is the local knowledge," Fuller said.

For example, have a friend who argues that we really don't have ravens in the Roaring Fork Valley? Prove that friend wrong by looking up the information for the American crow and common raven. There's even a handy chart on page 187 detailing their differences.

Chapter 8 spills the beans on 10 types of flycatchers.

One of photographs Fuller is most fond of is the brown-capped rosy-finch on page 241. He got the picture of the fetching bird at Sam's Knob at Snowmass Ski Area, where feeders with special seed attract them.

"An extreme environment specialist, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is one of three closely-related species known for breeding at the highest elevations of any North American bird," Weiss wrote.

They focused on 155 common species, though there are probably another 100 that can be spotted in the Roaring Fork Valley, Fuller said. The valley provides excellent habitat because it ranges in excess of 12,000 feet at Independence Pass to about 5,700 feet in Glenwood Springs.

Fuller said he and Weiss have been working on the bird book for nearly three years. Fuller supplied most of the photos, but in some cases his pictures were "crummy" or he just couldn't capture an image of something, such as nocturnal owls. His friend Bill Schmoker provided pictures in those cases. A small team also helped them with everything from design to proofreading, with acknowledgements in the book. ACES was a keystone contributor to help get the book published. Roaring Fork Audubon also contributed.

Part of the goal of the book, Fuller said, is to educate people about local birds and make them aware of issues. For example, many birds migrate from the Roaring Fork Valley to Central and South America. Habitat is being lost when forests are cleared for coffee plantations. Birders can help the cause by buying certified bird-friendly coffee, he said.

Another goal is simply to have fun. The book is small enough to keep by a kitchen window or in a car for frequent consulting, Fuller noted.

The book ($24.95) is available at ACES, Explore Booksellers and Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, Bookbinders in Willits and Booktrain in Glenwood Springs.

Friends of Fuller's be forewarned — you better try to find that bird you spotted in the book before turning to him for the easy answer about what it is.

scondon@aspentimes.com