An Intriguing Bird Sighting


In the mid 1970's I went on a backpacking trip to the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado with some college buddies. Unbeknownst to me at the time this trip was to provide me with one of my most interesting life list sightings.
We had made our way to Durango, Colorado and after gathering provisions, from there we headed out to the trailhead. We climbed all day and ended up in a coniferous forest at elevation in the San Juan Mountains. With the notable exception of the colorful Steller's Jay that I pointed out to them, none of my friends were too interested in birds. So I set out exploring by myself in this unique habitat. When birding, a lot of times I like to stand in one place for a while and see what shows up. As I stood there about 10 feet away in a pine tree, I spotted a distinctive bird that, if you get a good look at it, is not likely to be mistaken for any other bird - a male Olive Warbler. I knew what it was right away, and I was thrilled because it was obviously a life lister. I pulled out my field guide to check on the sighting and I noticed that the range of the bird did not encompass southwestern Colorado! But there it was right in front of me. Upon reading the description in the field guide, I noticed that the habitat was exactly right for this species - an open coniferous forest at an altitude above 7000 feet. So apparently this adventurous male had decided to colonize the habitat where he knew he could make a living. I think that there are probably individuals in most species that will try a play like this. If they succeed they have no competition - at least for a while. If they do not succeed they are removed from the gene pool and the experiment is over.
This sighting was the highlight of a very fun trip. The scenery and exercise were wonderful and seeing a beautiful and unexpected life lister made it all the better.

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