Organized in 1897 to promote Community Service and Philanthropy in Ouray County, Colorado.

Sue Hirshman

‘Black Swift Lady,” Ouray’s Box Canyon & the Black Swift, March 17, 2015

By Kathryn R. Burke

“The Black Swift could be called the most elusive bird on earth,” Hirshman believes. “The birds don’t make it easy to find or observe them.” They like to nest in caves, near waterfalls, where rocky ledges and inhospitable terrain protect them from predators.

Black Swift on nestOne of the more accessible locations for these mysterious birds right Box Canyon in Ouray, Colorado. Hirshman has been watching the Black Swift and recording their activities here nearly 20 years. “I hope I can study this bird until I’m 90,” she told Samantha Tisdel Wright for an article in the ‘2014 Adventure Summer Guide’ (1) “As long as I am able to walk, I am going to go over there” and watch those birds.

tn-migration-mapBut she does more than just ‘watch.’ Using a Nikon D-90 with an AF-S Nikkor 70-300 mm lens for close-ups, she gets some outstanding photographs. Hirshman has helped team members band birds. Although Hirshman did not directly help the team to attach geo-locators, many birds were also fitted with that device to track their annual migration – all the way to Brazil and back!

tn-black-swift-chickHirshman’s observations and photographs have been reported in numerous publications and scientific studies. Google ‘Sue Hirshman Black Swift’ and you get several pages of ‘hits,’ including links to articles she writes for the local Ouray County Newspaper. (2) Hirshman relates results of a detailed study of 11 years of Black Swift breeding phenology and success at Box Canyon.(5) “Box Canyon is known as Colorado’s largest nesting colony and the most accessible viewing opportunity, which has gained world attention as an important Birding Area,” Hirshman explains. Hirshman and Carolyn Gunn are updating that study to include another nine years.

To learn more about Box Canyon and the Black Swift, please join us Tuesday, March 17, 2015, at the Ouray Community Center, for a power point presentation followed by question and answer period. Hirshman will share historical photographs of the Box Canyon, which celebrates its 100-year anniversary as a park in 2020. Her detailed photographs follow a nesting pair of Swifts and their chick from hatching until it leaves the nest. Hirshman will also explain the geolocator and how it helps track and record birds migrations.

Top: Black Swift on Nest. Sue E. Hirshman
Center: Black Swift Migration Map
Bottom: Mom feeding chick 38-42 days old.

Related Links.
(1)‘The Coolest Bird.’ Samantha Tisdel Wright. 2014 Adventure Summer Guide.

(2) ‘Birds of Ouray County: The Black Swift | Ouray.’ Ouray County News. Sue Hirshman

(3) Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory Science: Special Species: Black Swift

(4) Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory Bird Population Monitoring › Specialized Programs

(5) ‘Breeding Phenology and Success of Black Swifts in Box Canyon’. Sue E. Hirshman, Carolyn Gunn, Richard G. Levad. Sue Hirshman’s detailed study of 11 years of Black Swift breeding phenology and success at Box Canyon in Ouray, Colorado.

(6) Box Canyon Park. Summer Hours 8 am-8 pm or until dark. Visitor Center open May through mid-October. Trails open year round.

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WCOC Monthly meetings are held from 1-3 pm on the third Tuesday every month in the San Juan Room of the Ouray Community Center. Regular meetings for 2014-15 feature “Uncommon Women: Uncommon Lives, Part IV” with guest speakers who have interesting and unusual occupations for a woman. The public is welcome. Click here to view the list of past and future guest speakers.

Following the guest presentation, guests and members enjoy a social period with refreshments and an opportunity to view various projects and sign up for committee activities. The regular membership meeting follows, which addresses upcoming events and activities, shares “Cares and Concerns” with members, and reviews other membership business.