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Natural Areas Ranger Wins State Award

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image for press release Natural Areas Ranger Wins State Award Karl Manderbach, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas and Trails Ranger, has been awarded a Colorado Field Ornithologists (CFO) “Appreciation Award” for his work assisting the birding public to view the rare American woodcock at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area. The Appreciation Award is one of CFO's most coveted awards and is only been given to a select few individuals who have supported birds, their habitat, and birders.

In January 2015, local birders discovered this bird, which normally inhabits the eastern US, in the drainage at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, located southwest of Fort Collins near Masonville. The news quickly spread and hundreds of avid birders from around the state and beyond visited Bobcat Ridge over the next three or four weeks. To compound the issue, the natural area was closed for 10 to 12 days due to flooding, muddy conditions, and severe trail damage. Manderbach is the ranger in charge of Bobcat Ridge and lives onsite very near this drainage. In spite of these conditions, Manderbach managed to provide adequate access, plenty of assistance to find the bird, and answered hundreds of questions over and over. Binoculars and scope in hand, he patrolled for hundreds of hours to assist the visitors.

Manderbach said, “At first I thought it was just a silly little bird, and didn’t think too much about it. After a while I thought it was pretty neat, and I wanted to be the first to spot it each day. The whole experience was enjoyable, and I met a lot great people. This one little bird attracted literally hundreds of people from all over Colorado, as well as, areas in Wyoming and New Mexico to a City of Fort Collins natural area that they never visited before or knew nothing about.”

Local bird expert Dave Leatherman and longtime CFO staff member presented the award at the Natural Areas Department’s awards banquet, January 22, attended by nearly 200 people. According to Leatherman, "Karl's assistance was over-the-top in terms of gentle shepherding of the birders, parking logistics, habitat protection, and his direct assistance finding this very difficult-to-detect bird."

To everyone’s surprise, two American woodcocks have again been spotted at Bobcat Ridge, so Karl is once again hosting birders and non-birders alike and using his skills to help others see this elusive bird.

Colorado Field Ornithologists is a non-profit, volunteer organization devoted to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of Colorado's birds. CFO established an Appreciation Award in 2000 to recognize homeowners and others who have gone out of their way to provide access to birders, usually when a "mega-rarity" is found in a place that is off-limits to the public.