I know that many of the birders in Colorado didn’t know Rich Levad, so I thought that I would compile a short list of some of the things that he accomplished as special monitoring projects coordinator for RMBO. He taught English at Central High School in Grand Junction for over 30 years and started working at RMBO after he retired from that position. Rich was a key player in starting the Monitoring Colorado’s Birds program. He was a master at getting people to work together towards a common goal. He also excelled at accumulating information from oftentimes quite unusual places and at squeezing every drop of usefulness out of the information he gathered. He was one of the rare writers that have a firm grasp on all of the grammar rules of the English language and yet creative at the same time. In the past few years since being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), he has co-authored two manuscripts that can be/will be found in the Wilson Bulletin. Also, during this time he has written a book about the history of man’s quest to understand one of the most difficult to study birds – the Black Swift (as mentioned previously by Bill Schmoker). I think that this book is going to be published sometime in the near future and I believe the title will be “The Coolest Bird: A Natural History of the Black Swift and Those Who Have Pursued It”.
Here are just some of his other accomplishments:
- The number of known Black Swift breeding sites in Colorado increased from 34 to 102 since 1998 when Rich started the MCB special species program. Rich also initiated a search for Black Swift breeding sites in cooperation with the New Mexico Game and Fish Department and increased the number of known breeding sites in that state from one to three in 2003.
- Prior to Rich’s efforts with the MCB program, there were 22 known Purple Martin breeding sites in Colorado. There are now 136 known breeding sites in the state. Rich also assisted with the discovery of the first breeding confirmation in Wyoming in 2004.
- Rich helped place nest boxes all over the Grand Valley of Mesa County for Western Screech-Owls. I recently learned that at one point there were over 200 nest boxed distributed throughout the valley. During this project Rich taught many citizens of the Grand Junction area about the “little owls in their yard”. He also located a remarkable number of natural cavities in which the species bred in the Grand Valley.
- Rich started Project ColonyWatch which is primarily a volunteer driven effort to gather data on sixteen of Colorado’s colonial waterbird species (such as, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Western Grebe, etc). As a result of this project, we now know virtually every breeding location for all of these species in Colorado.
- Rich compiled the most comprehensive list of Flammulated Owl detections that exists for Colorado. He also assisted with the first breeding confirmation of Flammulated Owl in Wyoming in 2005.
- Rich also found an impressive number of Long-eared Owl nest sites in the Grand Valley area. In 1998, Rich and friends banded over 100 nestlings during that banner breeding year for the species in Colorado.
- Through Rich’s work Coloradoans also know more about Barrow’s Goldeneye, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Osprey, Black Rain, Virginia Rail, Sora, Snowy Plover, Willet, Eurasian-collared Dove, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Swift, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Bell’s Vireo, American Dipper, Bobolink, and Scott’s Oriole in their state.
Special Monitoring Project Coordinator
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory