New Field Guide Provides Insight into the Wild World of High Mountain Birds

Acclaimed Local “Birdman” Holds Unique Seminars and Guided Tours

Trevor Phipps

Most local hikers have found themselves enjoying nature, while partaking in a relaxing trek in the wilds or on a familiar trail.

But then, they suddenly hear a strange noise coming from a critter above. Once the hiker sees that it is a bird making the sounds, curiosity often prevails, and the hiker wonders what type of bird they have just seen.
The quest for these answers is now available with the help of a local guide book.
Skilled bird watcher and outdoor enthusiast Joe LaFleur has used his expertise to craft a field guide for identifying 125 of the most common species found in Teller County. The book entitled, “Mountain Birds of Teller County,” is small enough in size to fit inside a pocket, and it features pictures and information about every bird commonly found in the high mountains.

After moving to Teller County in 2016, LaFleur quickly found a need for some sort of identification guide for local birds. “Most of the people I have met here are beginner bird watchers,” LaFleur said. “They want to be able to identify birds they find when they are out hiking and spending time in the nature. So, I decided to make a book more geared towards the beginner.”

The pocket-sized book can help outdoor enthusiasts easily identify the birds they see, and then learn a bit about the animal. The book has pictures of males and females and how they differ in appearance.

The book also gives some information about them, including if they are rare or common to see, and which seasons they can be found in the area. The pocket field guide also describes the bird’s habitat, size, identification features and what their voice sounds like.

During the summer, LaFleur spends much of his time telling his story of how he became an experienced bird watcher at several local events, including the Woodland Park Farmers Market each week. He sells his book at the events, and it can be found for purchase at the Ute Pass Historical Society Gift Shop, located next to the library in Woodland Park.

While the events have slowed down this winter, LaFleur has focused his attention on other smaller get-togethers to help spread the word of bird watching within the county. Earlier this month, LaFleur held a nature walk at Manitou Lake, north of Woodland Park, where he took those interested on a hike around the lake and helped them identify the birds seen on the excursion.

La Fleur said that he holds the walks during the summer as well, and he plans to host more similar events soon. In addition to the nature hike, LaFleur also recently held an educational seminar about bird watching at the Ute Pass Historical Society.

During the free event, anyone interested in identifying and learning about local birds was invited to attend the hour-long seminar. LaFleur showed images and videos of various birds in the region and provided more tips regarding the specifics of bird-watching.

He displayed videos of how each bird flies and behaves, and what their chirps sound like. For the first seminar that took place earlier this month, LaFleur started with raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons and owls) that inhabit the county, and he plans on holding seminars about other types of birds in the near future.

Turning a Hobby Into a Career

LaFleur is a Colorado native who found a passion for nature at a young age. “I grew up in the Denver area and our family went camping a lot,” LaFleur said. “We were always out camping, hiking and fishing so I just kind of got interested in nature and the outdoors. I think what really got me started on bird watching was our family camping trips. But, I have always been interested in everything like the plants, the trees and fishing.”

LaFleur graduated from Colorado State University (CSU) with a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology.

After graduation, found himself working as a research biologist for CSU, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Idaho Fish and Game.

After LaFleur earned his master’s degree in communication from CSU, he decided to travel the country and pursue is interest in bird watching. LaFleur lived in various parts of the country where he studied and filmed thousands of species of birds.

In fact, LaFleur said that he has been bird watching in all but five states over a 40-year span. While he was living in various parts of the country, LaFleur produced a number of DVD videos on bird watching.

Over a span of 15 years, LaFleur produced several “Better Birdwatching DVD Field Guides” that are categorized by each region of the country. The veteran bird watcher said that over the last decade and a half he has sold over 70,000 DVDs.

But now that streaming services seemed to have made DVDs a thing of the past, LaFleur focuses on educating the locals, and selling his pocket-sized field guide book. To order his book or learn more about it visit