SE Colorado Birding

Birding and discussion: A conservation-oriented birding blog that emphasizes low-impact birding and sustainable birding practices together with the enjoyment of birds. Southeast Colorado offers a diversity of habitats which provide premiere birding opportunities. Save Sabal Palm

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Transition to a new blog-Bird and Nature blog

I haven't been keeping this blog up very well lately and that is because I have been establishing a new blog- I have had more success with this, the SE Colorado Birding blog, than I would have imagined when I began. The stat counter I have used shows that it has had more than 16,000 unique visitors since I established it in October, 2005. I have been surprised that visitors have been from more than 40 countries as well as the U.S. So I feel it has been successful.

However, it is time for me to widen the scope of my blog. Though I will still post mostly from SE Colorado since that is where I live, I will feel more free to post outside of this area and outside of the state as well as on butterflies, damselflies, frogs and other aspects of nature. I will keep my strong conservation focus.

I invite the many regular viewers to transition with me. Thanks for visiting and hope you will enjoy my new blog. SeEtta:




Thursday, August 07, 2008

Close encounter of the "bear" kind

The weather was very hot today so I headed for a little higher elevation in the San Isabel National Forest that stretches from just south of where I live in Canon City, CO to the New Mexico border. Though the temps were in the lower 90's (instead of around 100 as forecast for Canon City), birding was quite slow likely due as much because of the very dry conditions as the high temps. There were few insects for birds to eat and few flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies due to the lack of rain. Since it was less hot and I enjoy the forest, I stayed for several hours checking out a few birds, a few butterflies and moths, and a few wildflowers with my two dogs. My smaller dogs, Chase, let out some alarm barking several times but I couldn't find anything that should have caused it. I did use my binoculars to check for critters and considered the possibility that a bear could be around especially since there is a lot of scrub (Gambel's) oak in the area. However I had checked the plants and found that the acorns were very small and would not ripen for a few weeks plus there was no other obvious plants with fruit there, so I decided that the bears would not be interested--not an accurate conclusion. Since Chase can be a easily spooked, I thought was what caused his barking.Close to dusk I was pursuing two birds that were flitting from tree to tree when I heard a noise like something scraping a tree--something large. My pulse rate immediately shot up as I realized it could be a bear and I was about 150 feet from my car--and one of my dogs was outside by the car. As I walked sideways (so I could look in the direction I thought the sound was coming from) quickly (and telling myself not to go too quickly as I knew the prohibition about not simulating a prey--easier said than done when you want think a bear may be near). To make matters worse, the scraping noise not only continued but got louder (now I realize it was because I came closer to the bears as I walked to the car). I first pointed to my dog to stay then put my arms in the air to make myself appear larger (another thing that experts recommend). When I got to my car I got my dogs secured inside and stood by my door, then (and only then) did I put my binoculars up to look for what had made the noise--and I spotted this mother black bear with her two cubs now about 400-500 feet away and took these pics. She clearly did not want anything to do with me anymore than I did with her so was moving away. I think that she may have sent her cubs up a tree, and she may have been up there also, but got them down when I came too close.

In retrospect I suspect she and her cubs, which I believe are over a year old, had been in the area most of the time I was there and was the reason that Chase gave his alarm barking. I also suspect that due to the dry conditions even immature acorns are worth eating. I have seen black bears on several occasions over the past 10 years when I have been out birding but I have never seen one with cubs or been so close without something between me and the bears. Though I enjoy seeing bears, this was too close for comfort and even scarier since it was a mother bear with cubs. As bears are now engaged in eating marathons to fatten up for winter, I will take precautions when I'm out birding or hiking. SeEtta



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great conservation news for Boreal Forest!

I am delighted to send out some good news for a change and especially since this is a major conservation victory: Ontario, Canada government has comitted to "protect over 55 million acreas of Canada's Boreal Forest. Per Dr. Jeff Well's "Boreal Bird Blog" this number of acres of the Boreal Forest is vital breeding habitat for the following species of birds seen in Colorado:

3 million Swainson's Thrushes (many of those that migrate across Colorado's eastern plains are thought to be migrating to/from the Boreal Forest)
4.5 million White-throated Sparrows (I believe most if not all of this species that we see in Colorado breed in or near the Boreal Forest)
5 million Dark-eyed Juncos (most, maybe all, Oregon and Slate race that we see in winter in Colorado breed in the Boreal Forest)
4 million Magnolia Warblers (rare, but seen in Colorado)
3 million Palm Warblers (also rare, but seen in Colorado)
2 million Tennessee Warblers (not quite as rare as last two)

Additionally it is "the world's single-largest terrestrial carbon storehouse"
"Contains the majority of North America's fresh, unfrozen water"
"Hosts some of the planet's largest populations of wolves, grizzly bear and woodland caribou." (from news article at first link below)

Read more about this at
news article
Boreal Bird Blog
Montreal Gazette news story




Sunday, July 20, 2008

Possible juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird

Warning-the following is a very esoteric discussion of hummingbird feathers.
I believe the Black-chinned Hummingbird in these pics may be a male in juvenal plumage. When the top pic is double-clicked to enlarge it, the feathers on the head show buffy edges. Though not as clear, so do the nape feathers and some of the back feathers. Birds of North America (BNA) online states that this is characteristic of both male and female birds in juvenal plumage.
BNA (as well as other references) indicate that the outer 3 tail feathers (r3,r4 & r5) of female Black-chinned Hummingbirds are "broadly tipped with white." However this hummingbird appears to show diminishing white from the most outer to the next 2 tail feathers at least on one side (difficult to discern if true on both sides as tail feathers overlap in pic). A website entitled "Idaho Hummingbirds" shows photos of Black-chinned Hummingbirds being banded, stating that those with "greatly reduced white on r3" (this is the third rectrice,or tail feather, as counted from the center to the outer tail feathers)is typical for immature males. This is basically confired by BNA which states that there is more white in the tip of the third rectrice in females than in male birds in juvenal plumage.

To call this a male is likely a stretch but I think the pics show that this hummingbird is in juvenal plumage (not sure what age). I am hoping that someone with more expertise in hummingbird identification will confirm or disconfirm if this bird is an immature male Black-chinned. SeEtta



Black-chinned Hummingbirds

Before I saw the nighthawk in my previous post, I spent some time in a friend's backyard in La Junta enjoying the Black-chinned Hummingbirds coming to his feeder (and the 30 Chimney Swifts flying over plus the up to 12 Mississippi Kites doing their graceful acrobatics).
This bright male Black-chinned Hummingbird appeared to be the top hummingbird in a few conflicts at the feeder. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are not common on the eastern plains although they have been documented nesting south of La Junta where there is a lot of pinyon-juniper habitat, their most common nesting location per surveys in the 1990's that are documented in the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas
The velvet black of the male's chin, upper and side portions of it's throat provides nice contrast to metallic violet-purple on the lower part of it's throat. SeEtta



Young goatsucker

For those who are not birders, the term "goatsucker" will likely conjure up thoughts of possibly bats that suck the blood of goats. However, goatsucker is the name of a family of birds that includes Common Nighthawk like the one in this pic as well as the better known poorwills (like Whip-poor-wills and Common Poorwills).

Common Nighthawks are active mostly at night though they are sometimes active during the day. Like all members of the goatsucker family, they are cryptically colored. This one is a juvenile of the southwestern subspecies (per The Sibley Guide to Birds as indicated by it's cinnamon feathering. It was perched on this fence after a nice prairie thunderstorm was almost over (a few raindrops are visible in the pic). Though the pic gets a little blurry, it is interesting to double-click on it to see it up-close. SeEtta



Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Manufactured homes for the birds "

High Country News had a short article of a creative and somewhat desperate attempt to provide artificial cactus needed for the Coastal Cactus Wren:

"With a catastrophic rise in wildfires over the past two decades -- most of them sparked by human activity in this rapidly developing corner of California -- thousands of acres of hard-won coastal sage reserves have gone up in smoke. The wren’s population has consequently plummeted. The bird nests only in mature cacti at least 3 feet tall, and such stands take decades to recover from burning."

Read the full article (available free) hereSeEtta



Thursday, July 17, 2008

A few days I did some birding in the pinyon-juniper habitat around the Royal Gorge (a deep canyon through which the Arkansas River runs just before it gets to Canon City). I saw birds expected in this habitat including 2 Gray Flycatchers. As I drove slowly along a gravel county road looking for birds I spotted the Northern Pygmy-Owl in these pics.
This is the first pygmy-owl I have spotted without benefit of some auditory cues. I have previously spotted Northern Pygmy-Owls that were calling and about 10 years ago I spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Mexico after hearing some land birds fussing near it. The bottom pic is what I saw when I put my binoculars on this owl after spotting it with just with my eyes. It was just under 100 feet from the road in snag branch of a juniper tree.After I shot these pics, the owl opened it's beak and emitted insect-like calls. (Birds of North America (BNA) online states, "Nestlings and fledglings give Begging Call that sounds insect-like, similar to katydid’s “song”" I also heard the same insect-like call coming from below this owl and then a second Northern Pygmy-Owl flew out from the foliage in the live juniper branches beneath the first owl. Then the first owl flew off. I continued to hear the insect-like calls and was able to follow the owls as they flew from tree to tree. I believe there were at least 3 of these little (they are only about 7 inches tall) owls there.I believe this owl is in juvenal plumage as it does not have the distinctive spotting on the crown and nape as adults do. Also, the bill is grayish instead of the yellow that BNA and some field guides describe for adults (but some field guides describe other colors so this is not consistent or definitive). I also believe this is probably a fledgling owl because it emitted a call that is given by nestlings and fledglngs (it is not a nestling as it is clearly out of the nest).Johnsgard, in North American Owls (2002, p.141) says that, "Northern Pygmy-Owls are "seemingly nonsocial, tending to remain solitary or in highly dispersed pairs (or family groups) through-out the year." So it seems most likely that the 2-3 owls I saw were a family group.BNA states, "Once fledged, young seem to stay close together and one or both parents feed them." So this probable fledgling may have been with one or more siblings and likely a parent. It is possible that their nest site is not far away. Though this species is known to nest in pinyon-juniper habitat as they were found in, there was a nearby ravine with deciduous trees that was likely a riparian area associated with an intermittent stream.

Please note that the middle pic enlarges for a pretty good super close-just double-click on that pic. SeEtta


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Black-crowned Night-Heron

In addition to checking Lake Henry yesterday, I checked nearby Lake Meredith and found 5 Snowy Egrets, the adult Black-crowned Night-Heron in this pic (please note that the bulging red eyes are real and not an artifact of photography) and a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. There were some Western and Clark's Grebes swimming around the lake but none with young. There were also distant white headed gulls.

Not far from Lake Meredith I found a mixed flock of early migrating sandpipers in a small section of an agricultural field that was flooded from a few recent downpours. There were 3-5 Pectoral Sandpipers (they moved in and out of the vegetation so couldn't get an accurate count), 2 Baird's Sandpipers and 1 Least Sandpiper. Though I got some pics, they weren't high quality so will wait until shorebird migration is in full swing and I can get some better pics to post. SeEtta



Update--breeding grebes at Lake Henry

Yesterday I stopped by Lake Henry to check on the Clark's and Western Grebes that have been breeding there. I found several parent's with dependent juveniles like this Clark's Grebe swimming behind it's parent. There were also some grebes still nesting in the floating vegetation that formed a mat on the lake (visible in this pic). If anyone can identify the floating vegetation, shown in this pic (click on the pic to enlarge it for a close-up of the vegetation), I would appreciate your noting what it is--just click on the "comment" link at the bottom of the post. SeEtta


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