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

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Lamar December 29, 2005

Birding in Lamar has been really slow. After our cold snap, we've had warm weather and daily wind. The forecast for the rest of the week is the same--60 degree days with strong winds in the afternoon.

The best birds I've had this week at the feeders are a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Gray Catbird. The catbird lives next door, or so I think, in the neighbor's bushes which are tangled with Virginia creeper vines. The bird is most often seen taking a daily bath with great vigor. Other birds of note: a small flock of Pine Siskin visited the thistle feeder, which I have not had to refill all fall, winter seaon; two Downy Woodpeckers visited the suet during the cold spell; the little Red-breasted Nuthatches are still coming to the sunflower feeder regularly; and the six Inca Doves visit mostly in the warm weather, not the cold. My birding companion, Dottie, saw the male Red-bellied Woodpecker at Lamar Community College last week. I've noticed many dead trees have fallen in the woods, so use caution if you are birding there on a windy day.

If anything significant appears, I'll be sure and post it.

Janeal Thompson
Lamar, CO


Friday, December 16, 2005

John Martin Reservoir on 12-14-05

This post is late as I have been on the road on my way to Brinkley, Arkansas to look for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker--hey, I can't do any worse than the many expert birders who have not been able to find it.

Anyway, I participated in the John Martin Reservoir Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in the morning on 12-14-05 before I continued on my trip. The small group I was with found 3 Barn Owls, a Canyon Wren, as well as both a Spotted and at least 2 Canyon Towhees. Last year this count had a very creditable 109 species (and with far fewer number of birders out looking than most of the counts of over 100 species in Colorado); however, this year due to the terrible arctic freeze almost all of John Martin Reservoir was still frozen for the count which will reduce the number of species. Nevertheless, this is a great area for winter as well as spring, summer and fall birds.

As I drove from Las Animas to Lamar, Colorado (about 50-60 miles), I saw at least 8 Redtail and 6 Northern Harrier Hawks (as well as many American Kestrals)--another indication of how productive this area is for bird species.
(from Brinkley, Arkansas)


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lower Arkansas Valley 12-13-05

This morning Duane N. took me to several areas around John Martin Reservoir, a very large lake along the Arkansas River between Lamar and the small town of Las Animas. Due to high winds, the unusual winter Lincoln's Sparrows were not up though a few Song Sparrows popped up briefly. Amazingly, almost the entire Reservoir was frozen over as a result of the severe artic cold spell. There were a few open areas in the middle of the reservoir that were filled with waterfowl including a number of white geese.

There was also an open area at Lake Hasty, a small lake below the John Martin dam, and it was also filled with waterfowl including 2 adult Trumpeter Swans, 1 immature Trumper Swan and 1 probable immature Tundra Swan. Duane said the swans had been there since before the artic front came in.

Later this afternoon I drove to Lamar to do a little birding. In the area behind Lamar Jr College I saw a Great Horned Owl in one of the large cottonwoods. I did not find the Red-bellied Woodpeckers I hoped to see but instead saw at least 1 male Downy and 1 female Hairy Woodpecker.

I made a last light of the day check at the cemetery south of the Jr College. As I walked up the cemetery road a Great Horned Owl, that had been hidden well within the branches of a juniper, flew out. I later heard a Great Horned calling but it might have been a second owl. An unusual sight, at least for me, was 2 Red-tailed Hawks perched on top of one of the 40 foot pine trees. There were 2 more Red-tails nearby and I think they intended to roost in these pines but were flushed by the workers nearby.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Rocky Ford waterfowl-12-12-05

Today I did some brief birding at the Valco (cement company) pond in Rocky Ford which is east of Pueblo. Although much of the water was frozen, there were at least two large areas open. In the open water were a good variety of ducks and geese. I saw over a half dozen male Canvasbacks, at least a dozen male Common Goldeneyes and 5 or so female Common Goldeneyes. There were also a number of Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon and Mallards. Both in the open water and on the ice were approximately 600-800 geese that were coming in to spend the night. Most (probably 400 or more) were white Snow Geese with several dozen blue phase (referred to as dark adults, as opposed to the more common white adults, in the Sibley Field Guide to Birds). There were about 100 Ross'with at least a dozen blue phase of that species. And there were 75-100 Canada type geese (they were too far away and it was getting too dark to identify any Cackling Geese that might have been with the Canada Geese).

This is closer to the Central Flyway for waterfowl so Snow and Ross' Geese are more common here than in Canon City. The Rocky Ford area is a great birding location with the Rocky Ford State Wildlife Area just outside of town.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Harlan's Hawk in Penrose

Yesterday I found the adult dark morph Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk in Penrose, a small town east of Canon City in this photo. It was a few hundred feet away so it was a stretch even for new 12X Panasonic digital camera to get a reasonable pic. As can be seen, the hawk was mostly black with a white bib on its' chest. Not really viewable in the photo, much of the undertail feathers was white without any red.

The Harlan's subspecies is rare in Colorado. As skittish as Red-tails are, this hawk was even more so. I stayed in my car and was more than 200 feet away, but it flew off onto private and inaccessible property when I took one photo (presumably due to hearing the electronic noises the camera makes). I returned to the area today but could not refind this hawk.

Even tho temps were in the fifties yesterday and today, there is little open water in ponds or Brush Hollow Reservoir. Today I watched an immature Coopers Hawk harrass an American Kestrel flying nearby. I saw hundreds of bluebirds in the Penrose area, most are Mountain Bluebirds but some Western and at least 2 Eastern Bluebirds yesterday.

I was treated to the singing of an American Dipper last night along the Arkansas River east of Canon City. Tonight both dippers chased each other, emitting their distinctive calls. Possibly this reinforces the pair bond.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Canon City Sapsuckers

Finally, two weeks after seeing fresh sap wells in the trees at Centennial Park in Canon City, I found a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker there today. Canon City and Pueblo have had Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers every winter for several years. The Ross' Goss I had seen in this park in the past week was not present, but there was little open water in the "duck" pond due to really cold temps (13 below zero night before last).

I also found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a local cemetery this morning, but it was a male. These are the pics of these sapsuckers with the female on the left and male on the right side of the page.


While in Pueblo on business yesterday I stopped at Pueblo City Park to look for the Palm Warbler that Mark Y. told me he found last week-end. This is quite a find here, especially in winter. I did not find this bird, nor the Yellow-rumped Warblers that Mark also saw here. Since the temps dipped to -15 last night, they may have moved to a more sheltered area or succumbed to the perils of Colorado weather. I did see the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, whose sap wells do attrack a variety of song birds such as the warblers. Today there was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet working the tall pine trees here. The male Downy Woodpecker in the photo worked hard at one spot on a tree while I took it's picture.

While I was watching the birds, a terribly tame squirrel approached within 3 feet of me. It sat up with its paws out in front looking like a dog sitting up, obviously having learned that this was effective in begging food. Fortunately I had no food as it would have been difficult to not give in to this cute critter even though I think its a bad idea to feed them.

I also stopped at Runyon Lake. Though most of it was frozen over, there were over a dozen Buffleheads, several Redheads, a female Lesser Scaup in addition to common waterfowl and a few gulls. A red fox worked at trying to approach these birds, but kept turning back. Since it was limping a little, it may be desparate to find food.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Canon City swan

I found an immature Trumpeter Swan at a private pond in Canon City on Dec 5 but had problems yesterday (I was trying to do some code changes and pretty new at HTML). Since it was getting dark when I found it, I returned yesterday in hopes of getting a better look. Unfortunately the single digit lows had frozen almost all of this pond and the swan had left.

It has been several years since a swan has been seen in the Canon City area. This is apparently a good year for swans as there have been several sightings on northern front range lakes in the past few weeks.



Lamar, December 7, 2005

A slight accumulation of snow with very cold temperatures brought a variety of birds to the feeder, the six Inca Doves two of which are pictured, Eurasian-collared Doves, Blue Jays, American Robins, House Finches, Pine Siskins, American Gold Finches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Flickers, a Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatches, two Brown Creepers, a White-breasted Nuthatch and a Hairy Woodpecker that surprised me by visiting the safflower feeder. An American Crow calls regularly from a high nearby perch and I know keeping the water open today will be a challenge. Many of the birds, i.e., warblers and waxwings only visit for the water and I don't have the luxury of electricity at my feeders.

Keep warm. JWT


Friday, December 02, 2005

Lamar, December 2, 2005

Today I had the most amazing group of birds at my feeders: 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers, the beautiful female Northern Cardinal, an American Crow, six Inca Doves, a Downy Woodpecker, a White-breasted and 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches one of which flew within six inches of my hand while I was filling the feeder. My first Brown Creeper of the season arrived and I wonder if it is stealing the cache of the nuthatches. Several gorgeous Cedar Waxwings come to water regularly and maybe, just maybe, I'll have a Bohemian soon. Yesterday the Purple Finch was here as well as Blue Jays, House Finches, House Sparrows (this is their first visit this season) Dark-eyed Juncos, and European Starlings. With this feeding frenzy, I expect a change in weather.

On the downside. I saw a neighbor's cat take a junco before I could get out the door. I have had two other cats hanging around this morning. If you have a cat, please consider keeping it inside. We have an abundance of pet cats as well as feral ones and they are devastating to the bird population. There great articles on this subject in "The Backyard Bird" Fall and Winter 2005, from the publishers of "Bird Watcher's Digest Newsletter" and a must read for birdwatchers and cat lovers alike. One statistic from this article that stands out is 2 billion birds are killed worldwide each year by pet cats. I really wonder if I am selfish in feeding as I am just setting up these helpless creatures for the killing.




Canon City birding 11-30-05

Today Canon City had some of those bad winds that Janeal mentioned earlier this week. This made birding difficult since not only were most landbirds down in sheltered places, but with gusts up to 50 mph birds could be injured if flushed. I have heard some birders rationalize that birds may get flushed anyway by hikers, etc; however, I believe it is incumbent on birders to take active steps to not harm birds. This may mean not birding in a place where a birder would likely flush the birds.

For me today, that meant not birding part of the Arkansas River where I know there are likely good waterfowl--but also a good liklihood that I would flush some or all of them. And in other areas, I did not "pish" birds up as this could cause them to get blown around. And some areas I stayed further away or behind vegetation to avoid flushing birds. Nevertheless, birding was productive.

This morning at the city water ponds on Tunnel Drive all the geese were pressed to the west end of the pond. There were about 4 Greater White-fronted Geese, 8-10 probable Cackling Geese and about 100 Canada Geese.

A Ross' Goose in the pic was at the pond at Centennial Park along with American Wigeons, Mallard, a few Canada Geese, domestic and domestic-hybrid ducks. The wind gusts were so bad that both ducks and geese slid a ways across the ice several times while I was watching.

This afternoon I saw a second white (chen genus) goose flying in the strong winds with several Canada-type Geese east of Florence. As I noted before, it is unusual to have even one white goose in this area so I was floored when in late afternoon I saw a small flock of 4 white geese flying over Canon City.

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