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

Monday, February 27, 2006

Canon City Riverwalk

I birded the Canon City Riverwalk this afternoon. With temps in the 70's, I didn't expect to see a lot of bird activity since birds tend to disperse more during really nice weather. But I was delighted to find 4-5 Eastern Bluebirds doing some acrobatic flights among the trees along the Riverwalk. Though Eastern Bluebirds are quite unusual here, we have seen at least one small flock each winter for the past several years.

While I was watching the bluebirds, a Cooper's Hawk flew overhead and the several Black-capped Chickadees quieted briefly. There were a few Green-winged Teal dabbling in the Arkansas River with several Mallards, and I saw a pair of Common Mergansers floating downstream. Other birds seen, all common here, were Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, dark geese, Rock Pigeons and Starlings.



Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lower Arkansas Valley

This morning I birded the wooded area behind the Lamar Community College in Lamar, colorado. This area has been a migrant trap for many years and is a good place to look for unusual birds year-round. Often referred to simply as the Lamar Woods, it is adjacent to Willow Creek.

Though rather quiet today, I saw 2 male Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Lamar is one of the few places in Colorado where this species is found. There were also 2 Hairy Woodpeckers and a number of Northern Flickers working the many dead and downed trees in this area. An adult Cooper's Hawk watched from the top of one of the dead cottonwood trees. Other common birds present were 2 Blue Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds and Eurasian Collared-Doves (now common throughout southeast Colo).

I checked Fairview Cemetery but only found 1 Downy Woodpecker and lots of Eurasian Collared-Doves.

I wasn't able to get to Two Buttes Reservoir until around 2 pm which is not the best time to bird here. However I did find another Red-bellied Woodpecker here.

While checking some parcels on the Comanche National Grasslands that have been proposed for sale as part of sell-off of public lands proposed in Bush's budget (to make sure they don't have important conservation values), I saw 2 Prairie Falcons.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Colo Birding Trail Landowner meeting in Lamar

We had our Colo Birding Trail landowner meeting in Lamar tonight. There were less than 20% of the small number of landowners here than came to the landowner meeting in La Junta. Though the low numbers were disappointing, the quality of their properties was impressive.

In particular one rancher and his wife are already set up and providing Lesser Prairie Chicken tours on private lands. Their enterprise is called Arena Dust Tours.
They provide escorted viewing. People park their cars and are provided light refreshments. The owners drive attendees out to the leks in their vehicle (this is in the dark as it is necessary to get to the lek and be settled before the birds arrive so as not to disturb this species of special concern which is a candidate for Endangered Species listing). And after viewing the birds conducting their courtship dancing, it is possible to see many other birds on the trip back to their cars. But before leaving, breakfest is provided. The hosts offer other possible options including bed and breakfast lodging.

Since Lesser Prairie Chicken begin dancing in mid-March and continue to about mid-May, now is the time to make reservations. This is a good option for those wishing to view Lesser Prairie Chickens in Colo who don't relish driving out in the middle of the night on the deserted and tricky (very sandy and edges can be hazardous) unpaved roads to get to the only public lek near Campo. Plus these ranchers, Fred or Norma Dorenkamp, are real nice folks who know a lot about the area and its history.


Las Animas and Huerfano Counties

I birded my way back home today with stops in both Las Animas and Huerfano Counties with the following results:

Trinidad Lake-approx 50 Redheads, 20 Lesser Scaups, 20 Common Goldeneye, 3 m Common Mergansers, lots of Mtn Bluebirds, a few Mountain Chickadees,1 Juniper Titmouse, Mallards, dark Geese, Juncos and RW Blackbirds.

On a few private farm ponds in on CR42 in Las Animas County just past CR75 (listed on the CFO county birding website--but note that there are several ponds and a few may be dry so be sure to drive past the farm house): 1 Bald Eagle, Green-winged Teal, Pintail Ducks, Redheads, Am Wigeon, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, Coots, dark-headed geese and Killdeer.

310 Rd just west of I-25 (also listed on CFO county birding website); 1 Northern Shrike and 1 Ferrugineous Hawk.

Lathrop State Park and SWA-click here for map
--Horseshoe Lake-Common Mergansers, 1 Great Blue Heron, flock of 30 or so Bushtits and a bunch of N Flickers.
--small lake south of Horseshoe Lake--4 m and 2 f Canvasbacks, Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, 1 f Common Goldeneye and dark geese
--Martin Lake--60-70 Common Mergansers, lots of Mtn Bluebirds and many Juncos.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Colorado birding sites-new website

Here is a new website with birding locations around Colorado listed by county.



Saturday, February 18, 2006

Trinidad State Park

I did go birding at the lake at Trinidad State Park on 2-16 but I haven't had internet access to post since I have been traveling. An arctic cold front had gone through overnight and temps were much colder. I was sorely disappointed with Trinidad Lake which has been quite birdy during other visits I have made there in the winter. In fact, I think it was last year that I saw both a Pacific and as well as several Common Loons plus a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in some small trees on the shorline.

I don't why, maybe some combination of the high winds they have had the day I was there and the day before that and other weather reasons, but not only were there no loons at all but few waterfowl period. There was a small flock of Pintail Ducks, some Redheads, Northern Shovelers, Common Goldeneye and a few dark-headed Geese. Due to high winds, I didn't see any landbirds (and I don't believe in pishing for birds in such conditions as it puts them at risk).

And to make matters worse there was a dog on the road that goes over the dam and gets a lot of traffic from people who have homes outside of town that use it as a short cut. Sadly the dog was very afraid and I couldn't lure it to me. I called the county sheriff and they said they couldn't do anything as they don't have a leash law nor do they have any place to shelter animals (this is absurd given all the expensive homes that have gone up in the county in the past 5-10 years they should be able to raise the money). I contacted the State Park and the ranger did get the dog to go off the dam roadl. He thought the dog had been dumped. Said he would put out a trap if the dog stays around but didn't answer when I asked where they could put it since they don't have a shelter (it took me a while but later realized they will likely shoot it). Very unsatisfying.

I also found thousands of waterfowl, several Bald Eagles, two Golden Eagles and 14 Tundra Swans (!!) less than 50 miles south of Trinidad at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. As the arctic cold front that brought all the winds plus cold temps down to Trinidad had not made it over the mountain to Maxwell so it was a balmy 55 degrees-maybe the birds liked the weather here better.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lathrop State Park, Walsenburg

I stopped at Latrop State Park this afternoon on my way to Trinidad. This is a good birding spot just a few miles west of Walsenburg. There were high wind warnings on the road and the winds were causing white caps on both Martin and Horseshoe Lakes so it was hard to see some of the waterfowl (but these were chinook winds so the temps were in the mid to upper 50's in late afternoon) There was only one Bald Eagle and it was sitting on the edge of a little ice on Horsehoe Lake. Probably due to its presence and the bad winds, I couldn't find any waterfowl on this smaller lake.

Martin Lake had one female Greater Scaup. Surprisingly there weren't any loons. There were small flocks of Common Goldeneye, Redheads, Common Mergansers (all but one were males), white-headed gulls on the lake. I finally found a small flock of 8 Bushtits--this lake has groves of pinyon-juniper all around it so I usually see lots of Bushtits here. There were only a few dark-headed geese visible though others may have been on the adjacent golf course that I didn't check out. A single Red-tailed Hawk played in the winds. I also saw several flocks of Robins and a flock of 10-15 Black-billed Magpies.

There were also Gadwalls, Green-winged Teal and some Mallards on the small wetland pond south of Horseshoe Lake.

Tomorrow I will check out Trinidad Lake in hopes the big arctic front coming through will have brought some interesting waterfowl there.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Available field trips

In response to the question submitted in the comments section, we do have some field trips in SE Colorado (though limited due to the small number of people and large number of acres). Arkansas Valley Audubon Society leads field trips that are free and open to the public. You can find them at our website then go to the Field Trips button. More info on field trips is avaible by clicking the Harrier (newsletter) button-field trips are usually located on page 4.

This month there will be field trips in association with the Snowgoose Festival Feb 24-26 in Lamar. You can find info on this at

The Aiken Audubon Society also leads field trips in the area. Their web page is


Monday, February 13, 2006

Bald Eagles

I saw this beauty this afternoon while walking near the Arkansas River just east of Canon City. Bald Eagles winter at the Pueblo Reservoir and fly up and down the Arkansas River in search of food. It is common to have 1-2 adult Bald Eagles regularly flying along the Arkansas River in the Canon City where they can be seen along the Canon City Riverwalk. They also work high up the Arkansas River thru the Big Horn Sheep Canon along H50, thru Salida, thru Buena Vista and even higher up towards Leadville.

Bald Eagles also winter in even larger numbers at John Martin Reservoir in the lower Arkansas Valley.

The number of Bald Eagles wintering on these reservoirs is dependent upon northern lakes freezing over, which forces the eagles to move south.



Saturday, February 11, 2006

More Canon City birding

Birding around Canon City from 2-9 to 2-11 was a little slow but with some interesting birds. On 2-9-06 I flushed (accidentally as I actively try to avoid disturbing birds) a Wilson's Snipe in a small creek near the Canon City Riverwalk. This species is referred to as "Common Snipe" in many field guides. This is because it was recognized only a few years ago as a separate species from the Common Snipe of Eurasia, which resulted in the name change.

That same day I saw the adult male Williamson's Sapsucker at Canon City's Lakeview Cemetery pictured in this post. This cemetery is one of several locations in Canon City that have hosted Williamson's, Yellow-bellied and Red-naped Sapsuckers in the winter for the past several years. In addition to this Williamson's, I also saw a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at this location.

Yesterday, on a cold snowy day, I heard the plaintive call of a Say's Phoebe. We usually have one or two birds of the this species that winter-over in the Canon City area. This one had found a great place to find insects on a cold day, an unused sewer district area on the Canon City Riverwalk with old sewage tanks that collect rain/snow. There is always a little open water where the sun hits the concrete sides and the biological remains make a great brew for insects (the first Fremont Co Black Phoebe stayed around these tanks in the winter of 1996 when the temps went to an extremely low for this area of -18 degrees and survived).

At Centennial Park I observed a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This is another area that has hosted sapsuckers regularly for the past several winters.

Also yesterday a Harlan's race/subspecies (of the Red-tailed Hawk species) perched on several trees along the Riverwalk, flushing frequently. This bird, like most the Harlan's I have observed (tho not sufficient numbers to form any generalization that this is a characteristic of this group), was even more sensitive to human disturbance than other subspecies of Red-tails. This bird appeared to see me looking at it from several hundred yards away (ie, moving its head to look straight at me)and flushed though I was standing still. This also happened twice when I refound it in my car. Again I was several hundred yards away and had to scope the bird. Though I remained in my car, it flushed in apparent response to my watching it.



Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pueblo Great Horned Owl again

While in Pueblo again yesterday for another meeting, I got a better photo of the Great Horned Owl discussed on 2-6-06. Read more about this common owl species here



Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Canon City birding

American Dippers have been quite active in the Canon City area in the past few days. I watched a pair chase each other up and down the Arkansas River adjacent to the Canon City Riverwalk yesterday. This chasing was accompanied by some singing. I don't know whether this chasing is agonistic such as a territorial dispute or what. Singing is uncommon in mid-winter according to Birds of North America but I also heard singing from a dipper that is located further down river. Since Colorado Breeding Bird Atlasshows that nest building has been observed as early as the end of February, maybe they are beginning to attract mates with their singing.

I found a Swamp Sparrow at the east end of the Canon City Riverwalk 2 days ago. This is the first one of this species I have seen this year. I continue to see/hear a Marsh Wren east of Canon City along a waterway. And yesterday I drove by the area where the Greater White-fronted Geese are often found. I only saw 4 but they were bedded down so I may have missed the 5th bird that has been present here since late fall.



Lamar, Colorado

Greetings from Lamar,

Birding has been slow in Lamar, with the high winds and dry, warm weather, most birding areas seem rather quiet.

Yesterday, February 2, 2006, I found a dead Inca Dove near my feeders. My guess is the immature Sharp-shinned Hawk that frequently visits the feeders (there is also a beautiful adult Cooper's surveying the area) flew in causing the birds to scatter. This particular bird had a broken neck, so it is possibly a window kill, although there were no marks on any of the windows near the feeders or perhaps I scared the SSHA and it dropped it's prey. Earlier in the morning while putting out the mail, the SSHA flew past me toward the feeders--about two hours later, I heard an INDO calling, "No hope, no hope", which lasted most of the afternoon. Would I be out of line to assume this was a mate to the deceased? A DOW person will take the specimen to the Denver Museum for me--I would venture to say, this is probably one of the first INDO specimens in the state of Colorado.

A birding friend of mine and I went to Lamar Community College a couple of days ago and saw the Carolina Wrens and the Red-bellied Woodpeckers among the more common species. Happily, I saw the Northern Magpie at the Woods. After the WNV outbreak, our population of NOMA dropped considerably and I missed seeing the 3 pairs that lived at LCC.

I continue to have Yellow-rumped Warblers coming to my water bath as well as a beautiful Gray Catbird. A few days ago, I had my first Audubon species of Yellow-rumped as my other five visitors are all Myrtles. The Red-breasted Nuthatches feeder regularly and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet visits my suet and my peanut butter feeders. My old faithfuls, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Inca Doves, Pine Siskin, Eurasian-collared Doves, Blue Jays and an ocassional Red-winged Blackbird visit the feeders regularly.

Let's hope rain arrives soon. The prairie is looking oh so very bleak.



Monday, February 06, 2006

Pueblo Eagle Day+

Pueblo's Eagle Day was Saturday, Feb 4, and I worked the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society table for part of the day. This is a great nature event with programs all day, exhibits with live birds and other critters, and scopes out so people can see Bald Eagles that congregate on Lake Pueblo in winter.

The Air Force Academy also comes every year to fly their falcons including the dark Gyrfalcon in the the first photo.

Afterward I stopped at a lower portion of Pueblo State Park to walk and bird along the Arkansas River. The Black Phoebe was still there though not right on the river as there were fishermen in the river that had displaced it. I saw 1 American Pipit on a rock by the river. And though I could only find one Great Horned Owl that was hooting, there were clearly two who were engaged in a conversation likely related to breeding as it is that time of year here.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Otero County

I was in La Junta to attend meetings on the Colorado Birding Trail (coming soon, read about it here) and stayed over to do some on-the-ground research for the Comanche National Grasslands plan revision (read about it here) this week.

On the Comanche NG I saw 4 Chihuahuan Ravens, a fairly common species here, as well as 1 Common Raven that was harassing a Northern Harrier that had apparently entered its territory. There were hundreds of Mountain Bluebirds, a common species in these grassland fields. Though many think of grasslands as flat expanses there is some great canyon country with lots of junipers. In some of this canyon area I saw Townsend Solitaires and heard a Rock Wren. They also have Bighorn sheep in the canyons though I didn't see any this week. I was pleasantly surprised by a flock of Cassin's Finch in some shrubs on the grassland area above Picketwire Canyon.

In an another area of Otero Co near the Comanche NG was very large flock of Wild Turkeys numbering between 80-100. There are a number of flocks of Wild Turkeys along that live along the Purgatory River than runs through southeast Colorado. Appropriate to this semi-arid country were several Canyon Towhees, Scaled Quail, another Chihuahuan Raven, a Northern Mockingbird and a Greater Roadrunner.

At Lake Holbrook north of La Junta there was a Harlan's race of the Red-tailed Hawk in addition to a few hundred dark geese and some distant ducks.


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