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

Friday, March 31, 2006

1st Egret of spring

Today I found a Snowy Egret at a private pond near Canon City. This is the first I've seen this spring.

And I heard a probable Black Phoebe at dusk tonight along the Arkansas River. It was near a bridge over the river and I did try to find out (I always enjoy being under bridges when it is getting dark) but it was getting dark and the bird quit calling. Black Phoebe's continue to be rare throughout most of Colorado but have been occurring regularly, sometimes year-round (though not this year), in the Canon City and throughout Fremont County. They have also been regular visitors to Pueblo County where they have bred, and as noted in earlier postings one spent the winter in near the city of Pueblo.



Thursday, March 30, 2006

Canon City update

Birding on the Arkansas Riverwalk through Canon City has been quite pleasant yeaterday and today with temps in the 60's--great spring weather (though gusty winds have kept small landbirds down). There were no rarities or even unusual species, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying them.

There are good numbers of waterfowl along the Arkansas River and in local ponds. The Cinnamon Teal, in their brilliant fresh plumage, are common now as are Common Mergansers. The one advantage of the eastern section of the Canon City Riverwalk is that it is elevated 20-50 feet above the water which makes viewing waterfowl in the river easier (though it is still necessary to stand behind shrubs or trees to disguise one's profile when trying to view very sensitive ducks such as Common Mergansers and Green-winged Teal) as birds are less threatened by humans located above them (rather than on the same level).

There were a few Western Bluebirds near Shadow Hills Golf Course on the southwest side of Canon City. There was one American Tree Sparrow there also.

I also saw a Cooper's Hawk in "downtown" Canon City (yeah, not a big city but it does have a downtown area with many historic buildings). It flew from tree to tree, perching in each to survey the area for possible lunch-meat (yeah, an intended pun).



Tuesday, March 28, 2006

First Turkey Vulture fo the year in Canon City

Today I saw my first Turkey Vulture of the year in Canon City. I have seen at least one report of a Turkey Vulture being seen along the northern front range a few days ago so I knew it wouldn't be long before I saw one here.

Say's Phoebes continue to move through the area. I saw one at Tunnel Drive trail this morning (though at least partially due to windy conditions, I saw few other birds here).



Sunday, March 26, 2006

More on Lesser Prairie-Chickens

Lesser Prairie-Chickens which can be found in far southeast Colorado are a "candidate" for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The State of Colorado lists them as Threatened. It is estimated that this species has declined 97% since the 1800's (Hagan,Birds of North America, 2005). Though droughts have seriously impacted populations, degredation of habitat is felt responsible for the precipitous population decline.

See my March 19 post for information on viewing opportunities in Colorado. Lesser Prairie-Chickens are also on the National Audubon Society "Watch List". Read more about the species here


Friday, March 24, 2006

Salida area

On my way to check out some of our Forest Service parcels that have been proposed for sale by the Administration, I stopped at Franz Lake in Salida. The large fishing lake had some dark geese. The smaller pond had a variety of ducks plus a Greater Yellowlegs. This appears to be an unusual bird for this area as the Chaffee County checklist on Colorado County Birding website notes only Lesser Yellowlegs have been seen here. Since I know they are seen at Lake DeWeese in Westcliffe, which is 40-50 miles from here, as the crow flies, it's absence on the list may be due to the fact this area has had minimal birding coverage.

As I drove up through pinyon-juniper forests near Salida, I saw a flock of Clark's Nutcracker. This species is fairly common both in Chaffee County as well as in Fremont County.

Several Stellar's Jays called as they flew around the area. Stellar's Jays are also fairly common in the higher elevation areas of southeast Colorado in Chaffee, Fremont, Pueblo, and Las Animas Counties.



Thursday, March 23, 2006

First Yellow-rumped Warbler of the year at CC Riverwalk

This morning I birded the west half of the Canon City Riverwalk. This section is divided into 2 parallel trails, the river trail (next to the Arkansas River) and the bluff trail (yes, parallel's the bluff). Both of these trails are flat and easy walking with several porta-potties in the area. This half is more heavily used and I take it less often, though it can be surprisingly good for birds at times.

I saw my first Yellow-rumped Warbler of the year midway through the bluff trail section-this one was a Myrtle subspecies. Though Yellow-rumps often overwinter in Canon City, as well as other areas in SE Colorado, I did not see any this winter (kind of surprising since it was such a mild winter).

I heard a possible Catbird--this would likely have wintered over as they have done in recent years; however, I couldn't entice it out of heavy cover so not positive on the id. Other birds were 1 Brown Creeper, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plus several Black-capped Chickadees, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Flickers and Red-winged Blackbirds--all common birds in the area .

Temperatures improved to the 50's today and many birds were singing.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Canon City area on 3/21-22/06

Light snow and cold for the past several days have brought brought a few interesting birds to the area. Yesterday I found Greater Yellowlegs at a private pond in Canon City and at the Sumo Golf Course pond in Florence. The golf course pond, viewable from a public road with a scope, has had some rarities in the past; however due to increased building of houses nearby and increased golfing, there have been few birds there until the weather made golfing less inviting. This pond also had 7 Redheads.

Brush Hollow Reservoir has also been more productive at least in part due to the paucity of fishermen braving the weather and a lack of boats. I saw the first Ruddy Ducks of the year, 1 a male in basic plumage, 2 females and the last bird sleeping. There were 2 Canvasback there today, both females and several Lesser Scaup in addition to American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, and Common Mergansers. Landbirds included a Say's Phoebe and a number of Mtn Bluebirds. There were also 2 Ring-billed Gulls that were later joined by 3 mostly brown gulls (with mostly black bills) and a white-headed gull that was significantly larger than the Ring-billed. I am not very proficient in gull-id but I believe 2 of these were 1st year Herring Gulls (larger than Ring-billed, dark tail feathers, mostly brown on body, mostly black, large bill). The white-headed gull with them may also have been a Herring Gull but I was unable to see identifying features.

On CR123 on the way back from Brush Hollow Reservoir yesterday a flock of 12-15 Scaled Quail flew at the edge of the road. Scaled Quail can be found in a number of areas in Fremont Co, though they are not as common as a decade ago (likely due to increased development of land).

And late this afternoon I watched 3 Sandhill Cranes flying low over agricultural fields just east of Canon City and a rather large flock (for this area with few lakes/ponds) of white-headed gulls migrating through the area.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Snow birds

I went out birding at 6:30 am this morning as I thought the snow was stopping and it would be a good time to look for birds brought in by the snow storm. Unfortunately the snow was just pausing so I spent a lot of time not finding much and a wasted trip to Brush Hollow Reservoir where, though there were boaters to chase off birds, I couldn't see far enough in the snow to find birds on the lake.

I did find 2 Sandhill Cranes flying over while I was in Florence as pictured here. And later this afternoon after the snow did stop, a Say's Phoebe was very busy catching insects while a second Say's worked the same canal about 200 feet downstream. You can see them here

Waterfowl are increasing in numbers and diversity with a male Canvasback joining several male Cinnamon Teal (all in bright new plumage), a Bufflehead, several Hooded Mergansers, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teals, American Wigeon and Mallards on the Arkansas River.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Lesser Prairie-Chicken viewing options in Colorado

In a post yesterday, I added updated info on Lesser Prairie-Chicken viewing in Colorado. I thought I would provide more about viewing options.

There is one public lek in Colorado (limited to one so as to keep disturbance to just one area). This lek is located 12 miles east of Campo in far southeast Colorado. It is about a 45 minute drive to the lek from the nearest lodging in Springfield, Colo which has several motels and an RV campground.

In order to use the public lek, it is necessary to call the Forest Service (they manage the Comanche National Grasslands where this lek is located)office in Springfield before your planned visit to get updated information and arrange to check out a key (if it is not already reserved) to the very small blind. Since it is necessary to get to the viewing area at least an hour before dawn (in order to minimize disturbance to the birds and dawn ranges from around 5:30-6:30 am). It is also necessary to do a dry run in the daylight as the viewing area is located in a field off a county road, and the turn-off is not highly visible (especially in the dark) and you want to make sure you don't turn into some farmer's field in the middle of the night.

It is also helpful to drive out on the sandy county road to the lek in the daylight as the route goes through minimally populated areas (it is best to use the driving directions provided by the Forest Service as some roads turn into 2-tracks and they choose the better county roads). It is also helpful to practice driving on these very sandy roads as the sand can be deep in sections which can cause hydro-planing if you drive too fast. And it is important to see that the edges of the road drop off steeply so you want to be careful not to go too far towards them. You especially want to see where the turn-off is as you will be taking a 2-track out into a field to get to the lek parking area.

When I visited the public lek two years ago, I decided to view the birds displaying at dusk (a less preferred time)as I didn't like the idea of driving out in the middle of the night by myself. This did mean that I had to drive out in the dark (as it is necessary to stay put for an hour after the birds disperse in order to reduce disruption to the birds) but this seemed less daunting to me. I also decided after seeing the rather rugged viewing blind to stay in my car instead. Though I don't know that snakes could get into the blind, I am sure that spiders can; and I did't relish being in this small (holds only 2-4 people) dugout building in the dark with unseen critters.

Some of you may find the adventure of using the public lek acceptable. For those who are not up for an adventure and would prefer a more civilized viewing then Arena Dust Tours is a great option. You will drive out to the Dorenkamp's ranch house near Granda which is only 15 miles east of Lamar, Colorado (which gives you a number of lodging options including renting a bedroom in the Dorenkamp's basement). You won't have to worry about getting lost or driving into a ditch since Mr. Dorenkamp (who knows this country like the back of his hand) will drive you from his ranch house to the viewing lek in his vehicle. Depending on which lek has the best viewing, you will either stay in his vehicle or you will be able to use a new, updated Division of Wildlife viewing blind. Besides the safe,escorted tour, you get light refreshments when you arrive at the Dorenkamp's ranch house, the benefit of Mr. Dorenkamps extensive historical knowledge of the area, the opportunity to view other species on the drive back after the viewing in the early am--all for $50/person.

Or you could join one of the professional tour groups that have trips to view all Colorado grouse and spend between $2,100 to $2,500 per person for these 9-10 day statewide tours or $1,500 for a 7 day specialized tour.

Though I have not personally been to the private leks available with Arena Dust Tours, I have met Mr and Mrs. Dorenkamp at a Colorado Birding Trail landowner meeting. They are very nice and well respected. This is truly a mom and pop (actually a grandmom and grandpop) business, the type of small birding business that is good for conservation that I fully support. I do not have any financial interest in this venture and do not receive any money for referrals--this is a part of my efforts to support conservation birding.

You can get more information about Arena Dust Tours here or call the Dorenkamps at 719-734-5226



Saturday, March 18, 2006

Lesser Prairie-Chickens now displaying on leks

I received the following today:

"The lesser Prairie Chickens are now starting to do their mating ritual. I observed two different leks this morning. so we can take birders at anytime and they will be able to observe. There are many other species that are in the area at this time"

This is from Fred Dorenkamp whose Lesser Prairie-Chicken tours I posted on in February: 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.



Colorado County Birding website moved

The website for the Colorado County birding sites has been changed to:



Friday, March 17, 2006

Canon City area

I made a quick trip out to Brush Hollow Reservoir early this afternoon, intent on beating the afterwork fishermen and before the week-end which will likely be quite busy due to nice weather predictions. Boy was I fooled--there were several boats already on the reservoir and several groups of folks on the shoreline, thus reduced numbers of birds.

There was 1 white-headed gull (likely a Ring-billed), 1 male Common Goldeneye, a few Common Mergansers, several Mallards, and a number of Green-winged Teal enjoying the muddy shoreline. The only shorebirds were a few Killdeer. The only saving grace was a small flock of about 20-25 Pinyon Jays.

As weather warmed a little, and the winds were down, I returned to Canon City to hike and bird on Tunnel Drive Trail on the far west side of town. This is a good birding area with some specialty birds, but it can be mercilous if it is cold and especially if there is any wind in the area (as this is located at the mouth of the Royal Gorge canyon, a breeze in town is magnified due to the wind-tunnel effect).

Since it was late in the afternoon by the time I got to Tunnel Drive there were fewer birds than usual. I did hear 3 American Dippers in the Arkansas River than flows about a hundred feet below the trail, but I only saw one of them as the light fades quickly over the river in this deep canyon. During past winters I have found 8-10 or more American Dippers and I suspect there were more today.

About 1 1/2 miles up the trail (which is fairly steep for the first 200 yards, then levels off) I found 2 Canyon Towhees. This species is abundant in this pinyon-juniper area and one can almost be assured of seeing 1 or more here. Within a hundred feet of the towhees I found a sparrow. I didn't get good enough looks to confirm, but I think it was likely a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. This is the same location where I have found this species in past years and they are almost always near Canyon Towhees in this location. Rufous-crowned Sparrow is a specialty bird that has been regular at this location, one of only a few locations in Colorado where they can be found.

Other birds seen were several male Cassin's Finch, a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, a Crow, 2 Canada Geese by the river and a Canyon Wren (this area often also often has Rock Wrens in winter, though I didn't find any today). I also saw two Northern Flickers who flew close over my head in one of the tunnels (there are several tunnels that the trail goes thru and these flickers were apparently after some insects on the floor of the tunnel when I entered). As the top of the tunnel is only about 15 feet, I ducked when these large birds flew so relatively close to my head).

As I drove past the city water pond I saw about 50-60 American Wigeon, a several Mallards and a few Hooded Mergansers. This large pond can have a lot of waterfowl so I always check it when I go to the Tunnel Drive area.



Thursday, March 16, 2006

Birdwatching classes to be held in La Junta

The focus on birds and birding has stimulated a local library in La Junta to offer free bird watching classes:

"Library hosting bird watching classes

By MIKE HARRIS - Tuesday, March 14, 2006 5:47 PM MST

There has been a lot of recent talk about bird watching and what it could mean for La Junta and the region in terms of tourism. With 675 native bird species in North America and out of those, approximately 400 of those species are found in six southeast Colorado counties.

It's for this reason that the Colorado Birding Trail is interested in this area and why there has been so much talk about bird watching lately.

For those who don't know much about bird watching, and would like to know more, Woodruff Memorial Library will be holding some classes on birding, and everyone interested is welcome to attend.

There will be two birding basics classes taught March 28 and April 6, covering common species in the area, and common migratory birds. There is also the possibility of a field experience class based on interest from the two classes.

Sandy Messick, library director said that the class has been planned for when migratory birds would be in the area.

“It has been requested many times that we specifically do a class on birding,” Messick. Messick added that there has been a lot of local interest in birding."

read more here


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Re: owls at Beaver Creek SWA/WSA

In a March 5 post I noted hearing a Northern Saw-whet Owl calling at Beaver Creek SWA. In a Comment at the bottom of the post, Brandon asked if I was sure it was a Northern Saw-whet since a few days after I heard this owl he saw 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls in that area. Since then he and I have communicated off-blog and I told him the owl I heard had none of the pauses between call sequences as do Northern Pygmy-Owls. Instead, the owl I listened to called on and on and on in an monotonous manner which is the manner in which Northern Saw-whets call.

This illustrates how good the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area(SWA)/Wilderness Study Area(WSA) is for birding, especially for small owls. Having both of these species in this area I believe is attributable to having great habitat; and that habitat is only there because it is protected by the SWA and the 27,000 surrounding acres in the WSA.
There are also excellent hiking opportunities in the Wilderness Study Area with two maintained trails. One trail loop takes about 5 hours and there is the opportunity to hike a much longer distance over more than one day.



"Massive" oil spill in Alaska

This story broke a few days ago but has not received much publicity in the media. Many birds that are seen in SE Colorado breed on the Alaska coast and are subject to either direct harm or harm to their breeding habitat from such spills. Such catastrophic spills are one of the reasons that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be a disastrous decision.

"Alaska hit by 'massive' oil spill

An oil spill discovered at Prudhoe Bay field is the largest ever on Alaska's North Slope region, US officials say.

They estimate that up to 267,000 gallons (one million litres) of crude leaked from a corroded transit pipeline at the state's northern tip.

The spill was detected on 2 March and plugged. Local environmentalists have described it as "a catastrophe".

Read more here



Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Red-naped Sapsucker still in Canon City

This morning I was able to get into the Lakeside Cemetery in Canon City without running into a funeral so I could look for the sapsucker whose very fresh sapwells I found last week. I found a sapsucker in a Scots pine but it was quite skittish, moving behind branches when I got a view of it and retreating to the dense interior top of the tree where it was I usually could not see it. Though it looked like it might be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, I glimpsed some red as well as white on its throat and the white on its back appeared to be organized in two rows like Red-naped.

I had to stand quite still for periods so it would move back out into a more visible location. I am glad I took the time to really check this bird out as it was a female Red-naped Sapsucker. See photos of this sapsucker here

I posted earlier on this blog that I found a female Red-naped Sapsucker at the Holy Cross Abbey and that it is very unusual for them to be here in the winter time (slighly less rare in early March per "Colorado Birds")as most birds of this species have migrated far south to southern New Mexico or to Mexico.

I have looked on several occasions for a Red-naped Sapsucker at the Abbey without luck. I am unsure if this is the same bird as there was also a female Red-naped Sapsucker found at this cemetery during the Christmas Bird Count in December.

I must say this particular bird was much more active in moving about different feeding locations on the tree than have the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers I have seen here and other SE Colorado locations in the past several years. It is also my impression that this species of sapsucker feeds on a much larger number of trees than do Yellow-bellied or Williamson's Sapsuckers that I have watched over the past several winters.



Monday, March 13, 2006

Early arrival--first Tree Swallow of the year

I was very surprised to see a Tree Swallow swooping along the Arkansas River near Canon City late this afternoon. This is an early date for this species to be migrating through here (they don't stay around the Canon City area but move through on their way to their mainly higher elevation breeding areas in Colorado's mountains and foothill areas).

This bird seemed to be making feeding swoops in a rather frenetic manner--possible having to make more attempts due to low numbers of flying insects as today was rather chilly with a high only in the 40's and a brisk wind that would disperse their prey.



Canon City update

There is still one Ross's Goose staying with a flock of Canada Geese in the area. I couldn't find any Greater White-fronted Geese so they may have migrated north.

Tonight I was serenaded by a pair (one called was higher in pitch, a characteristic o females due to having a smaller syrinx) of Great Horned Owls near the Canon City Riverwalk including the one poking his eye out from behind the branches of a 80-100 foot tall blue spruce where he was perched. This Great Horned Owls are found throughout SE Colorado as well as all of Colorado.



Sunday, March 12, 2006

Great Sandhill Crane video

As I have noted in earlier posts, Sandhill Cranes do stop off in SE Colorado during migration. Though there are no webcams here to show them, National Audubon Society has put up web cams around the Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary on the Platte River and videos and pics can be seen on National Geographic's website.

This website also has lots of info on Sandhill Cranes and the Rowe Sanctuary. There are still about 10,000 Sandhill Cranes in the San Luis Valley of Colorado in and near the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge as all the cranes make stopovers on their way to their breeding grounds. And some Sandhill Cranes will make brief stopovers in SE Colorado.



Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hitting side of nest tree to get owls out for viewing--unethical & illegal

Sadly, I can remember when more experienced birders showed me how to get a cavity nesting owl to come out so it could be seen for recreational purposes. This was some years ago when I was pretty new to birding (and birding ethics) so I don't recall who showed me this unethical behavior. Fortunately I was rarely in a position to know where there was a cavity nesting owl to disturb before I gained more experience and I also I decided that I didn't think it was a good to disturb birds.

I have asked a few birders if they are aware that this behavior might be illegal as well as unethical--they were not. So, the following comes from the USGS (United States Geologic Survey, which runs the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center) website:

"A practice used by some birders to view hole-nesting birds is to repeatedly hit the side of a nest tree, causing the adult birds to leave the hole. This activity can be considered "taking" if the bird is intentionally chased from its nest and the inadvertent death of young birds or abandonment of eggs occurs."

Specifically this would be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712). read more here and let sleeping owls be.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker still in Canon City

Yesterday I re-found the male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in this photo at Centennial Park in Canon City. I then went to Lakeside Cemetery to see if any sapsuckers were still at that location where I have seen them this year (as well as the past several winters). However, there was a funeral in progress in the area where I have found most sapsuckers. A search of locations far enough away from the funeral produced a lot of recent sapwells but no birds.

There were some Pine Siskin in the cemetery. Though usually a common seen and abundant species in winter, there have been few around this year. Presumably this is due to the very mild weather which has not provided any impetus for these birds to migrate to lower altitudes as usual.

Yesterday I also saw a shrike a few miles northeast of Canon City but it flew off when I turned my car around to identify the species. It was near where I saw a Northern Shrike earlier this winter and is possibly the same bird as I don't see many shrikes in Fremont County.

And today I saw my first Cinnamon Teal of the year. A male, it was decked out in fresh, brillian plumage.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Canon City birding

Yesterday I found 4 white geese with a flock of dark geese but they flew before I could confirm their identification. Today I refound them and they were all Ross's. We don't get many white geese in the Canon City area and it is interesting that we get the less populous Ross's. And I had the opportunity to identify the dark geese as Lesser Canada's.

There were also 2 more Greater Yellowlegs here yesterday. Though I was able to scope them to see the long, upturned bill they also provided confirmation of their being Greater rather than Lesser's by their calls.

Additionally I found a Lincoln's Sparrow, a species very uncommon in this early in this area.


New research shows Rufous Hummingbirds have superb memories

I was sent the link to this article on hummingbird memories by my friend, Jane, and thought it was very interesting. The species studied, Rufous Hummingbirds, are seen throughout the western half of Colorado during migration and are recognized not only for their colorful feathers but for their pugnacity in guarding their food sources.

"Mon Mar 6, 8:14 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Although they have brains about the size of a grain of rice, hummingbirds have superb memories when it comes to food, according to research on Monday.

No bird-brains these tiny creatures that weigh 20 grams (0.7 ounces) or less and feed on nectar and insects.

The research, reported in the journal Current Biology, suggests they not only remember their food sources but can plan with a certain amount of precision."
read more here


Monday, March 06, 2006

Wild birds wrongly blamed for avian flu in Nigeria

People can be too eager to blame wild birds for spreading avian flu as this demonstrates. SeEtta:

"Nigeria links bird flu source to illegal poultry imports
font size ZoomIn ZoomOut

The Nigerian government has blamed illegal imports of poultry for the deadly bird flu outbreak, an official statement obtained Monday said, citing reports from security agencies.

The deadly H5N1 virus has spread to eight of the 36 states and the capital Abuja and investigation indicated that 90 percent of infected farms bought chicks from a farm in the northern state of Kano, said the statement signed by Information Minister Frank Nweke.

"While it was originally suspected that migrating birds may have been the purveyors of the virus ... there is a very strong basis to believe that the avian flu may have been introduced into Nigeria through illegally-imported day-old chicks," it said."

read more here


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sandhill Cranes near Canon City

Today I stopped by a private pond and found 4 Sandhill Cranes. This is the same private pond where 4 Sandhill Cranes (could these be the same one's?) stayed this fall for several weeks. This is the time of year when thousands of Sandhill Cranes stop-over at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in the San Luis Valley. Next week-end is the Monte Vista Crane Festival.



Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area/N.Saw-whet Owl

Yesterday I drove out to Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area (SWA). Though located due north of Penrose, it is accessed via CR132 near CR67. This SWA is adjacent to the BLM's Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA), so there is a lot of good wildlife habitat in the area even though there several of those habitat-fragmenting 35-acre sprawlettes in the area. There are also great opportunities for long hikes through the WSA.

Beaver Creek stream, which has perennial flows, cuts through the SWA so there is a lot of cottonwood trees as well as willow trees and shrubs. These are surrounded by pinyon-juniper habitat at the lower elevation and mixed pines at the upper elevations. Scrub(Gambel)oak is intersperced throughout the area.

I saw at least 30 Northern Flickers (including a dozen that were flushed by 3 low flying helicopters from the nearby Ft Carson Army property), several Downey Woodpeckers, 2 Hairy Woodpeckers, a few Spotted Towhees and Stellars Jays, as well as lots of Dark-eyed Juncos and Robins. The highlight of the visit was at least one (though possibly two) Northern Saw-whet Owl calling as I left the area around dusk. I was listening for owls, so I drove slowly with my windows down some (and the heater on as it was chilly due to continuing winds). Actually I was lucky to hear this owl calling close enough to the road to hear it as the winds that had been blowing all afternoon had not died down at dusk as I had hoped. I stopped and listened to this little owl for about 15 minutes as it made its "advertising call" (whistled notes, about 2/second, at same pitch) on & on & on & on with only very brief interludes (lasting only seconds). It was still calling as I drove away. I heard more of these whistled calls a ways down the road and think it was a second owl, but with the wind there is the chance I was just hearing the same one.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Brush Hollow Reservoir/SWA

I visited Brush Hollow Reservoir and State Wildlife Area yesterday. This location often has interesting waterfowl, shorebirds and landbirds on the surrounding pinyon-juniper in the SWA in late fall, winter and early spring (there are often many fishermen and other users during the late spring to early fall).

The most unusual bird was a Greater Yellowlegs (fortunately it was calling while it fed so I could more easily identify it as the light was far enough away that the poor lighting made visual id difficult). We do not get many Greater Yellowlegs here and this is bird is early though they are also already being seen in the lower Arkansas Valley area. The only other shorebird was one Killdeer. There was one Common Goldeneye, one Ring-billed Gull, as well as Common Mergansers, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallards and a few Lesser Scaup on the lake.

Landbirds in the cottonwoods and shrubs around the lake included Northern Flickers (many), Mountain Bluebirds (fewer than the usual hundreds often at this location), Song Sparrows. Although I didn't get any Bushtits which I usually find here, I did find a flock of 35-45 Pinyon Jays. I am always pleased to find Pinyon Jays as they are a species of special concern as they are on the Partners In Flight Watch List


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Avian Flu, wild birds and birdfeeding

I have heard of people who have stopped feeding birds out of fear of the Avian Flu (also known as "Bird Flu"). Everything I have read indicates this is unnecessary as there is no reason to believe that the Avian Flu can be transmitted by birdfeeding. It is, however, recommended that people do not touch any wildlife and that people who feed birds should practice good hygiene which is common sense when touching items that have been in contact with excrement of any species.

There are special precautions for those who handle wild birds and other wildlife such as bird banders and hunters.

There is evidence that the Avian Flu has the potential to have a serious impact on some bird species as a deaths of a variety of birds have already been reported.

I believe that overreactions are due to a lack of knowledge about the Avian Flu. Please read the reports on Avian flu from the National Audubon Society, Bird Life International, and USGS



Just east of Canon City

I enjoyed listening to two American Dippers singing during my fitness walking just east of Canon City yesterday and today. A Marsh Wren scolded me briefly yesterday.

There is still a female Common Merganser in the canal that has been there for some weeks. I always turn around before the end of the road in order to avoid flushing her as her presence in this location makes me wonder if she is injured. Today I apparently walked past her as I encountered her on my return trip. She must have been resting along the edge of the canal as I would have seen her if she had been swimming as she usually does. I could not avoid walking past her as it was my only way back so I walked as far to the opposite edge of the road as I could and covered my eyes in hopes she would be less threatened. Even so, I was only 25-30 feet from her as I walked by but she did not flush. This is very unusual in my experience as I have found Common Mergansers intolerant of close human presence.

I believe that all creatures deserve consideration, which is just an extension of the Golden Rule.

Save trees in the Boreal forest for birds, not for paper--Opt out of catalogues

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