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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Nesting American Dippers

American Dippers are nesting along the Arkansas River in what is called the "Bighorn Sheep Canyon"--that section from Parkdale (just west of Canon City about 15-20 miles) to near Salida. This is also the area where Christo has proposed his "Over the River" project which involves 2 years to install hardware (requiring the use of drilling rigs and other heavy equipment) then attaching about 2,400 cables across the river (some of which remain up for about 3 months before fabric is attached to it) so that fabric can be attached--and it's the fabric that's the art project. I am monitoring some of the bird life in the area as this is of concern.

I found one pair of dippers already had at least 1 fledgling (but thought I heard a second), the one in these photos. Another was feeding nestlings in a nest located under a bridge right in a section that is proposed for draping of fabric (and all the construction to get it up). I found additional dippers near bridges that may also be nesting.

I also found a Belted Kingfisher nesting in a dirt bank located about 50 feet from the Arkansas River in the Texas Creek area (this is a BLM area with a lot of heavy recreational use--much ATV and dirt bike use plus lots of fishermen in spring and rafters/kayakers in summer. It's amazing that these birds are able to nest and feed their nestlings as often as required given the disturbane.


Errata for 4-29-06 post

I inadvertently combined identification points for two birds in yesterday's post. I meant that the Tennesse Warbler had the long, whitish supercilium while the empid flycatcher did not make sufficient calls for a positive id but that that bird had a little yellow wash on its underparts and a short primary projection.

I failed to add that the Tennesse Warbler was likely a female as it had a yellow wash on its underparts, a grey hood, greenish back and white undertail coverts.



Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spring migrants in Canon City area

Boy, birding has been great in the past week in the Canon City area. Yellow-rumped Warblers are coming through by the dozens. In the Arkansas River basin, we get substantial numbers of Myrtle in addition to Audubon's subgroup. Today I led a field trip for the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society and Aiken Audubon and we saw literally hundreds of Yellow-rumps.

Today's trip netted a few rarities including a Tennesse Warbler and a probable Dusky Flycatcher (it didn't make sufficient diagnostic calls to confirm the id but it had a long whitish supercilium, a little yellow wash on its underparts and a short primary projection) on the west section of the Canon City Riverwalk. In the same area we saw a pair of Eastern Phoebes I found a few days ago, a first of the year male Lazuli Bunting, a Say's Phoebe, Chipping Sparrows, House Wrens, and an Orange-crowned Warbler.

Also on today's field trip we saw a pair of Black Phoebes on private property that are repairing a nest used by this species in past years, a Spotted Sandpiper, a late female Common Goldeneye, 5 Western Grebes, 2 Ruddy Ducks, 2 late Hooded Mergansers, a probable Black-chinned Humminbird, several Blue-winged Teal, 2 Cinnamon Teal and a flock of pink-tinged Franklins Gulls. We also heard a Lesser Yellolegs.

Birds missed today but that I have seen in the past few days are up to 3 Snowy Egrets, and a very unusual for this area Western Sandpiper. And there has been a flock of up to 100 Franklin's Gulls plus up to 6-8 Ring-billed Gulls in the area.



Friday, April 28, 2006

Another study demonstrates that being a "bird brain" is not necessarily a bad thing:

"nation / world news
Birds blow whistle on linguistic theory
By Seth Borenstein
The Associated Press

Washington - Grade-school grammar students should put away their excuses. Scientists say even a bird brain can grasp one of grammar's early concepts.

Researchers trained starlings to differentiate between a regular birdsong "sentence" and one that was embedded with a warbled clause, according to research in today's issue of the journal Nature.

This "recursive grammar" is what linguists have long believed separated man from beast.

After a month of training, with food as a reward, University of California-San Diego psychology researcher Tim Gentner got the birds to recognize this grammatical structure in their own language. What they learned may shake up the field of linguistics.

While many animals can roar, sing, grunt or otherwise make noise, linguists have contended for years that the key to distinguishing language skills goes back to our elementary-school teachers and basic grammar.

Recursive grammar - inserting an explanatory clause like this one into a sentence - is something that humans can recognize, but not animals, researchers figured. Two years ago, a top research team tried to get tamarin monkeys to recognize such phrasing but failed.

After training, nine out of Gentner's 11 songbirds picked out the birdsong with inserted warbling or rattling bird phrases about 90 percent of the time.

Gentner trained the birds using three buttons hanging from the wall. When a bird pecked the button, it would play different versions of birdsongs that Gentner generated, some with inserted clauses and some without. If the song followed a certain pattern, birds were supposed to hit the button again with their beaks; if it followed a different pattern, they were supposed to do nothing. If the birds recognized the correct pattern, they were rewarded with food.

What the experiment shows is that language and animal cognition is a lot more complicated than scientists once thought and that there is no "single magic bullet" that separates man from beast, said UCSD cognitive-science professor Jeffrey Elman, who was not part of the Gentner research team."



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Golden Eagle has one nestling

I checked on the Golden Eagle nest today and saw a nestling with an adult. The nestling was in an upright position and moving around some so apparently it was already hatched when I first saw the adult 3 days ago. The adult was tearing up some food and feeding it ever so gently to it's fuzzy looking, in it's grayish white down, offspring. Golden Eagles are "altricial" which means they must be fed by the parents. It was really quite amazing to watch this large raptor apppear to tenderly offer small bits of food to the much smaller nestling. According to the Birds of North America males rarely feed the nestlings so this was probably the female.

The eagle focussed it's attention on tearing up the food and feeding the nestling until an Osprey that had been working the river nearby made some fairly close passes near the nest. I heard some calling that might have been the "skonk" call made by Golden Eagles when they are threatening.

I left to do an errand and when I returned about an hour later the eagle was again or still feeding the nestling. I got a photo that shows the nestling but need to do some editing before posting it.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Canon City area update

Yesterday I saw 2 Cattle Egrets together in a flooded field in Florence. There were about 100 White-faced Ibis and 6-8 Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the area.

I saw about 175White-faced Ibis in Canon City as well as 2 Snowy Egrets, 2 Western Grebes, 1 Ruddy Duck as well as a mix of Violet-green and Barn Swallows.



Western Fremont County

I found nesting American Dippers up the Arkansas River including one pair feeding their noisy nestlings and one near a viable nest. I also heard a fourth American Dipper at a third location.

I also found another Black Phoebe (though I only one) a second location in western Fremont County. Nearby were a male and female Common Merganser in the river. I saw a Belted Kingfisher that I believe flew into a hole in a dirt hill near the river, likely a nest location. Also at this location was a Say's Phoebe. There were Yellow-rumped Warblers in the trees and shrubs along the river.



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Nesting Golden Eagle

Today I verified the identification of a Golden Eagle that is nesting in Fremont County I do not believe in posting locations of nesting raptors as they are so vulnerable during nesting, both for nest failure and for being the target of sick individuals. Birds of North America states that more than 70% of these birds are caused either directly or indirectly (such as collisions with power lines and other structures) by humans. I watched the bird with my spotting scope from atleast 500 feet distance. Though the photo is enlarged and was taken at about 10 power, it does not show great detail. The dark brown of the feathers is apparent as are the tawny feathers on the median upperwinge coverts (across the back). Barely visible are the golden feathers on the rear crown, nape, and sides of neck.

Golden Eagles usually nest on cliffs. Their nests are very large, four to six feet in diameter and several feet in height such as the nest in this photo. They usually return to the same nest year after year, adding new material each year which accounts for the large size of older nests.

The eagle did not appear to be attending to a nestling or making moves such as to turn eggs so I would think this is early in the nesting cycle. Though I was at a good distance from the bird, it seemed to be watchful of me when I got out of my car so I tried to stay inside and use my car as a blind so as not to disturb the bird. Golden Eagles are declining in the West.



Canon City field trip on April 19 open to public

I will lead a combined Arkansas Valley Audubon Society and Aiken Audubon field trip to the Canon City area on April 29. This is a very good time of year to take advantage of early spring migrants including several possible warbler species, Black Phoebe (this rare species has bred in the Canon City area for the past several years) as well as some of the other birds I have been reporting on here.

We will take advantage of what spring brings us and do birding du jour. Those coming from/thru Pueblo--Meet at NE corner of K-Mart parking lot, Hwy 50 West and Elizabeth, to carpool; departure at 7:45 am. Bring lunch. There will be a good amount of walking over easy to moderate terrain. To make a reservation, contact Donna Emmons, 676-5666/369-9704, Others--meet at the green (yes, green-it’s hard to miss) dinosaur located in front of Walmart on the north side of H50 a few hundred yards west of the first stop-light as you enter Canon City from the east (or a hundred feet east of the stop-light at Dozier Ave if you come from the west). We will all meet up in Canon City at 8:15 am.

This, as well as all Arkansas Valley Audubon Society field trips, is free and open to the public.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Canon City area Long-billed Dowitcher and Glossy Ibis

I found a Long-billed Dowitcher at the BLM's Blue Heron area today with a male and female Blue-winged Teal. They were all on the south pond, one that gets lowered when the water is let out for irrigation--the best kind for shorebirds and also for Blue-winged Teal, a species that is attracted muddy and low water areas.

There was a really big flock of 250-300 ibis in Florence today. I found one Glossy Ibis, a rarity in Colorado, after scoping about 75 birds (the rest were too distant for me to tell for me).



Friday, April 21, 2006

Possible Black Swift in Salida

I saw one swift, flying with a number of swallows (mostly Tree but also Barn Swallows), while I was birding Sand Lake in Salida today. I could not detect any white on it as is usually quite visible on White-throated Swifts (which would be expected in the area). The swift appeared all dark/blackish. I did not hear any of the vocalizations that are common with both White-throated and with Chimney Swifts (not expected here but also all dark; however they are pretty stubby birds which this bird was not), and reports are that Black Swifts are often silent during migration. It had long and pointed wings as is characteristic of Black Swifts but I couldn not detect a notch (though the bird was flying fast, weaving in and out between the swallows and it flew off after a short time). The only other possible (tho most unlikely) species would be a Vaux’s Swift--but they are smaller than the many Tree Swallows flying nearby and the bird I saw appeared larger. Black Swifts are rare around southeast Colo (and not documented in Salida before). They are on "watch list" for both the National Audubon Society and Partners In Flight due to conservation concerns.

I also saw 2 male Red-naped Sapsuckers having an apparent territorial dispute over a tree. After uttering a number of calls, and what looked like chasing each other as they "hitched" themselves around the tree, they engaged in a brief physical confrontation that ended with one bird leaving the tree. I got some good photos so will put them up tomorrow.

Other birds seen included Pine Siskens, 3 male Great-tailed Grackles (they have been found each summer for the past several years at Sand Lake), a White-breasted Nuthatch and 50-60 ibis in a flooded field.



Thursday, April 20, 2006

Salida sparrows

When I drove through Salida this morning to attend the Arkansas River Water Forum, there were several flocks of ibis feeding in flooded fields along H50 just before getting to Poncha Springs. There are still a number of farms in this area, not yet displaced by the "strip development" of businesses that is creeping in this direction.

The Water Forum was held at the Chaffee Co Fairgrounds in Poncha Springs, and there were hundreds of sparrows in and around the fairground facilities. There were many Vesper Sparrows singing their delightfully cheery songs. There were also a good number of Savannah Sparrows along with small flocks of Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared-Doves. It was a good thing these were here as I didn't have much time to bird today as I wanted to attend all the programs at the Water Forum.



Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Birding really good again

Although I could not refind the 2 Long-billed Curlews today, I did find 1 Cattle Egret, 1 Say's Phoebe, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs (the Greaters seem to have moved on), several Blue-winged Teal, Black Phoebes, and Lesser Goldfinch in Canon City today.

I drove to Salida later today. In western Fremont County I found another pair of Black Phoebes, plus both Audubon's and Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warblers. A pair of Black Phoebes have nested here for the past several years.

In the Salida area I saw a Yellow Warbler, the first I've seen this season, several Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warblers and Lesser Goldfinch. This area (a mountain valley with an elevation of around 7,000 feet) also produced one male Red-naped Sapsucker, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, another Say's Phoebe, an adult Golden Eagle and a singing Spotted Towhee. In some flooded farm fields near Salida were 100-125 Franklin's Guls and 90-100 ibis species.

I will have to wait to post photos of these and yesterday's notable birds later as I have to be back in Salida tomorrow morning for the Arkansas Basin Water Forum.



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Long-billed Curlews in Fremont Co.

As I started a walk at dusk tonight, I heard a call that seemed out of place. Before I could think what made the call, I spotted 2 Long-billed Curlews (making cur-loo call)flying towards the west. They were flying only 75 feet or so off the ground which makes me wonder if they had just taken off from a field nearby. As they flew, they passed me only 15-200 feet away so I had very good looks with my binoculars.

Long-billed Curlews are associated with prairies, something that is in short supply in Fremont Co. There have been records of them nesting on the western slope so these could have been migrating to there. Or, given the really bad winds yesterday, maybe they were just off course.

It's late so tomorrow I will post other birds I saw today with some pics.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Lewis' Woodpeckers & Cattle Egret

Finally a pair of Lewis' Woodpeckers have returned to a location east of Florence which has been a very productive nest area for this species every year. I was getting concerned as I had not seen any Lewis' at this site yet this year. At first the pair were engaged with two European Starlings, a species that takes nest sites from them. After the Starlings flew off, they began interacting with each other with calls and body movements.

The first Cattle Egret of the season was feeding in a flooded field in Florence. Whatever it got into its mouth was rather wide but it finally swallowed it. This bird was in the attractive breeding (alternate) plumage that this species downs in spring.

There was also a even larger size flock of ibis than I saw yesterday. This group numbered around 80. All the birds I was able to scope before they flew off were White-faced, including several of what Sibley refers to as drab adult variant.

The winds got really bad today and further birding was nearly impossible (and certainly not advisable as it would endanger any birds that a birder might flush as they would be at risk of collision in the strong wind gusts)



Saturday, April 15, 2006

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis are now coming into the Canon City area good numbers including a flock of about 40 I saw today (like the photos here that I took in past years). It is really amazing how well birds can tell time--these birds come into the area when farmers are beginning to flood irrigate their fields, which is the preferred eating areas for these waterbirds in this area. They probe with their scythe-like bills for their aquatic prey.

The close-up photo shows both adult White-faced Ibis in breeding/alternate plumage (with a white-border around a reddish face with a red eye) and one "intermediate" plumage (per Sibley) that is possibly a hybrid (with red eye and reddish face but without the distinctive white border) between a White-faced and a Glossy Ibis.

There are now also a number of Great-tailed Grackles in the area. The males are displaying to attrack females for breeding.



Friday, April 14, 2006

Sage Sparrow

A local bander reports that he had a Sage Sparrow feeding on seeds on the ground under his feeder last week in a pinyon-juniper-grasslands area south of Florence last week. That is a very unusual occurence.

Today I saw about 7 Yellow-headed Blackbirds in Florence, the first I have seen this year. There are still ibis species, yellowlegs species, and gulls around in the various locations where there are flooded fields. I have only seen one lone American White Pelican for the past several days. I suspect this is an injured bird that stayed behind while the flock that was here migrated up towards Antero Reservoir north of here at 8,000 feet. Swallows are increasing with more Barn Swallows, that will nest here, in addition to Tree Swallows that are just migrating through.



Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Identity confusion-gull or goose

I saw a most odd sight today--a gull (likely a Ring-billed)flying in formation with 3 dark geese (likely Canada Geese). If that wasn't odd, the gull was flapping its' wings synchronized to the flapping of the geese! It makes me wonder if gulls can "imprint" on geese?!


Canon City Black Phoebes

Today 2 birders from the Denver area came through and I took them to see one of the two-pair of Black Phoebes in the Canon City area at a private farm. This location has hosted nesting Black Phoebes for the past several years and non-nesting birds before that.

I also stopped by the bridge over the Arkansas River where I found Black Phoebes last week. Both were there, though located 150 feet downstream in the some overhanging vegetation. Most birds were staying low due to strong and gusty winds again in the area.

Ruddy Ducks have now made it to the Canon City area as I saw two of them today. Tree Swallows are fairly common now flying over ponds and the river. Yesterday I saw a late Chipping Sparrow near the river.



Sunday, April 09, 2006

American White Pelicans now in Canon City

Today I found that American White Pelicans had made it to Canon City (here is a picture of the group I saw). There are no lakes for them to breed here, but I believe they "stage" here on their way to Antero Reservoir located northwest of Canon City in a high park (8,000 foot) where they have bred for years. Antero is owned by the Denver Water District and it impounds water for that municipality. Due to drought, Antero was drained completely of water several years ago. Apparently because the pelicans found a dry reservoir, they have returned to Canon City and remained in the area for a month or so in each of the past several years. Even tho Antero now is filled to one third, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will not stock fish in it as there is no guarantee that it won't be drained again (which causes massive fish kills) so I'm afraid the pelicans will again this year find Antero an inhospital location.

I also heard a Black Phoebe call twice around the bridge over the Arkansas River.



More lower Arkansas Valley birding

Yesterday I drove down to the lower Arkansas Valley to check some additional hotspots and was well rewarded for early migration birds.

I stopped at Lake Meredith again since it was on my way. The only additions from my visit the other day were 2 Black-necked Stilts, about a hundred Aechmophorus grebes (the ones I checked were all Western), and about a hundred Am Coots.

My first target spot, a very productive hotspot located north of the town of Las Animas, was Blue Lake (like several lakes in the area, it is known by at least two names--Blue Lake also called Adobe Creek). My first sighting was a flock of 70 or so American White Pelicans circling the lake before taking off to the north. Another 15-20 remained on the lake. The only other birds there were a few Ring-necked Ducks, dozens of American Coots, some N. Shoverlers and Killdeer. Though bird life is pretty sparse today, it will improve as long as there is some water in it (this is another irrigation reservoir). Both Least Tern and Piping Plover, both listed under the Endangered Species Act, breed here.

A few miles south of Blue Lake at a small(but historically productive)pond at CR V & 10, I foudn 3 Semi-palmated Sandpipers in their plain brown basic plumage. As I was parking my car so I could use it as a blind, a flock of 16 dowitchers flew in. Though they are likely Long-billed Dowitchers, their calls (and lack of calling while feeding) made me check their identifying characteristics. I have asked an expert birder friend to check out some photos before I commit to the identification.

At another small pond a little further south were 5 Ruddy Ducks (including 1 male in alternate/breeding plumage). There were also pairs of N. Shovelers and Green-winged Teal here.

The next stop was Lake Hasty, a small lake below John Martin dam (John Martin is an enormous reservoir, originally constructed for flood control but now serving primarily as an impoundment reservoir for irrigation water and water owed to the state of Kansas). There were 80-90 American White Pelican here, plus 2 Double-crested Cormorants, and 6-8 white-headed gulls. Twelve Turkey Vultures worked a thermal over the campground (mistakenly identified as a flock of Golden Eagles by a couple camping there). Two Great Blue Herons stalked the shallow water around the lake and there were a lot of White-crowned Sparrows around the shoreline.

I made one last stop at dusk at the west end of the John Martin State Wildlife Area. There is a large area of cattails here that are renowned for rails and bitterns. I was able to raise one Sora Rail with my calls (I don't like to use tapes--it is too easy to play them too long, disturbing the birds; not only is it more difficult to emit one's own version of bird calls for very long but the birds tend to catch on that these are not real reducing the risks of lenghty disturbances). If you have never heard a rail or a bittern (these will be coming soon), this is a great place to be at dusk or dawn in later spring when these birds call regularly as part of their breeding behavior.



Saturday, April 08, 2006

More migrants in Fremont Co

I hit a number of areas around Fremont Co today so will summarize:

Brush Hollow Reservoir-one Osprey (first I've seen in Fremont Co this year)and a Great-tailed Grackle

Eastern Fremont Co--one Eastern Phoebe, calling vociferously (but disappointingly there were no Lewis'Woodpeckers that are usually there or Scaled Quail, both species of concern)

Florence River Road--one (late) Greater White-fronted Goose with a very unusual (for here) Snow Goose, 4 Lesser Yellow-legs, 2 Wilson's Snipe and 15-20 Wild Turkey.

Private property east of Canon City--2 Black Phoebes (this is a location where Black Phoebes have nested for the past several years)

Canon City Riverwalk--one (late) Mountain Chickadee (actually the first one I've seen since last winter here)

Eastern Canon City--one Lesser Yellowlegs, one Great-tailed Grackle and 3 American Avocets.

And several flocks of primarily Tree Swallows along the Arkansas River and local ponds.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ibis and Ring-necked Pheasant in Fremont Co.

I found the pictured male Ring-necked Pheasant in the rugged Florence River Park this afternoon. He was accompanied by 2 females. This guy was unusually bold, walking around as though he owned the park--fortunately it there was a strong, cold wind blowing so the only other person was a fisherman on the other side. The Colo Breeding Bird Atlas indicates that these birds engage in strutting behavior and the bare skin around their eyes is a brilliant red color due to engorgement during spring courtship which begins in March--this certainly matches this guy and may explain his emboldened behavior.

Florence River Park also produced the first Great-tailed Grackle of the year for this area.

Nearby I saw 1 Greater Yellow-legs and 3 Wilson's Snipe at the BLM's Blue Heron ponds. Along Florence River Road were 4 Lesser Yellowlegs, several Cimmamon Teal, 2 N. Shovelers,a few Killdeer and several other ducks in a flooded field.

And I found 7 ibis species (couldn't tell if they were White-faced or Glossy Ibis), the first I've seen in Fremont Co., at a private pond near Canon City.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lower Arkansas Valley

Today I birded some of the many lakes in the lower Arkansas Valley. The weather was quite warm for this early in April, going over 80 degrees. Most of the lakes in this area are irrigation reservoirs so their water levels vary according to how much water the irrigation company is allowed to store and how much has been run out for irrigating the farm fields. However, these are often excellent for shorebird migration in spring as well as drawing many other birds.

I usually stop at the Ordway Feed Lot on my way in to Lake Meredith as the ponds south of it and the ditches by the side of the road can be quite productive. There wasn't a lot here today--2 Lesser Scaup, 1 Cinnamon Teal, some Mallards, a few white-headed gulls (those I checked were Ring-billed), some White-crowned Sparrows in the vegetation and 6-8 Franklin Gulls flying around.

Lake Meredith is a fairly large lake (for Colorado), but much of it is bordered by private farm land and inaccesssible. The State Wildlife Area portion is on the north side and so it is accessed from the town of Ordway. I found 3 Ibis species, 1 Great Egret, 2 Aechmophorus grebes, several American Avocet (including the one in the pic), 1 Greater Yellowlegs and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs around the shore. There were rafts of hundreds of Ruddy Ducks and Northern Shovelers with miscellaneous common waterfowl on the lake.

At nearby Lake Henry, bird action was quite slow for this often very productive lake for shorebirds, waterfowl and other waterbirds. I saw 1 Common Goldeneye, 1 N. Shoveler, 1 Double-crested Cormorant, 2 Mallards and a bunch of Killdeer---that's lean.

Lake Cheraw, another irrigation reservior that is a hot spot especially for shorebird migration, was also pretty slow. I saw 4 American Avocets, some Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Green-winged Teal, Coots, and Killdeer.

My last stop was Lake Holbrook which is a close to La Junta. I saw my first Black-necked Stilts (3) of the year. Tehre were at least 4 Greater Yellowlegs and 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, several American Avocet and lots of Killdeer (they nest along the shore which is astounding given all the vehicles that drive around the lake). There were several Pintail Ducks and 1 Cinnamon Teal along with common waterfowl seen at the other lakes.

I saw my first Swainson's Hawk of the year today. Other birds seen included a few Red-tailed Hawks, several American Kestrals, the ubiquitous Horned Larks and 1 Vesper Sparrow (they are just migrating back).

Conspicuously missing today was American White Pelican--they are arriving at northern areas of the state and are always present on these lower Arkansas Valley lakes from spring thru summer.



Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pueblo's Runyon Lake

Runyon Lake, located just east of I-25, is a good birding location. However today, birding was quite slow. I birded the south side of the lake and also walked the Arkansas River upstream a ways. I did find several Yellow-rumped Warblers near the lake, at least one was an Audubon's. Nearby was a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Along the river the most interesting birds were 10+ Northern Shovelers. Other than a few Killdeer, there were no shorebirds in the area.



Monday, April 03, 2006

Spring yard work

Now that spring is here, many are out working in their yards. Following is some important information from the National Audubon Society regarding yards that impact birds, butterflies and other living things:

--Nearly 3/4 of all homes use pesticides
--Homeowners apply an estimated 78 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides per year to their homes, lawns, and gardens--this does not include what professionals spray in yards and homes each year.
--A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of 20 major river basins and aquifer systems reveals that commonly used lawn and garden pesticides are routinely found in surface and ground water throughout the country.
--Homeowners are using 50% more herbicides than they did 20 years ago
--In a study of pesticide exposure among children living in a major US metro area, traces of garden chemicals were found in 99% of the children tested

There are choices for dealing with bugs, weds and other pests. Check out the Audubon At Home web site

Be Wildlife Friendly, PLANT NATIVE--



Sunday, April 02, 2006

Black Phoebe +

The Black Phoebe I heard calling two days ago had apparently not migrated on upstream as I found it today in the same area. And it had a friend--a second Black Phoebe. Both were calling and sallying after flying insects over the Arkansas River until winds became too strong. They were located in an area with a lot of overhanging shrub and tree branches as well as a small ditch that flowed into the river--good Black Phoebe habitat in this area.

I stopped by towards dusk and found one of the phoebes calling and flying upriver a few hundred feet.

Given the time of year, there is a good chance that this is a pair of Black Phoebes looking for a breeding location. It will be interesting to see if they find the current location suitable--not only is the habitat good but it has minimal disturbance as there is private property on both sides of the river here.



Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring migrants

Birding around the Canon City area today produced a number of spring migrants. A flock of about 30 Tree Swallows spent a few minutes circling the east Canon City area before continuing on their trip (these are the first swallows I have seen since I saw the single early Tree Swallow as noted on March 13 post.

A few miles east of Canon City I saw several Common Grackles, the first I've seen this year, intersperced with some Brewer's Blackbirds in a tree. Nearby was also the first Double-crested Cormorant, a fairly common waterbird that seems to be increasing in numbers in this area, of the year.

I found more Common Grackles at Florence River Park at the east end of Florence. I found 1 Greater Yellowlegs feeding briskly in a flooded field on Florence river road. The road on the north edge of Florence, referred to as the Florence river road, has a number of small farms that still use flood irrigation in the spring and many good waterbirds and shorebirds can be found in this area.

Last but not least I walked the BLM "Blue Heron" area adjacent to H115 just north of the Arkansas River. Prior to being purchased by the BLM and opened to the public this area historically was a great migration stopover for many waterbirds, Am White Pelicans and shorebirds. There are two ponds that were gravel was mined, and now hold irrigation water. Sadly, since the BLM opened them to the public birding has suffered due to disturbance my persons with off-leash dogs, hunters training their dogs in the ponds, and fishermen accessing the area.

Today the birding at the BLM Blue Heron area was quite good, but though it was a beautiful day there was no one there (thus no disturbance). The south pond held 1 American Avocet (first of the year here), 2 Greater Yellowlegs and 1m and 1f Bufflehead. I saw an 2 additional Greater Yellowlegs on the adjacent Arkansas River on the gravel bars. 3 Double-crested Cormorants landed on the north pond which also held a few canada Geese and an American Coot. And a Say's Phoebe called from the nearby farm yard.

I did look for the Black Phoebe I heard at dusk yesterday but could not locate it. For the past several years Black Phoebes have been seen nearby as they migrate up the Arkansas River so I suspect that is the case with this bird.


Humorous bird newsletter edition of Playa Post

The April 1 edition of the Playa Post, the oneline newletter of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture had a very humorous edition for April Fools Day that I encourage everyone to check out (just click on blue text "Playa Post" above). Not only is it funny, but it makes good points about the terrible destruction that has been happening to playa lakes which serve a terribly important role in providing for birds during migration.

I attend the Wetlands Focus Area Committees of Colorado, which is the coalition of Colorado state and federal agencies, Rocky Mtn Bird Observatory and non-profite groups including Arkansas Valley Audubon Society. This wetlands group coordinates conservation projects with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Check out the great work being done by them here


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

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