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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Black Phoebes have babies

After watching the pair of Black Phoebes on my friend's farm near Canon City bringing food to a likely nest site several days ago, I didn't see them attending to the nest since then. The reason became clear when I found a family of Black Phoebes this afternoon foraging about a 100 feet from the likely nest location (this fits timing-wise with fledging occuring on Sunday 5-28 as this would be 3 days, the time period associated with fledglings and adults moving away from the nest site per Birds of North America). The parents were apparently showing the fledglings how to forage as they were all flying around some trees near the river; and they were all quite vocal.

This photo is of one of the fledglings the brownish wash and edgings on juvenal feathers show. There are at least 2, but possibly 3, fledglings (hard to pin them down when they are flying about in the foliage especially when they moved to the overhanging vegetation on the river banks).

In past years the female has re-nested soon after the fledglings gain their independence. It will be interesting to see if this occurs this year.


More Bobolinks and Dickcissels

Though slowed some by a twisted knee (just had to do more car birding, which fits well with Bobolink and Dickcissels), I found more Bobolinks and Dickcissels after checking more yesterday and today around the farm on which I found them. It takes time to do this because it is challenging to get an accurate count since their songs can be heard for a distance (and sometimes seem to be coming from locations different from where they are) and because both of these species travel (by hopping, maybe walking)through and under the vegetation in the hay fields (so after going down in one spot, it can emerge a distance away as and mistaken as a second bird). I try to count as separate birds only those that I see "up" at the same time or that I find a sufficient distance away (and in a quick enough time frame to reduce the chance they flew to the next location).

I believe there are at least 4 (may be 5) male Bobolink and 4 (may be 5 also) male Dickcissels on the private farm I found them on and a neighboring farm. I have also seen at least 2 female Bobolink, but there are likely more as I rarely see the less obvious sex of this species. I have only seen 1 female Dickcissel and they are also difficult to see (females of both sex are likely sitting on nests in the fields, do not sing and are not as brightly colored as males).



Monday, May 29, 2006

Dickcissels on farm in Canon City area

This morning I was delighted to hear the "dickcissel" song (a raspy "dick, dick, ciss, ciss" and variations of those two notes) when I stopped at the farm that has the Bobolinks. Two more photos besides the one here can be seen by clicking here

Dickcissel are pretty uncommon west of the eastern edge of Colorado. I have had them in the Canon City area off and on for about 10 years, but I hadn't seen or heard any for a few years. They are a erratic normatic species but they may well have been around just not in farm areas that are accessable.

Though a prairie grassland bird, they have adopted to nesting in hay fields such as the one in which I found them. I think it is astonishing that, according to Birds of North America, most of these small (6 inch) birds winter from sw Mexico all the way down to central Venezuela (where they are hunted and eaten)! Read more about them at All About Birds



Sunday, May 28, 2006

Black Phoebe update and pics

The pair of Black Phoebes at my friend's farm just east of Canon City have built at least one and maybe two nests in a rather inaccessible location right above a canal. Last year I thought they nested in this location also. When they arrived they started rebuilding an old nest under this walkway over the canal. They really shored it up nicely, but then began work under the walkway where it is not viewable unless one hangs upside down to see under it (which I did briefly).

The phoebes were appearing to bring food to the nest location but I haven't heard any nestling sounds.

You can see more photos, including one with a blue colored dragonfly in its bill, by clicking here


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Willow Flycatchers

A late morning walk on the eastern half of the Canon City Riverwalk produced two Willow Flycatchers. I first heard a distant "fitz-bew" repeated a few times. Given the ability of mimics in the bird world to replicate calls, I wanted to confirm that these calls were indeed coming from a Willow Flycatcher.

It is unusual for any of the "empids", including the Willow, to call during migration. They usually give their calls when they get to their breeding grounds. And Willow Flycatcher has not been documented to breed here.

It took a bit to refind the location of the calls as they were on the other side of a wide irrigation ditch so I had to walk up the trail a ways to get to a cross-over. I did relocate the calling and finally saw one Willow Flycatcher. It became evident that two birds were calling and they did so fairly frequently but I could only find the one bird. I will recheck this area to see if these birds stay to breed.

I spent a bit of time today watching the pair of Black Phoebes at my friend's farm near Canon City. A few days ago I saw them carrying nesting material to a likely nest site and chasing each other. Today they appeared to be bringing food to the nest. I will check more closely to see what progress there is.

While walking at my friend's farm, I saw 9 Cedar Waxwings today. At dusk I saw 1 Common Nighthawk and 1 White-throated Swift. Also I watched a short-tailed bat flying over a irrigation ditch that apparently had a lot of insects.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Indigo Buntings home hunting

The song of a Red-eyed Vireo greeted me this morning just off the parking area of the east section of the Canon City Riverwalk. The continuous singing from dawn to dusk by this species makes it stand out when many songsters quiet down during mid-day.

A short way down the Riverwalk I watched a pair of Indigo Buntings exploring a thicket. The female kept returting to one branch, then the male would join her as they checked it out. At first I thought they might already have a nest there, but I couldn't see one (though per the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas they are noted to be so skilled in camouflaging their nests that few were located during the Atlas survey).

A male Indigo, presumably this one, sang the complex song that males give to announce their presence to females and other males during breeding season. According to Birds of North America they can sing more than 200 songs per hour in the high frequency song time before sunrise. Both the plain brown female and her brightly colored consort deftly evaded my camera lens. For photos and more information click here.

A short way down the Riverwalk a MacGillivray's Warbler worked an area with a lot of tangles, flitting quickly about. A warbler species known for it's skulking behavior, I was able to watch it for about 5 minutes as it was working an area about 75 feet away. Read more here.



Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bobolink back on Canon City area farm

The Canon City area has hosted a small population of breeding Bobolink at least for the past 6-7 years. This species is uncommon on the Colorado front range with most nesting along the northern front range. They are the most bubbling songsters and I usually find them by hearing their beautiful songs first.

I think this view from the back shows how colorful these birds are. The golden yellow feathers on the back of the head can be erected as shown to form a helmet-like appearance. More photos can be seen at



Canon City area update

Yesterday I checked on a pair of breeding Lewis' Woodpeckers. In past years I have found several nesting pairs of this species in this location but only the single pair this year.

I also checked on several locations where Eastern and Black Phoebes may be nesting. I found one Eastern Phoebe at one location, one Black Phoebe at a second location and the third location produced both a Black and an Eastern Phoebe (as well as a Blue Grosbeak that did a good job of imitating a Black Phoebe by sallying out for insects).

I also found a flock of about 50-60 White-faced Ibis (at least all that I could scope were White-faced, not Glossy) and 3 Cattle Egrets feeding and/or loafing in a flooded hay field.

Then at dusk near the east half of the Canon City Riverwalk a heard the “Quock” call of a Black-crowned Night-Heron which I found flying nearby. It was only about a hundred feet or so above the ground when I spotted it and it appeared to be an immature bird with brown plumage (consistent with the likely 2nd year Black-crowned Night-Heron I found last week but have not been able to refind). It then circled as it gained altitude, emitting the "quock" call generally in pairs until it had risen to several hundred feet above the ground as it flew off to the west.

Today I found a few Cedar Waxwing on my friend's farm near Canon City. I first saw 2 Cedar Waxwing then found 5 just over a mile away.



Drilling in ANWR approved in the House

From the 8pm Reuters News Service:
"The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a plan to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The House voted 225-201 to approve a plan sponsored by California Republican Richard Pombo . . ."

Thanks to those who emailed or wrote their Representatives opposing this destructive legislation. We will have to launch at least one more phone and email effort when this goes to the Senate.



Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ALERT--Arctic National Wildlife Area-again!

I found out tonight that the House of Representatives is once again pushing to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Besides the reality that it will be another 10 years before any oil would come from drilling in ANWR, much of the "potential" oil quoted by anti-conservationists is inaccessible with current technology. Though being touted as an effort to reduce the cost of gasoline by politicians, it would only result in a decrease of 1 cent/gallon and then only at the peak of production in 2025.

Many species of birds that we see in southeast Colorado use this vital nesting grounds currently protected by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

More effective alternatives that would actually reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, and would do so well before oil from ANWR drilling would be available, include the renewable energy sources (such as biotechnology) and increasing the miles/gallon of new cars that can be done with today's technology.

The House is likely to vote on this tomorrow so please send your emails tonight if you are still up or first thing in the morning. The bill this is in is H.R. 5429, the misnamed "American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act".

Here are two quick ways to send an email message to your Representative are:
via the National Audubon Society action site at>

or at the League of Conservation Voters alert website at>

Please consider giving your representative a call (early in am). You can get their phone numbers thru here>

We have been effective before, we just need to keep up our opposition to these efforts to approve drilling in ANWR. Thanks.


Otero County

Yesterday's trip to the lower Arkansas Valley area included to two sites in Otero County. Lake Cheraw, a great shorebird hotspot, yielded 4 Snowy Plovers (a state species of special concern), 35-45 Wilson's Phalarope, 2 Least Sandpipers, 2 Black-necked Stilts and several American Avocets. There were a number of Ruddy Ducks and many Northern Shovelers on the lake.

I next made a quick trip to the Higbee area where I saw several Cassin's Kingbirds, Scaled Quail and Northern Mockingbirds.



Burrowing Owl

And here is one of the pics I got of the Burrowing Owl that accomodated my picture taking by standing on top of a pole in the prairie dog town next to Lake Henry. Read more about this species here


Crowley County Stilt Sandpiper

As I posted last night, I saw about 15 Stilt Sandpipers at Lake Meredith in Crowley County yesterday. This is a photo of one of them that shows the field marks for Alternate Plumage. Stilt Sandpipers in Alternate (breeding) Plumage have heavily barred underparts and the distinctive chestnut cheek patchs(sometimes referred to as ear patches).

This medium sized sandpiper has relatively long legs. The long bill droops slightly at the tip. Read more about this species here


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Crowley County

After a morning appointment I drove to Crowley County to check some of the lakes in the area. Lake Meredith was fairly active with both Western and Clark's Grebes giving their "advertising calls" as part of their courting behavior; however, I did not observe other courting behaviors. Another treat were the Stilt Sandpipers. About 15 of them were working the shore along the north side of the lake. Occasionally the sun would hit the rufous cheek patch on one, the color making for a more striking appearance.

An unusual sight was a Sanderling that appeared to be still in Basic (non-breeding) Plumage when it should be in Alternate (breeding) Plumage. However I just read that this species undergoes a partial Definitive Prealternate molt so need to run my photos by those who know the molt patterns of this species better than I do (not til tomorrow as I have to do some editing). Other birds including 1 Snowy Egret, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, a number of American Avocets as well as distant mixed waterfowl and gulls.

A the nearby Crowley feedlot ponds and drainage areas were 6 Black-necked Stilts including one I saw sitting on a nest. There were also several White-faced Ibis. And I saw at least 2 Northern Mockingbirds in the area.

Nearby Lake Henry was slow with fewer Western and Clark's Grebes. One male Yellow-headed Blackbird emitted their dissonant call. There was some distant waterfowl and at least one Ring-billed Gull on the lake. A Burrowing Owl sat on top of a post in the prairie dog town next to the lake, providing me with a great photo subject. However, the photo upload is not working so will have to put photos tomorrow.

I found a nesting Swainson's Hawk not far from Lake Henry. Other birds seen around Crowley County included Western Kingbirds (which are abundant), Bullock's Orioles (commonly seen), Killdeer (also abundant), Black-billed Magpies (abundant), Lark Sparrows (common), Horned Larks (very abundant), Western Meadowlarks (abundant).

It's late so will add the birding I did in Otero County then too.



Monday, May 22, 2006

Canon City Riverwalk

I got out after a thunderstorm this afternoon to check out the east section of the Canon City Riverwalk. Right off I found a first of the year Western Tanager. This brightly colored male was delivering it's rather weak "few weet" call. Much louder were the Yellow-breasted Chats calling from the thickets.

It was a very melodius evening with many Yellow Warblers and Black-headed Grosbeak, a few Common Yellowthroats joining the Chats. Male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds darted around, making their "wing trill" as they chased about. I heard several Western Wood-Pewees but didn't see any nest building yet. A pair of Eastern Kingbirds as they chased each other. And of course the calls of Bullock's Orioles cannot be ignored.

Even less ignorable were the hoards of mosquitos that seem to have been put in overdrive by the earlier thunderstorm. It was difficult to stop and look for birds in a number of areas near a lot of vegetation as the mosquitos swarmed my face even though I had put Deet on. Another surprise was a second set of early evening thunderstorms that rolled through just before dark, finally bringing some very needed moisture to the area.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Upper Arkansas update

I birded my way back from Vail where I attended a dinner last night, hitting a number of locations. I will summarize those locations:

Hayden Ranch-Leadville-just south of Leadville at around 10,000 feet; no fee
-Lincoln's Sparrow-1
-Blue-winged Teal-2
-Vesper Sparrow-1 singing, probably on territory
-White-crowned Sparrows-several

Kobe-Arkansas River Ranch Recreation Area--a little further south of Leadville, but
still close to 10,000 feet elevation; need parks pass
-Eastern Kingbird-1
-Yellow Warblers-several singing
-Redwing Blackbirds-several
-American Robins-several
-Common Grackles-several
-Red-tailed Hawk-1

Ice Lake in Buena Vista (this is the lake where the developers had requested a
depretory take permit; be sure you stay on road and don't trespass)
-American White Pelican-only 1 (DOW manager has been harassing with non-lethal)
-Common Goldeneye-1 male straggler remains (should be far north in Canada or Alaska)
-Cinnamon Teal-1 male
-Blue-winged Teal-several
-Yellow-headed Blackbirds-several
-Canada Geese-many
-Red-winged Blackbirds-many
(and more distant waterfowl too far to id)

CR47 bridge over Arkansas River-
-no dippers found this time; water very high due to runoff and no rocks for perching

Vallie bridge-
-American Dipper-1 adult feeding 1 fledgling

Texas Creek bridge-
-American Dipper-1 adult and 1 fledgling; adult spent time under bridge so maybe
feeding another/more fledglings or have nestlings still there

And I located 1 Black Phoebe in western Fremont County but have time to check 2nd location.



Theory on unusual kite breeding behavior

I am thinking that the wrapping of wings around the female by the male Mississippi Kite (as in this photo and reported in earlier post below) may be a way to provide stability and balance while the male mounts the female. Some birds achieve this balance by rapidly fluttering their wings. And I have seen some birds that are rather unbalanced during copulatory behavior.

The Mississippi Kite I observed and photographed was very stable and balanced during the relatively long copulatory period (from mounting to dismounting, it lasted almost a minute). The caveat is that just because this is a logical explanation does not make it accurate.



Friday, May 19, 2006

Canon City area update

Though other tasks got in the way, I did get out some yesterday and a little today to do some birding around Canon City. The riparian areas near the Arkansas River including the Canon City Riverwalk have many Yellow Warblers House Wrens and Black-headed Grosbeak singing. I also heard a few Yellow-breasted Chats and Common Yellowthroats singing on the east half of the Riverwalk. The squabbling calls of Western Kingbirds are everywhere and Eastern Kingbirds have returned to the river edge. And the calls of Bullock's Orioles penetrate riparian forest areas.

I did briefly see an empid flycather briefly yesterday on the east half of the Riverwalk, but it was silent and I have no idea what species it might have been. I also saw a MacGillivray's Warbler there also.

I saw 2 pair of Common Mergansers which are somewhat unusual this time of year (Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas doesn't show any breeding in Fremont or Pueblo counties but I have found evidence that that this species does breed in these counties). There are still White-faced Ibis around as I saw a flock of about 50-60 flying west at dusk, but I have not seen them feeding anywhere since last week.

The Arkansas River is running very high, due to warm early weather causing early this early run-off, so there are no shorebirds along the river or ducks that like the muddy areas like Blue-winged Teal.



More on unusual breeding behavior of Mississippi Kites

I have read through the several books that I have, and searched the internet, including the comprehensive Birds of North America for information on breeding behavior of Mississippi Kites--I have found very little. It is noted that they are usually paired up before reaching their breeding grounds.

Apparently there is sometimes, but not always, a presentation of prey from the male to the female as part of pre-copulatory behavior. It was noted in Birds of North America that, ". . . mounting lasts about 10 s to nearly 1 min . . . " and notations on frequency and intervals between copulatory behaviors.

However I found nothing on copulatory behavior patterns or any notation about the behavior I observed when the male in the photos such as the one in this post that enveloped the female with his wings. If anyone has any reference for this, or experience, I would appreciate your sharing that information.



Thursday, May 18, 2006

Breeding Mississippi Kites and American Avocets

I am delighted that the photos I took of the breeding Mississippi Kites yesterday came out very well. They document the astonishing actions of the male kite who begins wrapping his wings around the female as he mounts her. As the series progress, one can watch as the action culminates with the female being fully enveloped by the males wings.

The photo here is just the first photo taken as the male started to mount the female. Click here to go to the full set of Mississippi Kite breeding photos plus photos of pre- and post-breeding behavior by a pair of American Avocets I also took yesterday (the breeding behavior was quickly accomplished and resulted a blurred photo in the low light conditions).



Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Otero County breeding birds

After attending the Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting in Rocky Ford until 4:30, I got to do some birding in the area. Actually I was able to step out of the meeting to watch some of the Mississippi Kites that nest in Rocky Ford. In fact, they have often nested right in the small city park that is adjacent to the building where my meeting was held. I didn't find any nests, but I see 5-6 birds soaring around town and two birds breeding in a tree nearby. I got some good pics but didn't get home until late so will have to upload and edit them tomorrow then will post.

On the south side of Rocky Ford I heard several Inca Doves calling then saw 2 of them. Inca Doves have bred in Rocky Ford for many years (I remember going down to see them the first time 7-8 years ago).

I next drove to the Rocky Ford State Wildlife Area just north of town. I hadn't been birding there in some time. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron had been seen there a week or so ago but I didn't see it. I did see a Green Heron. Black-headed Grosbeaks were singing vociferously as were Yellow Warblers.

My last stop was Lake Holbrook as the sun was starting to set. I was astounded to see 50-60 Black Terns flying low over the reservoir in an apparent feeding frenzy. And I saw more breeding behavior. Several American Avocets were chasing an apparent female avocet, and trying to hop on her back. As "she" was apparently not receptive, they ended up hopping over her like frogs--all the while calling madly. However two other American Avocets were apparently paired up, engaging in some bowing and other breeding-related behaviors. I got to watch them breed, a rather short-lasting event.

Other birds in and around Lake Holbrook included a White-faced Ibis, a Black-necked Stilt, several Eared Grebes, 1 male Wood Duck and a number of common waterfowl. There were many more birds on the far side of the lake but it was too dark to identify those at a distance.

I did make a late drive around looking for Short-eared Owls, but didn't find any tonight.



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Eastern Fremont Co phoebes

Today I had the opportunity to check on several pairs of phoebes located in eastern Fremont Co but outside of Canon City, most of which will likely nest here. I was able to locate one pair of Eastern Phoebes and one Black Phoebe in the same location as an Eastern Phoebe. This latter find brings up the quetion of whether these different phoebe species are breeding.

While checking out where the phoebes are located I saw my first Blue Grosbeak of the year. There were also singing Yellow Warblers, male Bullock Warblers, Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds and House Wrens at most locations.



Sunday, May 14, 2006

Colorado Springs

Before leaving for Colorado Springs I was serenaded by a Gray Catbird in my backyard. Two years ago a pair of catbirds nested next to a window, providing me with a front-row seat for their nest building, sharing of chores, hatching of eggs and watching the nestlings grow. Last year they nested somewhere nearby in my neighborhood, visiting my yard frequently. I would be delighted to host their nest again.

While in Colorado Spring this afternoon, I took the opportunity to do a little birding. I haven't had the chance to do any birding there in a while. There are some interesting and productive birding areas right in and around the city.

Fountain Creek Nature Center, just south of Colorado Springs, has a history of some good bird diversity especially during spring migration. I was astounded to see more than 15 Swainson's Thrushes (maybe even 20) on one side of their Nature Center! I ran into some birders who told me they were part of the International Migratory Bird Day count group yesterday that found a Grey-cheeked Thrush (a big rarity here). One of the birders said that there were more Swainson's Thrushes on the south side of the Nature Center but I had very limited time so couldn't check it out and didn't see the Grey-cheeked Trush.

I also got the opportunity in the late afternoon to do some birding along the Colorado Trail as it follows Monument Creek in a great green-belt. I entered at the Woodman Rd trailhead, an area I have never been on before. I was quite impressed as it winds up and down some hills adjacent to Monument Creek with mixed pine habitat. I saw several Spotted Towhees, a species quite common in many parks and trail areas in Colorado Springs. I heard a number of Yellow Warblers and House Wrens singing near the creek and caught site of a Common Yellowthroat as it skulked away from me. I was surprised to come upon 2 Spotted Sandpipers along the muddy edges of the creek. A Red-tailed Hawk soared over while Black-tailed Magpies flew back and forth, stopping to check me and my dogs out.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Black-crowned Night-Heron immature

This is one of the photos of the immature Black-crowned Night-Heron I found yesterday in the Canon City area. I believe it is a 2nd year or close to a 2nd year bird. It still has brown plumage but not the white streaks on the underparts or the whitish spots on the upperparts that juveniles have. Older immatures like this one approach an adult's plumage such as with the more clearly dark crown on this bird. It has an all dark bill which is more indicative of immature Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, but this bird has shorter legs and a more hunched-over posture. The leg color in my photo is washed out but the bird had clealy yellowish legs.

More pics can be seen here

Since I don't get to see many immature Black-crowned Night-Herons, any feedback on aging this bird from those with more experience would be welcome


International Migratory Bird Today

Today was International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). Though I would usually be out birding today, a conservation meeting took up my morning and it was too late to do a count. If you haven't done so yet, be sure to check out the International Migratory Bird Day website. Our Arkansas Valley Audubon Society is proud that this year's IMBD poster was painted by long-time board member, Mark Yeager (aka Radeaux).

The theme of this year's IMBD was the Boreal Forest: Bird Nursery of the Americas. A consortium of bird conservation groups have joined together to form the Boreal Songbird Initiative with lots of information on birds of the boreal forest. This group states that "80% of the waterfowl species of North America, 63% of the finch species,and 53% of warbler species breed in the Boreal." More than 60 bird species that are regularly seen in Colorado breed in the boreal forest including both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (did you know that these are ecological different species and recent studies indicate they may not even be related!).

Today was also designated as Endangered Species Day by the US Senage. Success stories as a result of the Endangered Species Act are celebrated on a Center for Biological Diversity website

The bad news is that "Polar bears and hippos are among more than 16,000 species of animals and plants threatened with global extinction," according to a press release this week from the World Conservation Union. "The list includes one in three amphibians, a quarter of the world's mammals and coniferous trees, and one in eight birds, according to a preview of the 2006 Red List. The full report is published later this week. read more here



Friday, May 12, 2006

More Canon City birding

My day started off quite productively when I spotted 2 Green Herons flying down the Arkansas River near the west end of the Canon City Riverwalk. There have been at least 2 Green Heron for a number of years in this area.

I stopped out at Brush Hollow Res, but that was a wasted trip as there were many fishermen around the shore, with several boats with motors and other floating craft in the water. I did spot about 5 aechmophorus grebes, likely the 5 Western Grebes that have been in the area for several weeks.

I walked the east mile of the Canon City Riverwalk where I heard many Common Yellowthroats singing "witchity, witchity, witchity" and almost as many Yellow Warblers. I saw at least 3 male Bullock's Orioles. An Eastern Kingbird made it's burry call. And two Black-headed Grosbeak sang on and on and on.

The most unusual bird today was what I believe to be a second year Black-crowned Night-Heron on some private property. The bird was brown, but without the spotting of first year birds. I need to do some editing (as the bird was several hundred feet away and quite shy) so will try to post it tomorrow for feedback.



Canon City update

Wednesday I saw a male Bullock's Oriole in Canon City, the first I've seen in this area. There were also several Chimney Swifts "chittering" as they flew above the downtown area.

There are still at least 70 White-faced Ibis in the area. I saw 4 Cattle Egrets with the ibis in addition to several Spotted Sandpipers today. Later I saw an Eastern Kingbird. At dusk I saw 2 Common Nighthawks (I saw my first Common Nighthawks on april 27 also in the Canon City area).



Thursday, May 11, 2006

Some progress on the threats to the Buena Vista pelicans

There has been some progress on the threats to the Buena Vista pelicans from subdivision owners who applied for a depredation permit. Gary Lefko contacted Denver Post reporter Rich Tosches who contacted me and then did a column on the issue in Wednesday's paper--you can read it at .

It seems that we have gotten the attention of the propertie owners, one of whom called me this week. He said they had no intention of shooting the pelicans, stating that an unknown CDOW employee advised his partner to get it and citing two different reasons for this advice.

And I believe we also got the attention of the US Fish & Wildlife Service who were quoted as saying they don't issue depredation permits "to enhance sports fishery" and a "real-estate sales wouldn't qualify for a permit." But read the article, there are a number of interesting points in it. So thanks for those of you who sent comments, this is another example of the positive impact we can have.

By the way, the owner of the subdivision around Ice Lake complained that he has had birders trespassing onto their private property (specifically including the trail that they put in around their lake). The only public/legal way to view the birds on Ice Lake is on the north side where the road around the lake/subdivision comes closest to the lake. The road is open to the public. You can view a good portion of the lake from the road area. Please do not enter this private subdivison property, especially don't use their private trail around the lake.

There is another newspaper article on the Buena Vista pelican issue, this one in the local Chaffee County Times. Though lacking Rich Tosches wry humor, it nonetheless adds a few more pieces of info to this puzzle. You can read it at



Migratory birds return to Europe without bird flu virus

Today's Denver Post reports, "Defying the dire predictions of health officials, the flocks of migratory birds that flew south to Africa last fall, then back over Europe in recent weeks, did not carry the deadly bird flu virus or spread it during their annual journey, scientists have concluded." Read more here



Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Prowers, Bent & Otero Counties

On my last day in the lower Arkansas valley on 5-8-06, I made one last and still unsuccessful try for the Magnolia Warbler at Lamar Woods. It was, however, again quite productive even if I couldn't find that rarity. I got the photo here of one of the Brown Thrashers. I found a quiet (because it was just migrating through?)Yellow-breasted Chat. There was also a Yellow Warbler there this day.

As I birded my way back upriver, I stopped at a private property and saw my first Bullock's Oriole, a male, of the season.

Next I drove through the north section of John Martin State Park in Bent County finding 12-15 Willets in the small pond behind the headquarters buidling, which hosted a single Scaled Quail was hanging out by the feeders. I scoped about 80-100 American White Pelican on the reservoir which seems like a very low number for this very large body of water.

Next I stopped at Lake Cheraw in Otero County. Approximately 30 Long-billed Dowitchers worked the mud flats with 5-10 a single Lesser Yellowlegs and one White-rumped Sandpiper (a rare vagrant in spring migration). Two Snowy Plovers scampered on the higher section while about 9-10 Wilson's Phalarope worked the deeper water.

I drove over to nearby Lake Holbrook, by now late afternoon. I was surprised to find a Green-tailed Towhee in an area with trees around the lakeshore. Five Lesser Yellowlegs worked the shore while 1 Eared Grebe and various waterfowl were further out in the water.

Then as dusk enveloped the area, I looked for Short-eared Owls in Otero County. I found one flying just before dark.

Note-The rainbow photo was actually taken 5-7-06 at Queens State Wildlife Area after the brief attempt at a thunderstorm blew through. Oops, I just realized I forgot to post that I had stopped at John Martin State Widlife Area on my way down at dusk and solicited calls from 1 Virginia and at least 2 Sora Rails.

I saw 95 species during these three days which involved hitting a good variety of habitats in 5 far southeast Colorado counties. This number would be higher if I were into trying to get the most species possible but I prefer to spend some time enjoying the birds and getting some photos. I read about a number of other species seen in these areas by other birders who were down also so I suspect there were more than 150 species possible in these counties. And there are still a number of birds that will be migrating into the area in the next few weeks adding more species.



Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Prowers and Baca Counties

I am behind on recording the fantastic birding this past week-end (had a bad toothache past two nights with little sleep so haven't downloaded and edited photos yet). On Sunday, May 7 I birded locations in Prowers and Baca Counties with the following notable birds (notable due to being local specialties, new arrivals, birds of conservation interest and unusual/rare species):

>Lamar Woods behind the Lamar Community College-birds not seen yesterday:
-MacGillivray's Warbler-1
-Warbling Vireo-1 singing
-Brown Thrashers-3+ singing
-Hairy Woodpecker-1 male chasing a Starling

>Two Buttes State Wildlife Area--"hole" area (area below dam)
-Eastern Phoebe-1 calling
-Great Horned Owl-1
-Spotted Sandpipers-2
-Eastern Kingbird-1
-Canyon Wrens-2 singing
-Northern Mockingbird-1
-Yellow-rumped Warblers-several
-Blue Jay-1 calling
(unusually active and noisy-lots of teenagers swimming and playing music loudly plus 3 carloads of Kansas visitors hiking and yelling to each other and 1 fisherman who left)

>Turks Pond State Wildlife Area:
-Least Tern-1 flying over area
-American White Pelican-1
-Wilson's Phalarope-6-8
-Ruddy Ducks-8-10
-Blue-winged Teal-12-15
-Northern Shovelers-20-25

>Carrizo Canyon on Comanche National Grasslands:
-Barn Owl-1
-Ladder-backed Woodpecker-1
-Easter Phoebe-1
-Say's Phoebe-1
-Rock Wrens-2 calling
-Brown Thrasher-1

>Seen while driving around Powers and Baca counties:
-Greater Roadrunner-1
-Burrowing Owls-8
-Ring-necked Pheasants-4
-Lark Buntings-a number of flocks of males migrating back totally over 100 birds



Lower Arkansas Valley migration is full swing

Migration is definately on in the lower Arkansas Valley. I have birded a number of locations in the past 3 days in Prowers, Baca, Bent, Kiowa and Otero Counties. I got back late tonight and it's too late and I have seen too many birds to post all this tonight. And I have some good pics to go with them so will post tomorrow (oops, its after midnight, I will post more later/earlier today).



Saturday, May 06, 2006

Great Plains Reservoirs (aka Queens)

This afternoon I drove north to a complex of irrigation reservoirs named the Great Plains Reservoirs. These have been known for years by other names like Neeska, Neenoshe as well as Queens Reservoir. Because their purpose is to store water for irrigation use, they have been drained and some are dry due to releases for irrigation of agricultural fields.

At Upper Queens-Neeska Reservoir, I found an Eastern Phoebe. In the small remaining shallow pools of water were a number of shorebirds. Since I only brought my binoculars down to the lake I wasn't able to identify all of them as I need my scope to check plumage. I was able to make out 4-5 Baird's Sandpipers and 20-30 Semi-palmated Sandpipers.

At Upper Queens-Neenoshe Res were a paltry 5 American White Pelicans. This is a low number for this area.

The area we refer to as the Locust Grove (due to a stand of locust trees) I saw a male Ring-necked Pheasant and 5 females in his harem. I also saw 2 Spotted Towhees. The winds were brisk and a thunderstorm was trying to happen so many small landbirds were staying down.

The Queens State Wildlife Area that surrounds these reservoirs was quite productive. Two Swainson's Hawks soared the area. I ran across a flock of 40-50 male Lark Buntings that were migrating back into Colorado and had stopped to feed. I also ran across a migrating flock of about 20 female Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the area. The fields were alive with Vesper, Lark and Chipping Sparrows. A cattle pen produced a number of Common Grackles, big numbers of Brown-headed Cowbirds, some Brewers and Red-winged Blackbirds.


"Lamar Woods"

Today I birded in and around Lamar, Colorado in the lower Arkansas Valley. This is the hot time for birding in this area as many migrating landbird and sometimes very rare birds are arriving. Other birders are here to see the migrants as I am. I ran into Jerry and John from the San Luis Valley who were making a big circlular trip and headed back home.

After I got here I was told that a rare Magnolia Warbler had been seen on the two prior days at the location referred to as the "Lamar Woods", the wooded area behind the Lamar Jr College that is a migrant trap (due to being one of the first forested areas that birds migrating over the grasslands find). Several competitive birders drove down to try to find the Magnolia Warbler to add to their lists.

I did not find this rarity but did see these interesting migrants:
-Blue-gray gnatcatcher (I was told that both a male & female had been banded here)
-Wilson's Warblers-2
-Yellow-rumped Warblers--several
-an "empid" flycatcher--possible Dusky
-Cassin's Kingbird-1
-Chimney Swifts-2
-Indigo Bunting-1 male, may stay to breed
-Red-headed Woodpecker-1 (this species does breed here)
-Mississippi Kite-1, also a local breeder



Friday, May 05, 2006

Green-tailed Towhee and more

Yesterday I birded a number of locations around the Canon City area and saw the following interesting birds:

Brush Hollow Reservoir-
-Green-tailed Towhee-1 (it's been a long time since I saw one in this area)
-Western Kingbird-1 (first I've seen in this area this spring)
-Rock Wren-1 singing and calling away
-Chipping Sparrows-flocks of dozens
-Common Merganser-1m & 1f

BLM Blue Heron site-south pond-
-American Avocet-1
-Snowy Egret-1

Sumo Golf Course pond-
-Franklin's Gull-just 1
-Ring-necked Ducks-1m & 1f



Thursday, May 04, 2006

Glossy Ibis near Buena Vista

Birding in the upper Arkansas River valley has been productive. I found the Glossy Ibis pictured here in a flooded farm field with about 100 White-faced Ibis near Buena Vista. You can see see another pic of this bird (with nearby White-faced Ibis for comparison), and this pic with the option to enlarge, at



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More on nesting American Dippers

I took this pic of one American Dipper parents standing by a nest that was located under a bridge in western Fremont County. This and the other parent were trying to keep their nestlings fed in a location with a lot of heavy fly fishing pressure. I watched them work at the parental duties, even staying when someone approached. One parent tryed to stay near the nest, presumably to guard it, while the other foraged for food.

I originally watched this pair trying hard to feed their nestlings a week ago and today they were still at it. At least there weren't any fishermen close enough to impede their feeding while I was there today.


Monday, May 01, 2006

URGENT ALERT-Am White Pelicans may be shot

I just found out late this afternoon that a property owner in Buena Vista has petitioned US Fish & Wildlife Service for a depradation permit to SHOOT AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS that are on his private pond (actually it is Ice Lake, though almost surrounded by a subdivision we birded it from a public place after last year's Audubon Rendezvous). There are apparently 65 American White Pelican that come to his pond because he stocks fish in it. They are eating his fish and that is why he wants to shoot them. And the wife is a real estate broker who is selling lots around Ice Lake that is advertized as having good fishing. Though protected under the International Migratory Bird Act, the US Fish & Wildlife Service can issue permits to kill protected species if they are depredating crops, etc.

These are the pelicans that have been displaced since Antero Reservoir was drained by Denver Water due to drought conditions in 2002 and DOW has not restocked it since then. These pelicans have nested at Antero for many years and since the reservoir has been dry, they have had to find other locations. In the past few years, they had returned to Canon City and stayed on one of our private ponds for several weeks before leaving the area. Apparently some of the pelicans found this pond in Buena Vista and now a large part of the flock is there.

There are two major issues: the birds are of conservation concern and the property owners have not put forth much effort to utilize non-lethal methods to get the pelicans off their pond. (Of course, I also think it is sad that these displaced birds are now subject to being killed because they found this location where they can eat-but this is not an issue that would sway agency staff) Apparently this property owner has used a shotgun to disperse the pelicans--and at least one pelican was found dead in a neighbor's yard, apparently shot inadvertantly during this harassment.

American White Pelican are a species of conservation concern. The "North American Waterbird Conservation Plan-Waterbird Conservation for the Americas" (authored by staff from US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Audubon Society, US Geological Service, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, BirdLife International and many more well respected organizations) lists American White Pelican as a species of 'MODERATE CONCERN"

We need to let the US Fish & Wildlife Service know that WE OPPOSE THEIR PERMITTING THE SHOOTING OF THESE AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS. I have been told that they will make likely make the decision soon and COULD ISSUE THE PERMIT TO SHOOT THIS WEEK.

Please send an email to the following address telling them in your own words that you oppose them issuing a permit for the property owner to shoot these American White Pelicans. They should issue a permit at all, and certainly not before the property owner puts forth much more effort to use non-lethal means to move them off their pond. Try to add something personal so the emails don't sound the same (like your experience with Am White Pelicans, why they are beutiful). If you are an Audubon member, please state that. If you are a birder, please state that and how often you travel around Colorado providing economic benefit to the state. Be sure to add your full name and address. And please send your email tonight if possible, tomorrow if not and as soon as you can. Please forward this to others.

Email your opposition to:



Photo of Golden Eagle with nestling

As I noted in an earlier post, I found that the nesting Golden Eagle had a fledgling. This photo shows the parent (likely the mother as research shows that the female eagles do almost all feeding of nestlings) bent forward as the bird is tearing apart whatever prey it has to feed it's nestling. The whitish figure next to the adult eagle(the adult's head is not visible but is directly adjacent to the nestling)is the nestling. I took the photo about 750 feet away with my 12X digital camera. I enlarged it as far as possible.

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