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, June 30, 2006

Florence Mtn Park/Newlin Creek SWA & San Isabel Nat Forest

As it was a pretty hot day today in the Canon City area (mid 90's), drove up to the Florence Mountain Park which is just over a half hour drive. Florence Mtn Park (yes, it is owned by the town of Florence, Colo) sits in the forested foothills at the base of the Wet Mountains. There is a picnic area with several picnic tables and a porta potty there. A Florence employee lives in a house on the grounds of the park which provides security (helpful as the park is only 7 miles out of Florence and would otherwise be place for youths to drink, etc.

Like many foothill areas, it begins with a move from decidous trees to pinyon-juniper. Much of this park is mixed pine--pinyon pines, great ponderosa pines, southwestern white pine plus a lot of scrub (Gambel) oak. In addition to good birding, the views of Pike's Peak and the plains below seen from the lower part of the park are great.

On the south side of Florence Mtn Park transitions to Newlin Creek State Wildlife Area (SWA) where one trailhead for Newlin trail is found. I walked up this trail for several hundred feet looking for birds. A Plumbeous Vireo sang frequently. I found some bear scat, though it was dry so not fresh. If one continues driving the main (dirt) road, it ends at another trailhead for Newlin Trail in the San Isabel National Forest.

It was pretty hot here too as the elevation is only around 6,000 feet. The birds were quiet until it clouded over as a storm approached, cooling the area and apparently invigatoring the avian inhabitants. Spotted Towhees began calling, one coming in to check me out. An Abert's squirrel ran across the picnic grounds. These cool squirrels have tassels on the tips of the ears. These unique squirrels are found in "forests of mature ponderosa pine" (per Colo Div of Wildlife). Some Crows flew over, calling a few times but hidden visually by the dense forest.

Although I saw only 1 Ash-throated Flycatcher, I suspect there were likely several in the area. This species is found "exclusively in pinyon-juniper and riparian" habitat in Colorado (per Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas). Several male Western Tanager's flew around the area. I saw both a Virginia's Warbler and a Scrub Jay, again I suspect there were several of each around. A number of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds flew past, often engaged in a chase as the males made their characteristic metallic trilling noise.

I also watched a red fox amble down the road. Thought I didn't see any today, this area (like most areas around here) host mule deer, black bear (as demonstrated by the scat I saw), as well as bobcats (they have been seen in the area though not by me) and probably mountain lions given the rugged rocky location.

Though all these, and more, birds can be seen at many foothills locations, it is nice to be able to access the habitat in parks and other areas that provide more convenient access. Fremont County has many acres of both BLM and Forest Service lands as well as several State Wildlife Areas open to the public, and many can be accessed by hiking directly in from the road. However, those not interested in bushwacking will find areas like Florence Mtn Park more user friendly.



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Las Animas County and some Otero County-lots of sparrows

I birded some in southeast Otero and northeastern Las Animas counties today in grassland, pinyon-juniper and a little sage brush habitats. Sparrows were singing everywhere, possibly due to the fact that a thunderstorm had just dumped some good moisture in this drought-dry area.

I heard many Vesper Sparrows in Otero County in a area dominated by sagebrush. I also heard some Brewer's Sparrows here. Once I moved into pinyon-juniper habitat, Lark Sparrows dominated and were the birds I saw most frequently. However I also heard Chipping Sparrows here.

In some rocky area I saw a Canyon Towhee. Though I am more accustomed to seeing or hearing Blue Grosbeak in weedy or riparian areas, one adult male followed me as I walked along a road in pinyon-juniper habitat. While in this habitat I saw a number of nighthawks, those I could identify being Common Nighthawks including a small flock of 6 that foraged together.

On way down I found a new location with a singing male Dickcissel in far eastern Pueblo County in a mature alfalfa field that has not yet been cut. There are few fields that have not yet had their first cutting.



Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Nesting Say's Phoebes

While at a meeting in Pueblo today, I saw 2 Say's Phoebes sallying near the building I was in. I followed and found they were nesting under the business car port (cover for about 8 cars) just outside the building. At least 2 fledglings could be seen and the parent's were taking turns feeding them. Say's Phoebes are a fairly common species in southeast Colorado during breeding season. There are also some birds that overwinter in the area though most apparently migrate south.

Back in Canon City, I heard a Dickcissel singing at a few minutes before 9 pm when it was almost dark. That is the latest I have heard a Dickcissel sing.



Monday, June 26, 2006

Long-eared Owl near Canon City

While walking at my friend's farm at dusk tonight, when it was almost dark, I saw a Long-eared Owl flying low to the ground. I generally see this species when they are perched. This is only the second bird I have seen flying. Long-eared Owls are fairly rare in this area. This is past the peak breeding season according to Birds of North America. There may be some post-breeding dispersal that accounds for the presence of this bird in this area.

Long-eared Owls are small mammal specialists. They do their hunting at night, though it is reported and my experience tonight confirms, that they may start hunting before dark (though it was pretty close to dark when I saw the bird tonight).


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dickcissels in Chaffee County

Having heard that an Eastern Meadowlark had been found just west of Poncha Springs in Chaffee County, I got to thinking that maybe Dickcissel made it this far west (and elevation as this is about 7,000 feet)especially given the numbers being found in Canon City which is about 50 miles to the east. So late this afternoon I drove up to see what I could find.

I heard the Eastern Meadowlark song right as I drove up to the alfalfa/mixed hay field identified. It is amazing to have this eastern species this far west. They have previously been heard in counties bordering Kansas like Prowers County which is around 200 miles east of this Poncha Springs location.

After the meadowlark flew off, I started listening intently to try to refind it. Instead I heard a distant Dickcissel singing. It took quite a while for me to locate the bird (made harded by the winds being whipped up by storms in the area). It was more than 100 meters away on a wooden fence. This may be the first record of this species in Chaffee County. However, this may not be indicative of new breeding sites since this county has not been very extensively birded so just may not have been found before.

I checked some more hay fields in the Poncha Springs and Salida area but located only 1 additional Dickcissel singing. However, it was late so I didn't do a very comprehensive search.



Friday, June 23, 2006

San Isabel National Forest near Wetmore

Just after noon I took a side trip to the San Isabel National Forest near Wetmore on my way to an appointment in Pueblo. I ate my lunch while listening to a number of rather vocal birds calling and singing in the middle of the day. The area I was in was at fairly low elevation for National Forest land at about 6,500 feet. The habitat was mixed pine (pinyon-juniper and ponderosa) with scrub oak and some willows and deciduous trees in a dryed up stream bed.

I heard a number of singing Plumbeous Vireos. An adult male Virginia's Warbler popped up into a tree from the scrub oak but did not sing. The same was true of male Western Tanager and a (as usual) shy Green-tailed Towhee. However a Spotted Towhee made it's presence known by calling repeatedly. Several Robins flew by as did a Northern Mockingbirds and a number of male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

I heard several White-breasted Nuthatches and watched one following a Pygmy Nuthatch from tree to tree. There were juvenile Chipping Sparrows foraging with adults. One Western Wood-Pewee flitted about the branches of some deciduous trees. I also saw 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds perched like Christmas stars on the top of a Ponderosa Pine.

I thought it was highly productive for mid-day birding that lasted just over an hour. I will be returning to this area, which is really not far from my home in Canon City. in the near future.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More photos from Lower Arkansas Valley trip

This photo is of a
Common Nighthawk perching on a barbed wire fence in Otero County. This was not the most stable perch as it had to balance itself when a breeze came. This pic shows field marks: 1) a "white bar across the outer part of the angled, pointed wings" which differentiates it from a Lesser Nighthawk that has pale (that is buff colored not white on females) bar across its wing that is closer to the wingtip and 2) underparts more heavily barred than for Lesser Nighthawks (though the subspecies common in Eastern Colorado is not as heavily barred as some other subspecies of Common Nighthawk).

I have uploaded several more photos of the Piping Plovers I saw on Sunday and can be seen by clicking here


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Productive morning around the Canon City area

This morning some friends from Pueblo, Clif and Pearle, came up to see the Dickcissels in the Canon City area. As there had been a 2nd sighting of the Hooded Warbler, I took them first to the west end of the Canon City Riverwalk to "chase" that rarity. On the way there I heard a Dickcissel singing from a field where I had not found them before.

Though we didn't find the Hooded Warbler, we saw a lot of colorful and vocal birds. The Canon City Riverwalk usually has a good population of breeding Lazuli and Indigo Buntings, and this morning both species were calling frequently. In addition to the "purebred" birds, we saw one of the Lazuli-Indigo hybrids in the area. Yellow Warblers and Yellow-breasted Chats, both abundant species here, were in good vocal form. Also calling a lot were Lesser Goldfinch in the tops of the tall cottonwoods.

We watched a pair of Eastern Phoebes flycatching. Several Western Wood-Pewees sallyed about in the area, calling frequently. Several Black-capped Chickadees and a few Common Yellowthroated Warblers added to the songfest. We also heard, but didn't see, several Plumbeous Vireos.

A treat was not only hearing but seeing at least 3 Gray Catbirds. This species has become fairly regular on the Riverwalk and may be increasing here.

In addition to birds, we also saw a Checkered Whiptail lizard, and lots of butterflies (hundreds of "white's", lots of Eastern Swallowtail Tiger Swallowtails, good numbers of Mourning Cloaks and several other species of butterflies and moths).

Then we drove to my friend's farm where Clif and Pearle saw/heard at least 6 Dickcissel and got killer looks at several. They also saw the pair of Black Phoebes that are on their second nesting.



Monday, June 19, 2006

Piping Plovers & Least Terns

Yesterday I also paid a visit to Blue Lake, also called Adobe Creek, north of Las Animas. This irrigation storage reservoir and the surrounding State Wildlife Area is an Audubon Society Important Bird Area because it serves as one of the few breeding locations for both Interior Least Tern and Piping Plovers in Colorado.

These federally listed species also breed on the shore of John Martin State Park and State Wildlife Area. Click here for a great brochure on these birds and the essential precautions that people, including birders, need to take so as not to endanger them. It is necessary to have at least a pair of reasonably good, 8-10 power binoculars though it is best to have a spotting scope as the birds may be 100+ feet away from the exclosure boundary.

In addition to the precautions about the staying out of the exclosures put up to protect these species, it is important that you check the area outside the exclosures where activity is allowed as these birds can't read the signs and don't know they need to stay in the exclosure areas. So watch where you drive and especially keep pets under control so they do not chase these birds (or, for that matter, any other bird or wildife species).

In point of fact, the Piping Plover in this photo was outside the exclosure. I took these photos with my 12X, 5 megapixel, digital camera and enlarged them. I did not pursue the plovers, they flew in fairly near to where I was parked in the open access area where I was using my spotting scope to look for the birds.

In addition to this plover, I viewed one appeared to be sitting on it's nest inside the exclosure as well as another Piping Plover that flew about to about 40 feet from my car. I also saw a Least Tern inside the exclosure that appeared to be on the nest as well as another one that flew to the lake. There were about 40 or so American White Pelicans, a species that is declining in Colorado, according to the Colo Division of Wildlife "Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy", on the lake.

Please remember that harassing any species on State or Federal Threatened and Endangered Species list is not only illegal but unethical. Be a Responsible Birder, do not put your recreational interest above the conservation of birds and other wildlife.



Mississippi Kites

Mississippi Kites are a speciality of southeast Colorado where they breed from the city of Pueblo east to at least Lamar and also south of there in the canyons near New Mexico. I photographed this bird roosting in a residential area of the town of Las Animas yesterday.

With temps in the mid-nineties, this bird's beak was open in the pic because it was panting to keep cool (since birds don't have sweat glands, they keep cool by panting, increasing the flow of blood to the skin of the legs and feet, and resting when it's hot).

Read more about this species here



Sunday, June 18, 2006

Unique find-a badger

Early this evening, a little before dusk, I was driving the route I took 2 weeks ago when I heard the Long-eared Owl calling. I was surprised to see a badger in daylight as they are reputed to be mostly nocturnal. Actually, I have seen badgers in the wild on 2 prior occasions, one at night and the other in broad daylight (though at a distance).

Though they have really nasty claws, badgers either run away or, as I have read, dig a hole to bury themselves. This one took off running on its short legs, but stopped to look back at me when I got this photo. The badger was about 60-70 feet away when I took the photo with my Panasonic digital camera with its 12X zoom fully extended.

I find that birding can provide great opportunities to watch other wildlife including mammals. I got other good photos of birds, but will have to wait until tomorrow.



Saturday, June 17, 2006

More Short-eared Owls

At dusk tonight, I found 2 Short-eared Owls near the John Martin State Wildlife Area. These two were perched on a fence but flushed as I drove up the road. They then flew off flying low, their usual way to look for prey.

The location I saw these 2 owls tonight is only a few miles from where I saw the lone Short-eared Owl when I birded here two days ago. And this is also only a few miles from where I have seen this species a few years ago.



Dickcissels in Prowers and Bent Counties

I heard Dickcissels singing on a number of alfalfa fields in both Prowers and Bent counties. They should be fairly common in this eastern section of Colorado.

What was suprising though were 3 Dickcissel that were in a wet meadow that had been invaded by Canada Thistle, an aggressive and noxious plant. Although I could see Spike Rush, the Canada Thistle dominated these fields.

Since male Dickcissels sing throughout the year, I don't know if this location was a post-breeding site where they are preparing for migration (which are large open fields or wetlands per Birds of North America or if they might be breeding there. It would seem most unusual if they might be breeding in this predominate Canada Thistle field.

Dickcissels are "obligate grassland specialists" (per Birds of North America) and nest in hay fields, pastures, open grassland and agricultural areas. Nesting in a Canada Thistle dominated habitat could be an adaptation to deal with the continually decreasing habitats for this species of conservation concern.



Birding in John Martin State Park area

After birding the Lamar Woods yesterday morning, I drove to the John Martin State Park. In the vicinity of the east boating ramp on the north side of the reservoir I found 2 families of Canyon Wrens, both with one adult and 2 immatures. They were singing, calling and the immatures were exploring. When I mimiced their song, an immature came to a few feet from my car to check me out.

I saw a Greater Roadrunner nearby. There was also a Brown Thrasher singing in the area.

The south side of the reservoir is part of the John Martin State Wildlife Area where Least Terns and Piping Plovers, species on the Endangered Species List, nest. The sand was somewhat wet from recent rains so I didn't venture far for fear of getting stuck. I was delighted to see that the habitat is recovering nicely in the year since ATV's were restricted from the area.

On both the north and south sides of the reservoir I heard Scaled Quail. I saw Cassin's Sparrows that were still singing and skylarking. Abundant in the area were Northern Mockingbirds and Western Kingbirds.

A visit to the Lake Hasty campground below the dam netted a very protective pair of Red-eyed Vireos. They vigorously chased every bird that came near except the Turkey Vultures that nest nearby and entertain the campers by flying down to 30 or so feet above the ground.

I also scoped the Verhoef ponds that are a short ways east of John Martin. I could see a Snowy Egret very actively pursuing prey. In addition to common waterfowl, I could see several Black-necked Stilt and some Yellow-headed Blackbirds.



Two Buttes State Wildlife Area

Two Buttes State Wildlife Area (SWA) is located about 25 miles south of Lamar. The birding hotspot is in the "black hole" area of the SWA that is below the dam. Though the lake is dry due to drought, there is still water in the ponds in the Black Hole area (though they are low now also).

I was pleased to find 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, a species on the National Audubon Society Watch List. There were also a number of Northern Flickers in the area including two that were engaged in apparent courtship behavior (both perched facing each other, swaying back and forth with bills held high)accompanied by "wicka" calls.

An Eastern Phoebe called as it foraged. In addition to the many Bullock's Orioles, I saw a male Orchard Oriole. A Redeyed Vireo called repeatively as is the habit of this species.

I heard and/or saw at least 5 Canyon Wrens, including 2 that were singing back and forth on both sides of the canyon. Apparently the young of this species are fledging as I saw another adult with immatures as I did yesterday at John Martin. This time the adult was with 3 immatures.

Also seen were the common species including Turkey Vultures, Mourning and Rock Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, and Western Kingbirds.

I saw 5 Burrowing Owls in the grasslands nearby, at least 3 were fledglings. There was a small flock of Common Ravens in the old ranch area with lots of trees that Colo Division of Wildlife now owns.



Friday, June 16, 2006

Lamar Woods

Lamar Woods, behind the Lamar Jr College, is a hotspot for rarities during spring migration. Now that landbird migration is pretty well over with in Colorado, those whose focus on rarities tend not to interested in this area. But those of us less focussed on rarities find this area worth visiting.

For those of us who live in the west, two good reasons for birding this area are the Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers that breed there. This morning I saw 1 Red-headed Woodpecker flying and a male Red-bellied Woodpecker calling from a cottonwood tree near a cavity that might be a nesting location..

One or two Red-eyed Vireos were singing while two Mississippi Kites flew overhead. 2-3 Brown Thrashers called from various locations prompting a barrage of hostile calls and mobbing by several other species. And the local Blue Jays joined in this loud rebuke, though they may have been just celebrating the fact they were not the recipients of this mobbing for a change.

I heard an Olive-sided Flycatcher calling but could not locate it. I saw at least one female Indigo Bunting, a species that nests in this area.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Short-eared Owl in Las Animas County

Late this afternoon I took off for Lamar. This is a last minute trip and directly related to the weather forecast for temps in the low 80's tomorrow and upper 80's on Saturday in Lamar. Lamar has been experiencing really hot temps in the past several weeks with a reported 107 yesterday--not the weather I want to bird in.

On the drive down, I drove through the Ft Lyon State Wildlife Area briefly listening for rails. Though I almost always get rails here, none tonight. However, as I drove out of the area through private property I saw a Short-eared Owl flying over as it foraged.

Short-eared Owls are on the National Audubon Society Watch List. They are of conservation concern due to looss of habitat.



Canon City Riverwalk

After finding out that a singing male Hooded Warbler had been found on the west end of the Canon City Riverwalk, I birded there this morning. Hooded Warblers are rare in Colorado and this may well be the first seen in Fremont County.

I thought I heard the Hooded Warbler sing briefly but didn't see any bird that might be the Hooded. And the mosquitos were brutal (since I failed to put on insect repellent).

There were a number of singing Lazuli Buntings along the Riverwalk and a few Indigo Buntings. Yellow-breasted Chats were, as usual at this time of year, the most vocal birds here. A Northern Mockingbird made a brief appearance then disappeared into a thicket.

I was disappointed that I did not see a nest used by local Cooper's Hawks. For the past several years they have nested directly above the Riverwalk path, though unseen by all but a few. However, they may be nesting nearby as there was a small raptor in treetop a few hundred feet east, and it had stirred up all the other birds for quite a while as they protested the raptor in their area.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dickcissels and Bobolink give good showing today

This morning a friend of mine from the west slope of Colorado and a friend of hers from the upper Arkansas River area drove down to Canon City to see the Dickcissel and Bobolink. At least 3 male Dickcissel were singing, and at two were perched high showing off their plumage, at the farm I sent them to. Also at least one male Bobolink cooperated by displaying and singing from a electric line above the road.

In addition to the serenade and great views, Linda and her friend got great views of a singing Lazuli Bunting. And a Common Yellowthroat joined the chorus of songs in the background.

And the best thing is that the Bobolink have been in these fields, which have not yet been mowed, for 3 weeks and the Dickcissel for a few days less. This means that the odds are good that at least some of their offspring will have time to fledge or at least be old enough to leave the nest with the possibility of survival. This is great news especially for Dickcissel as these are on the Partners In Flight and the National Audubon Societies Watch Lists.



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Breaking news on bird flu from the "New news service:

"Wild birds have helped transmit the deadly H5N1 bird flu across Eurasia, a meeting of 300 scientists at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concluded on Wednesday. But killing them to prevent further spread of the disease is not the answer, they warn.

In fact, Marc Choisy and Pejman Rohani at the University of Georgia at Athens in the US have shown that killing wild animals with a disease like flu could actually lead to more infected animals, not fewer."

Read more here


Colo Birding Trail Landowner Meeting in Pueblo Co.

The Arkansas Valley Audubon Society is hosting a Colorado Birding Trail Landowner Meeting this Wednesday in eastern Pueblo County.

· Where: St. Therese Catholic Church community room
1136 Lane 36 in Vineland (between Pueblo & Avondale)
· When: Wednesday, June 14th, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
· Who: All interested landowners, residents, business owners
· Cost: $0. Light dinner (deli sandwiches, cookies and beverages)
o will be provided by the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society

The Birding Trail offers a chance to:
--diversify rural economies;
--showcase excellent land stewardship on the part of private landowners;
--promote conservation;
--educate the general public about the importance of agriculture and private lands.

The Birding Trail is a set of driving routes that will link outdoor recreation sites, both public and private, into a network of places where visitors can observe birds and other wildlife, often in addition to archaeological and paleontological treasures. The Trail will offer free promotion to selected sites and communities that feature access to these resources. The Birding Trail will be launched in eastern Colorado in the fall of 2006, and will consist of an integrated website with digital trail maps, detailed descriptions of Birding Trail sites, and suggested travel routes. We will also provide printed maps to involved communities for distribution to tourists.



Monday, June 12, 2006

More Pueblo County Dickcissels

As I had to go back to Pueblo County, I took the opportunity to check for more Dickcissels. Indeed, I located 2 more locations with a total of 5-7 singing birds. That makes a total of 10-12 singing male Dickcissels that I have found. Clearly there are going to be additional Dickcissels of the opposite sex.

Since at least 75% of the hay fields have already been mowed, if one assumes that there were proportionally as many in those fields then there might have been at least 30 males and about the same number of females. And that approximation of 60 Dickcissels is only for those fields I surveyed. The bottom line is that there were likely a lot of Dickcissels in Pueblo County this year.

The area I checked (though not in any thorough manner) was from around 36th Lane to Fields Rd/Avondale Rd on the west and east, and Business Hwy 50 to Fields Rd on the north and south.

Again I saw 2 Swainson's Hawks, 1 Lewis' Woodpecker (actually unusual not to have seen more) and Scaled Quail.



Sunday, June 11, 2006

Canon City update

Gosh the Bobolinks and Dickcissels at the large breeding site in the Canon City area was very active this morning. Not only were 4-5 Dickcissels singing at the same time in hearing distance, but several male Bobolinks were up singing also. There was a wonderful burst of Bobolink, Dickcissel, Western Meadowlark and Common Yellowthroat songs harmonizing for 15-20 minutes.

Also I was priviledged to see a female Bobolink who perched in the grass near the male. I thought maybe their nest was in this area but I am not sure.

Afterwards I visited the Canon City Riverwalk to see if there were any Willow Flycatchers still singing. I didn't hear any but there were several Indigo and Lazuli Buntings singing up a storm. I also saw the male Indigo/Lazuli hybrid with the white belly and otherwise blue feathers.



Saturday, June 10, 2006

El Paso County birding

I took a detour on my way back from a meeting in Denver today to do some birding in El Paso county east of Colorado Springs. I hadn't been out there for about 2 years and I was quite unpleasantly surprised to see how far the ex-urban sprawl had gone. I drove south from Woodmen Road on Ellicott Hwy which now has many 10,20,35-acre sprawlettes, some even were even further east of that road that only a few years ago was still rural farms and ranches.

The remaining rangeland is chopped up into parcels that are of insufficient size and many have been overgrazed. And irrigated hay fields have been replaced by irrigated turf farms, owing to the irrationality of placing turf grass in an area that was a semi-arid prairie. And there was too much traffic driving too fast on Ellicott Hwy for safe birding. So I can't recommend birding that area anymore though hopefully far eastern El Paso county may still have some grassland birding.

Birding didn't improve until I got to southern El Paso County on Squirrel Creek Rd going east and south of Ellicott Hwy to Meyers Rd. I was delighted to hear Cassin's Sparrows singing in several fields and I now find in the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlast that earlier surveys indicated possible breeding in the area.

Horned Larks are abundant in this area as in many areas of eastern/southeastern Colorado. And I saw several immatures of this species from some early nesters. There are also many Lark Sparrows. There should be Lark Buntings but I didn't see any. They are noted to decline during drought years and this is a definate drought year. I also heard some Savannah Sparrows.

The semi-aridness of this area is demonstrated by some of the species I saw including Cassin's Kingbirds, Scaled Quail and Northern Mockingbirds. I also saw 3 shrike species, all at a distance so I couldn't ID them though they are likely Loggerhead Shrikes (the shrike species that is here in the summer). I was pleased to see five Swainson's Hawks. I also saw two Red-tailed Hawks along the way. At dusk the Cp,,pm Nighthawks (most were calling and I heard their "booming" sound from several) came out and I saw at least 7-8 of them.

Other birds seen were 2 Say's Phoebes, a few Black-billed Magpies, several species of swallows, an adult Killdeer with an immature, and Northern Flickers.



Friday, June 09, 2006

Dickcissel in Pueblo County

Today I was in eastern Pueblo County so I checked some of the hay fields there. I found 4 singing Dickcissel in 3 locations in the Avondale/Vineland area east of Pueblo. I found these in alfalfa fields (whereas the Dickcissel and Bobolink in Canon City area are in mixed grass/with some alfalfa). Since most of the hay fields had already been mowed, and I only checked a small area, it is quite possible that there were a much larger number of Dickcissel in that area this year. I did not find any Bobolink.

I did see 2 Northern Mockingbirds in an irrigated agricultural area. I also saw 1 Ferruginous Hawk, 1 Lewis' Woodpecker (should be many more around there), 1 Burrowing Owl, 1 Great Horned Owl and 1 male Ring-necked Pheasant.



Thursday, June 08, 2006

Even more Dickcissels

On my way to one of the known Dickcissel sites I heard a Dickcissel singing. This is almost a mile from any other known site. Also, I was able to confirm that there are at least 5 Dickcissels at the first site where I found the birds as I was able to find five birds up and singing at the same time. And I confirmed 3 birds at the last site I found.

That adds up to 12 confirmed and possibly 14 Dickcissel in the Canon City area. Because we have so many, and a number were reported on the northern front range, I checked the farms in the nearby town of Florence but could not find any Dickcissel (or Bobolink). The only obvious difference I can discern is that the farm fields there are not as large as those in the Canon City area where I have found the birds. Dickcissel are known to prefer larger patches. But there are a number of other factors in Dickcissel and Bobolink field choices (ie,"Nests located in dense vegetation in grasses, forbs, or low woody plants with nearly complete overhead cover" per Birds of North America).



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More Dickcissels at new Canon City locations

Wow, we are having a real explosion of Dickcissels in the Canon City area. I found 6-8 more birds at 3 additional locations today. I found all of them by hearing their singing.

As I noted last night I got some good photo shots of Dickcissels that shows the beautiful chestnut feathers on their shoulders like the one here. I have added 2 more photos that can be seen here

The small flock of Cedar Waxwing continues at my friend's farm.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Western Fremont County update

I birded western Fremont County completing my survey of nesting American Dippers. Due to early spring run-off (this has been a trend and is anticipated to continue, is this Climate Change at work?), the Arkansas River has been running very high for the past several weeks. I could not find any American Dippers at all from Texas Creek to the Chaffee County line. Clearly nesting is over and I don't know where all the dippers have gone. With the water as high as it is there are few rocks for them to use and little shallow water in which they can forage. They may have moved up side streams that empty into the Arkansas River.

I did find at least 1 Black Phoebe. Though the Black Phoebes in Canon City have already fledged their first offspring, this is fairly early so the Black Phoebes in Western Fremont County may not even be nesting. I will have to return to see if I can find evidence of breeding at a later date.

I also found a possible nesting Lewis' Woodpecker in the vicinity of the Vallie Bridge. I also saw another bird enter basically a slot in a cottonwood. Unforunately I caught this out of the corner of my visual field and can only confirm the bird was brown. I believe it may have been an American Kestral.

And I saw Tree Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds that are nesting in nest boxes in Howard.


Bobolink and Dickcissel update

It's a banner year for both Bobolink and Dickcissel on Colorado's front range. I read today that there were 6 singing Dickcissel plus 2 singing Bobolink seen at a site in Boulder County today. Now, in addition to the Bobolink and Dickcissel that I have been monitoring on a farm in the Canon City area, this afternoon I found a new location with 1 singing Bobolink and another location with 1 singing Dickcissel.

However farmers have begun cutting hay in this area. In fact, one of the fields in which I have seen Bobolink and Dickcissel was cut on Saturday, then baled yesterday with bales hauled off by today. I don't know if this field held any nests as both Bobolink and Dickcissel go down in various locations so it is difficult to know which might contain a nest site. Bobolink have only been at this location for 2 weeks and it takes more than 3 weeks for selection and building of nests, nesting and time to fledge . And the Dickcissel arrived a few days later. So if the field in which their nests are located is cut, this would undoubtedly result in a nest failure.

I was able to get some pics of the Dickcissels that shows the chestnut colored shoulder of this species. But it is late and I will need to enlarge the photos so will post tomorrow.

This happens each year and I bite my fingernails hoping that the nests are in the last fields cut. Unfortunately most farmers in this area do a first cutting in late May to mid-June in order to get at least 2 and usually 3 cuttings from their fields as this not only increases the productivity of their hay fields but increases their profits, which is understandable. Sadly at least some nests will be destroyed or abandoned after the fields are cut.



Sunday, June 04, 2006

Update on Golden Eagle nestling

I checked yesterday on the Fremont County Golden Eagle nestling. The bird, which still has a lot of white on its head, was sitting in the nest where it got maximum shade on this hot day. Because it was sitting as far into the shade as possible, I couldn't get an updated photo. However, I took this photo two weeks ago and it shows the eagle nestling on the nest.

At that time I only saw one nestling and the same was true today. It is most common that only one nestling to survive as the larger more aggressive chick receives the most food so one may starve or may be pushed out of the nest by its sibling.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Willow Flycatchers still in Canon City

Yesterday, in addition to spending time with the Black Phoebes as reported, I checked the east section of the Canon City Riverwalk. I was interested in whether the Willow Flycatchers I heard a week ago might still be around and I hadn't been able to check earlier due to my injured knee. I was delighted to hear the "fitz-bew" call and it was repeated several times. It came from close to the river in a location that is still too difficult for me to access with my knee problem so I don't know if there was one or two birds calling. This is getting late enough (they do not nest until June, possible as late as mid-June per Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas)that they may be nesting here, which has not been previously documented.

In addition to two male Lazuli Buntings chasing each other (presumably in territory dispute), I saw a male hybrid Lazuli/Indigo Bunting with white underparts but all blue upperparts and head. Hybrid Lazuli/Indigos, though uncommon, are seen in the eastern half of Colorado.

Common birds calling included Yellow-breasted Chats, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, Western Wood-Pewees, and Black-headed Grosbeak. All of these species nest in this riparian area.



Late Common Goldeneye in Canon City area

A female Common Goldeneye I had seen a week or so ago is still present on the Arkansas River in the Canon City area. Common Goldeneye breed in Canada and Alaska with the closest breeding territories in northern and northwestern Montana and most move out of Colorado by now. Just over five years ago I watched a female Common Goldeneye and a male Barrow's Goldeneye that spent the summer on this same section of the Arkansas River.

There was also a female Common Merganser in the same location last week but I didn't see her today. Though most of this species breed on the west slope and the San Luis Valley, I have seen adults with fledglings in Fremont and Pueblo counties in past years indicating they do breed in this area.



Friday, June 02, 2006

Black Phoebe kids

Today I was able to differentiate 3 fledglings (including the one in the photo) with one adult feeding and supervising them. Their location is an excellent choice--stacks of chopped wood with trees on one side and the river with overhanging vegetation on the other. This is a great place to forage for insects to feed the fledglings, teach them to forage for flying insects, provide shade and protection from predators.

I spent some time watching the fledglings. One caught a piece of "cotton" from the cottonwood trees. It chewed (? or mouthed it?)it then, presumably because it wasn't a tasty insect, deposited it on the woodpile. They all did seem to be proficient at flying.

One of the fledglings still had some downy feathers, apparently this being the last bird hatched. They were all sallying out though I didn't see any catch anything (other than the "cotton" as noted above). The fledglings kept up giving the "Tsip" call.

The parent with them brought food. I watched one feeding that was done so quickly I was amazed; but I guess when you have 3 mouths to feed by yourself it has to be quick.

Click here for more photos of the fledglings.



Otero County

I moved on to Lake Cheraw in Otero County. This is still fairly productive. Today I saw 7 Snowy Plovers, 1 Baird's Sandpiper, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 1 Wilson's Phalarope, about 8 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 4-5 Black-necked Stilts and several American Avocets. There were more small shorebirds but too distant for me to identify. There were also a number of waterfowl including a small flock of Green-winged teal and at least one Eared Grebe.

After sitting in the car for hours, I took a walk around dusk in an area where I found nesting Short Eared Owls last June. To my surprise I heard calls from a Long-eared Owlinstead. The bird repeated the series of "hoo" calls several times so it seemed to be stationery and to be flying over. Though this species indeed inhabits grassland areas such as the where I heard the calls, but they breed in heavy shrubbed areas and I didn't see this nearby. However I just read in Birds of North Americathat these calls can be heard up to 1 kilometer away. It further notes that this "hoo" call is an "advertising song" emitted by males, given only at night right after sunset--indeed, the sun had just set when I heard these calls.



Thursday, June 01, 2006

Crowley County

I made a likely last shorebirding trip to Otero and Crowley Counties (see next post) today as most have moved on to their breeding grounds. Shorebirding seemed like a good idea as it would involve little walking as I could do most of it from my car. True, but it became tiresome trying to keep my still somewhat swollen tree elevated while driving 2 hours to get there, several hours around the area and another 2 hours back home.

A check at the Ordway feedlot ponds produced a few Cinnamon Teal and Northern Shovelers. There were also 6-8 Black-necked Stilt in the area but it looked like they were not nesting there anymore. There were hard rains for 2 nights this week and the location where they had been nesting appeared to have been washed out.

I found a very shy Great Egret at Lake Meredith. There were still a number of Western and Clark's Grebeson the lake and a few American Avocets, many Killdeer and a lot of Great-tailed Grackles along the shoreline. And a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds flew around the area.

Nearby Lake Henry was a dud--high water with a number of fishermen, swimmers and some campers. There were a few Western and Clark's Grebes on the lake and at least one Burrowing Owl in the prairie dog town just south of the lake.

I checked on the nesting Swainson's Hawk I found last week in the area. She was sitting on her nest and peaking down at me. This area has a number of trees so there were several Western Kingbirds, a few Bullock's Orioles and at least one Northern Mockingbird creating a cacophany of calls.


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