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

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 And irrigated hay fields have been replaced by irrigated turf farms, owing to the irrationality of placing turf grass in an area that was a semi-arid prairie.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.


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