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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Finally, Greater Roadrunner pics from Cottonwood Canyon

Well, I haven't fixed all my computer hardware and software problems (I really need to get a new computer), but I have made some space on my hard drive so I can crop photos easier. So I am tackling the many photos I shot of the Greater Roadrunner that practically posed for me last week-end at Cottonwood Canyon in Baca County in far SE Colorado.

Just as a reminder, I shoot with a 12X digital camera then enlarge the photos. I stopped my car for this bird when it was about 40 feet away. For some reason I don't understand, it took an interest in my car or me, approaching eventually to within only a few feet of my car. I did open my door so I could take photos, always staying right next to my car so it could continue serving as a "blind" in order to reduce disturbing the bird (and not disturbing birds pays off--they are more inclined to stay put or even as in this case approach you so you can get better photos).

The first photo shows the roadrunner with its crest raised slightly. It is a good one for seeing the bird's characteristics including the long tail. The second photo shows the head area cropped so it can be seen in close-up view. I took this one when the bird was only a few feet from the front of my car (though on the passenger side so it was 8 or so feet from me).

Roadrunners make a unique whining/crying-like call. Check out more info about this species and listen to their call by clicking here

I will put up more photos tomorrow.


More photos of Lewis's Woodpeckers

Today I was able to get a few more good photos of Lewis's Woodpeckers today. These are all of juvenile birds. See the dark heads and necks on these birds (adult birds have red on their faces and whitish necks). See all the photos of Lewis's Woodpeckers and other birds by clicking here


Photos of a Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Today I also got the following shots of a Red-tailed Hawk in flight.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Eastern Kingbird families

**It seems like there are families of Eastern Kingbirds everywhere along the Arkansas River. Besides the fact that a good number of this species has fledged in the past week or so, but the juveniles beg quite vociferously for food from their parents.

The first photo is of a juvenile. You can still see some of the orange coloration that young birds have. The second photo shows the same juvenile bird on the top and an adult bird with a large insect below--the juvenile had been chasing the adult bird and was begging to be fed.

SE Colorado is fortunate to have all 3 kingbird species (Eastern, Western and Cassin's) and they are common in much of this area.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Canon City Black Phoebe & Dickcissel update

On Thursday I was able to find 2 Black Phoebes a few hundred feet from the MacKenzie Ave bridge over the Arkansas River just east of Canon City. Though I scoped them I was unable to determine if they were adults or juveniles.

Yesterday and today I saw one juvenile Black Phoebe on my friend's farm just east Canon City. This bird was located 1/4+ mile from the nest location here. It was joined by a juvenile Eastern Phoebe on Friday but I did not refind that bird today.

There are still at least 3-4 Dickcissels remaining in the Canon City area. All the rest have apparently moved out of the hay fields to prepare for migration.



Lewis's Woodpecker family portraits

I am still struggling with my photo software and with memory--too many photos on my hard drive and I am trying to transfer to an external hard drive (sounded simple-ha!). So will work on today's treats--a family of Lewis's Woodpeckers with at least 5 juveniles and 1 adult that I enjoyed watching and photographing at my friend's farm near Canon City. I am not sure how old these juveniles are-they fly fairly well but still a little unsteady on more precarious perches And I saw juveniles chase an adult bird and beg for food several times so they are probably not more than a week or two from fledging.

The juvenile birds did a lot of flying around, presumably practicing their new skills. The first photo is of an adult bird. The second photo is of a flying juvenile. See more Lewis's Woodpecker photos here



Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally, Yellow-billed Cuckoo pics

Gosh, the software I use to crop my photos crashed and I have been hassling with it and some other software to edit my photos fromt the trip to the Lower Arkansas Vally are last week-end. These are the photos I got of one the Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Cottonwood Canyon. Though when I first saw one of the cuckoos fly across the road it was in bright sunlight and showed the rufous wings brilliantly, once these birds landed they embedded themselves in the foliage. Even when they would show themselves as this bird did, it was in the shade so the photos are not as crisp as I would like. This bird flew closer into this tree that was only about 75 feet away when I brought my dogs out of the car for a potty break. It was my impression that the bird had flown in closer to check us out, maybe to see if we were predators.

Ah, I am still having software problems with the second pic. So I will publish this and work on the one tomorrow. Click here then click on the WAV file to hear what these birds sound like.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Cottonwood Canyon Eastern Phoebe fledgling pics

These pics are of the Eastern Phoebe fledglings that I saw in Cottonwood Canyon (southwest of Springfield). The orange that demarcates the "target" beak area that nature paints on baby birds. The second pic shows both phoebes in the foliage that they seem to think has hidden them.



Sunday, July 23, 2006

More far SE Colo birds

Today I was surprised to find 2 adult Golden Eagles perched on power poles only a 100 or so feet apart, presumably a mated pair. However, I am concerned because they were only about 4 miles from a large windfarm south of Lamar. Though the windmills at this windfarm are reported to be engineered to be less of a threat to raptors, there have been eagle fatalities in some locations.

Though I hadn't seen any Lark Buntings in the area in the last 2 days, I saw several small flocks totally maybe 80-90 birds. Possibly they are beginning their migration.

At Carrizo Canyon, which is not far from Cottonwood Canyon, I saw 2 Eastern Phoebes. This is another beautiful canyon with several ponds along the creek, both a lot of water due apparently to recent storms. Usually I like to stand on the cliffs overlooking the ponds, but I saw that a very large chunk (more than 25 feet in width)of the cliff area had broken off and fallen into the water--too scary for me to get out on that cliff again.

Then at dusk I found 22 Burrowing Owls in 1 hour!! This was a very unusual number and circumstance. As I drove some county roads south of Lamar, these owls would fly up from the side of the road. In fact, I found 6 or 7 perched righr in the middle of the road. What was more surprising is that some of these were between cultivated fields where they would not be nesting. And these are not areas where they are usually found foraging. However, that is just what they were doing. And I imagine that is why I saw several Burrowing Owls flying up from the roadside last night and the night before.



Saturday, July 22, 2006

Cottonwood Canyon in far SE Colorado

Today I birded Cottonwood Canyon, a birding hotspot in far SE Colorado near the New Mexico border. Surrounded by sandsage and short-grass prairies, the canynonlands that exist in SE Colorado are surprising oases in a normally semi-arid environment as the bottom of these canyons are both perenneal streams and ephemeral water courses. Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most lush areas with many cottonwood trees mixing with pinyon, juniper and scrub-oak with a surprising amount of water in the stream in mid-summer in drought conditions. These conditions result in fantastic bird habitat.

Several southwestern species are found here and I saw several of them today. Ladderback Woodpecker is often seen here and today I saw 2. Another bird thought of as a southwestern specialty is the Greater Roadrunner--today I heard one calling and saw 2-3 more. One of them behaved curious towards me. When I first saw it the roadrunner was about 40 feet away. I stopped my car, and stepped just outside so I could take some photos. The bird came closer and closer. I remained standing next to my open car door the entire time. The bird approached within a few feet of my car. I got great photos but posting them will have to wait until I go home.

I saw 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos, a species of special concern. When I saw the first one, it was flying in the sunlight bringing out the bright rufous primaries. I was confused by this as I almost always see these skulkers in heavily forested areas, and often surrouded by foliage, so I am not accustomed to the rufous color in their wings being so prominent.

Another species of special concern that I saw was Lewis's Woodpecker. I saw at least 2 family groups, each with 2 adults and 1 fledgling they were feeding. These birds make use of the cottonwood trees in this canyon. Then there was a mystery woodpecker type. It sounded like a Red-naped Sapsucker and looked a lot like one, but the photo on my camera LCD screen is confusing so will have to wait to upload the pic to see if I can confirm id.

There were at least 5 Mississippi Kites flying in the canyon and I stumbled upon a nest with 1 nestling in an area I was looking for other, much smaller, birds. I heard a kite calling and looked up to find the nest. After I took some pics I moved away to continue birding. As I was watching for another bird I saw one of the kites dive over nearby cliffs then do somersaults as it turned to fly into the cottonwood where the nest was located--this was a really astounding flight demonstration! Later an adult kite flew into a tree nearby. I could see that it had a large insect in it's beak, apparently food for the nestling. So I walked several hundred feet away so the bird would feel comfortable going to the nest.

Other birds in this canyon were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Downey Woodpeckers, a Belted Kingfisher, Lesser Goldfinch, singing House Wrens, singing Indigo Bunting, singing Blue Grosbeak, and singing Canyon Wrens. Several Turkey Vultures flew along the bluffs. A Wild Turkey hen foraged with her 3 offspring. And at dusk a few nighthawks came out to hunt insects.

Insects--the mosquitos were horrendous in some places. As much as I hate Deet, when the Picardin I put on didn't help I that stinky stuff--and even with Deet on I was being eaten up. On the positive side there were some great dragonflies there, including some really outstanding ones (again I got great pics but have to wait until I go home to upload and post).

On the way to and from Cottonwood Canyon I saw 3 Swainson's, 3 Ferruginous and 2 Red-tailed Hawks. There were several Burrowing Owls near a number of prairie dog colonies. A Great Blue Heron was in Carrizo Creek just before the canyon. There were lots of Horned Larks, Western Kingbirds and a few Cassin's Kingbirds too.

What a great day of fantastic birding.



Friday, July 21, 2006

Snowy Plover babies and more

I drove down to Lamar today for some recreational birding and stopped at Lake Cheraw. I saw 4 Snowy Plovers including one that was just sitting still. Since I am accustomed to watching Snowy Plovers quickly scurrying about as though they had a lot to get done and not enough time to do it all, it surprised me to see this bird not moving. And it looked a little odd in my spotting scope, too fluffed up or something.

So as I scoped the shoreline I kept coming back to see if this little plover was still there. After a little while I saw it stand up and out ran 2 baby plovers that the parent had apparently been shading these juveniles from the sun with its body. I guess it had cooled enough and the parent let the kids go--and go these tiny babies did! They scurried quickly around the shore just like the adult birds do. They were so small they looked no larger than fuzzy golf balls with tiny fast moving legs. They were so cute they made my day. Unfortunately they were too distant, and too small, to get photos.

Other shorebirds at Lake Cheraw (located north of La Junta on SH109) were:
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Sandpipers
Baird's Sandpipers
Spotted Sandpipers
American Avocet
Wilson's Phalarope

I had a delightful dinner at good restaurant in Las Animas (Carmen's Steaks & Mexican Cuisine, 625 Carson, 1 block west of the Dairy Queen). Carmen's was smoke-free before Colorado law required it. They have both mexican and American food, and sometimes have entertainment. They also have a patio --while I ate dinner I was entertained by a flock of 10+ Chimney Swifts twittering above the area.

At dusk I watched a Great Horned Owl being mobbed by several Northern Mockingbirds. As I drove down a gravel road several Burrowing Owls flew up, apparently flushed by my car. A very satisfying birding day.


Western Wood-Pewee family

This morning I also found this Western Wood-Pewee nest with the mother bird (it is reported that the female protects the nestlings by shading them from the sun) and nestlings. In this photo the female is laying in the nest facing to the right of the photo with her tail in the foreground, and 2 fledlings are visible on the left side of the nest (one is easily seen in the foreground and the other's head is visible in the background to the right of the branch).

The male bird stayed close by, bringing food to the nest. Though Birds of North America reports that both the male and female feed the nestlings, I didn't see if this male was bringing food to the female or to the nestlings.

In addition to being a common species along the Canon City Riverwalk, later today while in the San Carlos National Forest near Wetmore (south of Florence)I found them to be abundant.

Read more about this species here



Thursday, July 20, 2006

Western Tanagers descend on the Canon City Riverwalk

Western Tanagers migrate through the Canon City (5,400 feet) area in the spring on their way to sligthly higher elevation (about 6,000 feet+) nesting grounds in pinyon-juniper habitat in this area. Last week when I was in this habitat, I noted a number of these birds in juvenal plumage chasing adults around and begging for food.

Now many Western Tanagers are moving down to the Canon City area including the Riverwalk where they can load up on several species of scrumpuous berries before moving on towards their wintering grounds between Mexico and Costa Rica. See a photo of another male Western Tanager and another photo of this bird here

The male bird pictured here with its limited amount of reddish coloration around head area may be an adult in Definitive Alternate (breeding) plumage with just a small amount of red as there is a lot of variation in this species. Or it might be a first year bird in Alternate (breeding) I plumage.



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk photos

Yesterday I came upon this Red-tailed Hawk soaring near some bluffs in Canon City. See a few more pics here


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fledgling Western Kingbird and parent pics

This morning, while monitoring the remaining Dickcissel in Canon City, I watched a Western Kingbird fledgling sitting on a fence waiting for its' parent to return to feed it. As I noted for another species, it is hard to find photos of immature birds (or for that matter females) presumable because adult males are more photogenic and usually easier to find (not only do they have more colorful plumage generally, but they often stand out by perching out in the open and are often singing). The adult in the other photo is the parent that was feeding the fledgling. Note the the fledglings tail feathers are noticeably shorter than the adult's. The fledgling's bill is also lighter colored.

Just to make a point related to conservation, I took the photo of the fledgling from my car. I take a lot of photos from my car as it makes an excellent "blind" and is less disruptive for the birds. It is always my goal to take photos without disturbing the birds. Though I am not always successful, I still try hard to do this as I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of birders and bird photographers to keep their impacts on the birds to a minimum. It clearly takes more skill to take bird photos without flushing the subjects.

Western Kingbirds can be seen throughout SE Colorado where they common to abundant except for mountainous areas(and is true of most of the rest of the state). They overlap with Cassin's Kingbirds (in Colorado, a specialty of SE Colorado) in parts of SE Colorado. They also overlap Eastern Kingbirds in the riparian and agricultural areas where this species tends to breed. There is a significant area from Fremont and Pueblo counties south through Huerfano County and then east into Baca County where all three kingbirds can regularly be found during breeding season. All three kingbirds can also be found in SE Colorado along the Arkansas River corridor from Fremont County to the Kansas stateline.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Black Phoebe family and photo of juvenile

Yesterday I had the opportunity to follow the family of Black Phoebes that nested near the McKenzie Ave bridge over the Arkansas River in Canon City. They were moving further from the bridge as they foraged in the increasingly hot late morning, with temps rising into the 90's (it hit 97 in the afternoon). So they were staying on the shady side of the river, which meant that since I had permission to be on the private property on the other side of the river I could follow them without intruding.

Though I saw 4 birds last week, there were only 3 yesterday. I was able to identify one as clearly a juvenile both by plumage and by the fact I watched one still being fed by an adult. This bird still has a small amount of the orange on its beak. I was not able to tell if the third bird was a second juvenile or the other adult. It is possible that the mother bird is renesting while the father takes care of the offspring as I have seen this happen before. The juvenile in this photo was sallying out from the branches. Though usually unsuccessful, I did see it catch a few insects.

These phoebes ended up about a half mile from the bridge, in an area with several large cottonwood trees that had large branches falling towards and overhanging the river. This provided a perfect micro-climate for this species, especially on this hot day. It has been my experience that Black Phoebes often use streamsides with overhanging branches, likely because they provide a sheltered and cool, shady location for them to forage and rest. I have often watched Black Phoebes sit quietly on an overhanging branch for periods of time, intersperced by short sallying flights to grab an insect. And sometimes the branches drop into the water creating small pools of quieter water where flying insects abound.

I do want to add that, though I almost never do any editing other than cropping/enlarging of my photos, I did use some software editing on this photo as the light was awful (bright where I stood and shady where the bird perched).



Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hummingbird skimming the water in the Arkansas River

This morning while watching the McKenzie bridge Black Phoebes, I saw a hummingbird (a female, not seen long enough for id) hover right above the water in the Arkansas River and appearing to be skimming the water surface to get a drink. The hummingbird did not appear to be catching insects located above the water and I didn't see any insect swarms at this location that was a small rapids (class I).

This behavior seemed strange since they drink so much liquid nectar. "Birds of North America" notes that Black-chinned Hummingbirds have been seen drinking from a spring but indicated that Broad-tailed or Rufous got their water needs met from nectar. Someone posted on a web forum that they watched a hummingbird skim over water to take a drink. I also found a statement on that "Anna's hummingbirds often bathe in flight by skimming over the water," but couldn't find anything else on that."

So I don't know if the hummingbird was drinking the water, taking a bath, or what.



Nestling Lewis's Woodpecker peaking from nest hole

I took this photo in Western Fremont County 2 weeks ago. Though not the crispist picture (hey, the nest hole is about 20 feet above the ground and, of course, in a shady area), but it clear enough to get a view of what nestlings of this species look like. The nest hole was in an area where the bark was stripped off but adjacent to the edge of the bark which is seen right at the tip of the birds bill. This baby bird appears all black with a little whitish in the head and neck plumage. It's bill is a dusky black.

A parent bird had just been at the nest hole feeding the nestlings and they were still calling-begging for more food when I saw this one stick it's head out of the nesthole. It is reported in Birds of North America that, "Young visible in nest entrance when fed during late nesting stage, 3–4 d before leaving nest." So it is likely that this young bird was close to fledgling.

Indeed, when I returned to the area last week, the birds had fledged from the nest. I found one foraging several hundred feet from the nest tree.

As I imagine I have mentioned before, this species is on the National Audubon Society Watchlist due to a loss of suitable trees to nest in and possibly due to poisoning from pesticides on fruit and corn they eat (more reasons to reduce use of pesticides!).



Saturday, July 15, 2006

That ain't a bird-its a Colorado Chipmunk pic

Southeast Colorado has a lot of non-avian, as well as avian, wildlife to see. When I was birding in the pinyon-juniper a few days ago, I saw this little mammal. The critter in this photo is a Colorado Chipmunk. This species is found in rocky terrain including such low elevation pinyon-juniper areas. In Colorado these chipmunks are found in the southern part of the state. And they are cute little critters.

You can read more about them here



Friday, July 14, 2006

Lazuli Buntings at Canon City Riverwalk

Yesterday morning I birded some on the Canon City Riverwalk. As I have posted before, there are a lot of Lazuli Buntings there including this male I picked out of the foliage in a tree. They are such strikingly handsome birds with their azur blue heads, rusty chest, set off by the white on their lower parts and accented by their white wing bars--like birds in designer plumage. As brightly colored as they are, they are nonetheless a challenge to find as they perch inside thick foliage like this one.

Indigo Buntings are also on the riverwalk as well as a healthy population of Blue Grosbeak, all with this year's juveniles following them. There are also many Black-headed Grosbeak, including many juveniles. It is easy to spot a family group with the parents leading the young to forage on some of the several varieties of berries that grow here. The birds seem to relish the berries as they can be seen just holding one of these red berries in their beak as though holding a prize they had won.

I ran into the Rich who found the Hooded Warbler there several weeks ago. He said he saw the male Hooded feeding a juvenile. I still haven't seen these birds and may not as he said the area off the trail where they are located in infested with mosquitos and it is necessary to drown oneself in Deet. Though I enjoy seeing a rarity, they are not my focus and not important enough to use a lot of Deet.

I was pleased to hear some Cedar Waxwings in the top of the tall cottonwoods though I only saw 2 birds. Both Black-chinned and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds whizzed by. Black-capped Chickadees foraged as they do, working a limb from top to bottom as they go upside down to get at tidbits. Yellow Warblers seemed especially active as they flew quickly from tree to tree, singing their "sweet, sweet, so sweet" song. Yellow-breasted Chats called loudly and distinctively. Common Yellowthroats repeated their "witchity, witchity, witchity" calls while Western Wood-pewees sang their burry calls. This area is like a Baskin-Robbins with a great variety of auditory flavors to savor.



Juvenile Pinyon Jay pics

Here are two pics of a juvenile Pinyon Jay in the flock I reported yesterday. Most photos on the web are of adult birds so I thought some of a juvenile would be a good idea.

The second photo shows the same juvenile from behind engaged in "begging" behavior in order to solicit the adult birds to feed it. In addition to calling incessantly as part of this begging routine, their wings quiver rapidly.



Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pinyon-juniper birds and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest pic

There are extensive pinyon-juniper forests in SE Colorado including large areas in Fremont County. Many of these areas are on public lands that are open to the public including the following in Fremont Co: Red Canyon Park, a park owned by Canon City that is located 8 miles north of town; Temple Canyon Park, another park owned by Canon City but located about 8 miles west of town; Royal Gorge park (near but not including the Royal Gorge bridge area which costs $21/adults), also owned by Canon City and located about 15 miles west of town; Bureau of Land Management areas including Beaver Creek Wildlife Study Area, Grape Creek Wildlife Study Area, and Texas Creek Recreation Area (an ATV and dirt bike play area, but can be birded during less used times).

These pinyon-juniper habitat areas are breeding areas for a number of species including Blue-gray Gnatcatcher which nests far more in this type of habitat than any other in Colorado. I was delighted to find the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest in this photo (view from below). Though there were no nestlings nor even eggs in it (after checking from above further up the hill and finding no nestlings, I carefully pulled the tree limb down enough to glance inside), the female also pictured here was zealously guarding her nest.

I saw several Western Tanagers,including fledglings that were pursuing adult birds to beg to be fed. Though this species nests in a variety of habitats in Colorado, they are most often found in pinyon-juniper habitat in this area. Another pinyon-juniper associated species is the Pinyon Jay, a bird that is considered an indicator of healthy pinyon-juniper forests. As raucous as this species is usually, they were even louder as the adults were being chased by fledglings begging vociferously to be fed. I saw a total of 60-80 of both adults and immature Pinyon Jays.

There were several Cassin's Kingbirds, a bird rarely found almost exclusively in the southeast area in Colorado. Other birds seen were an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a female Black-throated Gray Warbler, and lots of Chipping Sparrows and Mourning Doves.



Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Swainson's Hawk nestlings and more

Finally, I have edited my photos of the Swainson's Hawks and other birds I photographed in the San Luis Valley last week. During my trip last week to the San Luis Valley, I GPS’ed 22 Swainson’s Hawk nests (though 7 nests were on my Breeding Bird Survey route, the rest were along routes that I took while driving around the Vallay and not systematically surveyed).

I was able to observe nestlings on 5 of the nests, usually finding two nestlings (varied in age from quite young to very large and ready to fledge). The results confirmed my belief that the San Luis Valley hosts a very high density of Swainson’s Hawks and specifically for nesting Swainson’s.

I found a lot of variability of disturbance sensitivity by these hawks. Some were quite sensitive and flushed off the nest when I stopped my car (also documented in a report on this species by the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center as well as data that some birds will abandon their nests when disturbed). It was clear that getting out of the car was more disturbing as one bird flushed off the nest and flew overhead vocalizing its displeasure when I stepped out of my car at one my BBS stops to do my surveying, not realizing there was a nest nearby until the parent created a fuss. Though the temps were moderate, eggs and young birds need shading from the sun so I moved away quickly so the parent would return to the nest before harm was done. It was often best to stay at least a hundred feet away to avoid stressing the adults. If birders visit the area, please park a distance from the nest sites and stay in your car—I got great views and photos (better because I could steady my camera on the window) from my car. Since the trees where the nests are located are often near the road it is necessary to either pull up away from the nest or drive to next place to turn vehicle around so you can drive back and stop a distance before the nest.

This long-distance Neotropical migrant has a very long migration from its wintering grounds in the grasslands of Argentina (where significant pesticide poisonings have occurred) to western prairies in the US and Canada, distances of up to 6,000 miles.

I got some good photos (with 12X Panasonic digital camera, not digiscoped) of Swainson’s including several on nests and some nestlings as well as other birds in the San Luis Valley. They can be seen at . The photos can be enlarged for better viewing by just double clicking right on the photo.



Monday, July 10, 2006

Golden Eagle fledglings update and photos

I checked on the Golden Eagle fledglings in Fremont County today. The nest was empty but I found one fledgling only about a hundred feet from the nest. It gave its begging call a number of times, apparently telling the parent birds it wanted to be fed. The white base to its tail is quite visible in the first photo. In the photo, the bird is sitting with its back to us.

After looking further I found the second fledgling (maybe the older sibling) almost a half mile away on the top of a butte. This bird is in the second photo.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Black Phoebe feeding photo

I returned this morning with my friend Erik to the area where I saw Black Phoebes yesterday. I took this photo of a fledgling Black Phoebe begging to be fed by the adult holding a large insect. The brown/rusty edges on the fledgling's wings and back feathers does not show in the photo (probably due to light conditions)but do appear lighter. The fledgling's orange beak makes an easy target for parent's to place food.

We were unable to refind the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A single White-faced Ibis flew down river.

At dusk tonight while trying to walk my dogs at my friend's farm between continuing bursts of rain showers (now almost 5 inches in past 10 days!), I heard a Sora Rail winnowing in one of the farm ponds. That made a nice ending to the day.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rainey, productive day in Canon City

Today was one of those very unusual days in the Canon City area-it rained off and on all day and evening, beginning in the morning (a rare event here). As Canon City is in a semi-arid area with annual precip of just less than 13", we usually only get a small amount of rain and only for short periods of time. After drought conditions for months, we have received over almost 4 inches of rain in the past week which is about 30% of what we usually get in a whole year!

And boy did the mosquitos love the rainey weather. Due to allergies, I try to avoid Deet so I wore long sleeves over my arms and a mosquito net over my head. though the netting in the mosquito net is quite fine, it does affect visual acuity some making birding a little more of a challenge. Fortunately birding was still quite good even with the rain and the netting in front of my eyes.

A brief walk on the Canon City Riverwalk in light rain produced a number one Gray Catbird that shared a few song phrases (though not a full song, probably related to nesting). I saw 4 male Lazuli Buntings and heard several more in a half mile section. Two Blue Grosbeaks chased each other in a field. Yellow-breasted Chats and Common Yellowthroated Warblers called loudly in several locations, while Yellow Warblers sang their "sweet-sweet . . . " song. There were a lot of Lesser Goldfinch singing and flying about. My birding here was cut short, not by the rain, but by workmen who were making a lot of noise getting several vehicles they had gotten stuck in the mud out with a big front loader.

Later I refound the pair of Black Phoebes that had been seen a lot earlier on near the McKenzie Ave bridge over the Arkansas River. Though I had not stopped often to listen/look for them, I had not seen them for several weeks. I was delighted to not only see both adults but 2 fledglings that were sallying nearby. This is the second pair of Black Phoebes in the Canon City area that has produced young this year, and the first time that 2 pair have bred here (though others have bred both in far eastern and far western Fremont County). The Black Phoebes here likely represent a range expansion for this southwestern bird and a signficant expansion in Fremont County where I found the first bird of this species just 11 years ago. There was also a Say's Phoebe calling in the area where I saw the Black Phoebes.

To top off my day, while looking for the Black Phoebes I found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, the one in this photo (not the best as I had to move to about 80 feet from the bird to get it to come out of the foliage). This is the first of this species I have found in the area this year and I was surprised to find one here as I have only seen and/or heard them in the tall cottonwoods in the riparian forest along the Canon City Riverwalk. And I usually see them in conjunction with an outbreak of tent caterpillar, the prey with which they are often associated.

And I am always delighted to see Yellow-billed Cuckoos, both because they are quite interesting birds (I watched and photographed one once that was less than 25 feet away that seemed to think it was well hidden from view, which is most often the reality) but because they are declining in all areas where they are found. The western population of Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a Candidate Species for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Oh, gosh, I can hear it raining again. First drought then deluges, though any specific weather cannot be attributed directly to Global Warming/Climate Change this these extremes are exactly what scientific models predict will occur because of it.



Friday, July 07, 2006

Photo finally uploaded

Gosh, it has been a challenge to get this photo of the fledgling Mourning Dove to upload to this blog. Fledgling may be too generous of a label for this young bird--it didn't try to fly, just lay on the ground when I almost stepped on it. It may have fallen out of the nest. It wasn't there the next day so hopefully it either hopped to a safe vegetative area or was able to fly a ways off.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Risk taking Mourning Doves

This pic is of a fledgling Mourning Dove that I almost stepped on. It was born in the gutter on my house. When it fledged, it apparently wasn't able/motivated to fly far and it landed in the decorative gravel that replaces turf grass in my front yard. I almost stepped on it in the dark where it blends in even better than during daylight.

I have felt badly for the mother bird who sat on her nest in some really hot weather. Of all places, she chose the gutter right in the southeast corner which gets a lot of direct sunlight. As hot as it got, the mother bird dutifully stayed on her nest, protectng her offspring both as eggs then as nestlings from the sun and heat.

I was unaware that this Mourning Dove had nested in my gutter until I was having my gutters cleaned. The worker doing the cleaning reported his find and said he had avoided the section these birds were in.

Oops, the blogspot server is not letting me upload any photos so will have to add them tomorrow.



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Good birding next to SE Colo in San Luis Valley

Although the focus of this blog is birding in SE Colorado, I think occasionally it is helpful to discuss birding opporunities in adjacent areas. I am currently in the San Luis Valley to do my Breeding Bird Atlas route, some other surveying and some recreational birding.

Two days ago I was delighted to find a flock of 80-90 Pinyon Jays. This is a species of concern and I don't often see such a good size flock. They were in a grove of cottonwood trees where I also saw an immature and a mature Great Horned Owl. The immature, actually a fledgling, appeared quite curious about me--a common behavior I find in fledgling owls.



Sunday, July 02, 2006

There are 2 Golden Eagle fledglings!

I checked the Golden Eagle nest I have been watching to see if the fledgling was still around as the last time I checked about 10 days ago I didn't see it. I was delighted to find not just one but two juvenile Golden Eagles perched on the nest! I had only seen one bird in the nest the last several times I checked so I thought that only one had survived (not uncommon for one to starve to death or die from siblicide especially when food supplies are shor. So this is great.



Saturday, July 01, 2006

Canon City area

This morning I birded the west section of the Canon City Riverwalk as I found out that two rare warblers were being seen, a Northern Parula in addition to the Hooded Warbler. I made a big mistake in not putting insect repellant on--the mosquitos were ravenous. It was very difficult to attend to birding when a mob of mosquitos are in my face.

I heard the Northern Parula singing but could not locate the bird visually. After searching unsuccessfully to see this bird, I didn't have the motivation to try for the Hooded as the mosquitos were having their way with me. I saw a Cooper's Hawk fly through (that stopped the frequent singing by the Northern Parula for awhile). In addition to the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds that buzzed around, I spotted a female Black-chinned Hummingbird sitting on a small branch. Lazuli and Indigo Bunting sang up and down the trail. A few Blue Grosbeaks were also there. I didn't refind the pair of Eastern Phoebes seen with Clif and Pearle last week.

Though almost all the grass fields have been mowed, I found at least 9 and maybe 12 Dickcissels still singing. In fact, I found one in a grass field that was mowed several weeks ago and now has a maturing stand of grass. This is inexplicable as this species is not supposed to have a second nesting as they need to be ready to migrate in August.


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