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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

RUFF, a rare eurasian visitor in Lincoln County

Today I had a meeting in Rocky Ford and planned to do a little birding afterward. Before leaving Rocky Ford I checked my email to see if there were any interesting birds being seen in the area and saw that there was a "possible" sighting of a juvenile RUFF. Ruff's are very rare shorebirds for which that have been seen only a few times in Colorado. Since this sighting was in Lincoln County only a little over an hour from where I was, I thought it was worth a try so I drove up there.

Fortunately one of birders who had seen the bird was still there, verified that indeed this was a juvenile Ruff and showed it to me. I had never seen this species before but once I saw it with its face and breast in the scope it's buff color made it stand out from the other sandpipers around it. We watched it feed, then groom itself a little and I tried to take photos through the scope. The Ruff is the middle bird in this photo (the Ruff was several hundred feet away and don't have digiscoping equipment so not the best pic). Then it flew off and we couldn't relocate it which was more unfortunate as two more birders came to look for it before I left.

After the other birder left, I stayed and looked for it some more. I finally refound it, but only briefly as a Northern Harrier flushed it with the other shorebirds as it tried to obtain some supper before dark. As the harrier flew repetitively back and forth along the fantastic playa in which this bird was located, the waterfowl and the sandpipers were flushed again and again.

Most of these birds breed in sub-arctic and arctic Europe and Siberia, regularly wandering off their migration course to be seen on both the east and west coasts of the U.S., particularly during fall migration. Apparently there is evidence that they have established a small breeding population in northwestern Alaska.

Another cool bird found in SE Colorado.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Common Black Hawk update

We didn't see the Common Black Hawk, but 3 Ospreys provided a show. Two of them perched within a few hundreds yards of the MacKenzie bridge, and both went fishing. A third Osprey flew in, calling and displaying to the other two. While watching one of the Osprey's sitting on a snag watching for prey, it reminded me of how the Common Black Hawk had done the same thing as I watched two nights ago.

While I watched the Osprey on the snag where the Common Black Hawk had perched, some mixed swallows came in and flew around the area where the Osprey perched. The Osprey 's head moved as it apparently watched these interlopers in its air space--again this reminded me of how the Common Black Hawk, sitting on the same snag, watched a flock of swallows that were flying in the area of that snag. Though I googled the internet to see if Common Black Hawks ever it birds, I couldn't find any reference that it engages in that behavior.



Sunday, September 24, 2006

Common Black Hawk walking on gravel bar

It was so cool last night when I saw the Common Black Hawk down on a gravel bar in the Arkansas River. I had read, and been told by others, that this species uses its long legs to walk on sand and gravel bars, and even walks in the water as it pursues prey. I did not see the hawk go after any prey, but certainly there might be crawdads and frogs around the gravel bar and fish in the water around it.

The first photo has been cropped to enlarge it for better viewing (though this pushes
it as the pic is getting blurry). The second photo is how the photo appears before being cropped to enlarge it. I took it at about 1.5X (equivalent to 72 mm on a 35 mm camera), so it shows a slightly closer view than was seen with my naked eyes.

The white tail band is visible in the enlarged photo and can just be seen in the original photo.


Sept 12 butterfly is not a Bordered Patch

This morning I received emails from two birders who have skills in butterfly identification (in fact, one worked as an entomologist for the Colo State Forest Service)clarifying that the the butterfly photo I posted on Sept 12 is not a Bordered Patch. Instead it is a Weidemeyer's Admiral, a common butterfly in this area. Indeed I have identified many Weidemeyer's Admirals but sure missed on this ragged specimen.



Saturday, September 23, 2006

More about Common Black Hawk

Here is another photo of the Common Black Hawk (only editing was to crop photo to enlarge it). As is visible in this photo, the hawk was watching the river area below the snag. It spent a lot of time just perched, watching the river below. This is consistent with what I have read about this species. It is described as sedentary, passively hunting for prey from perches, where they sit forelong periods of time.

It was really cool when, after I left to get my jacket, I found it standing on a gravel bar in the river near the snag on which it had been perched. The hawk was looking around, presumably looking for prey (they eat crawdads, fish, and frogs--all available in the river at this area) I had read, and been told by other birders, that Common Black Hawks will hunt for prey from gravel and sand bars, and even will walk in the water. More tomorrow.



Common Black Hawk seen again in Canon City

After several days with no sign of the Common Black Hawk (possibly related to windy then rainy weather and/or behavior changes related to all the birders watching for this very shy hawk), it was seen this morning sitting on the snag on which it was seen week before last. However, as soon as the birder who first spotted it while driving across the MacKenzie bridge could park his car, walk back to the bridge and get the bird in his binoculars it flew down then into the trees. I came along about 5-10 minutes later but the bird was not seen again this morning.

As I suspected that the bird's behavior was changed by all the birders (almost 60, some coming up to 4 times to look for it) in the area, I went to the bridge just after 6 pm (later than it had been seen when it was being seen in time clusters) and saw it. I was delighted to be able to view it for 45 minutes until just after 7 pm when it became too dark to see.

Note the blackish plumage, wide white tail band visible in undertail, thin white terminal tail band, yellow cere (the photo doesn't do justice to the dark yellow cere I saw on the bird), and long yellow legs (again, not as dark yellow in the photo as in my spotting scope). The dark tip on the bill is visible in both photos. Though the eyes are not visible, it is apparent (knowing that the birds eyes were open) that the eyes are dark.

This is one of the photos I took of the hawk. These are taken with my 12X digital camera then cropped to enlarge photo. This photo is not edited in any other manner or enhanced with photo software. I do have more photos that I need to crop that I will post later.



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sabine's Gull pics

These are two of the many good pics I got of the Sabine's Gull that was in Canon City last Sunday. I usually am not very impressed with gulls as there are so dang many age related plumages, and because I don't see many in Canon City (this area is semi-arid and has only a few ponds). But this gull was so attractive, so distinctive and I was able to watch it at fairly close distances. I will post more pics when I have time to enlarge them.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Common Black Hawk and more in Canon City

The Common Black Hawk seen last week in Canon City, then not seen for 3 days, was seen again Monday and today. Today's view was fairly close and quite clear though of quite short duration. I think that the number of birders, especially last week when 8-10 were present at one time, are effecting the movement of this hawk.

Two days ago we had an amazing number of White-throated Swifts flying around the area where birders were looking for the Common Black Hawk. When I got there I saw hundreds of these swifts soaring and catching insects above the area. I was told by another birder that he had seen more than a thousand of these earlier.

Other neat birds seen around this area include a Merlin, several sightings of Peregrine Hawks, a dark phase Swainson's Hawk, at least one more light phase Swainson's Hawk, several sightings of Cooper's Hawks and American Kestral, a immature Sabine's Gull, Common Nighthawks and one Lesser Nighthawk. Last week 2 Black Phoebes stayed around. That's in addition to the more common Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Mallards, Canada Geese, Spotted Sandpipers, Wilson Warblers and Yellow Warblers.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

White-breasted Nuthatch

Itook these photos of a White-breasted Nuthatch at the Florence River Park, a few miles east of the town of Florence. Though we often think of this bird as gray and white with a black stripe down its head, these birds actually have some brownish plumage.

I heard something surprising today about this species. Some friends of mine who have cedar wood shingles said they have at least one White-breasted Nuthatch pecking on their house with the Northern Flickers. I would be interested if anyone else has heard of such behavior.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sabine's Gull in Canon City

Yesterday a Sabine's Gull was found by some birders who had come to Canon City to look for the Common Black-Hawk (which wasn't seen yesterday). Though a fairly rare gull, there have been several sightings of Sabine's Gulls around the state including in the southwest corner, Ft Collins, and Colorado Springs.

The Sabine's Gull is actually a arctic gull that winters in the Subtropic and Tropical coastal areas. Though most migrate along the coast, small numbers migrate through the United States.

I watched the Sabine's Gull for quite awhile. It looked like it was having success in catching prey in the water. It also looked like it enjoyed flushing Canada Geese and also Killdeer by flying at them as though it was a predator.

Sabine's Gulls are fairly small and look a lot like terns. They are also much more attractive than most gulls in my opinion. I got some great pics but blogger isn't letting me post photos tonight so will have to wait until tomorrow.



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Common Black Hawk still being seen in Canon City

The Common Black Hawk has been seen at least once each day for past 7 days near the MacKenzie Ave bridge over the Arkansas River. Close to 20 birders from as far away as Ft Collins and Glenwood Springs, Co have driven to Canon City to look for this state rairity (and I learned there are only about 250 breeding pairs of Common Black Hawk in the United States, so it is not a common hawk in this country).

There have been 2 Black Phoebes foraging daily near the MacKenzie Ave bridge. Several Spotted Sandpipers, a Belted Kingfisher and a number of Mallards have been seen along the river nearby. Cooper's Hawks, a Peregrine Falcon, a dark phase Swainson's Hawk, several Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures have been sighted flying in the area of this bridge by those looking for the Common Black Hawk.

And last night I saw a flock of about 10 Common Nighthawks flying in the vicinity, presumably feeding as they migrate south.



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Correction: Not a Bordered Patch Butterfly

***9-24-06: I have received emails from 2 birders with expertise in butterfly identification letting me know that this is not a Bordered Patch but instead a Weidemeyer's Admiral.****

I saw this unusual butterfly on the Canon City Riverwalk. The range map in , Butterflies through Binoculars doesn't show them being found in Colorado. And the range map in the web site Butterflies and Moths also fails to show any documented sightings of this species in Coloraod.

That said, I am a real beginner with butterflies and I may be unaware of their presence in Colorado. But they must be at least rather unusual if not rare here.



Monday, September 11, 2006

Common Black Hawk confirmed in Canon City

The hawk I reported on a few days ago has been confirmed to be a Common Black Hawk, a very rare bird in Colorado. In the United State these birds are usually found in the southwestern states including southern New Mexico. Their diet is crawdads, frogs, snakes, crabs and the like.

Read more about Common Black Hawk


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Riverwalk deer

As I posted last week, while I stood motionless trying to find a bird in the vegetation a White-tailed doe and her fawn approached. I think this is one of the side benefits of being a birder--you get to see lots of other wildlife and, as in this case, using techniques (such as standing quietly, masking your profile with vegetation)for good birding also increase the likelihood of better observation of other species.

Again, I use a 12X digital camera which is the equivalent of about 400 mm in a 35 mm camera. And I enlarged the photo. Though these deer came close, they were still about 25-30 feet away when I took this shot and the other photos. Though they did look directly at me, I did not frighten them even when I walked off as I did so slowly and quietly.

I think the most important hint is that it is better to let birds and other wildlife approach you whenever possible rather than you pursuing them which is more likely to disturb them.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Canon City area birding has heated up

Boy, birding yesterday in the Canon City area was hot. My friend, Mark, came down and found vireo's of 3 species (Red-eyed, Warbling and the rare Philadelphia), a rare Blackburnian Warbler and a Green Heron at the Florence River Park. Though he called to notify me, by the time I got there it was raining pretty hard. I did see an adult Green Heron, a White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadees, a number of Western Tanagers and a bunch of Western Wood-Pewees (including an adult still feeding a late juvenile).

Mark called me again later to tell me he had a Magnolia Warbler at the Canon City Riverwalk. I drove down as quick as I could, considering I had been trying all day to get on the road for a 5 hour trip to Ft Collins. Mark kept tabs on the mixed flock that this very rare Magnolia Warbler was in. After we strained our heads looking straight up, Mark finally refound the bird and I was able to see it. Also in this mixed flock was a Black-and-White Warbler (also rare here).

After this I took off for Ft Collins where I attended our state Audubon board meeting today, then returned home this evening with no time to bird. Can't wait until tomorrow.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

More great birding in Canon City

This morning I birded the eastern section of the Canon City Riverwalk where I found a mixed flock of warblers. There were several Yellow Warblers and Wilson's-then I found a Northern Parula. Northern Parula is a vagrant in this area. I believe this bird was in Alternate I (or 1st year non-breeding) plumage. The bird had a yellow chest, grayish lores, 2 wing bars, white belly/undertail coverts/undertail feathers. The colors were muted and I didn't see any chestnut.

An apparently curious Gray Catbird worked its way up with foliage to check me out. Black-headed Grosbeak and Western Tanagers feasted on wild grape and other berry-like fruit in the area. And I was delighted that the mosquitos were light enough in this area to blow then away when I needed to stand still.

At my friend's farm I found an Olive-sided Flycather and a male Townsend's Warbler, both migrating through. I saw/heard two Black Phoebes there today. At the MacKenzie Ave bridge I found another Black Phoebe under the bridge.

The most interesting bird was an intriguing hawk. It was blackish, with a wide white band across tail and a small black terminal tail band-both on upperside of tail (I didn't see lower side). I only saw it perched from the rear then flying away 2X's. It was quite shy and it flew into the trees where I lost it. It was on the other side of the river and I couldn't access that area. I tried unsuccessfully to refind it by driving to another river access and rechecked first area later this evening without success. I have searched Wheeler's "Raptors", Sibley's and Birds of North America. A possibility might be a dark-morph Broad-winged Hawk, but listed as rare by Wheeler (though not sure if that would be less likely than other possibilities like early dark-phase Rough-winged or even Common Black-Hawk).


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Very good birding day in Canon City

Coming off of several days of below average temps, today's weather was great--very mild with temps in the 70's. And the birds were great. I went to the western section of the Canon City Riverwalk for a change. However, the lack of mosquitos in the past week lulled me into not wearing any repellant which was not a good move-as the sun came out and the day warmed, so did the mosquitos.

The usual birds were active--Western Wood-Pewees and their juveniles were everywhere as were Lesser Goldfinch. There are still a lot of Black-headed Grosbeak foraging in the area as well as Western Tanagers and Blue Grosbeak. A White-headed Nuthatch called frequently as it worked it's way up a tree while a male Downey Woodpecker tapped away on a tree nearby. I saw a few hummingbirds but could only id the male Broad-tailed who make a distinctive sound as they fly. The Blue Jays have their young in tow and are calling loudly both at the Riverwalk and in nearby residential areas such as the one in which I live. And Black-capped Chickadees added their call to the din.

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to id another Empidonax flycatcher but finally gave up and chalked it up as another empid species. After hearing calls of Gray Catbirds for awhile, I walked off the trail into the vegetation where I was able to see several skulking through the trees.

On my way back down the trail I found another active area with warblers "chipping" and feeding in some Russian Olive trees. I could make out several Wilson's Warblers and an Orange-crowned. Again I walked off the trail into the vegetation, having not learned my lession earlier as this again precipitated a full blown attack by a number of mosquitos.

The big surprise for me was finding 2-3 Red-naped Sapsuckers chasing each other in the area. This seems awfully early for this species that I usually don't see until at least November.

While watching the warblers and trying to blow the mosquitos away (so as not to swat at them and chase the birds away), a strategy doomed by the bites I was receiving, an adult White-tailed doe and her fawn appeared. As I was fairly camoflaged by the vegetation, and standing still (in spite of the bites), they moved closer as they foraged. This, of course, encouraged me to stay longer, and stand still while the mosquitos made minch meat of my arms. The two deer moved to about 25-30 feet of me. At that point I just couldn't take the bites anymore and moved back to the trail. I got some great photos but will have to post them tomorrow as it's late and I'm tired.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Black Phoebes still in Canon City

I failed to mention in yesterday's post that I saw a Black Phoebe, like a juvenile, when I was out birding. Today I returned for a little more birding. I saw a Black Phoebe (didn't get a good enough view to tell if it was a juvenile) sallying and calling over a farm pond almost a half mile from the Black Phoebe I saw yesterday. Since it is my experience that Black Phoebes do wonder around an area at least as far as a half mile even in the same day while foraging, this could be the same bird.

Then another quarter mile further I found at least 1 more Black Phoebe, sallying over the Arkansas River in a location where I was seeing this species last month. There might have been a second bird a little further upstream but I couldn't say for sure it was not the same bird, again because they do move around at times.

That would mean that there are at least 2, and possibly up to 4, Black Phoebes still on my friend's farm in the Canon City area. I haven't had a chance to check the MacKenzie Ave bridge location for Black Phoebes lately. Black Phoebes usually stay until mid- to late September in this area (though a few have been here in winter, most seem to migrate).


Eastern Kingbird pic

This is a photo of the Eastern Kingbirds I saw yesterday when birding at my friend's farm in Canon City. These are truly handsome birds all decked out in formal black and white plumage. Canon City and much of southeast Colorado lies in an area of overlap of Eastern, Western and Cassin's Kingbirds with all three being easily seen here.

Read more about Eastern Kingbirds here.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Fall landbird migration in full swing

The fall landbird migration is in full swing in Colorado. And I finally was able to get out briefly at my friend's farm. I'm still not up to par so I wimped out after walking about a 1/4 mile and did not get to do much birding. But it was nonetheless productive.

Along the fencetops and in the trees, at least a dozen Western Kingbirds and one Eastern Kinbird watched for insects. This is a higher concentration than there has been during breeding season, so I suspect many or all are migrating. I can't say the same for the 6 or more Western Wood-Pewees I saw--they have had a banner breeding year here and one adult was still feeding a juvenile.

Then I spotted a beautiful bright male Townsend's Warbler. These are such colorful birds but difficult to photograph so I didn't get a photo of it. But there is a nice photo on this website plus more info on this species.

I also found an Empidonax flycatcher, those birds that are so difficult to id in the fall when they are usually silent. This "empid" looked a lot like a Willow Flycatcher, brownish with brownish wing bars, wide and largish beak, very light eyering, flicking tail, yellow-orange lower mandible, light grey underparts. That said, unfortunately Willow Flycatchers are indistinguishable from Alder Flycatchers unless differentiated by calls--and this bird did not call. It was certainly quite busy sallying after flying insects which it did from fairly low perches.

Can't wait to be able to get out and do some birding.


Viceroy Butterflies

Viceroy Butterflies like this one are found thoughout Colorado. Though actually a member of the Admiral family, they mimic and are often mis-identified as Monarchs.

Read more about Viceroy's here


Sunday, September 03, 2006

More of far southeast Colo

The first photo is of a Common Nighthawk I found napping on top of a fence post. The other is clearly of a wind farm, this one south of Lamar.

Southeast Colorado offers a lot in addition to good birding including scenic canyonlands (see Aug 3, 2006 post), interesting turtles (see post this date), cool butterflies and dragonflies (see Aug 12, 2006 post) and more.

See more photos form far southeast Colo here


Ornate Box Turtle

Here is the Ornate Box Turtle I saw on my trip to far southeast Colorado. This was the guy (yes, it's a male--they have red eyes and red spots on legs)that was in the road that I stopped to assist across the road to safety.

See another pic and enlarge photos to check out the red eyes and red spots on legs. Read more about them here.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk photos

I have been grounded by a virus and still have a fever so am finally catching up with cropping photos from my trip to far southeastern Colo in August. This immature Red-tailed Hawk was more interested in stretching and grooming than paying attention to me (I stayed in my car, using it as a blind as I often do). It had just finished doing some grooming and was shaking out its feathers when I got this photo. Though the sky was overcast which drowns out detail and color. Because of this I had to some some editing.

To see more photos of this and another here


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