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, November 30, 2006

Regal Golden Eagle

As I noted below I saw a Golden Eagle, the adult in these photos, as I drove in the Pueblo West area. I knew from a distance that this was an eagle by the massive size so I pulled over and took these photos from about 150-200 feet with my 12x Panasonic Lumix digital camera. Look at those heavily feathered legs, large feet (the better to grab with) and gorgeous golden feathers on its head. Golden Eagles are such massive and regal birds, I find as I did today



Birding down the highway

Those of us who are avid, or some might say inveterate, birders can't stop ourselves from looking at, and for, birds during most of our daily activities. That includes driving down the highway at 65 or more mph (some sections of our interstate highways have 75 mph speed limits). Now that doesn't mean identifying small birds while driving at high speeds. For me, it mostly involves looking at raptors and other larger species.

On my way returning home from a trip to Pueblo, I saw 6 Red-tailed Hawks from Pueblo West to the Penrose area which is about 20 miles. Most were sitting on telephone poles adjacent to the highway. One of these was possibly a possible dark/rufous intergrade Red-tailed Hawk as it was dark brown overall with some rufous in its breast. That is the unfortunate side of birding at 65, you can't check out a bird to confirm a non-obvious id.

I also saw a Golden Eagle, shown flying with a scenic mountain back-drop in this photo. This photo illustrates the diversity of habitats in the area--the lowest part is short-grass prairie, there is pinyon-juniper covered hills just above it with a butte to the left, then foothills rising up to the mountain at the top (not pictured is the Arkansas River just a few miles to the south and the Pueblo Reservoir several miles to the southeast). See more Golden Eagle pics in the next post.




Snowy-day birding

Due to an overnight low recorded at minus 2 degrees (though not unknown, it is quite unusual for Canon City to have below zero temps), much of yesterday's snow is still on the ground (also unusual as it usually warms up the next day and melts off). It certainly was quite pretty as can be seen in these photos I took this morning of Plum Creek where it intersects the Canon City Riverwalk.

The storm apparently blew in 2 immature Snow Geese, shown with some Canada Geese. Snow Geese are uncommon in the Canon City area as we are not near the waterfowl flyways. There was a significant increase in waterfowl at ponds in the area so these were apparently brought in with the storm, probably due to the artic front causing lakes further north to freeze over. In addition to common waterfowl, other less common waterfowl for this area were several continuing Common Goldeneye, a few Bufflehead, one male Canvasback.

SeEtta Moss


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Storm birds

The storm that blew into Colorado today dumped more than 5 inches of snow in Canon City (a lot and an unusual amount here), but as it went east it dropped lesser amounts. There were surprisingly few waterfowl at Brush Hollow Reservoir with just 2 Common Mergansers, 2 Ring-necked Ducks and a single Common Goldeneye. I saw one white-headed gull at a distance but due to snow couldn't drive down to see the whole lake.

However, Sumo Golf Course Pond made up for it. There were close to 30 Ring-necked Ducks, a few each Redheads, Common Goldeneye, and Gadwall. There were also two Canvasback Ducks and a number of Canada Geese there.

Driving back from the golf course ponds I saw one Scaled Quail run across the highway.



Cell towers kill millions of birds per USFWS

A news report states, "The lights atop communications towers that warn pilots to stay away can have a come-hither effect on birds -- killing millions of migrating warblers, thrushes and other species every year. . . . 'We're talking about estimates of millions of birds dying because of these towers,' said Paul Schmidt, assistant director for the migratory bird program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has pegged the annual deaths at 4 million to 50 million."

Read the full news report here.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lots of pre-storm feeding activity

We have a major winter storm bearing down on us, with predictions of very cold temps, some snow and winds. :andbirds were feeding busily today apparently in anticipation of a disruption in their feeding behavior due to the storm. I walked on the Canon City Riverwalk where lots of Dark-eyed Juncos and American Goldfinch were feeding on seeds. In an area near human habitation many House Finches joined them.

A lone male Downy Woodpecker pecked for little bits of insect eggs and stuff stuffed in the bark of trees. Some interesting info from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: "Male and female Downy Woodpeckers use separate foraging strategies during the winter. Males tend to feed in the tops of trees on branches that are smaller in diameter, whereas females feed in midlevel and lower sections of the tree on branches that are larger in diamete"



Why bright colored plumage helps male birds

Researchers believe they have discovered why brightly colored plumage on male birds shows why this evolved as a sign that they are healthy and therefore good choices for female birds to mate with in order to have the best offspring. It is due to their carotenoids, those healthy antioxidants that also have colorful pigments. Read the story here.



Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pueblo City Park-Wood Ducks and more

Yesterday I met two other birders in Pueblo City Park. Pueblo City Park is a hotspot for birding, netting many warblers in spring, summer and sometimes beyond, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in fall and winter, lots of waterfowl and gulls up close at their pond.

The other birders had been there for awhile before I could get there. They had seen one of the two Pine Warblers and one of the two Nashville Warblers, both of which had been there for several days in a mixed flock with Yellow-rumped Warblers. When I got there, we couldn't refind that mixed flock though I did see several Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were also several Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a number of Dark-eyed Juncos in the many trees in this park.

I took these photos of two of the Wood Ducks on the pond in Pueblo City Park. Male Wood Ducks have such dramatic plumage as shown in these photos. I left some of the surrounding water as it made more interesting photos. The plumage on male Wood Ducks reminds me of head of anegyptian sphinx.

There are many Wood Ducks not only in this pond but along the nearby Arkansas River. A local resident used to raise Wood Ducks, some escaped and he may have released some. Since Wood Ducks are native in the area, they flourished. You can see some more photos of other ducks here with the interesting water scenes by clicking here.

Before the others returned to the Denver area, we drove to the Pueblo Reservoir, only 5 minutes away, to look for the black Brandt Goose which we found still at the Rock Canyon swim beach with a number of Canada Geese and an immature Greater White-fronted Goose.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bird Stamps by Am Bird Conservancy-again

[This may take a few minutes to load if you have a dial-up connection as I do; but it works fine even with my slow 44 bps dial-up]
(I posted this earlier, but I wanted to keep it out front since ABC is such a good organization and these stamps would be great for Christmas cards.)
The American Bird Conservancy, a very important conservation organization, is selling two very special bird stamps of Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Cerulean Warbler. I think most every one knows that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was thought to be extinct prior to being seen in 2004 (and there is still controversy about its existence). And the Cerulean Warbler's existence is endangered.

Just click on the "buy" button and it will take you to the web page where you can purchase these beautiful stamps and help the American Bird Conservancy save our birds. They will make envelopes for Christmas and other cards very distinctive.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Probable juv Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk

While driving to Brush Hollow Reservoir today, I saw the hawk that looked like a juvenile dark Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk. Unfortunately the hawk was several hundred feet away so this photo is as enlarged as I can do. The blackish plumage is visible in this photo as is the white mottling on the upperwing coverts. Not easily seen in this photo is that the wingtips fall a little short of the tip of the tail.

Hawks From Every Angle, by Jerry Liguori, states that the Harlan's morph of the Red-tailed Hawk have white mottling while similar Western Red-tailed Hawks "typically show sparse buff mottling on the upperwing, or lack mottling altogether".

Though not visible in this photo, this hawk had a small but distinct whitish mottling on the back of its head. The tail plumage characteristics are not visible in the photo but they have wide, wavy tail bands. While most Harlan's show whitish or grayish tails, some like this bird have black/darkish tails.

Interestingly, this hawk was in the same groups of trees in which I saw a Harlan's Hawk last year.



Am. Goldfinch feasting on sunflower seedheads

One of the reasons that Brush Hollow Reservoir is a good birding area is the varied habitat--the lake, sometimes good mudflats for shorebirds, cottonwood trees on one side of the lake, a small amount of sagebrush (which is why Sage Trashers are seen there occasionally), pinyon-juniper trees on the west side, bluffs on the west side, lots of rabbittbrush for sparrows, and lots of sunflowers that draw Pine Siskins and American Goldfinch.

Today there was a flock of American Goldfinch feasting on the sunflower seedheads including this one in my photo. There was a flock of Common Goldeneye and a flock of Ring-billed Gulls on the reservoir.



Thursday, November 23, 2006

Canon City Riverwalk update

Today was a beautiful Thanksgiving day--the last day of a stretch of mild weather for the past week. With temps in the upper 60's to 70 in SE Colorado, it invited a walk to enjoy the pleasant weather and look for birds. So I took a walk on the Canon City Riverwalk. All the species I saw are seen either seasonally or year-round on the Riverwalk and many other locations in SE Colorado while several are fairly common throughout North America.

One of the first birds I saw was a male Downy Woodpecker. It worked a tree, picking juicy morsels from the bark. Of course, there were several Northern Flickers along the trail. I heard a reticent Bewick's Wren that scolded me but wouldn't come out in the open. I saw only one White-breasted Nuthatch and one Brown Creeper.

I was surprised to see one Black-billed Magpies flying across a field, though I used to see flocks of them before the West Nile Virus hit. This species took a big hit from the first year of the West Nile Virus and has only made a partial recovery here.

I was pleased to find a small flock of American Tree Sparrows (photo by Linda Williams from These pink-billed sparrows arrive in the fall in Colorado and spend the winter. A Lincoln's Sparrow was in the same Rabbitbrush as the Tree Sparrows, and a Song Sparrow was nearby. American Goldfinch made their distinctive call all along the trail. In addition to a small flock of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, there were several more scattered around the area.



Birding with AARP

Birding has become so popular that now the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a virtual birding page on their website. There are buttons for "View Common Bird", "View Dream Birds", and "Name That Tune."

I found the "Name That Tune" to be entertaining and educational. They play a small clip from one of 4 birds that are the choices. Though I found most to be easy to identify, I missed on the laughing Loon call. Give it a try.




This alert just came this week from National Audubon Society:

>>The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed reissuing and modifying 44 nationwide wetlands permits and adding six new nationwide permits. Additionally, the Corps has edited 27 general conditions. The cumulative effect is a weakening of existing regulations, which could lead to loss of important wetlands and bird habitat. Your comments on these proposed changes are needed today.

The Corps' existing 100-year floodplain general condition has been gutted, leaving only local and state requirements to restrict development in these sensitive areas. The Corps previously independently safeguarded these areas. Under the new condition, if there are no state or local requirements, development would be wholly unrestricted in these floodplains.

Additionally, a new permit would allow for discharges of dredged or fill material resulting from surface coal mining into waters of the United States. The cumulative effect of these permits could result in large-scale destruction of waters and streams in Appalachia. . . .

Please ask the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect wetlands and associated habitat. Ask them to reconsider re-issuing and modifying these permits and general conditions. Send in your comments today. It's quick and easy and will help protect wetlands!

Help Help spread the word and tell a friend (better than just forwarding this message)"



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Birds found dead in oil drilling tank

There are many reasons that gas & oil drilling are harmful to birds as well as other wildlife (impacts of noise and movement, destruction of habitat, etc) and now another has been found. Though the birds in this story were found in Kansas, they noted that birds have been found in northern Colorado drilling tanks and there is gas & oil drilling happening in SE Colorado (in fact, the BLM just sold drilling leases for parcels that include Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat)

Excerpted from Denver Post article, Birds falling prey to drilling boom, by Kim McGuire on 11-20-06:

"As federal wildlife agents began checking inside heater treaters across the
country, they found hundreds of carcasses - owls, meadowlarks, starlings and
other birds. . . It told us we had a national problem on our hands," said James Hampton, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent based in Denver."

Read the full article.



Another study shows Global Climate Change impacts

Wow, another study was just published on the negative impacts of Global Climate Change on species and geographic areas. This study is, " . . . review of 866 scientific studies is summed up in the journal Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics." The study author and others, " . . . have been predicting such changes for years, but even she was surprised to find evidence that it's already happening; she figured it would be another decade away."

The report states that some species are already going extinct. This study also reports that "cold dependent species on mountaintops have nowhere to go" which raises my concerns for White-tailed Ptarmigan, a species that lives on the western edge on the high mountains in SE Colorado.

Read more about this new additional report on Global Climate Change.



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Early winter waterbird count summary from eBird

Just to give folks an idea of what eBird does, below is the "detailed week report" that summarizes my entries from my observations for the early winter waterbird count (note this includes several non-waterfowl species as I entered all birds I saw):

Nov 17 Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23
Number of Species 6 -- 30 -- -- -- --
Number of Individuals 22 -- 1,328 -- -- -- --
Number of Checklists 1 -- 11 -- -- -- --

Check eBird out.



Yellow-rumped Warbler redux

After posting the photo yesterday of one of the Yellow-rumped Warblers I saw a few days ago, I saw 1-2 Yellow-rumped Warblers at the Holy Cross Abbey here in Canon City and 1-2 more were in my yard this morning as part of a mixed flock with Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees. That makes a total of 8-10 of these hardy little warblers I have seen in the past week in the Canon City area.

And what a beautiful day it was--high of 73, sunny with no wind, not bad for near Thanksgiving.



Monday, November 20, 2006

Yellow-rumped Warbler from Canon City Riverwalk

Hadn't had time to crop the photo of one of the Yellow-rumped Warblers, Audubon's subspecies, I saw on the Canon City Riverwalk last week. This rear photo shows how the yellow rump on this aptly named species stands out like a beacon.



Early winter waterbird count week-end

This week-end was the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory's (RMBO) annual early winter waterbird count. A number of birders around Colorado went to water bodies to count all the waterbirds they found. This information is tabulated by RMBO and, starting this year, also sent to eBirds.

Since I birded Brush Hollow on the first day of the count, I hit all the other bodies of water in Fremont County today including Sell's Lake (by Canon City Riverwalk 9th Street entrance), Canon City water department pond (on Tunnel Driver),Centennial Park pond, Sumo Golf Course pond (in Florence), Holcim Cement ponds (east of Florence), some private areas and a few non-productive ponds. Species seen included Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Redheads, Northern Shoveler, Pied-billed Grebes, Greater White-fronted Geese, teal species, Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Eared Grebes, Cackling Geese, plus lots of Mallards and Canada Geese.

Canvasback are always of interest as they are declining. I saw a small flock consisting of 1 male and 3 females. I saw 1 female Greater Scaup with 2 female Lesser Scaups at the larger pond at Sumo Golf Course and 3 Eared Grebes swimming together in another location. Greater White-fronted Geese have increased as I found 10 today including 2 immature (in Basic 1 plumage) birds.

And the weather was beautiful with highs around 60, sunny and with light winds as has been the case for most of the past several days.


Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

Again, I am just getting some pics I took last week cropped and uploaded. This was an immature Red-tailed Hawk I watched chasing another Red-tailed Hawk in Canon City. This photo shows well the multiple dark bands in their light brown, not red, tails of juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

This bird is an Eastern morph Red-taled Hawk in which the wingtips fall far short of the tip of the tail. These juveniles tend to have fairly pale heads and the whitish streaks in the head feathers of this bird are visible. The whitish mottling on the scapular area is indicative of the common morphs of Western and Eastern Red-tailed Hawks, both juvenile and adult plumages.

Thoough the most common hawk in North America, their many races and morphs provide a good deal of variation that makes their identification interesting.


Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (as in this photo) are usually considered a southwestern U.S. specialty but we do see them in much of SE Colorado. Though very uncommon in the Canon City area, they are seen here occasionally and I did see one today on the southwest side of town in the vicinity of Shadow Hills Golf Course. They have been seen in this area before. The area around the golf course has a lot of tree cholla.

While I was doing my surveys for the early winter waterbird count I saw my first Bald Eagle, an adult, of the season flying up the Arkansas River in Canon City. Then at the end of the day I saw an adult Bald Eagle flying back downriver towards the Pueblo State Wildlife Area where they generally roost. I suspect this may have been the same bird as this morning as it is early in season and few Bald Eagles are in yet.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Common Goldeneye bonanza

I had read that the population of Common Goldeneyes had increased significantly in Colorado a few weeks ago and shortly afterward found a good number at Brush Hollow reservoir. Today I was surprised to find about 20 Common Goldeneyes in the west pond of the Canon City Valco Cement. This is the Valco pond that is easily visible from the public roadside.

Though we often have some Common Goldeneye in Canon City, we usually don't have this many at this location which is a flooded gravel pit. Read more about Common Goldeneye



Friday, November 17, 2006

Brush Hollow Reservoir

I ran out to Brush Hollow Reservoir, pictured in this photo I took at dusk, near Penrose this afternoon to see what waterbirds might be around. There is still a female Lesser Scaup and a Western Grebe there. Common Goldeneye have increased to 4 adult males, 1 first winter male and 6 females. I saw only 2 white-headed gulls but it was later in the day and the gulls take off in the afternoon to (probably) return to Pueblo Reservoir.

Other birds were 7 Canada Geese flying over and 1 Belted Kingfisher working the reservoir.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Canon City Riverwalk

This morning I birded the Canon City Riverwalk for the first time in about a month. I was delighted to find the tan-striped White-throated Sparrow in this photo. Those of you from the east part of the U.S. probably wonder why I would mention seeing this species which is quite common in your areas (I was amazed during a trip to Arkansas a year ago to see flocks of White-throated Sparrows). However, they are quite uncommon here. I thought this photo shot, looking head-on at the bird, showed an interesting view of its well-demarcated throat and large yellow spots in front of its eyes.

While watching the White-throated Sparrow, a Bewick's Wren came in and appeared to be quite interested in my presence. While this very vocal wren was calling, I also heard a second Bewick's not far away and a White-breasted Nuthatch further on. A little further down the trail I ran into a small flock of 5 Yellow-rumped Warblers taking advantage of the beautiful weather (it got to 70 today) to feed in the he warm sunshine. As I noted in a post a few days ago, it is not uncommon for some birds in this warbler species to winter in this and other areas in SE Colorado.

In the nearby Arkansas River an American Dipper made it's distinctive call several times but I was unable to locate it. It was in a location where there is often a pair of dippers and they often fly into a large pipe where a small stream empties into the river. In a marshy area a Lincoln's Sparrow skulked through the grass and weeds. Other birds along the east section of the Riverwalk were a number of American Goldfinch, a few Dark-eyed Juncos and a calling White-breasted Nuthatch.

Later this afternoon I saw a second Lincoln's Sparrow further east of Canon City in another marshy area. It was a very warm November day for birding.



Climate Change threat to Monarch Butterflies

In a news release today, the United Nations released information from a study by it's Environmental Program about the effects of Global Climate Change. Included was the following:
• "Changing wind patterns are making it more difficult for passerine birds to make their migration in the Caribbean where spring storms are becoming more numerous and of greater intensity.

• This autumn several large Monarch Butterflies(Danaus plexippus), which migrate in millions every year from the USA and Canada to Mexico, have been blown across the Atlantic to England 5000 km away."

Monarch Butterflies have been facing many challenges before this including massive losses of habitat in Mexico. They are such beautiful butterflies and I enjoy their migrating through our area.

Click here to read the press release from the United Nations Environmental Program.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Impacts of Global Climate Change on Tree Swallows

Another major species conservation groups, Defenders of Wildlife, also came out with a report on the impacts of Global Climate Change. They includes a section on Tree Swallows, another species found in SE Colorado, which states:

"Some species can change patterns in their drive to survive. Problem is, a new rhythm takes over and throws everything out of synch with nature. Take the ubiquitous tree swallow, harbinger of spring--and of global warming. Warmer temperatures in the last three decades have prompted the small, graceful birds with the iridescent blue feathers to nest earlier. On its face, this could look like a good thing: Early nesting typically means more eggs. What's unknown is how the insects they rely on will change as the climate shifts--will prey adapt and also be available earlier each year?"

Read more from Defenders of Wildlife on these impacts on species and ecosytems.



Global Climate Change threatens many bird species

The World Wildlife Fund, a very mainstream species protection group, recently released their report on the impacts of Global Climate Change on birds, and other wildlife. This supports the research from many other groups and scientists that are finding that Global Climate Change is already seriously impacting birds and other wildlife. Additionally, they like others have found that the existence of many species at risk.

"A recent status report compiled for WWF reviews more than 200 scientific articles. It finds a clear and escalating pattern of climate change impacts on bird species around the world, suggesting a trend towards a major bird extinction from global warming. . . . Scientists have found declines of up to 90 per cent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others." Read more here . Access the WWR summary report, "Bird Species and Climate Change".



Monday, November 13, 2006

Snowy Plovers highlighted by NAS

The National Audubon Society (NAS)is putting the "spotlight" on Snowy Plovers to bring attention to their conservation needs. In a number of past posts, I have discussed seeing these cute little fur-balls in the lower Arkansas Valley especially at Lake Cheraw.

Click here for more Snowy Plovers info, including a nice pic


Clark's Nutcracker's phenominal memory studied

Clark's Nutcracker is a species found in good numbers in western Fremont County and Chaffee County. This bird can stash up to 30,000 pine nuts in up to 5,000 caches--and finds enough of them to have food through winter!!

"Scientists at the University of New Hampshire hope to learn more about memory and its evolution by studying the Clark's nutcracker, a bird with a particularly challenging task: remembering where it buried its supply of food for winter in a 15-mile area."

Read the full story on Clark's Nutcracker memory research.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Common Goldeneyes arrive

Common Goldeneyes have arrived in Fremont County, probably with the storm that brought cooler temps and a little cold rain (snow in Denver area, but Canon City and much of SE Colorado were warm enough that we only got rain). I saw 3 males, like the beauty in this photo from the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Website, and 1 female Common Goldeneyes at Brush Hollow Reservoir.

There was one female Lesser Scaup on the reservoir. And there were a lot of Ring-billed Gulls, at least 45 of them, also at Brush Hollow. I believe they fly up to Brush Hollow from the Pueblo Reservoir as I have watched them on a number of occasions flying off to the southeast in late afternoon and not returning before dark.

I saw 6 Red-tailed Hawks, one at Brush Hollow Res and 5 on the approximately 15 mile drive there from Canon City. This was a lot more hawks than I usually see and likely related to the weather in some way.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler, like the one in this USGWS photo, today in the Florence area. Though it may seem strange to have warbler in Colorado in November, much of SE Colorado is sufficiently mild that a few of these tuff warbler species actually winter-over.

Other birds seen in that area included a Hairy Woodpecker, a few Black-capped Chickadees and large numbers of Robins.


Canon City Chukar origin solved

I found out today that the two Chukars I reported probably came from the captive breeding program at the local prison farm. They have been raising Ring-necked Pheasants, turkeys (some non-native type), Scaled Quail and Chuckars to sell for game farms and hunting dog training. Actually, apparently Chukars are considered best for training hunting dogs because they won't fly off very far.

They have not been able to sell the Chukars or Ring-necked Pheasants like they planned. So they released 20 Chukars and some larger number of pheasants into the prison farm area (this didn't seem logical to me but then many things in DOC are not logical). One was quickly run over by prison staff and a group of them were seen hanging out near one of the prison gates (makes me wonder if these birds just stand still while the hunters shoot them). The prison farm is about a mile from the MacKenzie Ave area I saw one Chukar.

I also found out that several hundred Ring-necked Pheasants escaped, not from the prison, but from another captive breeding program east of Florence near the BLM Blue Heron ponds. I guess that a number of them are hanging around the area.

Additionally I was told that there are a number of persons who breed these game-type birds either for hunting on their property, sale to other hunt farms or dog training, or for personal pleasure.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brazen Sharp-shinned Hawk

This afternoon while working in my yard I heard a repeated high-pitched noise. I found it was a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk, perched on my neighbors distant fence, giving an owl heck. The vocalization was something like "did, did, did, it, did, did, did, it" (repeated, in a high pitched manner). This is likely an alarm call similar to the "kek, kek, kek" or "kik, kik, kik" (maybe different since this one was a juvenile) call described in Birds of North American (BNA), online edition. In fact, BNA reports another alarm called used by a Sharp-shinned Hawk in pursuit of a Great Horned Owl.

Though this Sharpie was behaving aggressively towards this owl, it stayed at least 25 feet from it. Forunately, the owl in this case was mounted model not the real thing. Read more about Sharp-shinned Hawks here .

Today I also found that our population of Greater White-fronted Geese has increased from 4 to 6. There was at least 1 Cackling Goose near them. There was a good variety including Wood Ducks, a Western Grebe, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Redhead Duck and Canada Geese.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

First time Brant Goose in Pueblo

Yesterday a Pueblo birder, Brandon, found a "black" form of Brant Goose in Pueblo. This is a first in the county. The first photo shows some of it's plumage which is clearly blacker than the nearby Canada Geese. Naturally it didn't turn around so I could get a better pic.

After a water meeting today in Pueblo I drove over to the Pueblo State Park swim beach pond where it was seen yesterday. Though this is the first time I have seen this species in the wild it was easy to spot--it is substantially smaller than the Canada Geese with which it was associating as it apparent in the second photo.

It's markings were quite distinctive and in conjunction with its diminutive size caused me to consider it quite cute (yeah, a pretty anthropomorphic view).


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A national wildlife refuge needed for Lesser Prairie-Chickens

I am going to devote another post to Lesser Prairie-Chickens. They are such an important part of the sand-sage and grassland habitats of SE Colorado that they deserve more attention, especially when they are under such a threat with the pending BLM oil & gas drilling lease sale pending.

The following is a quote from my favorite ornithologist, Paul Johnsgard, who has prolifically about many bird species including those of the grasslands of the U.S.:

"A new national wildlife refuge, or comparable state or private preserve, is certainly needed for the lesser prairiechicken. Such a preserve could well be located in the now unprotected sandsage grasslands of the Arkansas River Valley from Garden City west to at least the Colorado border, a region representing the best of the species’ remaining Kansas range, and one not yet seriously affected by cattle overgrazing or the incursion of center-pivot agriculture. Such a preserve would offer the best hope of saving at least the Kansas flock of the lesser prairie-chicken
from the disastrous recent history of the Attwater’s prairiechicken, when the federal government delayed far too long before starting to acquire critical habitat for its preservation. Protecting the lesser prairie-chicken there would also help protect the rapidly declining national populations of lark, grasshopper and Cassin’s sparrows, burrowing owls and black-tailed prairie dogs. It thus encapsulates the entire sandsage ecosystem, one of the rarest and least studied of the Great Plains vegetational complexes."

Here, here.



Monday, November 06, 2006

More on Lesser Prairie-Chickens

This map shows the original range for Lesser Prairie-Chickens and the small amount that is currently occupied by them due to the many impediments that man has put on them (ie, conversion to farmland, overgrazing, addition of anthropomorphic structures like drilling rigs and power poles)

Lesser Prairie-Chicken have very specific habitat needs that vary over time (breeding, nesting, brood rearing, winter). This is a good summary of their habitat needs.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lesser Prairie-Chickens--help urgently needed

USFWS photo
Last week Audubon Colorado, a few Audubon Chapters and individuals filed formal "protests" on the scheduled oil & gas drilling lease sale for parcels that have Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken leks and habitat. So far these parcels have not been withdrawn from lease sale eligibility on November 9.

I am asking each of you to take 20 minutes to send a fax/letter/email to the person in charge of this gas & oil lease sale, Sally Wisely who is the state director of the Bureau of Land Management (tho some parcels are on Forest Service land, the BLM does the oil & gas leasing for all federal and some private lands). We need to let Ms. Wisely know that there are many Coloradoans who are concerned about our Gunnison Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken populations.

It is best to send a fax, but if not convenient then send either a letter or an email to the addresses below. Be sure to put your full name, street address and city on your comments and sign those comments you fax or send by letter. If you have ever viewed either Gunnison Sage-Grouse or Lesser Prairie-Chickens, or intent to do so, please note that. If you are a birder, please note that and add info about your traveling to see birds.

I think it is helpful to copy your comments to both Senators Allard and Salazar, but you have to fill in their online webforms as noted below. And please copy your text and send it to me as I will use the summary information (ie, you have received comments from X number of birders, and X number of persons who still want to view X) in the comments I send to her.

Points to make (please rephrase in your own words as they devalue form letters):
--You strongly oppose the lease sale of parcels with Gunnison Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chickenleks and habitat.
--Keeping these parcels, identified in the protest filed by Audubon Colorado, in the lease sale is jeopardizing the existence of populations of these species.
--That Gunnison Sage Grouse is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the State of Colorado.
--That Lesser Prairie-Chicken is listed as Threatened by the State of Colorado and has been granted Candidate status under the Endangered Species Act.
--Colorado Division of Wildlife is putting a lot of time and effort into protecting existing populations of both Gunnison Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
--Gunnison Sage Grouse is a very imperiled species with fewer than 3,500 birds teetering on the brink of extinction.
--Lesser Prairie-Chicken—parcels in this lease sale encompass 6 active leks that account for the majority of the known birds on the Comanche National Grasslands. Lesser Prairie-Chickens have been declining on these public lands since 1989 with only about 38 males counted in 2006.
--Relying on a 1991 Oil & Gas Leasing EIS for Lesser Prairie-Chickens and a 1993 Oil & Gas Leasing EIS for Gunnison Sage Grouse violates NEPA regulations. These old and outdated EIS’s do not include current information of species populations and risks, nor recent research on the impacts of oil & gas drilling on these species.
--The parcels that have leks or habitat for Gunnison Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken must be withdrawn from this and future lease sales

Thank you in advance for helping protect Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken in Colo.
SeEtta (send copies of comments to me at

FAX: 303-239-3799
Attn: Sally Wisely, State Director

Sally Wisely, State Director
Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office
2850 Youngfield Street
Lakewood, Colorado 80215


Senator Allard:

Senator Salazar:


Lesser Prairie-Chickens--a species at risk


Lesser Prairie-Chickens are a species at risk. They are state listed as "Threatened" by Colorado. They met the criteria for federally listing under the Endangered Species Act, but there were higher priority species ahead of them so they were placed on the "candidates" list.

Learn more about their status, threats and needs. Read what the Colorado Division of Wildlife says.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Canon City update

Today I checked out some birding areas around Canon City that are usually not very active until fall and winter. The first area was Sell's Lake, actually a smallish private pond that is adjacent to public areas on the Canon City Riverwalk. There are few waterfowl on this pond during the warmer months but it draws a lot of waterfowl in cooler months. Today I saw 9 Hooded Mergansers, 5 Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwalls, 2 Am Coots and 1 Pied-billed Grebe there.

Next I drove to Tunnel Drive Rd on the far west side of Canon City to check out the city water pond, a much larger impoundment than Sell's Lake. There were 3 Hooded Mergansers, 4 Am. Wigeon, 6 Mallards and about 75 Canada Geese there. This is another area that rarely has waterfowl in warmer months.

I drove on to the end of Tunnel Drive road and birded the area there. The Tunnel Drive trail is closed due to damage not yet repaired from strong rains in late summer but there is an area on the bottom that can be birded (and where Rufous-crowned Sparrows reside, though this may be a little early to find them). I did see 5 American Goldfinch, 1 Song Sparrow, 1 Belted Kingfisher (on the adjacent Arkansas River), and 1 Canyon Towhee (a common species usually seen here). Two Norther Flickers flew over and I heard a Townsend's Solitaire caling from the pinyon-juniper woods up on the hillside.


Friday, November 03, 2006

More on American White Pelicans

This blogsite had problems loading photos so I didn't get this one up last night. This is another one from Lake Hasty.


Brush Hollow Reservoir

I checked Brush Hollow Reservoir today and found about 28 Ring-billed Gulls (and not one gull of a different species). There was one female Greater Scaup that accompanied a male and female Lesser Scaup. There was only 1 Western Grebe present but a female Common Merganser swam nearby.

A number of Canada Geese loafed on the shore. One had a neck band.

I only saw about 60-70 bluebirds today. The ones I checked were all Mountain Bluebirds, the most common species.


American White Pelicans

I stopped by Lake Hasty on my way back and there are still a number of American White Pelicans there and on John Martin Reservoir including those in these photos.

Read more about American White Pelicans here.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers back

I checked out several ponds in the Canon City area. The pond at Sumo Golf Course in Florence produced 3 Hooded Hergansers, the first I've seen this season here.

A private pond in the area had the first Bufflehead, a flock of 7, of the season (I took this photo of the Bufflehead a few days ago in Kansas). I also saw a flock of 15 or so Lesser Scaup, a larger number than I am used to seeing. And I just read that both scaup species as well as Northern Pintail are only at 50% of the desired goals in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Save trees in the Boreal forest for birds, not for paper--Opt out of catalogues

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