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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bye, bye Long-tailed Duck

Just two last pics of the Long-tailed Duck that remained on the Arkansas River near Canon City until today. The last I saw this duck was when some other diving ducks flushed and flew off. I looked for it twice this afternoon and it wasn't in the area.

I am told that this was likely a female even though it has a long tail (they do during summer breeding season and this one seems to have retained much of it's alternate plumage). These pics are from my new DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel xti with a 70-300 IS USM lens and 1.4 teleconverter--it's a lot of camera (literally as it weighs a lot more than my Panasonic Lumix). SeEtta



Sunday, November 25, 2007

Need help aging and sexing the Long-tailed Duck

I received an email tonight from another SE Colo birder who has seen a number of Long-tailed Duck at the Pueblo Res and he said that he has also seen some on the Arkansas River in Pueblo Co. The tail is awfully long for a female but it doesn't have either yellow or pink on it's bill as a male should have.

So I guess it isn't so unusual that I saw this one on the river. Unfortunately he found this duck's plumage confusing. So if anyone who views this has experience with Long-tailed Duck plumage, I would appreciate your assistance on aging and sexing this duck. Maybe the ornithologist from Sala Vastmanland Sweden who regularly views my blog has some experience (I have read on Birds of North Americaonline that this species both breeds and winters offshore of Sweden).

As I wasn't aware of any sightings of Long-tailed Duck in Fremont Co, I checked the Colo Field Ornithologist website and the species was not on the species list for the county. And Brandon noted that this may be a first record for this county. SeEtta



Two more Long-tailed Duck pics

I expect a few will think I must be wrong on the identification of this duck since I note it was on the Arkansas River, an unseemly place for a seagoing diving duck that is usually found on large lakes when found inland. So I thought I would supply two more pics.

The Long-tailed Duck was in the company of a male goldeneye, both staying near each other and separate from the other waterfowl on the river. And they both were diving in a deeper section of the river.

By the way, difference in color on these pics is due to the fact the sun was going down that started casting a golden glow on the river and the duck. SeEtta



I just found a Long-tailed Duck near Canon City

Late this afternoon I found a Long-tailed Duck, a vagrant from the coasts to Colorado, near Canon City. This is an immature duck but I'm not sure what specific age it is. This is a real rarity here; and I found it on the Arkansas River which I believe is also quite unusual as these are usually found either along coastal areas or on large inland lakes. SeEtta



Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk in flight

I drove to Pueblo today, spotting 10 hawks in about 15 miles along H50 between Penrose and Pueblo West. We actually had several inches of snow over the past 2 days and today was a sunny day that was good for hunting by hawks. All but one of the hawks appeared to be Red-tailed but there was at least one light-morph Rough-legged Hawk that evaded by camera (unusual as I have found Rough-legged usually less shy than Red-tails).

I did get some pics of this pretty rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk including this one in flight that shows off it's underwing plumage nicely--rufous patch on breast, rufous leg feathers, rufous underwing coverts, rufous tail with many narrow bands and a wider sub-terminal band and noticeable patagial marking. Though some consider this form to be an "intermediate" morph, Wheeler & Clark's A Photographic Guide to North America treats this as a separate morph from other dark morph birds. This book further notes that "Dark and rufous morphs occur only in Western birds and only as a small fraction." SeEtta



Thursday, November 22, 2007

A little snow brought the Pine Siskens, finally

We got our first measurable snow of the season in the Canon City area today (but still less than a inch, we are really dry), and with it the Pine Siskins finally showed up at my feeders at home. Of course I hadn't put out any thistle seed, and this is their favorite. I saw them eating the safflowers seeds I put out for the Mountain Chickadees but as soon as I put some thistle seed out they were on it.

Pine Siskins are less assertive than the House Finches and House Sparrows, a characteristic they share with the chickadees. Of course, this may be a function of their smaller size than these other species.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Continuing Mountain Chickadee adventures

As much as I do prefer to see, and to photograph, birds in their truly natural setting I can't help but enjoy getting to view them up close and have more intimate interactions that are provided at feeders. That is probably why so many people feed birds and enjoy feeder-watching.

One of the things I decided several winters ago was that chickadees often learn to utilize those of us humans who feed them to provide feeding opportunities without harassment from other, and almost always, larger birds like House Sparrows and House Finches with which they compete for feeder food. I came to this realization when I observed that the chickadees in my yard would often gather at the feeders when I was near them. They seemed to "like" (a terribly anthropomorphic term) my presence near them when they were feeding. Then I realized that the other birds were less inclined to come to the feeders when I was near, leaving the chickadees unmolested access.

I have been making a concerted effort to spend a little more time near the feeders and I have been rewarded by very close views as the Mountain Chickadees come in repeatedly to pick up a seed or piece of a peanut while I stand nearby. When a House Sparrow gets brave enough to try to move in, I just walk a little closer and it will fly off--yes, I am biased in favor of the native, smaller, and timid chickadees.

This pic is good for enlargement by double-clicking that provides closer views of it's face, toenails, etc. SeEtta



Friday, November 16, 2007

Interesting view of Red-breasted Nuthatch's tongue

Oh, I just had to post this interesting pic of that Red-breasted Nuthatch because it shows the birds tongue. I have rarely seen, or photographed, a bird that shows it's tongue. The tongue is best viewed by double-clicking on the pic to enlarge it (though this puts much of the bird out of focus, the tongue is fairly clear). Much of it (at least on the underside that is visible in the pic) is surprisingly very pink (of course, I don't know what I would have expected).

Today the White-breasted Nuthatch was at my peanut feeder a lot, now that I just posted how I hadn't seen it. But it was shyer than the Red-breasted and I couldn't get a good pic of it.

Not only have we had a very warm fall in SE Colorado, but it has been very dry. My bird bath had dried up so I added some water. Wow, as soon as I walked away one of the Mountain Chickadees flew right down and began drinking--not just a sip or two, but sip after sip after sip. If there ever was demonstrable proof of the value of providing water for birds, this little bird provided it. SeEtta



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red-breasted Nuthatch, another view

I thought this was an interesting view showing the underside of this Red-breasted Nuthatch. As I have noted in the past, it seems that most who photograph birds want to present only the most "recognizable" views, those being of the head and the upper portions of birds. However in the field, birders often see the bird from below so I like to put pics showing this view on the blog.

This pic shows a classical view of nuthatches as they are often seen head down on trees. The details of this bird are best seen by double-clicking on it to enlarge the pic. I think pattern on the underside of the tail is very interesting. SeEtta



I finally found a Red-breasted Nuthatch in Canon City, and the bird is coming to my feeder as it evident in these pics. Birders all over the front range have been reporting seeing Red-breasted Nuthatches all the way to far eastern Colo as part of the unusually large migration of mountain birds down to the plains this fall. But I hadn't seen, or heard, one until this bird showed up.

This nuthatch spends all it's time at the feeder with peanut pieces and which is caged in to keep the squirrels at bay (though they still manage to snag the peanut feeder inside the cage and pull it to the edge where they chew the paint off the sides trying to get the peanuts). I still hear the White-breasted Nuthatch but haven't seen it on the feeder, possibly because this nuthatch is on it so much.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

American Kestral-up close and personal

I just had to share another of the Raptor Center birds that were at the Bird-N-Nature Expo. It is just a delight to view an American Kestral up close. They tend to flush whenever one gets anywhere near in the wild so this is nice opportunity to check out their feathers which is enhanced by double-clicking on the pic to enlarge it. SeEtta



Sunday, November 11, 2007

Inquisitive Western Screech Owl

The Western Screech Owl in these pics was one of the birds that the Pueblo Raptor Center brought to the Bird-N-Nature Expo yesterday. As can be seen in the top pic, this little owl (just barely the size of the gloved hand holding it)was watching something behind it. Many of the birds chosen as educational birds appear to be interested in what goes on around them when they are out in public, and some truly appear to enjoy their sojourns. SeEtta



Saturday, November 10, 2007

Here are two more pics of one of the Mountain Chickadees visiting my feeders. I usually get a pair of Mountain Chickadees that spend the winter in and around my yard, but these are quite early. It is certainly not the weather that is causing these and other mountain bird species to move to lower elevation locations as we are still enjoying a very warm fall. Today, as well as most days this week, the high was in the 70's.

By the way, though the top pic doesn't enlarge well, I find it interesting to check out the feet and amble (though tiny) claws on this birds feet by double-clicking on the bottom pic that does enlarge pretty good. It also shows the feather details nicely. SeEtta



Friday, November 09, 2007

Up close & personal with Mountain Chickadees

At least one pair of Mountain Chickadees continues to frequent my feeders. They still seem to have a preference for safflower seeds though they often try to get nutmeat treats from the peanut pieces that I feed (it does take more work to break off sections of the peanut pieces, mostly halves). This chickadee has a safflower seed in its beak but it can be seen better by double-clicking on the pic to enlarge it--this also allows viewing of the facial feathers up very close. I will post more pics this week-end but have to get some sleep as we have the Canon City Bird-N-Nature Expo in the morning. SeEtta



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Scaled Quail in sunset glow

I came across this Scaled Quail perched on a barbed wire fence today. The glow of the setting sun lent a warm glow to it's plumage. Nearby were several more Scaled Quail among the tree cholla, a favorite habitat for them in this area. This species is found throughout much of SE Colorado. SeEtta



Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Canon City Bird-N-Nature Expo

Bird-N-Nature Expo

When: Saturday, November 10, 2007
Where: Holy Cross Abbey, 2951 E. Hwy 50 in Canon City
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

What: Exhibits and demonstration that provide opportunities for
learning more about birds, other wildlife and nature
including information on the many local natural areas.

· The Bird-N-Nature Expo is a free family activity and children are encouraged to attend.
· Activities will include live birds of prey from the Raptor Center and fun children’s activities.
· Other exhibits by the Division of Wildlife watchable wildlife program, Bureau of Land Management, Fremont County Extension Service, SE Colo Water Conservancy District and more.
· Find out about public lands around the area where you can take scenic drives, hike, and picnic and see wildlife. Bring your family and friends.
Learn about gardening to attract birds and butterflies


Monday, November 05, 2007

"Acquiring birds" versus engaging them

In the August edition (yeah, I'm really staying on top of my reading) of the magazine Birder's World, Pete Dunne wrote about the difference between "really watching" birds and "acquiring" them. By acquiring, he is discussing the desire by some birders to "get" more and more birds. Pete states, "Once they succeed in finding a bird, and their need to get is trumped by have, they seem not to savor the achievement much."

Pete notes he is not anti-listing and notes that keeping track of the birds one has seen can be "a fund and satisfying facet of birding" (note he said "a" not the only way to enjoy birds). But his contention in this article is that birds are more than just a tick on a list. He focuses on the art (my word) of "really watching" birds, something he was fortunate enough to learn in childhood.

Pete Dunne says that "really watching" birds, or engaging them, is not only fun but educational. He states, "Wasn't until years later that I found out that I was doing it all wrong. All you have to do to be a birdwatcher is identify each species, then check it off a list."

I think most of us learn to be birders from listers. I know when I first started watching birds, I thought that all birders were listers and that the only facet of value in birding was identifying the species and checking it off my list and trying to acquire more birds on my list to prove how good I was at birding. And I made list after list after list. But something held me back from finally tabulating them all into a life list.

I eventually realized that I enjoyed engaging birds more than acquiring them on my lists. I should have known that all the bookwork in maintaining lists was not what I enjoy. I had tried coin-collecting in the past, but I found all that book work and worry about how rare the coin was did not sustain my interest. The same happened with a brief foray with stamp collecting. Though I still make lists of birds I have seen (usually limited to day or place lists), they are usually so I can report species or write about them. I do not maintain a life list. I rather spend the time either engaging the birds, sharing them like on this blog or learning more about them.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cedar Waxwing visit

I was visited by some Cedar Waxwings. They come to my yard several times a year to eat some of the shrubs and trees that produce fruit including my crab apple trees and my pyracantha shrub.

I usually hear their high pitched whistle-like call first then spot them feasting on berries or other fruit. Double-click on the pic to enlarge for better viewing. SeEtta



Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mountain birds persist on the plains

There continue to be reports of an unusual number mountain species being seen along the front range and out to the far east reaches of the Colorado plains. And I continue hearing and seeing very good numbers of Mountain Chickadees both along the Canon City Riverwalk and coming to my feeder at home.

I took these pics of one of the Mountain Chickadees that has been camped in, or near, my yard and frequenting my feeders. I have a feeder that holds peanut pieces, a big favorite of Mountain Chickadees. Surprisingly, this years crop of Mountain Chickadees have favored safflower seeds. The middle pic shows this bird with a safflower seed in it's bill as it prepares to fly to a location where it will eat it.

In prior years the Mountain Chickadees that have come to my feeders first choice has been the peanut pieces, then black-oil sunflower seeds. I had not noticed them taking safflower seeds very much. But this year both pairs I have had have spent most of their time taking safflower seeds to a branch, like in the bottom pic, it can hold the seed between it's feet and break off bite-sized pieces to eat. SeEtta



Friday, November 02, 2007

American Dipper singing softly

The weather is a little variable now but still the highs are in the 50's in the lower elevations of SE Colorado (it is almost always cooler in the higher areas). The Canon City Riverwalk is quite pretty in the fall as can be seen by the top & bottom pics. I spotted the buck in the bottom pic as it walked across the river. It appeared to be using the Arkansa River, which is pretty low right now, as highway to get where it was going while staying near cover. With it's nice rack it needs to be cautious.

The American Dipper was singing softly at the water's edge. According to Birds of North America(BNA) online, singing in the fall and winter is part of establishing winter territories. This particular dipper was singing so softly, it was as if it was whispering it's sweet song. This is quite different from the often quite loud, though always pleasant, singing that can be heard quite a distance.

Unlike many bird species, both sexes of American Dippers sing and their songs are indistinguishable per BNA. Indeed American Dippers are most unusual compared to other species since they do sing in fall and winter, quite a delight to those who are fortunate to hear them. SeEtta


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