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

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Toot, toot, tooting a two-owl night

Feeling better yet, I decided to try a little owling starting at dusk. I don't use recorded calls--I have seen them too easily abused as it is easy to keep playing the calls over and over ad infinitum. This can distract an owl from feeding or from engaging in breeding behavior successfully. I prefer to mimic owl calls, though I am limited in my repertoire.

My preferred mimic is the tooting call of the Northern Pygmy Owl--just a long, repetitive string of whistled "toots." It is more difficult to abuse mimicked calls--first, it is hard to keep whistling "toots" for too many minutes and real owls can more quickly realize that what they are hearing is not another owl (clearly, recordings of owl calls can fool an owl for a longer time).

So, I began my series of "toots" in a location where 2 N. Pygmy Owls returned my calls earlier this winter. Within an unusually short time I could hear I was getting a response, but the response was from a Western Screech-Owl like the none in this pic (not tonight's owl which did not come into sight, this is an owl I found in my backyard 5 years ago). I quickly switched to my best W. Screech Owl call, though it is more difficult and doesn't sound nearly as good as my tooting. Though this area is predominately pinyon-juniper habitat, there are some deciduous trees including cottonwoods in the area. I have a W. Screech Owl in the area several years ago. This owl continued to call for a few minutes then drifted off, likely having realized I was neither a suitor or competitor. So I moved on, trying my tooting calls at several locations.

A few miles away I tooted briefly out my car window, with the engine running as I could not pull off the road, and heard my tooting calls returned. I drove to a nearby safe location off the road but the calls had stopped. I called again, soliciting a lengthy (several minutes) response of repetitive toots from a Northern Pygmy Owl. I was again in predominately pinyon-juniper habitat though with not only some deciduous trees but also some ponderosa pines. After a while this owl moved off without making itself visible. This was a very enjoyable way to get back into my birding after being sick. SeEtta

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Inquisitive Red-tailed Hawk

One of the events that occurred while I have been off-line was the annual Pueblo Reservoir Eagle Day. Every year the Air Force Academy bring their captive falcons down and fly one for the crowd. This year that attracted two local Red-tailed Hawks including the one in these pics that I caught flying close to check out the new competition (for food resources). I got the bottom pic with my zoom lens engaged fully while the hawk was flying close by. The sun shining through it's tail enlivened the view. Though the top pic doesn't enlarge crisply, double-click on the bottom click for a super close-up of feathers and even feet while in flight. SeEtta



Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm back with a White-crowned Sparrow

Wow, it's been 3 weeks--first I had computer problems, then I got sick with bronchitis which put a quick stop to my birding and most everything else. Finally I'm getting better.

I actually took this pic of this handsome White-crowned Sparrow just before I got sick--be sure to double-click on the pic to enlarge to really see it's beautiful brown eye. White-crowned Sparrows are common birds in the lower elevations in SE Colo during the winter. They tend to hang out in flocks feeding on small seeds from grasses as well as from shrubs such as rabbitbrush. Rabbitbrush, a common and prolific native plant here, has truly evolved with the native species that utilize it. When it is in bloom in late summer/early fall, butterflies feast on the blossums; then as the blooms are gone, so are the butterflies. The blooms are replaced by seeds just in time for the White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos to move down from the their mountain summer homes. What a beautiful system. SeEtta



Friday, February 01, 2008

Horned Lark--common but declining

The Horned Lark is found year-round across most of the United States and has been considered abundant. However it has experienced a decline of more than 50% in the last 40 years according to
the National Audubon Society Common Birds in Decline report.

I found the Horned Lark in this pic perched today atop a fence post in eastern Fremont County. SeEtta


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