Birding at the Chico

The Chico Basin Ranch is a major flyway for migratory birds, due to the abundant springs, lakes and bird habitat on the ranch. The ranch works closely with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and has over 300 birds on the ranch bird list. Many people come to the ranch in the spring and fall to bird.

Bill Maynard is one of birders that comes most frequently. When we asked him if he would keep the ranch birding journal, he was pleased and agreed to do it. Thank you Bill! Bill has taught high school biology, worked as a naturalist for the National Park Service and as a biologist for a variety of government agencies. He has also worked for the American Birding Association at their national headquarters in Colorado Springs. 

Click Here to download the Ranch Bird Checklist

Click Here to download the Birding Trail Map (4mb PDF)

Click Here to download the Ranch Dragonfly and Damselfly Checklist

Not A Bird, but...
On Monday when the sun was setting on the Chico, clouds, appearing as a slender, horizontal spirals and called cirrus Kelvin-Helmholtz were in the western sky.  These are one of the most distinctive cloud formations. However, they tend to dissipate only a minute or two after forming and, as a result, they are infrequently observed. When turbulence develops in a layer of cirrus clouds, an inversion between air currents with differing speeds or directions forms this cloud type and like in a sea wave the crests are pushed ahead of their troughs by the different air currents.
Posted by Bill M. on 10/12/2011

Last Banded Bird of the Year
The fall season's 1000th bird was banded at the last minute while the banders, Julie and Steve, were drying nets before taking them down for the year.  It was a rare bird, a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  The green feathering interspersed with blue shows it is a young male. 

This eastern species breeds in mixed hardwood forests only as far west as central Minnesota. Most individuals of this species migrate from the Atlantic coast to winter in forested habitats of the Greater Antilles with some in the Bahamas and a few along the Yucatan coast and Belize. Becasue they are rare but regular in Colorado, maybe it is the Yucatan and Belize wintering birds that are the ones seen in Colorado. On its breeding grounds it utters a very distinctive, slow rising, zo zo zo zo zeeeeee.
In comparison to last fall's data, the most abundant bird caught and banded at the Chico this fall was Wilson's Warbler with ~300 caught.  Last year there were multiple days when 100 Wilson's Warblers were banded in a single day so every year's migration patterns and banding results are different.

The photograph is courtesy of Steve Brown.
Posted by Bill M. on 10/12/2011

2nd LeConte's Sparrow
Another LeConte's Sparrow was found in the wet sedge meadow below the Upper Twin Ponds Dam.  Currently the only two records of this species in Pueblo County are from the Chico.  John Drummond and a field trip with Aiken Audubon Society were rewarded with great views and a great photograph by Jeannie Mitchell.
Posted by Bill M. on 10/10/2011

Annual Winter Visitor
Harris's Sparrow is the heaviest and the largest sparrow at 7.5 inches in length.  Most winter east and south of Colorado but a few are in the state during winter months.  The are relatives of the common wintering White-crowned Sparrow and often occur with them, both spending a lot of time on the ground foraging for seeds.  At the end of winter the bird will molt with black feathers covering its head, face, and throat.  They nest far north, nostly in the Canadian territories.
Posted by Bill M. on 10/05/2011

Saturday, Oct 01, 2011
A rare migrant to the Chico, this Grasshopper Sparrow was feeding in the densest weedy area with dead Russian olives along with numerous more comon White-crowned, Chipping, and a few Clay-colored sparrows southwest of the banding station.  This area is almost never birded because it is difficult to walk there and is a great place to find a rattlesnake.

This is the most common of the flat-headed Ammodramous sparrows and the one easiest to see, especially when it is perched near the top of a grass stem and singing in high quality grasslands mostly to the east of El Paso/Pueblo counties.  During wet summers, some move closer to the foothills where they attempt a second breeding.
Posted by Bill M. on 10/01/2011

Rare Wren on the Chico

A Sege Wren, rare for Colorado, was in the wet sedge meadow below the Upper Twin Ponds Dam yesterday.  Formerly known as Short-billed Marsh Wren, this brightly patterened known skulker with a noticeably short bill and rather plain face was first heard scolding.  Probably because I was walking in the marsh and not up on the dam, the wren came out briefly to insepct the intruder in its feeding territory. 

Sedge Wren is mostly a midwestern species but it does breed due north of Colorado in the prairie provinces of Canada where it prefers marshes with shrubs. They mainly winter along the Gulf Coast.

Posted by Bill M. on 10/01/2011

Good Catch
Predators follow migrants whether the migrants are mammals or birds.  At the Banding Station, a first-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk tried to catch a sparrow from a flock of Chipping Sparrows feeding near the banding table.  She missed the prey item but the banders flushed the Sharpie into a nearby net and Julie grabbed her before the small hawk was able to untangle or rip free of the net.

As mentioned here before, male and female accipiters are different sized, the females, like this one, always larger than the males.  It is thought that this dimorphism allows the Sharp-shinned pair to hunt different sized prey therefore explointing two different resources.  This female Sharpie had zero fat so it is imperative that she catches a small bird before she can continue her southbound migration.

Posted by Bill M. on 10/01/2011

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