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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



Prairie Falcon Chases Short-eared Owl
 While I was driving out in the sand, a normally nocturnal Short-eared Owl was observed flying in the middle of the day. Perhaps a coyote flushed this ground roosting species.  As the owl flew west, I saw a wintering Chico Prairie Falcon flying towards the unsuspecting owl.  The resulting encounter brought both species inches away from each other and both birds raised their talons in defense. The owl was quite vocal, hissing at the falcon. When the falcon and the owl separated, the owl flew higher and higher and disappeared from view.  The Chico sand hills provides home for a variety of rodents, enough so that Golden Eagles, Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawks as well as Great Horned Owls, and both Long-eared and Short-eared Owls have  plenty of food during the winter months. The conflicts come when territories overlap. In contrast, during winter months most of the Chico breeding birds migrate south to areas where more abundant food can be found. This could be as close as New Mexico or as far away as South America.  
Posted by Bill M. on 11/21/2016

Red-bellied Woodpecker
 Over the past 30 years, an eastern species, Red-bellied Woodpecker has been found to be slowly moving west into eastern Colorado counties.  It is a rare bird on the Chico with only a couple records, so it was a pleasant surprise when one was reported at the banding station on Saturday and she remains there as of the 21st of November (and now seen on the 1st of December). Separation of sexes is fairly easy with males having red in the center of the top of the crown and females with gray in the same area as this photograph shows.  This individual was feeding on Russian olives and calling almost constantly. There is an ongoing joke that many birds are named for their least conspicuous feature and looking closely at this photo you might ask where is the red belly.  
Posted by Bill M. on 11/21/2016

Canyon Towhee
 The Canyon Towhee is a large, dull sparrow who is at home in the Desert Southwest, its northern range extending only slightly north of Chico into Colorado Springs.  It is considered a desert species and its nesting is triggered by spring or summer rains and therefore in some areas they can nest twice in a year. Over the past 10 years, this species has seemingly become more common on the Chico usually seen in open arid areas.  Water is the key to survival for most birds and mammals.  Here, a Canyon Towhee finds an almost full stock tank for its water allotment.  Its song has been described as follows... "at its worst the Canyon Towhee song is a series of dull chips."
Posted by Bill M. on 11/16/2016

Lingering Migrant
 Gray Catbird will sometimes winter in southern Colorado if there is enough food and for a catbird the food choice is fruits such as Russian olives and seeds. As the photograph indicates, this mimid (sings other birds songs during the breeding season) is found in dense thickets.  They usually leave Colorado by the first week of October but there is usually one or two found throughout winter somewhere in Colorado's foothills. This one was trying to hide in the brush at Upper Twin Pond yesterday.
Posted by Bill M. on 11/04/2016

Lapland Longspur
 The best way to find a longspur on Chico is too search big flocks of Horned Larks near water.  This longspur species, Lapland Longspur, is a long distant migrant, breeding on the tundra in Alaska and all the northern Canadian provinces and in Greenland and Siberia. Compared to the Chestnut-collared Longspur (see the fifth entriy below), Lapland has longer wings, a stronger face pattern, and always has the rufous wing coverts not found on the other longspur species.  It is best found by listening for its dry rattle call followed by, pause, pause, and then a soft, sweet "tew" note.  It is a common wintering species in plowed croplands in northern and eastern Colorado but is rare to uncommon on the Chico.  Finding a stock tank with overflow is the place to search for this species on the Chico.  If you make any noise or any quick (or slow) movements this species will fly off but will often return within a few minutes. So, "patience is a virtue, possess it if you can; seldom found in women and NEVER found in man."
Posted by Bill M. on 11/04/2016

   
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