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

Winter Sparrows
Chico offers habitat for a set of winter sparrows that are different from the ones present here during the summer months.  Here for only a few months, this high arcitc breeder, American Tree Sparrow, can be found from late October to early March where it can be found foraging for seeds in weedy patches.  They are not associatied with trees as their name implies, but breed north above the tree line.  This is one of the Spizella sparrows and could be confused with Field Sparrow (no breast spot, all-pink bill) or possibly with Chipping Sparrow, all closely related rufous-capped sparrows.

Headquarters Pond now has a patch of open water and Canvasback and Ring-necked Ducks are staging there.  The goose-hunting season has ended so look for numbers of dark geese, Canada and Cackling, to start moving north.  At least 300 Mountain Bluebirds were foraging on the ground at the south end of the alfalfa field and in the trees there, a Great Horned Owl pair might be nesting.
Posted by Bill M. on 02/16/2010

Migration - Landbirds
Even non-birders enjoy bluebirds.  Saturday brought a flock of 40 Mountain Bluebirds to the Chico where they were foraging, mostly on the ground, for food.  The flock had mostly males in it, the females being more gray and drabber in color.  Although they do not nest on the Chico, Mountain Bluebirds nest just west in the foothills where there is a combination of open meadows and mature pines.  Because they are cavity nesters, Mountain Bluebirds are affected by removal of snags for firewood.  Bluebird-lovers have started bluebird trails, assembling nest boxes as school or home projects and attaching them to fence posts.  The result of the bluebird trails has been a marked upswing in the numbers of all three species of bluebirds in Colorado.

Another early migrant, Sage Thrasher, was also seen on Saturday, a flock of four hunting mostly on the ground in the cholla grasslands.  In spite of Groundhog Day results, for birds, spring is rapidly approaching.
Posted by Bill M. on 02/07/2010

Migration - Waterfowl

Rose Pond is starting to open from its winter ice and the first northbound ducks are using it.  Redheads, Canvasbacks, Gadwalls, and Ring-necked Ducks are diving for aquatic vegetation in the openings.  Most duck species are sexually dimorphic, where the males and females support different plumages.  These Redheads are good examples.   Silent during most of the year, males are starting to give their catlike meow sounds now, only given during pair-up and courtship.  Redheads are diving ducks who can go as deep as 10 feet to look for submerged leaves and stems which comprise up to 90 percent of their diet.  Redheads breed in Colorado and north, but not on the Chico. 

Posted by Bill M. on 02/07/2010

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