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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

Big Bad Boy
 Although most bird field guides state that Golden Eagles are rare but widespread, one is usually around the Chico, especially during winter months.  This year they are already nesting about 10 miles away on a cliff. In past years, a pair found the Bell Grove to their liking, their nesting location in a large cottonwood that fell over in a wind storm.  At 10 pounds, this is a lot of weight to launch into the air.  They eat prairie-dogs, rabbits and hares and possibly newly born sheep if  they can fly in unnoticed.  A dark, large raptor with very strong talons and a bill that is used to tear flesh.  Aptly named for their beautiful golden head.  A true symbol of our western states. 
Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2015

Western Meadowlarks Already Singing
 One of the early spring migrants on The Chico, a bird that sometimes winters in small numbers, is the easy to identify Western Meadowlark.  That is, it is easy to I.D. when it is singing, or especially if they are calling, which they started doing in early February.  There is a look-alike meadowlark that has not YET been recorded on Chico, not surprisingly called Eastern Meadowlark.  Both meadowlark species learn their songs from the birds singing around them when they are born, but their call notes are hard wired, that is, it is passed along in the DNA.  So, to make birding more interesting, perched meadowlarks' faces should be checked to see if they show a lot of white (Eastern) or if they are dusky like in this pictured bird.  In our neighboring states, both species occur in slightly different habitats and on occasion they are also found in northern Colorado and in southern Pueblo County. Eastern Meadowlarks have been photographed there and they have been heard giving the Eastern call notes. 
Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2015

How to I.D. a Raven
The 2015 Chico Bird Checklist will be available at the check-in kiosk on the 1st of March (Western Meadowlark on the cover). There are two raven species listed on the checklist, but only experience will enable most birders to accurately separate the two.  It has long been assumed that any raven breeding on The Chico is a Chihuhuan Raven, but I am not sure that is correct.  Common Raven, like this one pictured above, can be found during any month of the year on Chico. Starting in February, Common Ravens can be heard along Hanover Road and the Chico main road giving a number of throaty calls.  Common Ravens give the highest call notes AND the lowest notes of the two species.  Also, the nasal bristle length on Common Raven is half to less than half the length of the bill (check out the photo). Chihuhuan Raven is only a little larger than an American Crow = smaller than Common Raven, and its nasal bristles are over half the length of the bill.  This sounds easy, but it is not. Throat feathers on Common Raven are more fluffed than those on Chihuhuans and they often show grayish edges vs. white on Chihuhuan Ravens, something not easy to separate in the field. On eBird checklists, "raven sp." should be the most frequent raven designation on the Chico. 

Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2015

Bobwhite Waiting for Spring
 Although Northern Bobwhite is not a native species in El Paso County, they are found at The Chico during most springs and summers.  It was a surprise to see a covey near the banding station woods in February before the snow. Most flew up into the Russian olives. Duke told me about a Mexican legend saying if quail are singing while perched in a tree it means it will rain.  Perhaps if they are not singing while perched in a tree it means it is going to snow. Here, two days before the snow began to fly.   
Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2015

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