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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



Eastern Bluebird
Colorado is one of the few states to have all three bluebird species as breeders.  Eastern Bluebird is the least common of the three species in Colorado, but on the Chico it is often seen in migration and sometimes it has wintered.  Today there were 10 birds in the field between Holmes and The Casita.  When dead trees in woodlots were removed for firewood or to reduce the occurance of wildfires, Eastern Bluebird numbers plumeted because all bluebirds need tree cavities for nesting.  The Bluebirds Society of American encourages homeowners who have grasslands bordering woodlots to place bluebird boxes on posts to provide a nesting cavity for these native species.  Bluebird trails are now prominent in some parts of El Paso County (bike trail on Air Force Academy and north), especially where extensive grasslands are interspersed with trees.  Bluebird boxes require exact dimensions and other devices that help the young survive predation by certain insects and by raccoons and bears.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/31/2012

Mountain Plovers Return
Mountain Plover is a Chico specialty.  On Wednesday, Jeannie Mitchell found five Mountain Plovers at the plover field at the intersection of El Paso and Pueblo counties in the "usual spot" up on the hill.  In addition, she found a Burrowing Owl in the black-tailed prairie dog town near the alfalfa field.  I saw a pair of Mountain Plovers and a pair of Burrowing Owls in the areas described.  The plovers seem to be paired so hopefully they will remain here to breed. Mountain Plover is a declining species and unlike its name suggests they proabaly should have been named "can see the mountains from here plover".  They do breed in intermountain parks, but their habitat requirements include areas with very short grasses, lots of bare ground, and very little slope (eggs placed in a shallow scrape).  They are often refered to as a bare ground specialist and during the summer they are sometimes seen near stock tanks, especially where the amount of bare ground is great.  They rely on cyptic coloration to survive. Swift Fox is one of their major predators.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/31/2012

Say's Phoebe

During Steven Long's Expedition to Colorado, the zoolologist, Thomas Say, described the first coyote, swift fox, Western Kingbird, Band-tailed Pigeon, Rock Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, Lark Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting, Orange-crowned Warbler and even Dusky Grouse which he collected only 18 miles north of Colorado Springs. In his honor, the flycatcher Sayornis saya was named for Thomas and given the common name, Say's Phoebe. Although Say described a number of bird species new to science he is often called the Father of Entomology having described over 1000 beetles as new to science.  A pair of Say's Phoebes usually nest under the roof of one of the buildings around Chico headquarters. 

Posted by Bill M. on 03/31/2012

Migration Update
As reported by Jeannie Mitchell, Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, and Sage Thrasher have finally arrived on the Chico.  In additon, Mountain Bluebirds are finally passing through a few weeks later than usual. The discing prep work for irrigating the alfalfa field turned enough soil to make the area perfect for inspection by the Mountain Bluebirds looking for insect food. Most of the bluebirds I watched were females so maybe the males passed through on other properties as the bluebird nest box people have reported males examining their nest boxes since two weeks ago.

Posted by Bill M. on 03/30/2012

Meadowlarks Returning
Western Meadowlark is a common breeding bird on the Chico as long as there is enough grass cover to hide its nest that is woven from grasses and placed on the ground.  A few meadowlarks winter on the Chico but the majority of them move south.  Although the big flocks that are sometimes seen in spring on the Chico have not arrived as yet, a few have started to sing their distinctive, loud and melodious song.  They frequently sing from song perches, most often atop fence posts or from small shrubs. 
Posted by Bill M. on 03/12/2012

New Migrant - Greater Yellowlegs
One of the first spring migrants, a single Greater Yellowlegs was at HQ Pond on Saturday on its northbound migration to the muskegs of central Canada.  This is a very common species yet it is never seen in large flocks. Its loud tu-tu-tu call is distinctive and along with its slightly upturned longish bill, is used to help separate it from its smaller relative Lesser Yellowlegs.  The very common shorebird that sometimes winters in very small numbers on the Chico, Killdeer, are also arriving.

Posted by Bill M. on 03/12/2012

South End of Northbound Quail
Being the first week of March, I thought for sure there would be migrant bluebirds flying in the cholla grasslands, and although I did hear at least five singing Curve-billed Thrashers already on territories, I didn't see any migrant landbirds.  Plus, the Scaled Quail are still in coveys, not yet paired.  As is typical they were in the cholla grassland near four-winged saltbrush and their contact calls gave them away.  They walked away faster and faster until one flew and then so did the rest of the covey of about 30 birds.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/04/2012

Bird Watcher
While walking in the woods by the banding station, I wondered why I wasn't seeing or hearing any birds.  The squirrels are never quiet but today they were and not even a robin was calling.  I started to look for owls in the densest areas and I eventually saw a blob that was bigger than the wintering porcupine.  In my binocular there was a bobcat looking back at me, perched about 15 feet up in the darkest, densest limbs of a Russian olive.  It took a while but I eventually found a spot where I could get at least a portion of the bobcat in focus.  Check out the large feet.

Bobcats are crepuscular feeding from dusk to about midmight and the again at first light through the first three hours of the morning.  They feed primarily on rabbits and hares, but they will hunt birds, squirrels and even insects. They will also take domestic cats and dogs.  Other than man, their major predator is the coyote.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/04/2012

   
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