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

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008
Looks Are Everything - Polygyny
Not all birds have the same mating systems.  Although the majority of birds are monogamous, Red-winged Blackbirds and other members of the Icterid Family are not.  Red-winged Blackbirds are polygynous, meaning they simultaneously mate with more than one female, a mating system documented for only two percent of the world's 10,000 bird species.  Most polygynous birds are grassland or marsh species.  Male Red-winged Blackbirds provide NO parental care. 

In Red-winged Blackbirds and most other polygynous species, a single successful male displays over a rich territory, attracting a number of females who might select the male for the habitat, for his song, or for his brightly colored epaulets.

This male Red-winged Blackbird has been singing in the same location at HQ Pond for a few weeks.  If you look closely, his bill is deformed, crossed at the tip.  Although he might have selected and defended a great territory, and perhaps his colorfully raised epaulets attracted a few females, but perhaps his deformed bill will prevent him from attracting any female, thus natrually excluding his deformed bill by natural selection from the gene pool.

Up at the Banding Station, Nancy Gobris caught and banded the 79th bird of the season today, and her first Swainson's Thrush of the year.
Posted by Bill M. on 04/30/2008

Monday, Apr 28, 2008
A migrant Osprey, a fish-eating hawk, caught a large fish and ate it atop a power pole on Sunday.  The bird fist ate the head and then, using its beak, ripped away flesh from the the top part of the fish.  When I left, the Osprey had consumed half of the fish.

Shorebirds continue to appear, with Semipalmated Plover and Semipalmated Sandpiper appearing on the bar at HQ Pond.  Semipalmated refers to the feet of both birds.   The feet are partially webbed, or semipalmated.  Another shorebird, the large Marbled Godwit was also seen. The origin of the word godwit is unclear, but it might be from Old English god wicht, or "good creature", possibly refering to its position as a delicacy in the 15th and 15th centuries.  Another migrant, Willet, another large shorebird was also present.  The unusual name willet is a reference to its loud call.  Willet also has partially webbed toes, and its Latin name reflects this condition, semipalmatus.

Sparrows are on the move with over 100 Chipping Sparrows and 50 Brewer's Sparrows at the rapidly disappearing Vega Pond.  Lark Sparrow and my first of the year, Lark Buntings were also seen on Sunday.
View Attachment  Fish-eating Osprey 0 kb
Posted by Bill M. on 04/28/2008

Friday, Apr 25, 2008
Shorebird migration
After the cold front last night, I came to Chico looking for a fallout.  Although there weren't too many new landbird migrants, the shorebirds were nice.  The most abundant shorebird, was Willet and the other shorebirds of note, included Western Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Spotted Sandpiper, and number of Wilson's Phalaropes.

Cole Moon had to decide between watching his dad and Dave fix the hay-hauling wagon, or to go birding.  He chose to follow me and together we saw a lot of waterbirds, the shorebirds, and an owl nest.  When I showed Cole the Great Horned Owl nest with the "two" babies, he told me that there were three.  Sure enough, he was right.

Bird-banding started on Monday and a few birds have been caught, much to the delight of the school groups.  Even the tough boys have amusing facial expressions when they hold a live bird in their hand for the first time.

Posted by Bill M. on 04/25/2008

Sunday, Apr 20, 2008
April Migration - Osprey
Saturday birding is slow, or so I thought, until I looked at my list.  At HQ pond, I found my first Marbled Godwit of the year.  A commotion over the trees revealed a migrant Broad-winged Hawk, heading north and being chased by blackbirds.

At Rose Pond, I see my first Osprey hunting for fish, but flushing all of the ducks off the pond.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds sand their cacophonous songs in the trees along the dam and my first Spotted Sanpiper was teetering along the shoreline.  A male Northern Harrier does a display flight over the marsh.

Burrowing Owls are abundant this year, with at least two being seen in all of the prairie dog towns.  The Mountain Plovers that I saw last week, seemed to have moved to another location.

Where are the Cassin's Sparrows?  Out on the prairie, the only migrant sparrows that I find are Brewer's and at Holmes Corral, three Chipping Sparrows.  It won't be long now before thousands of migrants start moving through Chico, and many birders will be searching migrant traps, looking for them. 

Posted by Bill M. on 04/20/2008

American Avocets - migrants
One of the wonders of science is bird migration.  Four American Avocets were at the loafing point at headquarters pond this morning.  Their large, thin upturned bills are swished back-and-forth in the water, where tiny invertebrates are caught and consumed.  This species breeds in both Pueblo and El Paso County and because of its striking plumage, it is a favorite with birders.
Posted by Bill M. on 04/15/2008

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