Ranchlands is seeking a ranch or partnership with a ranch owner as a home for a herd of 1000+ buffalo. For details email info@ranchlands.com. We are also now accepting ranch management proposals/inquiries.

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

Saturday, May 31, 2008
Last Day of May
This morning the low clouds in Colorado Springs were encouraging and although I hadn't planned on birding at the Chico I took a chance that some straggling migrants might be around.  There was very little signs of migrants except a couple Swainson's Thrushes and Lincoln's Sparrows.  

But, at the banding station area there was a loud-calling male Red-bellied Woodpecker named for the least conspicuous feature, a hint of red on the bird's belly.  This bird breeds in Colorado but only in a few far-eastern counties.  Duriing the last Breeding Bird Atlas from the early 1990s, Red-bellied Woodpecker was found only in four of the 1745 priority blocks, confirming that this species is a rare breeder in the state although the species is thought to be expanding its range to the west.

In the big cottonwoods, near one of the net lanes of the banding station, I heard a mournfull chittering and found a baby raccoon that had fallen out of its high nest.  Because it is unable to climb, it will probably go the way of all flesh...

Posted by Bill M. on 05/31/2008

Friday, May 30, 2008
Four Reasons to Bird Chico in May - Photos by Glenn Walbek
Migration has nearly ended on the Eastern Plains, but this has been the best spring ever for rarities.  At least four new Ranch records have been recorded and many first-timers visited the Ranch during the Colorado Field Ornithologist 's Convention field trips.

Glenn Walbek contributed these photos of four beautiful male warblers, all seen on the Chico in May.

Top to Bottom

American Redstart - named for its resemblance to a European bird with a similar name, but in a different family.  This bird spreads its reddish tail, nervously opening and closing it while it forages.

Blackpoll Warbler - This was the Year-of-the-Blackpoll.  Over 150 individual Blackpoll Warbler's were seen in CO this year and over 80 of them were seen on the Chico.  Last year only about 7 individuals were seen in the entire state.  The term "poll" is in reference to the area of the head, just behind the bill.

Canada Warbler - a very rare bird in Colorado and only the second one recorded  at Chico, and the first time ever recorded in Pueblo County.  This individual put on a nice show over the Moons' ranch house where 10-12 birders saw it, thanks to the availability of text messaging.

Magnolia Warbler - One of the fanciest warblers, uncommon in Colorado, this  bird was named by Alexander Wilson in 1810 after he saw one fly over a magnolia tree in Mississippi, where it was a migrant.

This just about ends the spring migration at Chico, soon there will just be the breeding birds, but birds begin heading south again in late July.  Stay tuned.
Posted by Bill M. on 05/30/2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Lesser Nighthawk in Flight - photo by Brian Gibbons
As mentioned previously, a female Lesser Nighthawk was first discovered and photographed (this photo) by Brian Gibbons near the headquarters ranch house on 25 May.  

Brian's excellent photo provides an unusual chance to look closely at the underwing of a female Lesser Nighthawk.  All nightjars, including Lesser Nighthawk have 10 primaries, the 10th being full-length.  As can be seen in the photo, nighthawks have big mouths, large heads, and large eyes.  Not viisble on this photo, all members of the Nightjar or Goatsucker Family have small semipalmated feet, and usually very long rictal bristles on their faces (thought to help funnel flying insects into a huge mought),  but Lessers Nighthawks do not.  In Lessers rictal ristles are reduced or absent, and in this photo I can't see any. 

Wing morphology is best used to separate the two Colorado species of nighthawks.  In Brian's photo, the two outer primaries are about equal in length, a characteristic of the species (P9 equal to or greater than p10), together giving the bird a round-winged look, as compared to the pointy wings of Common Nighthawk where p10 > p9.  The very small buffy wing patch is only found on female Lesser Nighthawks.  In a male Lesser, the wing patch would be larger, white, but in the same location, here easily seen near the distal end of the wings.  Also, a look at the wrist of the bird shows that is wide, but in Common Nighthawk the wrist would be much narrower at that point.

Not as visible in a photograph this size is the pattern on the leading edge of the wing, the underwing coverts, having tiny indistinct markings which would be much broader and more distinct in Common Nighthawk.  In contrast to Common Nighthawk, Lessers replace their flight feathers during the summer.  

Looking at the tail pattern of this Lesser Nighthawk we can tell that the bird is a female.  Males of both species would have a white subterminal band.  The ground color of a female Lesser NIghthawk is buffy with contrasting darker brown tail bands as shown in Brian's photograph.  In female Common Nighthawks the tail would have a similar pattern, but the ground color would be much whiter, and not so strongly buff.

The only question remaining - Is the bird from 25 May the same one that has been roosting in the Moons' yard, 28 May and now seen again with a male on May 30?
Posted by Bill M. on 05/29/2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
A Tale of Two Nighthawks

Two species of nighthawk occur in Colorado, the appropriatey named Common Nighthawk and the very rare Lesser Nighthawk.  When flying, the two species are easy to separate, the wings of Lessers are more rounded than Commons, the wing patch is closer to the wingtips and buffy in female Lessers, white, broader, and farther from the wingtips in Commons.

Although the angle of these two birds on their perches in this photograph is different, the differences between the two species can be seen on these perched birds.  Ignore everything but the folded wings.  The crux of the identification problem is buffy wings spots vs. plain wings behind the large white primaries spot.  In the upper photograph, a green leaf tip points to three buffy wing spots.  This feature alone identifies the upper bird as Lesser Nighthawk.  Looking at the same area of the wing in the bottom photograph shows a bird with plain wings, at least in the area behind the broad white wing spot.  This is a typical Common NIghthawk.  The perched Lesser Nighthawk represents only the second ranch record of the species, the first, a flying bird seen on Sunday of this week.

More exciting news is the discovery today of a very rare Neotropical migrant, and only the second ranch record (first for the spring), a male Canada Warbler.   At least 10 birders were fortunate to see this bird.

Canada Warbler is a long-distant Neotropical migrant, wintering in northern South America and breeding in north-central and eastern North America.  Of all the wood-warblers, it spends the least amount of time on its breeding grounds, arriving in late-May and leaving as early as mid-June.  This is one of the beautiful wood-warblers, with a black necklace across a its yellow breast. 


Posted by Bill M. on 05/28/2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008
New Ranch Record - Cape May Warbler
Another unsettled weather day resulted in some great birds being seen on the Chico.  Near the banding station, currently closed for the season, a female Hooded Warbler was spotted by Brandon Percival while we looked for a warbler singing a buzzy song.  We soon tracked down a male Blue-winged Warbler, a beautiful eastern species previously recoreded only once on the ranch.  

After birding the headquarters area and Rose Pond, where we found the common migrant warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Brandon and I drove back to the banding station area to look for more migrants  the weather may have grounded.  The first bird that we heard, a very high-pitched song, could only be one of two species,  Bay-breasted or Cape May Warbler, both very rare birds in Colorado. 

After staring into a Siberian elm for a few minutes , Brandon exclaimed,  "Oh my god", and there it was, another new ranch record -  a beautiful male Cape May Warbler.  Although this species was first collected in Canada, it was described to science by Alexander Wilson in Cape May, New Jersey, far from the brids' breeding grounds, but the name stuck.  This  species winters exclusively in the islands of the West Indies, and it breeds across the boreal spruce forests of Canada, where it is a spruce budworm specialist.  Spraying for spruce budworm has controlled the devestating outbreaks of the insect pest, but the insecticides have also reduced the populations of Cape May Warblers in those areas. 

Mark Peterson, who responded to our cell phone message alerting him of the whereabouts of the two rare warblers, arrived in time to photograph this hot little bird.

Posted by Bill M. on 05/27/2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008
Unecessary Death - Red-winged Blackbird
Today, Brian Gibbons, on his last day on the Chico, found a new ranch bird, a Lesser Nighthawk, a rare bird in Colorado.  The Lesser Nighthawk was a buffy female that stood out among the flock of migrant Common Nighthawks, all exploiting a large insect hatch.  

A male Black-wnd-white Warbler was seen singing nearby and a female  Summer Tanager, an uncommon eastern species was also seen.  Cordilleran Flycatchers put in a show, migrants on their way to their mountain breeding areas.

Sadly, a female Red-winged Blackbird was found, hanged in a ball of discarded fishing line along the Rose Pond dam.  The line was reachable, yet was left as trash, hanging from a  low limb of a peach-leaf willow.  In addition, two abandoned fishing hooks were found on the ground at the edge of this popular pond. 
Posted by Bill M. on 05/25/2008

Friday, May 23, 2008
Vireo Look-alikes
A rare migrant in Colorado, Philadelphia (Philly) Vireo (above) can look surprising like the common Colorado breeder and congener, Warbling Vireo (below).  Chico might be THE spot in Colorado to see Philly Vireo in the spring and again in fall migration.  Identification can be straightfoward, if a good look is obtained.  The lores of Philly Vireo are dark, while those on Warbling Vireo are pale, even though that species does have a pale gray eyestripe extending slightly anterior to its eye.  For positive identification, the other place to check is the throat coloration, yellow on Phily Vireo and pale on Warbling.  The yellow is strongest on the flanks of a Warbling Vireo.  

Two subspecies of Warbling Vireo occur in Colorado.  Eastern Warbling Vireo, breeders in riparian deciduous woods in eastern Colorado, are different from Western Warbling Vireo, the ones breeding nearby, in size, genetics, ecology, and vocalizations.  The two warbling vireos most likely represent two different species and both have been recorded on the Chico.

Some birds have their common name the same as their scientific name, and vireo is one example.  Vireo is translated as, a green bird.  Neither species is often refered to as attractive, in fact Warbling Vireo is one plain bird, and it is even described as having a "blank-faced" look, hardly a compliment.  Its song however, is quite distinctive, warbling, and by some described to say "what's on the menu, what do you order, what do you eat?"
Posted by Bill M. on 05/23/2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008
The small Chupacabre

One of my first entries in the Chico Bird Blog was about chupacabres, goatsuckers, named from the erroneous legend that members of this group suck the milk from goats during the night.  In an earlier post, I talked about Common Nighthawk, but today the species of interest is Common Poorwill. A very interesting member of the Goatsucker Family, Caprimulgidae, is the small Common Poorwill.  It's amazing cryptic coloration helps to keep it hidden in their leaf-clutered habitats, only flushing when a human, or other animal, approaches within a few feet.  The common name is fashioned from the sound it makes at dusk, a call similar to that of its close relatives Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will-widow. 

The poorwill genus, Phalaenoptilus. is from the Greek word phalaina, moth, and ptilon, feather, combined to form "moth-feathered", which a Common Poorwill's coloration certainly is. 

Poorwills are nightjars, a group separated from their close relatives, nighthawks.  One difference between the two groups is: nightjars forage by perching on the ground, flying up for passing insects, while nighthawks fly about in crepuscular light, dawn and dusk, persuing insects in the air.  Although the pictured Common Poorwill has a tiny bill, it has a very large gape, aiding in the capture of insects. 

During bad weather, Common Poorwills can become torpid for 12 hours or more and during the winter they are able to enter a prolonged torpor, a type of "hybernation" for periods as long as 88 days.  During both types of torpor, poorwills may become active during the warmer parts of the day for brief periods.  

Brian Gibbons caught this Common Poorwill at the Chico RMBO Banding Station.  When he released it on this log, the bird reamined in place while photographers clicked away.


Posted by Bill M. on 05/22/2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Uncommon Breeder - Orchard Oriole

A monogamous Icterid, (unlike the blackbirds) Orchard Oriole is our smallest oriole.  It is an eastern species that breeds west to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where on the Chico it is uncommon.  Its brick-red coloration separtes it from other oriole species, except for the larger Baltimore Oriole.

The scientific name for this bird is Icterus spurius.  Icterus is Latin but comes from the Greek word, ikteros which means jaunidce.  Apparently Greek legend says that  jaundiced people, when presented a yellowish bird would be cured, the word then becoming the one used for the orioles, although Baltimore and Orchard Orioles are not yellow in color. 

Migration continued today with numbers of Swainson's Thrushes and a few interesting birds including a Common Poorwill that was caught and banded and a rare White-eyed Vireo, also banded.  The long-distant migrant, White-rumped Sandpiper, made its first appearance on the Chico where I saw two birds at HQ Pond.  Other migrants included Chestnut-sided Warbler, Ovenbird, Alder and Least Flycatcher, lots of Gray Catbirds, Black-headed Grosbeak, and more of the expected birds.  

Over the weekend, 85 birders, participants in the Colorado Field Ornithologist Convention in Canon City, visited the Ranch.  Some came back a second day, enjoying their experience so much they needed more.


Posted by Bill M. on 05/20/2008

Monday, May 19, 2008
Tropical birds visit Chico
When a brightly colored bird shows up at the Chico, the chances are good that the bird spends most of its life in the New World tropics.  Western Tanagers breed in the mountains of Colorado and is a farvorite of most casual observers traveling through the western mountains in the summer.  All but one of our tanagers are in the genus Piranga in the Tanager Family; at least for now.  DNA evidence hints that these birds that we call tanagers, north of Mexico, should really be placed in the Cardinal Family.

The latin name for Western Tanager, Piranga ludovicianus, is interesting in that ludovicianus means "of Louisiana", a location where this species never breeds and rarely visits.  But, if we think back to our history, we will remember that the Louisiana Purchase included much of current day Colorado.  Western Tanager was discovered during the Lewis and Clark expedition and named by the famous ornitholigist, Alexander Wilson.

Western Tanager, no matter what family it belongs in, is a beautiful bird.  At least the males are.  Sexually dimorphic, female Western Tanagers are a drab olive yellow color.  Western Tanager breeds farther north, 60 degrees, than any other tanager and some members of this species will spend as little as two months on their breeding grounds before returing to their true home, the tropics of Mexico south to Costa Rica.

Posted by Bill M. on 05/19/2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008
Warblers on the Chico - Blackpoll Warbler

Something just short of astonishing is happening at Chico this Spring.  An uncommon species in migration, Blackpoll Warbler, has been reported with over 75 idividuals being seen.  Warblers are sometimes THE reason some birders go birding.  These wood-warblers are only found in the Americas, except as vagrants, and many are quite beautiful (and difficult to photograph).  

Its hypothesized migration route makes Blackpoll Warbler an unusual species.  Fall migration is perhaps most interesting.  Blackpolls breed widely across the coniferous forest regions of Alaska and Canada.  During fall, Alaskan birds are thought to travel southeast across Canada to the coastal plain between Nova Scotia and North Carolina where they are joined by flocks of Canadian birds that have moved to the Maratime Provences and then south along the U.S. coast.  Together. the two groups head south or southeast out over the Atlantic Ocean.  The birds are assisted by periodic strong northwest winds of fall.  As they approach the Tropic of Cancer, they encounter the northeast trade winds which deflect them south and southwest towards South America.  They are thouight to spend 88 hours in flight, flying on average 2500-3500 kilometers to their South American wintering grounds.  

In spring, the birds fly north, again over open water, but this time on a different route tha takes them over Cuba and the Bahamas, before making landfall along the Gulf Coast, before they dispearse northeast and northwest  to breeding sites.  So, seeing this many Blackpoll Warblers in spring in Colorado, and especially at the Chico, is truly amazing.

Two Colorado Field Ornithologist groups birded most of the day at the Chico.  The "best" bird was a male Bay-breasted Warbler, unfortunately only seen by a few.  There were lots of birds around, with 13 species of warblers and many other species passing through on their way north, or for some species, upslope to the mountains to breed.


Posted by Bill M. on 05/17/2008

Friday, May 16, 2008
Long Distant Migrant - Stilt Sandpiper
Birders were everywhere at the Chico today.  Two field trips, both groups on their way to the Colorado Field Ornithologist Convention in Canon City, stopped by the Chico to see how migration was progressing.  There were lots of birds to keep everyone happy.  

With the draw-down of water for irrigation, there is great shorebird habitat forming this year.  Today, some of the favorite shorebirds were Long-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers in Little HQ Pond, Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes, a rare Sanderling, plus Western, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers, at the south end of HQ Pond.

One uncommon spring shorebird, Stilt Sandpiper, is a long-distant migrant, exclusive to the Americas.  Most of the population of this species, estimated at only 20,000-50,000 individuals, winters in central South America (with some birds remaining further north); all individuals breed in grassy marshes within a few miles of the high arctic tundra coastline in Alaska and NW Canada, with a smaller population breeding along Hudson Bay.  

Unlike the Spotted Sandpipers and phalaropes described previously, Stilt Sandpipers are monogamous with males arriving at their arctic breeding grounds in early June, a few days before the females.  After egg-laying, it is the female who incubates the eggs.   We may see Stilt Sandpipers again in August and September on their way south.
Posted by Bill M. on 05/16/2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Got Birds?
An amazing day for seeing lots of migrant birds at The Chico.  When I left at 3:00 P.M., Brian Gibbons and Steve Brown were still up to their elbows  in bagged birds, waiting to be processed.  One hundred-twenty Swainson's Thrushes had been banded, and even a casual observer would have seen hundreds of birds without trying.

Mark Peterson, Brandon Percival, and I tried to see as many warbler species as we could, and when I left the total was 14; not bad.  The highlights were the large numbers of Blackpoll Warblers, close to 20 individuals of an uncommon migrant, two beautiful male American Redstarts, over 10 Northern Waterthrushes, a Townsend's Warbler, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and the more common species.  

But it was the enormous numbers of thrushes that stole the show.  They were often four in a bush, ten in a tree, everywhere.  Gray Catbirds showed up in numbers and bright male Western Tanagers put on a show of tropical colors.   A Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Red-eyed Vireo were banded.  There were birds everywhere, not any rarities, but the common and uncommon alike.  A great day to be a birder on The Chico.
Posted by Bill M. on 05/13/2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
After the incredible birding day yesterday, I was ready for a letdown today, Mother's Day.  Predictable by the clear skies and lack of wind, migrants passed by high overhead on their journey north, never landing at The Chico.

However, a rare bird in Colorado, although it is the State Bird of  Oklahoma, a beautiful male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, showed off it long tails and salmon-colored belly for four of us.  Dave and Linda Overlin had to drive off the road to get by our three cars parked helter skelter in the middle of the road, after we had all jumped out quickly to see this bird.

Scissor-tails can have tails up to 9 inches long and this bird's tail approached that length.  In flight, and while perched, this species opens and closes its tail like a pair of scissors.  Although we didn't get to see it, males on breeding territoires, (this is one was off-course migrant) has a sky dance, where he flies upwards of 100 ft., then plunges downward one quarter of the way, turns sharply up-and-down in a zig-zag course, then rises straight up in the air, and topples over backward two or sometimes three somersaults, tumbling towards the ground.  All of the flycatcher's movements are accentuated by the long tails streaming behind him.  A very cool bird that we watched for some time.

Posted by Bill M. on 05/11/2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008
Annual Spring Count, Pueblo County - Chico
                         Western Grebe

Chico Basin Ranch, May 10th, 2008, Pueblo County - Annual Spring Count -  A remarkable number of species, 122, were recorded by just a few observers, in just one county, all on Chico Basin Ranch.  Please view the list and numbers for each species below.
1.       Canada Goose: 8
2.       Wood Duck: 1
3.       Gadwall: 26
4.       American Wigeon: 2
5.       Mallard: 6
6.       Blue-winged Teal: 18
7.       Cinnamon Teal: 10
8.       Northern Shoveler: 28
9.       Green-winged Teal: 6
10.   Redhead: 8
11.   Ring-necked Duck: 3
12.   Lesser Scaup: 4
13.   Bufflehead: 5
14.   Ruddy Duck: 9
15.   Scaled Quail: 2

Posted by Bill M. on 05/10/2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008
RMBO Banding Station - Bander Brian Gibbons with a Philadelphia Vireo
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory is one of Chico Basin Ranch's partners.  Each year migrant and some local birds are caught in a series of 25 or more specially designed nets, strategically placed between shrubs and trees in the large riparian area near Holmes Ranch House.  Unsuspecting birds are caught, measured, checked for gender, age, fat levels, and breeding condition, weighed, discussed, banded with a numbered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum band, and then released.  Each year rare birds are caught.  Today the rarity was a Philadelphia Vireo.  

Vireos are small, slow-moving birds. sometimes confused with certain species of  wood-warbler.  However vireo legs are much stouter than those of warblers, and so are their bills, plus vireo bills have a tiny hook on the end, whereas warbler bills do not.  Although Philadelphia Vireo breeds in Canada, due north of eastern Colorado, the species is rarely encountered because its normal migration route takes further east and up the Mississippi Valley, before they branch of to the east and west.  During fall migration most Philadelphia Vireos follow the reverse route to their wintering grounds entirely south of North America.

Most vireos eat the larvae of butterflies and moths, the soft bodies of both palatible for their young.  On their breeding territories Philadelphia Vireo songs are very similar to a more common species, Red-eyed Vireo, and this species is remarkably similar in appearance to Tennessee Warbler.  It is thought that birds that mimic the songs of other species can take good territories away from the more common species, their song advertizing that the territory is occupied.  This is what happens in forests that have both Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos.

What rare bird will be caught and banded next?

Posted by Bill M. on 05/08/2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Sandpiper Sex Part II - Wilson's Phalarope
First of all.  It rained today at Chico.  Great for grass, great for the livestock, and great for the birds.  Today was the best day of the year for migrants.

Warblers, everyone's favoirties, included:
Black-throated Gray Warbler 
Tennessee Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Plus, Western Tanager arrived along with Gray Catibrd, and Green-tailed Towhees, and a large numbrer of Lincoln's Sparrows, a Cassin's Sparrow, and a Clay-colored Sparrow.  This is just the beginning...

Yesterday we learned about polyandrous behavior in Spotted Sandpipers.  Today we learn about polyandry, sex reversal, and Wilson's Phalaropes.  Phalaropes are the small shorebirds that twirl around in shallow water in tight circles.  They do this to create a vortex, into which aquatic vertebrates move up into from below; one way to capture food.  Wilson's Phalaropes often feed with two species of ducks, Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler, two other species that stir up arthropods for dinner.  So, phalaropes benefit from their association with the larger ducks.  Also phalaropes hunt with their bills on the water.  Invertebrates that get trapped by the surface tension of water in a bead that is transported across the bird's bill.  The bird opens its mouth, squeezes the water drop, swallows the food item, while the water escapes back out of its bill.

Back to sex.  In Wilson's Phalarope mating system, females are more brightly colored than males and fly about trying to attract the males.  Females lay their eggs in tall grass at the edge of a pond and the dull males, not the females, incubate the eggs and care for the young, while females just hang out. 

Thousands of Wison's Phalaropes winter in alkaline Andean lakes of South America, where there is a large concentration of invertebrates. 
Posted by Bill M. on 05/07/2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Sandpiper Sex Part I
Oh my!  Monogamy is the rule for the majority of birds.  However, Spotted Sandpipers, frequent in migration at Chico,  practice polyandry.  Only about one percent of the birds in the world are polyandrous, a mating system where a single female forms pair bonds with multiple males.  The Spotted Sandpiper is a classic example of a bird that uses this mating method.  In Spotted Sandpipers,  females lay eggs in different nests, and different males are responsible for incubation and rearing the broods.  This enables the females time to find new mates and eventually produce more young then she could with only one mate, thus increasing the numbers of Spotted Sandpipers.  This mating system seems to work for Spotted Sandpiipers, one of the more common species in Colorado.

Even a novice should have little trouble identifying a Spotted Sandpiper in the spring.  Their tails constantly bob up-and-down, the function of this behavior is currently unknown and their bold dark spots show why this is a good name for this bird.

Posted by Bill M. on 05/06/2008

Monday, May 05, 2008
Bullock's Oriole
Sunday was the first real good migration day, but I wasn't there.  10 species of warblers were present, a good showing, and Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole, Lazuli Bunting, Least Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee, and other interesting migrants showed up.

One species that will stay to nest is the beautiful Bullock's Oriole.  Males are the first of the pair to arrive where they check out prospective nest sites.  Females follow a few days later.  This species is usually associated with riparian areas and especially to mature cottonwoods, the trees where their nest will be built.  The nest is an oval-shaped woven bag, attached by the rim, and suspended out at the tips of a cottonwood branch.  Even though the nest sways in the wind, the eggs are deep inside the basket where they are actively protected by both males and female orioles.  Before  the trees leaf-out, this beautiful bird will be easy to see.

Bullock was an English museum owner and traveler, who collected the first Bullock's Oriole near Mexico City. 
Posted by Bill M. on 05/05/2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008
Peregrine Falcon

Where are all the landbird migrants?  Another slow day, yet a few noteable birds and discoveries.  The biggest news is that Nancy Gobris banded a Mountain Chickadee that has a brood pouch.  What makes this exciting? Mountain Chickadee, as the name implies, is a mountain species, yet there are at least two pairs of this species remaining from the winter at Chico.  A brood pouch is formed 3-5 days before egg-laying, which implies that this species is nesting on Chico.  The brood pouch results as breast feathers are dropped on the abdomen and blood vessels come to the surface there.   When an incubating female sits on her eggs, the closeness of the blood vessels to the eggs, help warm them, thus ensuring that they will develop.

The other nice bird was a Peregrine Falcon in a tree between the two HQ ponds.  This falcon is reported to be one of the fastest flying birds on earth, with stoops recorded at up to 175 miles per hour.  Sometimes known as Duck Hawk, Peregrines follow shorebirds and waterfowl in migration feasting on ones they outfly.


Posted by Bill M. on 05/03/2008

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