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

Birds vs Snakes
As I drove towards headquarters on Sunday, I passed a prairie rattlesnake coiled in the middle of the road.  After backing up to get a better view I noticed that two Horned Larks were as interested in the snake as I was.  After getting a few closeups of the coiled snake I stood behind my car door to observe.  The rattler started to move off the road and when it did so, a Horned Lark would land nearby as if to encourage it to come towards the bird.  The lark kept flying near the snake probably until the snake was a safe distace from the eggs or nestling Horned Larks.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/17/2013

Spring Migration Coming to an End
Although migrant birds continue to trickle through, it is mostly breeding birds that are being seen on the Chico.  A lingering White-rumped Sandpiper shows that dragonflies are now rapidly hatching into adults, over 30 species recorded so far in the ponds, springs, and specialized wetland habitats here.  Dragonfly larvae live up to a few years as voracious predators in aquatic habitats, but after they crawl up onto an exposed aquatic stem, an adult merges - many dragonfly species living as adults for only a couple of weeks.  As adults their role is to reproduce as quickly as possible and lay hundreds or thousands of eggs to guarantee a new generation will follow.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/04/2013

A Beautful Snowy Egret
A yellow-footed Snowy Egret was actively foraging along the shore at HQ Pond this morning.  In 1886, back plumes of Snowy Egrets were valued at $32 per ounce, at the time twice the price of gold. After laws were passed to protect this species and other herons, it made a remarkable comeback even extending its range beyond its historic range.

Snowy Egrets employs a greater range of foraging behaviors than do any other heron, one technique including a frantic run about which it uses to capture small fish and crustaceans.

Posted by Bill M. on 06/04/2013

Shorebirds Still Moving North
It is a very long journey for many shorebirds who stop to refuel on the Chico.  The last ones to arrive are usually White-rumped Sandpipers (photo), coming from as far south as Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and flying north all the way to the high arctic.  Some shorebirds beging their return trip south as early as the last week of June. Long-distant migrants have long wings, on this species the long wings fold past the end of the tail.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/01/2013

Another Rare Warbler
On June 1st each year bird migration has usually ground to a halt.  Not this year.  Today a rare Golden-winged Warbler was first heard singing by Brandon Percival.  Eventually this highly sought after species was seen and photographed.  Their primary song is bee buzz buzz buzz.  Golden-wings are an eastern species, second growth or cutover area specialists.  They are a declining species mostly becuase their closest relative, Blue-winged Warbler, gradually takes over Golden-winged habitat.  It is thought that it takes about 50 years when Blue-wings first arrrive in Golden-wings habitat for the later to disappear.  Some interesting hybrids occur in the zone of contact for these two species.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/01/2013

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
As the name implies grosbeaks have formidible beaks for cracking open seeds.  Bird bander handle them with care.  Although Black-headed Grosbeak is the common breeder in Colorado foothills, the Rose-breasted, with its rose-colored breast marking is the one most birders ew and ahh about.  Here a male from the Casita today.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/01/2013

Red-tailed Hawk
Raptors all have talons, sharp claws at the end of their toes.  Every birder knows the common raptor, Red-tailed Hawk, common whereever riparian areas are found.  Adults show the bright red-orange tail easily viewable in flight. Also visible in this photograph are the "comas", dark cuved bars on the underwings, and if you look closely you can see the petagium, the dark bars in from the comas on the leading edge of the underwing.   Generalists, Red-tails will feed on any rodent of medium size. 
Posted by Bill M. on 06/01/2013

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