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

Burrowing Owls
 Burrowing Owls can be found wherever their are black-tailed prairie-dogs. Prairie-dogs excavate multiple burrows and ones that are abandoned are perfect homes for the aptly named Burrowing Owls who are incapable of digging their own burrow.  When prairie-dogs die from plague or other diseases the owls abandon these areas because the prairie-dogs keep the height of the vegetation low allowing the owls to see any approaching predators.  By the end of June, Burrowing Owl young come above ground and practice flying in their natal area before striking out on their own.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/22/2015

Research at Chico
A large lizard, Colorado Checkered Whiptail is rare on the Chico.  It originated from hybridization between individuals of Common Checkered Whiptail and Prairie Racerunner. The new species, Colorado Checkered Whiptail, inherited its parthenogenetic mode of reproduction from Common Checkered Whiptail. Life begins in both species independent of any sperm (no males in the population). The Chico Basin checkered whiptail has a unique pattern class, Class B, that is different from whiptails in neighboring drainages.  For two years in a row I found one individual in the rocks at the south end of the main pond at Chico's headquarters. 

Posted by Bill M. on 06/22/2015

Breeding Season Underway
 Young birds are already fledged and it is only the 14th of June.  Resident species get a jump on migratory birds beginning breeding much earlier. Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks have already fledged young. So too have both Curve-billed Thrasher (left) and Loggerhead Shrikes (right).  Although able to fly, both the young thrasher and the shrike are still being fed by the adults.  Also, species like Lark Bunting, Orchard Oriole, and Cassin's Sparrow are still displaying, still looking for a mate.  
Posted by Bill M. on 06/15/2015

Another Look at Lark Bunting
 Unlike the past five years when Lark Buntings were only seen as migrants, this Spring's rains have created the perfect habitat for our state bird (a sparrow and not a bunting) with plenty of ground cover for hiding a nest.  Their loud, distinctive aerial flights can be heard in many of the Chico areas that have dense grass/kochia and usually near stands of cholla cactus.  A few dull brown females can be seen too.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/08/2015

Colorado's State Bird
 Colorado's State Bird is the Lark Bunting.  Only during years with abundant moisture and therefore plenty of vegetation will this migrant stay to breed on the Chico.  There are a number of Lark Bunting's skylarking, the males trying to attract a female with their aerial vocalizations and displays.  They can best be found where there is abundant chollas and plenty of green grass/kochia.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/07/2015

Rare in Colorado
 Our smallest and most secretive heron, a Least Bittern was flushed from along Chico Creek below May Camp crossing on June 6th.  This species was heard daily for three weeks last year at Rose Pond but rarely seen.  While photographing dragonflies, I flushed this one from a patch of sedges.  I would expect it at Upper Twin Pond but not at the narrow habitat along Chico Creek although there are a lot of frogs along the Chico Creek pond edges for food. It is an eastern species but they seem to be expanding their range into Colorado during the past decade.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/07/2015

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