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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

Its Time to Look for Odes
 The order, Odonata, includes only dragonflies and damselflies and 60 species have been recorded in Pueblo County, with the majority of them detected on the Chico.  With its numerous springs and lakes with surrounding vegetation, these Chico habitats are perfect for odes, short for Odonata and meaning "toothed ones" because of their serrated jaws.  Dragonflies and damselflies do two things, eat, especially as larvae where they are often abundant in the water, and mate. As adults, damselflies only live about a week and dragonflies often live only a month or two so after they crawl out of the water onto a plant stem and shed their larval casing, exuvae, the adults eventually fly to the water to mate and then the females lay their eggs in the water to renew the cycle.  
Posted by Bill M. on 06/24/2016

The Other Chico Woodpecker
 The small resident woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, gets some competition some summers from the stunning, and perfectly named, Red-headed Woodpecker. Large dead trees is what this species needs, and both the trees and the woodpeckers can be seen this summer at the Bell Grove, the Banding Station woods, and the small grove of trees near the ephemeral Vega Pond. This is a species that used to be more common in eastern Colorado but with many dead snags being cut for safety reasons or for firewood, and with competition from early nesting Eurasian Starlings, the beautiful Red-headed Woodpeckers were in decline. Their loud call is distinctive, sounding a bit like a hoarse bobwhite and it is often the best way to find these woodpeckers. 
Posted by Bill M. on 06/24/2016

Native Quail
 The southern species, Scaled Quail, barely makes it into Colorado, only about as far north as Chico Basin Ranch. The genus name, Callipepla, comes from the Greek kallos meaning beautiful, and from peplos, a ceremonial robe or translated to "beautifully adorned" in reference to the "cotton top" this species always has on the top of its head. This year these quail seem to be almost everywhere, the taller grasses and shrubs providing perfect cover for nesting.  
Posted by Bill M. on 06/24/2016

Bird Food - Digger Bees
 Each summer on the Chico High Road, a careful observer will see about a thousand bees burrowing on the road. Today the bees were easy to find because young Horned Larks were also present and the birds were eating some of the bees.  These bees are a type of digger bee in a group called Diadasia, a colonial nesting species.  Females emit a pharomone which attracts males and here are two groups of bees, mostly males attempting to mate with a few females. 
Posted by Bill M. on 06/24/2016

Nesting Great Blue Heron
 Great Blue Herons can usually be seen foraging in the shallows of Rose and Headquarters Ponds but they only rarely nest on the Chico.  Usually colonial nesters, a single was found nesting on the south part of the ranch and only one nestling was observed.  There is plenty of food for herons, bullfrogs and fish, but not enough tall trees for a colony to form.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/15/2016

Skylarking Sparrow
 When two Cassin's Sparrows are in close proximity, one of them often launches into a territorial skylarking flight to claim his territory.  Named for a Philadelphia ornithologist, John Cassin, this sparrow is a breeder on short-grass plains as long as there are song perches such as cholla cactus.  Formerly a common breeding species on the Chico, it almost disappeared during the drought years but seems to be doing very well this year with the denser grasses due to rainfall. Its four-note flight call is very distinctive and loud.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/15/2016

Singing Alfalfa Field Specialists
 There are double digit numbers of a very cool bird, Dickcissel, singing in the alfalfa field today.  Their name is the song this species sings. dick...dick...dick...cissel over and over. The bad news is these birds are attracted to tall alfalfa and dense grasses where they nest.  If the alfalfa isn't cut before the birds nest, the young nestling will get ground up.  Currently there are just singing males so hopefully everything will work out okay.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/09/2016

Let the Nesting Begin
 Northern Mockingbird is a southern species known as a mimic, imitating over 30 bird species during a 10 minute song along with imitating a piano, cricket, frog...you name it. The scientific name...Mimus polyglottus translates to many tongued mimic. It is the state bird of five southern states.  On the Chico, mockingbirds nest early and migrate south early. Here is one carrying food back to its young in the nest.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/09/2016

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CONTACT US 719.683.7960 info@chicobasinranch.com