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

Wandering Glider
A very widespread species but for some reason very scarce this season on the Chico.  Wandering Gliders are often found on ephemeral pools, think the recent rains on the Chico and those temporary ponds. They are even attracted to shiny cars in parking lots. It is a tropical species that is found from California to the East Coast.  Because of their amazing flying abilities they are often the only dragonfly species inhabiting tropical islands.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/29/2014

Northern Bobwhite
I know the feeling.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/29/2014

Virginia Rail
Because rails live in marshy habitats with dense vegetation, they have flexible vertebrae and a laterally compressed bodies (skinny as a rail).  Because their heads necessarily bump into cattails or bulrushes, some of their feathers are modified to help prevent feather wear, but they still molt most of their feathers twice each year making them flightless during those weeks. Another Virginia Rail (photo) strategy is to build dummy nests keeping only a single "real" one for incubating eggs. A precocial species, the young leave the nest immediately about hatching. Uncommonly seen except at the edge of marshes in summer months (Headquarters Pond, 21 July 2014).
Posted by Bill M. on 07/21/2014

Baby Shrikes
Loggerhead Shrike is a declining species nationwide but they are doing well on the Chico.  This juvenile could fly but was waiting for one of its parents to bring it food.  While in the nest, the yellow region on the base of the lower mandible is the target zone for the adults bringing food.  When their bill hits that bill area it is a trigger mechanism for the young one to open its mouth.  Shrikes eat grasshoppers, small birds, lizards and small rodents, all which they sometimes impale on a barbed wire fence where they are stored until needed.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/19/2014

Dragonflies in Flight
Blue-eyed Darner is one of the common summer dragonfly species on the Chico.  They are sometimes found miles from water but the best place to see them is in a shallow, protected section of a pond.  That is the same places that bass look for them.  Dragonflies can beat their four wings in unison like this hovering male, or each wing can beat separately, each one independent of the others.  When it is cool out you won't see any dragonflies but if it is hot, sunny, with little wind there could be as many as 30 species at the Chico ponds and along the flowing sections of Black Squirrel and Chico Creeks.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/19/2014

Post Basic Molt
After the breeding season, whether a bird is a successful breeder or not, it molts new feathers, the result being a bird with less brilliant plumage than it is during the breeding season and the plumage is then called basic.  Wing feathers can not be all molted at the same time or else a bird would not be able to fly.  Here is a southbound Greater Yellowlegs flying through the dense fog on 18 July at Headquarters Pond.  You can see the synchronous molt where a feather has been replaced and a new one is starting to grown back in at the same location in each wing.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/19/2014

While looking for dragonflies, I saw a snake whose head was over a foot above the vegetation and a Killdeer was loudly calling nearby.  Maybe the Coachwhip had found the baby Killdeer.  The snake remained in this position for the 5 minute period I watched it.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/04/2014

A Time for Dragonflies
A one person survey yesterday produced 30 species of dragonflies and damselflies, proving that Chico is surely one of the best spots for odes in Colorado.  Besides finding two very rare Hoary Skimmers, I also found the first Pueblo County record for the dragonfly, Black Meadowhawk, rare on the plains.  This one is a female.
Posted by Bill M. on 07/04/2014

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