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

Posted by Bill M. on 08/30/2010

Bird Watcher
Posted by Bill M. on 08/30/2010

Banding Resumes in September

Bird banding at the RMBO banding station will resume on 9 September and be active through 9 October.  All birders are hoping for another season of rarities at the Chico.

Currently migration has brought flocks of Lark Buntings, the state bird of Colorado, small groups of flycatchers including Dusky, Gray, and Willow Flycatchers and Olive-sided Flycatcher. The rare Cardinal Lobelia is in bloom, and both Cassin's Sparrows and Blue Grosbeak (above) are still singing.    Shorebirds can be seen at the Lower Twin Pond, sometimes an adventure to drive there.   I have seen mostly Least Sandpipers, but Baird's, both yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, and of course, gobs of Killdeer are also around.

Posted by Bill M. on 08/21/2010

Grasshoppers as Bird Food

Just after talking with Janet Phillips, I flushed a juvenile Loggerhead Shrike from the top strand of barbed wire fence by the road.  The bird only flew a short distance and it was then I saw an impailed grasshopper on a barb, the shrike signature.  I stopped and aimed my camera at the grasshopper.  After less than a minute, the shrike jumped back up on the wire and hopped towards the impailed insect.  It used its bill to detach the grasshopper head and appendages before consuming it.

Minutes later, along the road to Holmes, I saw a Western Kingbird fly to the ground and pick up a grasshopper in its bill.  It then flew to a wire perch.  Unlike the shrike that discarded the head, wings and legs, the kingbird just tilted its head back and slowly maneuvered the grasshopper into its mouth, head first.

Posted by Bill M. on 08/14/2010

Are dragonflies the new birds?
Birders like to keep lists.  For example, I have finally seen 300 species of birds on the Chico.  Following the publication of a great new field guide for dragonfllies, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, some birders are splitting their time between looking at birds and looking at wet areas of all types for odes (dragonflies and damselflies).  While damselflies are seemingly impossible to I.D. for the newbies like myself, the dragons are a little easier.  On 5 August I found a beautiful species, Halloween Pennant, a species (above photo) that may not have been recorded previously in Pueblo County.   The fun part about looking at dragonflies is no two days are the same and species vary from late spring to early fall.  No one currently knows what species occur on the Chico but I hope to find out over the next few years.  In additon to visits by birders, visits to the Ranch may soon include a new group who want to see the "new birds" and activity that can fill in the slow birding in the summer months. 
Posted by Bill M. on 08/11/2010

Black Terns
Five migrant Black Terns spent the whole day on the Chico. They selected Headquarters Pond for their feeding.  Usually plunge-diving for small fish, this group spent much of the time high in the air.  When I examined my photos (although neither of these shots shows it) the group was feeding on the wing, mostly on large dragonflies that are abundant at the Chico at this time of year.

The upper photograph is an adult bird that has mostly molted into its basic or winter plumage; it is white underneath with a hood and the lower photograph shows an adult just beginning its post-breeding molt (still mostly black breast  but its head losing its black feathers). 

This species appears to be on the decline and while usually common in spring migration on the Chico, I didn't see any this year until the summer fall passage.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/11/2010

How can these two photographs be of the same bird, plain-looking while standing on the ground while being so distintive while flying?  All but a couple shorebird species nest on the ground and the Willet is not one of the exceptions.  While on the ground Willets need the dull background pattern of browns with streaks in order to avoid being a meal for a raptor flying overhead.  Howerver, when breeding, males make raucous flights over potential nesting sites to attract the females with their strongly patterend wings.  Their loud calls, p'd-weeel-will-it gives these large shorebirds their name. This species, which breeds in north central Colorado, is already on its way south.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/11/2010

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