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

Shorebirds Trickle Through

With a good camera to stop the action, we can see the grace in flying birds, this a Solitary Sandpiper at the big pond south of headquarters. Breeds in the north woods up to the extent of treeline and winters from Mexico south into Central America.  Although the name implies a solitary existence they are seen in small flocks and also singly.  In flight usually only travels short distances before putting down again and it longish bill explores deeper mud than many shorebird species.  This one wanted to land where I was standing.

Posted by Bill M. on 08/23/2012

Rhymes with Orange
Flame Skimmer = large, robust, bright orange skimmer with extensively orange wing bases. Eyes red-orange; face orange. Thorax and abdomen orange. Wings with most of the bases orange-brown. Veins bright orange.  You get the picture.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/23/2012

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker is not found in Denver, Fort Collins, or Colorado Springs.  It is a southern species that breeds as far north as the Chico and that is it for the eastern slope of the Rockies.  An uncommon resident, the males have red crowns but it is the horizontal alternating rows of dark and light feathers that looks somewhat like rungs on a ladder that gives this bird its name.  They nest in tree cavities during the summer but often move out to cholla grasslands in fall and winter where they use their chisel-shaped bill to drill for insects in the larger cholla cactus.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker is one of the Chico specialties that birders hope to see when they visit.  Photograph by John Drummond.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/22/2012

Uncommon Migrant to the Chico
On Sunday, John Drummond found some interesting birds on the Chico.  A migrant and an eastern species, Great Crested Flycatcher was found near the Chico headquarters area where John photographed it.  Great Cresteds breed in easternmost Colorado in riparian woodlands on the Kansas border and it is an eastern species.  They migrate as far as South America for the boreal winter.  Their long wings, viewable in John's photo, are a good indication that it is a long distant migrant.  Their wing length is used as one feature to separate them from other large look alike flycatchers of the southwest.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/22/2012

Common Nighthawks on the Move

This morning I didn't find any Common Nighthawks on their summer roost in the trees adjacent to the Holmes Ranch House but this is migration season for this species.  However, a few were fly-catching on the west side of HQ Pond and this photo series shows how wide they can open their mouths when fly-catching or coming to water to drink.

Posted by Bill M. on 08/12/2012

Ducks Flocking
Teal are early migrants thus the early September special teal season.  Today a mixed species flock included all three teal species, Green-winged, lower right, Cinnamon and Blue-winged (difficult to separate in this small pixel photograph), along with three Northern Shovelers (upper largest ducks) and a single shorebird, a Solitary Sandpiper.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/12/2012

Cardinal Flower
Right on schedule the very rare Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is in bloom in the drying wet area southwest of the red barn next to Holmes Ranch House. I think this is still the northernmost known spot for this mostly southeastern species in Colorado.  The other three populations on the Chico are also doing well.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/12/2012

Marbled Godwit on the Move

The large shorebird, Marbled Godwit, made a brief stop at HQ Pond on its way south.  Marbled Godwit is a prairie species and a short distant migrant to Southern California and Mexico coasts during winter.  Instead of flushing like most birds will do when they are incubating their eggs, there are accounts of people lifting Marbled Godwits off of its nest, the bird relying on its cryptic camouflage for protection.  This one gave a loud, distinctive call while it circled overhead before continuing its migration.

Posted by Bill M. on 08/01/2012

Young and Dumb
Coyotes have few predators in Colorado yet they are often very warry around humans.  I saw this youngster sitting at the edge of a black-tailed prairie-dog town before it saw me.  It was more than a little surprised when it turned and looked at me from only 60 feet away.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/01/2012

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