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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



Bird Food to Some
Most birders eventually look at the food items birds eat, easy to do when they are this vivid. The Chico ponds are ideal for dragonflies and damselflies to go from egg, through many aquatic larval stages, to adults.  Here a female Common Green Darner (teneral) is drying her wings after hatching from her last aquatic larval stage. After an hour or so she will be off flying, catching hundreds of insects including other dragonflies but also a choice food item for birds. 
Posted by Bill M. on 08/29/2014

Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher is the eastern counterpart of our western breeder, Ash-throated Flycatcher.  Most years a Great Crested Flycatcher (yellower belly than Ash-throated) shows up on the Chico during migration and 28 August was the date for this year's bird.  Both species are obligatory cavity nesters but when a natural cavity is not available it will use a man-made one. Snake skins are sometimes found in Creat Crested's nests and some suggest this is an effort to scare off potential predators but  crinkly plastic wrappers are also gathered so the wives' tale has no merit.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/29/2014

Colorado's State Bird on the Move
Many birds exhibit sexual dimorphism where females look nothing like the males.  Our state bird, Lark Bunting, is one of the better examples.  To confuse the issue, most North American Birds (north of Mexico) begin a post nuptial molt right after breeding, or as Ogden Nash wrote: "then they go and change their plumage, which takes us back to ignorant glumage."  A molting male Lark Bunting is on the right and since juveniles have very similar plumage to females, the two birds on the left are either juveniles or females.  All are on the way south for the winter months, some stopping to winter as far north as New Mexico.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/23/2014

American Rubyspot
The broad-winged damselflies are large and can be separated from other damsels by the wing that joins the body without a petiole or stalk.  Only the second record for the Chico, this male American Rubyspot was along the stream in the Penetentiary, or sheep pasture.  The name comes from the metallic red patch in the wings of a male.  Not hard to look at.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/23/2014

Avian Harassment
This Western Kingbird doesn't know that the roosting Turkey Vulture is incapable of catching it, so it dove about 15 times trying to flush the vulture out of its territory.  But, Turkey Vultures aren't raptors.  They do have a bill that can rip through even a tough cow hide like raptors, but unlike raptor feet, talons, vultures' feet are more like chicken feet enabling them to walk, hop, and run. This Turkey Vulutre was on a night roost at the Banding Station waiting for the air to warm up so that it could ride thermals on its southbound migration.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/23/2014

Juvenile Flammulated Owl
Not on the Chico, but a few valleys to the southwest on the Zapata Ranch, a juvenile Flammulated was found.  I haven't heard the story yet, Kate?, but the brown eyes of this young bird separate it from other owl species in the area. There is cute and then there is this!
Posted by Bill M. on 08/19/2014

Singing in August?
Almost all of Chico's birds are done breeding and some have started to move south or changed habitats to take advantage of insects or maturing seeds in the kochia and grasses.  Two that are still singing are Blue Grosbeak and the sparrow whose breeding is triggered by the monsoon moisture, Cassin's Sparrow.  Probably the dullest plumaged bird seen on the Chico, Cassin's Sparrow makes up for its drabness in song.  Once heard, a Cassin's Sparrow song is hard to forget.  They usually skylark, singing while hovering, the height increasing the distance its song will be heard by a prospective matr.  But, they can also sing from an exposed high perch and cholla cactus, a necessary ingredient for nesting, provides a high enough perch on the short grass prairie.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/11/2014

Monarch Butterfly Right?

If you said "yes" you would be wrong. A chestnut version of the Monarch and a very close relative, both species in the same genus, a Queen visited the purple loosestrife flowers near May Camp today.  Like Monarch butterflies, Queens are also unpalatable to predators. Because the two species look similar they exhibit Muellarian mimicry and most predators will leave both alone because of their bitter taste due to the fact their caterpillars feed on the poisonous milkweed plants. 

Posted by Bill M. on 08/03/2014

Banner Year for Loggerhead Shrikes
Loggerhead Shrikes were given the scientific name, Lanius ludovicianus.  Lanius is Latin for butcher and indeed shrikes are frequently called butcher birds for their habit of biting the heads off of their prey items.  Ludovicianus means "of Louisiana" and while they don't breed in Louisiana, it is a good reminder as to how far west the Louisiana Purchase extended, into the eastern third of Colorado.  The name shrike comes from shriek, an apt description of their shrill calls.
Posted by Bill M. on 08/03/2014

Keystone Species
Burrowing Owls are common this summer, but only in areas inhabitated by living black-tailed prairie-dogs.  The prairie-dog is called a keystone species and like an arch's keystone rock, without it the entire arch falls.  Burrowing Owl fledglings are common south of the turnoff to May Camp on both sides of the high road.  First time in a long time the prairie-dog colony there is surrounded by green growth, although much of it is kochia. 
Posted by Bill M. on 08/03/2014

   
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