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

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves were introduced into the Bahamas in the mid-1970s; some individuals migrated to Florida in the 1980s where they went mostly unnoticed because of their similarity to escaped Ringed Turtle-Doves. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is now established throughout much of the U.S. Its spread across North America is still an evolving story. Most of the states now have records for this species. Tony Leukering found the first Eurasian Collared-Dove in Colorado.  Their impact on native species is unknown, but their rapid spread may represent an exploitation of a niche made available by the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. On the Chico, Eurasian Collared-Dove is only a recent emigrant, but I saw four today at the HQ corrals, and one was singing on Saturday at the Banding Station.

The scientific name, Streptopeleia decaocto, means a collar (streptos) dove (peleia). In Greek mythology, Decaocto was a  servant girl. The gods heard her prayers and  changed her into a dove so she could escape her misery. The dove’s call allegedly still echoes the mournful cries of her former life.

Florida birds went unnoticed at first because they look like Ringed Turtle-Doves. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that birders realized the suddenly prolific and quickly-spreading "turtle-doves" they were watching were actually Eurasian Collared-Doves.  They are easily separated from Mounrning Doves by their square vs. long, tapered  tails of Mourning Dove.

Posted by Bill M. on 09/29/2008

Annual Pueblo County Fall Bird Count
Every  September, there is a concerted effort to record the number of bird species and individuals seen in Pueblo County.  This year,  I recorded 76 bird species on the Pueblo County portion of Chico Basin Ranch.  Although the weather was too pleasant to ground many migrants, the total number of species is still indicative of the numerous habitats that support a variety of bird species.

As mentioned here in a previous post, Scaled Quail need good spring rains for successful breeding.  Although there are many more than two Scaled Quail on the ranch, only two were detected, perhaps the result of the very dry spring and early summer.  The most unusual bird seen was a female Red-naped Sapsucker a bird that breeds in aspen groves in the mountains in the West.

20 September Chico Bird County (Pueblo County only)

1. Wood Duck   5
2. Gadwall   6
3. American Wigeon  45
4. Mallard   9
5. Blue-winged Teal  6
6. Northern Shoveler  35
7. Green-winged Teal  7
8. Redhead   4
9. Ring-necked Duck  1
10. Scaled Quail  2
11. Pied-billed Grebe  9
12. Great Blue Heron  1
13. Northern Harrier  1
14. Red-tailed Hawk  4
15. Ferruginous Hawk  1
16. American Kestrel  3
17. Virginia Rail  2
18. Sora   3
19. American Coot  90
20. Killdeer   4
21. Baird's Sandpiper  2
22. Rock Pigeon   1
23. Mourning Dove  11
24. Barn Owl   1
25. Great Horned Owl  3
26. Red-naped Sapsucker  1
27. Ladder-backed Woodpecker 4
28. Northern Flicker  2
29. Western Wood-Pewee  1
30. Dusky Flycatcher  1
31. Say's Phoebe  8
32. Cassin's Kingbird  5
33. Western Kingbird  2
34. Loggerhead Shrike  4
35. Blue Jay   1
36. Black-billed Magpie  1
37. Horned Lark   45
38. Cliff Swallow  1
39. Barn Swallow  28
40. Rock Wren   1
41. House Wren   5
42. Marsh Wren   2
43. Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
44. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
45. Townsend's Solitaire 1
46. American Robin  21
47. Northern Mockingbird 1
48. Sage Thrasher  5
49. Curve-billed Thrasher 4
50. European Starling  64
51. Orange-crowned Warbler 1
52. Yellow-rumped Warbler 22
53. Common Yellowthroat  7
54. Wilson's Warbler  41
55. Green-tailed Towhee  1
56. Canyon Towhee  1
57. Chipping Sparrow  31
58. Clay-colored Sparrow 3
59. Brewer's Sparrow  25
60. Vesper Sparrow  103
61. Lark Sparrow  10
62. Savannah Sparrow  6
63. Song Sparrow  1
64. Lincoln's Sparrow  5
65. White-crowned Sparrow 9
66. Blue Grosbeak  3
67. Lazuli Bunting  1
68. Red-winged Blackbird 100
69. Western Meadowlark  43
70. Yellow-headed Blackbird 20
71. Brewer's Blackbird  2
72. Common Grackle  7
73. House Finch   10
74. Lesser Goldfinch  1
75. American Goldfinch  3
76. House Sparrow  36

Posted by Bill M. on 09/21/2008

The Whip-poor-will
On 5 September, Brian Gibbons was walking along the path around Sherrie's Pond, when he flushed a large bird from the ground.  It was a rare bird, of course, the third ranch record of Whip-poor-will.  This is Brian's photo of the bird on a perch, shortly after being flushed.

Whip-poor-will is one of the goatsucker species, whose call is the same as it's name, whip-poor-will, which is repeated over-and-over on its breeding grounds from dusk until dark thirty.  The phrase is reapeated every second, 50-100 times before it stops to recharge.   Away from its breeding grounds, the species is silent. but on territory the whip-poor-will calls are loud, thus the species name, vociferus.

Only a few birders were fortunate to see this bird, but over 70 birders heard one from May a few years ago near the Holmes ranch house.  Like other wills, this one, Whip, flies around with its mouth open after dark, catching insects.

Posted by Bill M. on 09/08/2008

Another Rare Warbler - Blackburnian
While trying to relocate the Whip-poor-will (see tomorrow's post), Brian Gibbons found and photographed a very drab 1st year female Blackburnian Warbler near the Moons' ranch house.  The bird was foraging in mature cottonwoods, gleaning insects from the leaves and moving about quite a bit.

The word Blackburnian was given to this species by Johan Gmelin for an 18th Century English botanist, Anna Blackburne.  The male Blackburnian is one of the most striking of all the wood warblers with brilliant orange about its head, as evidenced by some of its nicknames, fire-brand and torch bird.  

Blackburnian Warbler is one of the spruce budworm specialists and their populations fluctuate as the destructive budworm populations fluctuate.  On the Chico it is a very rare migrant species with very few records.

Posted by Bill M. on 09/07/2008

Wood Duck plumages
In North America, Wood Duck is arguably the most beautiful North American duck.  The Latin name, Aix sponsa, refers to its exquisite plumage or "arrayed for bridal" or for marriage.  In the early 1900s the species was in danger of extinction from over-hunting.  After a 23 year closed hunting season for Wood Ducks, protection of its woodland breeding habitat, and the construction of man-made nest boxes, the species has recovered.  Only birds born in a man-made nest box will nest in one.  After many years of placing artificial nest boxes into woodland habitat, many wooded city parks now have an over abundance of this species.  Having nowhere else to nest, over-crowding in now a concern for some areas where multiple nest boxes have been placed.

Clockwise from the upper left.  Female Wood Duck with young, young female, adult male, and non-breeding male.  Wood Ducks are seen in both spring and fall migration at the Chico. Today, two non-breeding males and one 1st year bird were seen loafing on the small HQ pond.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/02/2008

Chipping Sparrow - Plumages of a migrant
Although not a breeder on the Chico, Chipping Sparrow is a common to abundant migrant, especially in the fall.  While easy to identify in the spring when it sports a bright rufous cap, in the fall it can be quite a challenge, especially young birds.

For all sparrows in the genus Spizella, one characteristic they all share is a long tail.  Starting in the lower left corner and moving counter-clockwise, the birds are adult Chipping Sparrow in spring, juvenile in August, first winter bird in basic plumage from Ocotber, and molting adult from September.  The first thing to look at is the color of the feathering just in front of the eye, the lore.  In Chipping Sparrow at any  age it is dark, especially seen well in the lower left photo.  On younger birds, where the I.D. gets tricky, the field mark to look for is the post-occular stripe, the feathers just behind the eye.  In all of the photos, the birds have very strongly marked post-occular stripes, a very good way to separate these birds from their closest relatives, which I will illustrate in the next post.

Posted by Bill M. on 09/01/2008

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