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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



AP Biology Class at Banding Station
Teen boys do not usually show an interest in birds = not cool.  However the entire AP biology class from Air Academy asked the best ever questions about birds and migration and 90 percent of them used their iphones to take pictures of the banded birds, here a migrant Yellow-rumped Warbler. 
Posted by Bill M. on 09/30/2013

Sapsuckers
All trees have xylem and phloem tubes to bring water from the roots up to the branches and leaves and tubes to deliver "food" down to the roots.  The small woodpeckers called sapsuckers, here a male Red-naped Sapsucker, exploits trees by drilling sap wells into the xylem and phloem layers of conifers and hardwoods.  They maintain the small diameter holes (easily seen in the photo) to ensure a steady flow of sap.  A mountain species, Red-naped Sapsucker, migrates through the Chico during September/October.  The all-red throat indicates a male.  Females would have half the throat white and the other half red.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/23/2013

The Not So Lonesome Dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves are found in 49 of 50 U.S. states and many Canadian provinces.  After being rare for many years on the Chico, they can now be seen here almost year-round.  They are prolific breeders and can breed in almost any month.  The unknown so far is if they out compete our native Mourning Doves or if the two species use slightly different habitats. Mourning Doves move south for the winter while Eurasian Collared-Doves are able to survive in colder weather.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/18/2013

Cassin's Vireo
Compare this vireo with the next photograph.  This is one of the group of vireos with spectacles, called Cassin's Vireo.  Note the bill tip with the hook a characteristic of vireos.  Unlike the next species, whose range is in the eastern U.S. and Canada, Cassin's Vireo is a western species.  Because of its loction in the western Great Plains, Chico Basin Ranch is a magnet in migration for birds breeding in states to the east of Colorado and a magnet to birds breeding in the western states and provinces.  The daily changes of weather systems help to determine what interesting bird species will arrive next.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/15/2013

Red-eyed Vireo

Looking at the bill tip we can see that it has a hook.  Vireos, pronounced, veer-e-oo have hooked bill tips.  The two black streaks on the face, one just below the gray head and the one in front of the eye (lore) makes this a Red-eyed Vireo. The eye color would be much brighter red in an adult.  This is one of the most common species in eastern hardwood forests but is rare in fall migration on the Chico.  Besides the dull red eye, the white edges on the wing feathers identify a bird that was born this summer.

Posted by Bill M. on 09/15/2013

Solitary Sandpiper
As the name Solitary Sandpiper implies, this lone bird was foraging in a temporary pond adjacent to Rose Pond.  Good for the ranch, but bad for birders, the lack of shoreline at headquarters means migrant shorebirds have to search elsewhere for food and the playa ponds are the answer this year. 
Posted by Bill M. on 09/11/2013

Aiken Audubon Group Birds The Chico
A little rain did not stop the Aiken Audubon Society group from birding on the Chico.  The group had just seen a Willow Flycatcher and we discussed the key  points of Empidonax flycatcher identification.  Doesn't get any better than that!
Posted by Bill M. on 09/11/2013

House Wrens
Although locally breeding House Wrens have left for the winter, migrants from farther north continue to pass through the Chico.  The best known of our wrens with banded tail and wings and a buff breast, this one found a moth to feed on near the Moons' house. When they arrive in April, the cavity-nesting males begin to stuff all of the nearby holes with sticks to discourage competition from other wrens in the area.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/10/2013

Vultures
Although common across the U.S. in summer months, Turkey Vultures are not often seen on the Chico except during migration.  Because this species needs thermals to fly long distances they must abandon the U.S. for warmer climates during winter and spring when daytime warming is not strong enough to provide the needed thermal lift. Turkey Vultures have a highly evolved olfactory sense and can detect carcasses by smell from a good distance up.  Rarely do they eat living animals unlike their relative, Black Vulture.  The shape of their wings, teetering flight, the diheadral (V-shaped profile in flight), and high wing loading make this species an expert at soaring, rarely needing to flap their wings.  Because they stick their heads inside carcasses, Turkey Vultures have evolved featherless heads, thus avoiding difficult head cleaning following feasting.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/10/2013

Hummingbird Feeders at the Banding Station
As you watch the bird banders process the scores of birds currently being caught, measured, banded and released at the Chico Banding Station, watch the two hummingbird feeders by the bench seats too.  If you have a camera and can make adjustments to the low light levels, see if you can identify the hummingbirds landing to drink the sugar water (best by looking at your photos).  The most common species on the Chico is Black-chinned Hummingbird but the easier to identify adult males have migrated south, so you need to look very closely at the shape, width, and pattern of the primaries or 10 flight feathers on each wing.  The distal (end of the wing) feather is called P10 (mostly in the shade), count inward to P7 and compare its width to P5.  Only two of the more than 300 species of hummingbirds in the world (all in the New World) have wing feathers that jump from a wide P7 to narrow P5-P1 like in this photograph.  To separate the two that have this feather pattern, Black-chinned and Ruby-throated, look again at P10.  If the tip is blunt like in this photo, the bird is a Black-chinned Hummingbird.  It it is tapered to a round point, it is Ruby-throated Hummingbird (common in the East but rare in the West). Now look at each individual feather on the back and on the forehead.  The buffy edges indicate that it is a newly grown feather and therefore the bird was born this summer.  Because the female has a very long bill, you can say immature female Black-chinned Hummingbird and birders would be impressed.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/09/2013

#334 - Carolina Wren
Although I was unable to obtain a photograph (this one is from Canon City) of this normally skulking species, Carolina Wren is the latest new Ranch bird, #334.  Part of its scientific name (ludoviciana) implies it is "of Louisiana" or more appropriately an eastern species.  However, this southern species (south into Central America), Carolina Wren has expanded northward in the past century and probably also to the west. They have been seen from every month in Colorado and they breed in southeastern CO during some years.  It is identified by the broad white supercilium, rufous dorsally with light buff underneath.  If you have ever watched the Master's Golf Tournament from Augusta, Georgia, it is frequently heard in the background from almost every hole played, an explosive teakettle-teakettle-teakettle.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/03/2013

Scaled Quail
During summer breeding season Scaled Quail are often difficult to locate.  When the young birds are old enough to fly or run quickly however, the adult quial lead the late summer coveys here and there to search for food.  With the above average summer rains native grasses and non-native weeds have grown leaps and bounds providing an abundance of both cover and seeds for quail, migrants and other native species.  Now is a good time to see quail along the entrance road, often perched on a fence post.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/02/2013

Migrant Hummingbirds
Every weather front now brings another group of birds to the Chico.  Hummingbirds have always been in short supply here except when hummingbird feeders are in use because hummingbirds are attracted to flowers with a tubular corolla and those species are scarce on the prairie.  However, hummingbirds eat very small insects too and there has been annoyingly large swarms of gnats above the banding station paths.  This immature Calliope Humminbird (inset) was caught and immediately released as hummingbirds legs are way too small to take a traditional USFWS metal band.  Included in the photograph is another Calliope Hummingbird (very small with short tail and no rufous in the tail) coming to tubular flowers from the mint familiy at a xeroscape garden in Colorado Springs.  The tubular flowers attract all four common species of Colorado hummingbird.  Calliope Hummingbirds breed in the northwest but migrate through Colorado on their journey south.
Posted by Bill M. on 09/02/2013

   
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