Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scaled Quail at John Martin State Park

Thanks to the amazingly mild mid-summer temps (today the highs were in the low 70's down here) after a strange cold front I did some birding in the lower Arkansas Valley where temps are usually 100 or over. Thanks to pro-wildlife habitat changes in the John Martin State Park the habitat has improved substantially--first due to no longer allowing ATV's there as they were tearing up habitat by driving off road (that is why many people buy them so they can drive off road and tear up the ground) and then by closing a lot of duplicative and other user-created 2-tracks that have been used by street legal vehicles but that have fragmented the habitat. Kudos to the local Colo Parks & Wildlife for requesting these changes and to the State Parks & Wildlife Commission for approving them (I went to a Wildlife Commission, some years ago to support the restriction on ATV's).
I was delighted to find 2 flocks of Scaled Quail, a species that is likely doing much better with the improved and less fragmented habitat due to these good changes. Recent rains will help there too so hopefully Scaled Quail can flourish. SeEtta

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rare mid-summer visit from a juv. Broad-tailed Hawk in Florence, CO area

Yesterday I was walking in Florence River Park at the edge of that small south central Colorado town when I spotted this juvenile Broad-tailed Hawk fly by. Broad-tailed Hawks are most often seen in Colorado during migration with most sightings in the spring. This young hawk quickly flew out of view so I did not get very good photos. The top photo shows the profile but not features. So I used photo editing software to lighten up a second similar photo as shown below that now provides a view of field marks for this heavily marked light morph juv Broad-tailed Hawk: dark and very pointed wing tips;; black trailing edge to wings;heavily marked underparts; pale secondaries. SeEtta

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in south central Colo: the female foraging

Yesterday (Saturday) I got the top 3 pics of the female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that is nesting south of Florence, CO when flew near to where I was parked (the driveway several hundred feet north of the nest tree). I watched her catch a couple of insects and could see that at least one was a grasshopper.
The pic below is very interesting both because I caught her in mid-flight so the salmon-pink underwing patches show nicely but also because there is a grasshopper in the air just above her. In a photo below that I took today the female had lost the grasshopper apparently because it's leg came off so this might be the reason for the grasshopper in this pic too.
The next 4 pics that I took today, again when the female foraged near to where I was parked, show a very interesting sequence.
In the pic above the female has a good sized grasshopper in her bill that she has caught.
In the pic now above the grasshopper has come out of her bill--note the grasshopper leg noted below her, it has apparently come off the grasshopper and likely the reason she is now having to re-catch it.
She does re-catch the grasshopper and eats it. Note the bulge starting to show around her throat/gullet in the pic just above. Then in the last pic with her head turned the bulge of the grasshopper being moved down into her digestive tract is quite evident. SeEtta

Friday, July 25, 2014

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers: confirmed nesting in south central Colorado

After I observed the apparent pair of Scissor-tailed Flycathers defending the area around the tree they have so often been seen in from Am Crows flying by it just seemed like they were or were going to nest there. Tonight I drove out after some thunderstorms to do some more observation. It was about 7:45 pm when I got there and I didn't see either bird until a little after 8 pm when I spotted the male perched on top of the tree they are seen in. As I watched I saw him drop down from the top of the tree towards the bottom, but on the other side from my view. I drove back and forth trying to see if he was still near that tree until I spotted one of the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers sitting on a small nest that I had not observed before (on the north side of the tree). As I drove by trying to find a spot I could get a couple photos from (had to avoid traffic as I did not feel safe pulling over on the shoulders that were soft and slanting down) I observed the female get off the nest and be replaced by the male. I got these not great photos as it was getting dark--and getting great photos was not nearly as important as not disturbing this first nesting in south central Colorado which may be evidence of a possible range expansion. SeEtta

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rare Scissor-tailed Flycatcher south of Florence, CO: the female

All the photos I got earlier this week were of the male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and all the photos I have seen posted on Facebook and ebird have also been of the male. I had a meeting in a town not far from the location these rare birds have been located so dropped by just after 6:30 pm. When I saw her it was obvious this was the female as her tail is much shorter than the males. She did not stay put though and this was the only photo I got of her before she flew off. I couldn't stay but a few minutes to get this pic as I had to go the meeting but I returned afterwards at close to 8 pm. I saw the female perched on the tree on which she and the male have most often been seen, mostly right above the nest that is there. I did not see the male tonight. She flew off for about 5 min then returned briefly then flew off to unknown location at about 8:15 as it got dark. SeEtta

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rare Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and two of them, south of Florence,CO

A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the first in our county, was found my Rich Miller a little over a week ago south of Florence. I have been jammed with projects and then went out of town so had not gone out to see it. When I read last night that Mike Gaylord had seen two of them I got more motivated to go see if they were nesting as was suggested.
I drove by them a couple of times and pulled over a little when safe (narrow 2 lane highway with dirt shoulders) for a few photos but only saw one bird. I then parked in a pull-out over a hundred feet from the tree where the birds have most often been seen and watched--and it was an overcast morning so it didn't heat up quickly so I watched for just over an hour. After about 10 minutes the second Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew into the tree where the first was still perched.
While I watched the flycatchers appeared to take turns watching the tree or maybe the nest in it that is shown in the pic just above. While this nest seems consistent with what a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher would build ("bulky stick nest" in isolated tree) it does look larger than those I read about.
But not only did the two flycatchers appear to take turns near this nest and tree but they twice fly after small groups of American Crows, as show in pic below, that flew too close to chase them away--it sure looked like they were defending their nest or at least their nest area. However I never saw either bird get into that nest or look like they were bringing food to babies in it--and though I checked it often with my spotting scope I never saw any indication that nest was occupied or that there were fledglings in the tree. It will be interesting to see what develops if they stay. SeEtta

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dickcissels: singing males, a female and song

I found a few singing male Dickcissels in the Ft Lyon, CO area on a quick trip to the are on July 3 in an field of unknown plants that they had begun to harvest so I expected that the Dickcissels would be displaced and leave. On my way down to Lamar this past week I drove down the road where I had seen these and was surprised to hear Dickcissels singing in the field, this one with the more expected alfalfa, next to the one that they had been in previously which was now completely mowed to the ground. It was close to dark so I didn't stay long but with plans to return while down in the lower Arkansas Valley.
I returned with local birder Jill from Lamar and we enjoyed not just hearing them but watching them as they perched on top of the utility wires as well as tall vegetation to sing.
The photo below is a female Dickcissel, which I only infrequently see and rarely get to photograph. The sun was so bright that it really washed out the photos of her.
The female looks like the male but does not have the black bib and duller than the male. You can see the yellow stripe over her eye if you enlarge the photo. Since this female was present near the singing males and at least one male flew down by her, I suspect they are nesting in this new alfalfa field/
Below is a recording of one of the males singing--this is the song that is most often sung by the Dickcissels I sometimes have in Canon City but different from the northern front range birds. There were at least two different songs being sung by the four (or possibly more) Dickcissels we heard in that field. SeEtta
I also found Dickcissels in a field north of this field, in a field in the Ft Lyon State Wildlife Area and in a field near Lamar. Not as many as I have found in some years but more than I have found in several of the years during the drought conditions. SeEtta

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yellow-billed Cuckoo family in Lamar Woods

This morning as I birded in Lamar Woods, a riparian woods located behind the Lamar Community College that is awfully degraded, I spotted an adult Yellow-billed Cuckoo and saw it feed an apparent fledgling cuckoo. I wasn't able to get any photos of the adult though I saw it several times.
It was surprising to see that this young fledgling does not have any yellow on it's bill. Though Yellow-billed Cuckoos are named for having a yellowish lower mandible and black upper mandible, it turns out that according to Birds of North America online fledglings have "dark gray upper mandible; lower mandible mostly light gray, but slightly darker at tip." Their bills do not change to black and yellow until they are about 60 days old
The adult cuckoo called a number of times giving a 'coo' call-but much softer than any recordings of coo-calls I have heard. It appeared to be trying to get it's offspring to follow it to another tree. However the fledgling did not follow the parent for quite awhile; however, it stayed mostly partially to fully hidden behind foliage and tree branches making it difficult to get reasonable photos. At one point the adult cuckoo flew maybe 10 feet over my head to a tree close to the fledgling and calling soft coos in what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt to get the fledgling to come after it--that was a cool experience.
This apparent young fledgling finally flew off with it's parent. I followed and found one perched higher in a tree where I got the photo below--I am sure if this is the same fledgling or a second fledgling. SeEtta