Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Common Black Hawk at Bosque del Apache NWR

I spotted this Common Black Hawk perched in the branches of a tree as I drove around the road on the east side of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon.  It is amazing how that black plumage blends in with the habitat. 
Common Black Hawk is a pretty rare species whose range in the U.S. is limited to restricted areas of the Southwest.  Birds of North America online states, "... total U.S. breeding population estimated 220–250 pairs." A search of Ebird shows two sightings of this species at Bosque del Apache in the past month, presumably this same bird.
That said a Common Black Hawk was vagrant in my town of Canon City, Colorado for a month in 2006 followed by a short visit in 2007.  You can see that bird on my post about it on my SE Colorado Birding blog that I ran prior to this blog.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Very large flock of migrating Common Nighthawks

If you enlarge the pic above (just click on it) there are more than 60 Common Nighthawks in that one photo. All in all this flock of migrating Common Nighthawks totaled at least 75 and more likely 100 birds--absolutely the most nighthawks I have ever seen at one time.
Click on this second pic also to see identifiable nighthawks. When I first spotted this flock they looked like a river of birds in the sky and I thought it must be a flock of gulls as I have seen similar flocks flying kind of in a line that were gulls-and I couldn't imagine it was a flock of nighthawks, a species that has been in decline and that I have seen in smaller numbers here year after year.
Though they generally headed down the Arkansas River corridor, smaller groups of them would fly around the area as they foraged. I think the most I have seen before migrating through here was around 12 in 2014 (they flew lower so got better pics).   This was just an amazing spectacle. SeEtta

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Young Rufous Hummer

This is an immature Rufous Hummingbird that stays in my neighborhood and feeds daily on pollinator plants in my yard. All the hummers really like this Sunset Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop) that has trumpet shaped flowers.  In the top pic this hummer was perched on a leaf on the Agastache plant then just leaned over to sip the nectar from flowers nearby.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tarantula Hawk Moths on pretty native milkweed called Horsetail Milkweed

I found a bunch of this native Horsetail Milkweed (Asclepias subverticillata) in the far west part of Canon City. While Horsetail Milkweed is listed as native in Colorado the 'Floristic Synthesis of North America' lists it as a 'Native Species, but adventive in state.' Had to look that up--'adventive species' refers to "a species that has arrived in a new locality" which may have been with help of people or it may not (ie, range expansion). As a native milkweed it is an important plant for Monarch Butterflies as well as other insects.
These Tarantula Hawk Wasps (Pepsis sp., Pompilidae) are some of the largest insects in the U.S. "When a female is ready to lay her eggs, she seeks out a tarantula and injects it with paralyzing venom. She drags the tarantula to a burrow and stuffs it down the hole, then lays her eggs on top of the paralyzed spider. Several days later the eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the still living tarantula." (http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/new-mexico/state-insect/tarantula-hawk-wasp) And they are the New Mexico State Insect (??). SeEtta

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lark Buntings beginning to gather for migration

In southeast Colorado this past week I found several small groups of Lark Buntings including this one that appear to be gathering for migration. This is a female and I believe she is at least partially in her winter (definitive) plumage (per Birds of North America online, "Plumage similar to Definitive Alternate female, except in fresh plumage, pattern more blended, appearing less grayish brown and more strongly tinged with buff; middle secondaries (S4–S6) edged rusty; and chin without black.") SeEtta

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olive-sided Flycatcher migrating through south central Colorado

8-14-16 correction--I stated below that landbird migration had begun but this was corrected by the following post on Cobirds listserv by Tony Leukering: <<< "While I typically like SeEtta's posts and blog, I have to disagree with her assessment of "landbird migration." Chipping Sparrows have been moving for more than a month, while Yellow Warblers, Lark Buntings, Bullock's Orioles, and an additional unknown number of Colorado-breeding species (but probably including all of the so-called "monsoon migrants"; see first link, below) have been on the move for 2-3 weeks (if not longer), now. As example, Lark Bunting does not breed in Arizona, yet migrants begin arriving -- even in southern Arizona, in late July, suggesting that migration was initiated sometime before then (see second link, below). http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1525/cond.2009.090085?journalCode=cond http://ebird.org/ebird/GuideMe?cmd=decisionPage&speciesCodes=larbun&getLocations=states&states=US-AZ&bYear=1900&eYear=2016&bMonth=1&eMonth=12&reportType=species&parentState=US-AZ">>> I spotted this Olive-sided Flycatcher this afternoon as it sallied out after insects at Brush Hollow State Wildlife Area just over 10 miles northeast of Canon City. Since this species does not breed in this lower elevation it has stopped over to feed on it's migration south. With indistinct wing bars it appears to be an adult bird with worn plumage (Sibley says they do not molt until they are on their winter grounds so adults have feathers almost a year old). Like many/most fall flycatchers it was silent but it's clear vested underparts, big head and short tail make it easy to id as an Olive-sided. Landbird migration has begun. SeEtta

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Showy Prairie Gentian, a field filled with this rarish native wildflower

I spotted these neat wildflowers several years ago in a pasture in Otero County that often has cattle grazing in it. After I found out these were rarish native plants I was going to try to learn more; but we went into drought conditions in southeast Colorado and though I have looked each year they did not grow again until this year.
And this year thanks to some good precipitation in that area they are flourishing. This is the largest area covered with them that I have seen.
The Colo Natural Heritage Program, which lists them in their rare plants database, describes their habitat as follows: "Along streams; in wet meadows, pastures, and fields; usually near old stream meanders or at the margins of lakes or ponds. Often in alkaline soils. Elev. 3500 - 6000 ft."
The map on the Colo Natural Heritage Program site does not show them in Otero County but it looks like it may not be updated as the most recent reference is 1989. I will make some inquiries to see if there is an updated map that shows this location.
The "Rare Plants of Colorado," Second Edition (1997) notes they were also called Tulip Gentian and I can see why as they do resemble tulips. The latin name for this species is Eustoma grandiflorum. SeEtta

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dickcissel in Canon City

I have found this and another 9 or so male Dickcissel, and at least one male Bobolink, in several locations in the Canon City area. I had found one of each species about a month ago, which was in the usual time frame for them to be breeding in local hayfields, but could not refind any before I left on a 2 week out of state trip from which I returned just a few days ago. . In the past they tended to be in alfalfa hay fields but his year there are mostly grass hay fields in our area. Surprisingly several of these are in hay fields that have already had one cut. Even more surprising is two are in fields that are just tall weeds. The Bobolink and at least 2 Dickcissel are in the field that I have posted about in prior years on MacKenzie Ave halfway from H50 and Grandview Ave. Please be cautious as MacKenzie is a very busy thoroughfare with traffic going 40-50 mph. The safest viewing is possible by going further south on MacKenzie Ave to Adams Ave--turn off to the east on Adams and the Dickcissel are in the part of the hay field on the north side that has the alfalfa (becomes more grass and less alfalfa closer to the house down the road). As this is a dirt access road to just 2 families there is minimal traffic. I have talked to the people who live down the lane so they are aware that birders may come down it, just do not drive or walk into their field, stay on the public dirt road. Unfortunately the hay field at this location is going to be cut soon per the owners. SeEtta