Friday, August 21, 2015

Bighorn sheep rams in bachelor pad

While driving in Bighorn Sheep Canyon (real name of this canyon) that runs west of me going up H50 I spotted these 3 bighorn sheep rams loafing. Except during breeding season the bighorn sheep divide into gender groups. As these 3 were all together on this big outcropping I decided it was their bachelor pad. I was well over a hundred feet away from them (cropped severely to make pics larger) and stayed in my car yet these rams really watched me. SeEtta

Monday, August 10, 2015

Common Nighthawks migrating through

Here are 2 of the 5 Common Nighthawks I spotted flying along the Arkansas River corridor, apparently migrating. There could have been additional birds flying earlier than the 5 I spotted. Last year I saw about a dozen migrating Common Nighthawks on Aug 19 and on Aug 5 a similarly large flock also flying along the Arkansas River corridor. Fortunately as they slowly make their way downstream they take detours to chase insects on which to feed. SeEtta

Friday, August 7, 2015

Harlequin Bug on sunflower plant

This bright orange and black insect is a Harlequin Bug which is usually thought of as a pest for a variety of food crops. However I found out it loves sunflower plants and sunflower plants are often recommended as a 'trap' crop to lure them away from food crops. I found this Harlequin Bug on this sunflower plant leaf in Red Canyon Park north of Canon City. I saw at least 2 of these on this sunflower plant but since this is a banner year for sunflowers in my area they should not present a significant problem. SeEtta

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dickcissels in sunflower field in El Paso County

After my medical appointment in Colorado Springs yesterday I decided to take a detour east on my way home to the southwest in order to do some birding in that area I haven't been to in a long time. While driving on Squirrel Creek Road in El Paso County (at the speed limit of 45 mph) I thought I heard a distant Dickcissel coming from a field filled with sunflowers. That seemed unlikely but... so I turned around , drove back by slowly--yes, not just one Dickcissel but several were singing in a field field with sunflowers on the south side of the road and more singing in a patch of sunflowers in a mixed field (a wooded area, a small pond, grasses that looked to be non native) on the north side.
I found this male Dickcissel on sunflower plants that made good singing perches for him (I rarely photograph them from the back so included the middle shot as it shows the back nicely). It seemed surprising to me to see them in these areas with sunflowers but they do like to have tall perches for their singing which sunflower plants can provide and I did subsequently find an older article in the Auk which described sunflowers as one of the tallest forbs in the breeding territories in this study. . As these males (at least 4 that I saw and I suspect more likely 6 males) were singing pretty frequently in mid-day (2 pm) I would think they are guarding territories with females on nests in those fields. The bottom pic shows the extensive sunflower field on the south side of the road. SeEtta

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spotted Sandpiper chicks getting bigger

I continue following the Spotted Sandpiper parent and when possible it's chicks. Over the week-end the parent, who gives warning calls for the chicks to hide when it is concerned, allowed one of it's chicks to come out from the heavy vegetation to learn how to walk along the edge of the river and forage there. I stood very still about 35-40 feet from where the chick was located to get these pics with my long zoom lens.
And the chicks have certainly grown taller since I last saw them just 4 days before. Nevertheless the parent bird stayed nearby clearly watching over it's offspring.
The pic just above shows the sparse feathering where a tail is growing--they just look like fuzzy-butts.
The bills on the chicks are also growing quite a lot both in length and width though clearly much smaller than the parent's bill.
And finally yesterday both chicks were out from the thick vegetation and I got the bottom 3 pics of that chick (they are the same size and look just alike).
This little guy practiced the one legged bird stand.
And another fuzzy-butt shot. SeEtta

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Silver-spotted Skipper

Another critter I photographed at Florence River Park, this member of the skipper family of butterflies ["Skippers have large eyes, short antennae (often with hooked clubs), stout bodies, and three pairs of walking legs"] was perched near their wetland area. Though the descriptions of this Silver-spotted Skipper state that the patch on it's hindwing is silver or silver-white from which it gets it's name, it looked whitish in the field just as it does in this pic. SeEtta

Friday, July 24, 2015

Band-winged Meadowhawk, female dragonfly

I photographed this female dragonfly, a Band-winged Meadowhawk, at Florence River Park this week. "This meadowhawk is named for the band of amber color near the base of the wings." (from http://thedragonflywhisperer.blogspot.com/2013/09/band-winged-meadowhawk.html). The males are red and females like this one are yellowish.
Band-winged Meadowhawks are approximately 1- 1.5 inches in body length with wings about 2 inches across (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band-winged_meadowhawk). SeEtta

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spotted Sandpiper Chicks, 3 more days older

Two days when I went to check on the Spotted Sandpiper family at Florence River Park I thought they had likely perished--there were two men engaged in gold panning right where the parent sandpiper had been and they had dug some of the sand from the bank where I last saw the sandpiper chicks. Arggh, I was afraid that all this activity, plus a large off leash dog with these people, would have scared the parent away and even if the chicks were successful in hiding in the vegetation they would not survive without a parent at their young age. What a surprise when I returned that evening for one last check to be accosted by the parent sandpiper calling loudly and challenging me by walking right towards me (and my dog). It took awhile for the parent to settle down and for one of the chicks to walk in some grass where I could spot it--the parent had moved the chicks about 150 from the river into an area with a lot of vegetation. I returned day before yesterday and refound the parent and chicks back near the river where I had first spotted them--that is when I took these pics. They are 3 days older than the first pics I took.
After I took these pics I was able to observe the location where the chicks went into the vegetation by the river, with the parent nearby guarding, from my car. As I sat in my car checking my phone messages 2 men with large off leash dogs arrived and started towards the location where the chicks had gone. I couldn't handle watching these dogs possibly find the chicks so I explained the situation to the men and asked them not to let their dogs just run free in that location--I was pleasantly surprised that they were agreeable and they took their off leash dogs to another part of the park. Arggh, next came a girl with a horse she brought over to the vegetation near where the chicks had gone as she looked for grass to feed her horse. Fortunately she decided the grass there wasn't sufficient and took the horse elsewhere. Geese, there are a lot of dangers for young sandpiper chicks. I had to leave so hoped the parent was moving the chicks to a less active location. When I returned yesterday the parent had moved further from away from the parking lot and where more people access the river. It called vigorously and came towards me as before. I did not have time to look for the chicks but given the parents behavior I expect they are ok. Same for tonight-parent guarding the area same as yesterday. SeEtta