Saturday, July 12, 2008

Owl perched inside of tree

As I noted in the prior post, it is very difficult to locate the Northern Pygmy-Owls when they are perched inside of tree branches. This is one of the owls I found yesterday that I was able to locate after it that flew into this pinyon pine tree. The photo is enlarged by my telephoto camera lens. SeEtta

Friday, July 11, 2008

Northern Pygmy-Owls

Today I did some birding in the pinyon-juniper habitat around the Royal Gorge (a deep canyon through which the Arkansas River runs just before it gets to Canon City). I saw birds expected in this habitat including 2 Gray Flycatchers. As I drove slowly along a gravel county road looking for birds I spotted the Northern Pygmy-Owl in these pics.
This is the first pygmy-owl I have spotted without benefit of some auditory cues. I have previously spotted Northern Pygmy-Owls that were calling and about 10 years ago I spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Mexico after hearing some land birds fussing near it. The bottom pic is what I saw when I put my binoculars on this owl after spotting it with just with my eyes. It was just under 100 feet from the road in snag branch of a juniper tree.After I shot these pics, the owl opened it's beak and emitted insect-like calls. (Birds of North America (BNA) online states, "Nestlings and fledglings give Begging Call that sounds insect-like, similar to katydid’s “song”" I also heard the same insect-like call coming from below this owl and then a second Northern Pygmy-Owl flew out from the foliage in the live juniper branches beneath the first owl. Then the first owl flew off. I continued to hear the insect-like calls and was able to follow the owls as they flew from tree to tree. I believe there were at least 3 of these little (they are only about 7 inches tall) owls there.I believe this owl is in juvenal plumage as it does not have the distinctive spotting on the crown and nape as adults do. Also, the bill is grayish instead of the yellow that BNA and some field guides describe for adults (but some field guides describe other colors so this is not consistent or definitive). I also believe this is probably a fledgling owl because it emitted a call that is given by nestlings and fledglngs (it is not a nestling as it is clearly out of the nest).Johnsgard, in North American Owls (2002, p.141) says that, "Northern Pygmy-Owls are "seemingly nonsocial, tending to remain solitary or in highly dispersed pairs (or family groups) through-out the year." So it seems most likely that the 2-3 owls I saw were a family group.BNA states, "Once fledged, young seem to stay close together and one or both parents feed them." So this probable fledgling may have been with one or more siblings and likely a parent. It is possible that their nest site is not far away. Though this species is known to nest in pinyon-juniper habitat as they were found in, there was a nearby ravine with deciduous trees that was likely a riparian area associated with an intermittent stream.

Please note that the middle pic enlarges for a pretty good super close-just double-click on that pic. SeEtta
Digg!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Black-crowned Night-Heron


In addition to checking Lake Henry yesterday, I checked nearby Lake Meredith and found 5 Snowy Egrets, the adult Black-crowned Night-Heron in this pic (please note that the bulging red eyes are real and not an artifact of photography) and a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. There were some Western and Clark's Grebes swimming around the lake but none with young. There were also distant white headed gulls.

Not far from Lake Meredith I found a mixed flock of early migrating sandpipers in a small section of an agricultural field that was flooded from a few recent downpours. There were 3-5 Pectoral Sandpipers (they moved in and out of the vegetation so couldn't get an accurate count), 2 Baird's Sandpipers and 1 Least Sandpiper. Though I got some pics, they weren't high quality so will wait until shorebird migration is in full swing and I can get some better pics to post. SeEtta

Update--breeding grebes at Lake Henry

Yesterday I stopped by Lake Henry to check on the Clark's and Western Grebes that have been breeding there. I found several parent's with dependent juveniles like this Clark's Grebe swimming behind it's parent. There were also some grebes still nesting in the floating vegetation that formed a mat on the lake (visible in this pic). If anyone can identify the floating vegetation, shown in this pic (click on the pic to enlarge it for a close-up of the vegetation), I would appreciate your noting what it is--just click on the "comment" link at the bottom of the post. SeEtta

Monday, July 7, 2008

Red Racer/coachwhip snake

So here I am, spotting the snake which was about 20-25 feet up in this tree, watching the snake slither over branches as it moved around adeptly. I had been aware previously that snakes climb trees but had never seen one until now.And this snake appeared more concerned about me than about the Bullock's Orioles that were screeching at it. In fact, this snake appeared to stop it's movement to look directly at me, as shown in the bottom pic. This was more than a little disconcerting to me--yes, I knew it was not going to jump on me, but I am frightened of snakes and to have one in tree branches above me stop to look directly at me was just kind of creepy.

So why would I stay there taking pics of this snake? Just because I am afraid of something doesn't mean that I am not interested in it (I'm also afraid of heights but will stand, albeit holding onto a sturdy railing, at the edge of the Grand Canyon to take pics of it).I haven't mentioned that this snake was about 6 feet long. The top pic shows most, though not the entire length of the snake (it's head is on the left but it's tail is further right outside the photo). SeEtta

Snake-fighting orioles


Birders learn to pay attention when birds are agitated as this may be an indication that a predator is nearby. Usually that predator is a raptor, and sometimes we can find owls this way. So today when I saw 2 male Bullock's Orioles behaving in an agitated manner, I was drawn closer to see why. I thought it possible that one of males might be upset that the 2nd male was near it's nest, but it seemed more than that. I watched closer and soon saw the object of their anger--a Red Racer snake (referred to as a coachwhip snake in Amphibians and Reptiles in Colorado by Hammerson). And it was in the tree that they were in!!!
The two male orioles were soon joined by a female Bullock's Oriole as they scolded the snake. Likely there is an oriole's nest(s) nearby and they were trying to get the snake away from the nest. Red Racer/Coachwhip snakes eat birds eggs so there was good reason for the orioles to be concerned. These snakes also eat birds and I thought the orioles came awfully close to this predator. More on this snake species in the next post, SeEtta