Friday, July 25, 2008

Checkered Whiptail

Checkered Whiptails are found in southeast parts of Colorado. There are both diploid and triploid checkered whiptails but they are very difficult to tell apart. Our Colo Division of Colorado Herpetology Coordinator, Tina Jackson, told me that Diploids have only been confirmed in Otero, Baca and Las Animas Counties in far southeastern Colo so this lizard is in all probability a triploid, which is a species of concern in Colorado. SeEtta
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Madam Rufous Hummingbird

Like many species of birds, female hummingbirds are not as colorful as their male partners. However, female Rufous Hummingbirds like the one in this pic are still colorful with cinnamon/rufous feathers on their underparts. This female was one of several Rufous Hummingbird's feeding at my friend Connie's feeders. SeEtta
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Spectacular Rufous Hummingbird

Today several of us had lunch at our friend's, Connie, home in the Royal Gorge area. Sitting by a picture window, we had front row seats at the hummingbird feeders. This very brightly colored adult male Rufous was definitely the star of the show.
My friend reported that all the hummingbird species coming to her feeders, Rufous, Black-chinned and Broad-tailed, were feeding together. This is unusual since when the Rufous Hummingbirds arrive they aggressively defend feeders from other hummingbirds, even of their own species. It is exceptionally dry in the area with few wildflowers for them to feed on so this may be the reason they are sharing the feeders. However, while I was there the male Rufous chased other hummingbirds away several times though it didn't try to hog both feeders. Double-click on the pics for super close-up views. SeEtta
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on Boreal Forest protection plan

Photo from Ontario, Canada website
Wow, the area of Boreal Forest that Canada will be protecting, termed the Far North Planning Initiative, is extensive and encompasses some major natural resources including the third largest wetland in the world! According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Boreal forest in their province "supports 300 species of migratory birds", "many small mammals" including pine martin, large mammals such as moose and lynx. The following chart provides stats on Canada's Boreal Forest. SeEtta
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Great conservation news for Boreal Forest!

I am delighted to send out some good news for a change and especially since this is a major conservation victory: Ontario, Canada government has comitted to "protect over 55 million acreas of Canada's Boreal Forest. Per Dr. Jeff Well's "Boreal Bird Blog" this number of acres of the Boreal Forest is vital breeding habitat for the following species of birds seen in Colorado:

3 million Swainson's Thrushes (many of those that migrate across Colorado's eastern plains are thought to be migrating to/from the Boreal Forest)
4.5 million White-throated Sparrows (I believe most if not all of this species that we see in Colorado breed in or near the Boreal Forest)
5 million Dark-eyed Juncos (most, maybe all, Oregon and Slate race that we see in winter in Colorado breed in the Boreal Forest)
4 million Magnolia Warblers (rare, but seen in Colorado)
3 million Palm Warblers (also rare, but seen in Colorado)
2 million Tennessee Warblers (not quite as rare as last two)

Additionally it is "the world's single-largest terrestrial carbon storehouse"
"Contains the majority of North America's fresh, unfrozen water"
"Hosts some of the planet's largest populations of wolves, grizzly bear and woodland caribou." (from news article at first link below)

Read more about this at
news article
Boreal Bird Blog
Montreal Gazette news story

SeEtta
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Black Phoebe fledglings

The Black Phoebes fledged he day after I took the pic below of the Black Phoebes in their nest. This is the second clutch for this female Black Phoebe and the first time I have documented a second clutch for this species in Fremont County (I discovered the first Black Phoebe in this county in 1995 so they are new to this area).I found this fledgling, and it's two siblings, in a cottonwood tree that overhangs the Arkansas River about 250 feet from the nest site. As this is the 3rd day as fledglings, they are flying about quite strongly and followed their parent about 150 feet across the river where I watched her feeding them.

The yellowish gape (the corners of it's mouth)are evident and indicative of an immature bird (though if I could have gotten a pic with it's mouth open, it would have dramatically shown as a bright orangish). Brownish tips on the lower back, lower scapulas, and rump as well as the cinnamon tips on the wing coverts are visible--these are characteristics of "juvenal" plumage (though this bird is still a fledgling dependent upon it's parent for food and won't become a "juvenile" until it attains independence--that's the difference in these similar but distinct terms). Also note the shortish tail on this species that are noted for long tails in adult plumage. SeEtta

Really big snapping turtle



While walking my dogs this evening at my friend's place east of Canon City, I spotted the very large common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina). It had apparently crawled out of a nearby canal (and later would return there). The top shell was at least 20 inches in length and it appeared to be a formidable critter.

Though it pulled it's head and tail a ways inside it's shell, it turned it's body to face me when I moved towards it's rear to take a photo. They are reported to be aggressive, at least when on land, but I stayed my distance as it was intimidating in appearance and size.

They are reported to generally be brown but this one was this beautiful bluish color as shown in this pic. Post note: what looked blueish may actually be a combination of very dark grey with some green highlights . I found a pic of a large snapping turtle with color that looks similar to this one. See that pic here SeEtta

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On studying bird behavior

I found this quote on the Bird Ecology Study website at http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/. SeEtta


"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird...
So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing - that's what counts.
I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."

Nobel Laureate Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988)

Black Phoebe nestlings

I got this photo yesterday of the Black Phoebe nestlings that are now close to fledging. Their nest is under a footbridge, and in a very difficult part of the bridge to access. Black Phoebes originally nested under an open section of the foot bridge which created traffic problems because Barn Swallows not only nest under there also but love to fly under the footbridge as they forage. So the Black Phoebes started nesting in this very protected section that doesn't have open access for flying swallows which also makes it less desirable for swallow nests.
The bottom pic is an enlargement of the top pic to show, albeit with less quality, more details of the nestlings. SeEtta
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Soaking wet hawk

This Red-tailed Hawk was soaked from a thunderstorm on the short grass prairie in Otero Co of Colorado. One of disadvantages for birds and other critters on the grasslands is the lack of trees and shrubs to perch in where they might get some protection from the weather. SeEtta

Possible juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird

Warning-the following is a very esoteric discussion of hummingbird feathers.
I believe the Black-chinned Hummingbird in these pics may be a male in juvenal plumage. When the top pic is double-clicked to enlarge it, the feathers on the head show buffy edges. Though not as clear, so do the nape feathers and some of the back feathers. Birds of North America (BNA) online states that this is characteristic of both male and female birds in juvenal plumage.
BNA (as well as other references) indicate that the outer 3 tail feathers (r3,r4 & r5) of female Black-chinned Hummingbirds are "broadly tipped with white." However this hummingbird appears to show diminishing white from the most outer to the next 2 tail feathers at least on one side (difficult to discern if true on both sides as tail feathers overlap in pic). A website entitled "Idaho Hummingbirds" shows photos of Black-chinned Hummingbirds being banded, stating that those with "greatly reduced white on r3" (this is the third rectrice,or tail feather, as counted from the center to the outer tail feathers)is typical for immature males. This is basically confired by BNA which states that there is more white in the tip of the third rectrice in females than in male birds in juvenal plumage.

To call this a male is likely a stretch but I think the pics show that this hummingbird is in juvenal plumage (not sure what age). I am hoping that someone with more expertise in hummingbird identification will confirm or disconfirm if this bird is an immature male Black-chinned. SeEtta
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Post Note: Birds of North America online states, "Immature showing bill grooves that help separate immatures from adults." BNA also provides a photo showing this grooving and it matches other pics I have of this hummingbird so I feel comfortable that this is, indeed, an immature Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Black-chinned Hummingbirds

Before I saw the nighthawk in my previous post, I spent some time in a friend's backyard in La Junta enjoying the Black-chinned Hummingbirds coming to his feeder (and the 30 Chimney Swifts flying over plus the up to 12 Mississippi Kites doing their graceful acrobatics).
This bright male Black-chinned Hummingbird appeared to be the top hummingbird in a few conflicts at the feeder. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are not common on the eastern plains although they have been documented nesting south of La Junta where there is a lot of pinyon-juniper habitat, their most common nesting location per surveys in the 1990's that are documented in the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas
The velvet black of the male's chin, upper and side portions of it's throat provides nice contrast to metallic violet-purple on the lower part of it's throat. SeEtta
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Young goatsucker

For those who are not birders, the term "goatsucker" will likely conjure up thoughts of possibly bats that suck the blood of goats. However, goatsucker is the name of a family of birds that includes Common Nighthawk like the one in this pic as well as the better known poorwills (like Whip-poor-wills and Common Poorwills).

Common Nighthawks are active mostly at night though they are sometimes active during the day. Like all members of the goatsucker family, they are cryptically colored. This one is a juvenile of the southwestern subspecies (per The Sibley Guide to Birds as indicated by it's cinnamon feathering. It was perched on this fence after a nice prairie thunderstorm was almost over (a few raindrops are visible in the pic). Though the pic gets a little blurry, it is interesting to double-click on it to see it up-close. SeEtta
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