Saturday, August 9, 2008

Black-necked Stilt family

These pics are not the greatest because I didn't want to stress the parent bird by getting closer or staying longer to get better shots as I don't believe that recreational photography or birding justifies such intrusiveness. I was surprised the parent bird was disturbed by my presence since I was over 100 feet away and I stayed inside my car, but some species and even some individual birds are more sensitive than others. The he parent Black-necked Stilt is standing near her offspring in the top pick. Even with it's poor quality it shows well the reddish pink legs that is an indicator of adult females per Birds of North America (BNA) online. Juveniles have brownish irises and "Juvenal plumage has similar pattern to adult but dark feathers of upperparts brown with buff margins creating a scalloped effect" according to BNA. This scalloping effect can be made out on the two juveniles (both sitting on their legs). The pale legs of the one juvenile are clearly seen in the lower pic as is the unusual way in which their legs fold under them when they sit on them.

Even though I drove further away after taking these pics the mother stilt continued calling then flew off and her offspring followed her (though one was obviously not a strong flier yet). SeEtta

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Baby Virginia Rail

For those unfamiliar with rails, they do indeed seem to measure up to the saying "skinny as a rail"--that came from those who watched rails turn sideways and disappear into marsh vegetation as though they were as thin as a piece of paper.
I have been watching b Soras (also a rail species)in a marsh at my friend's for the past week but today was the first time I saw a Virginia Rail (at least this year as I watched both species in this same marsh last year). I saw an adult Virginia Rail foraging close to the edge then spotted this juvenile further back in the reeds. It had apparently been following its parent but did not move as close so I shot these pics (handheld as I didn't bring my tripod) though the reeds from about 20 feet away.
I believe this young Virginia Rail is about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 weeks old. Though it's bill is becoming black, there is still some white and pink around the nasal septum and at the tip, which is noted in Birds of North America(BNA) online as the last areas to lose their color. BNA also notes that the bill of Virginia Rails become entirely black at 4 weeks, so this rail is not yet that old. BNA also says that juvenile plumage starts emerging "at 2–2.5 wk on breast area of ventral tract and expands anteriorly and posteriorly until fully emerged by 3.5 wk." This chick does show some of the whitish feathering on its breast. Interesting that this chick still shows the almost bare crown that is found on hatchlings (and the first time I've actually seen this). This is consistent with a study published in the Wilson bulletin by G.W. Kaufmann that states, "The down on the posterior of the crown of Virginia Rail chicks is less dense than elsewhere, and appears most bald during the 2nd and 3rd weeks." SeEtta
Digg!

Juvenile Sora Rails

I have been listening to Sora rails calling in several marshes at my friend's near Canon City and have caught glimpses of them. Finally I got these pics of a juvenile Sora Rail.
Though their plumage is similar to adult Soras, they do not have the black lores and forehead present on adult birds, their chin/throat area is whitish instead of black and their breast and lower throat area is brownish instead of the grey coloration on adults. This rail is more than 5 weeks old as Sibley states that they retain a red cere util that time and it is clearly not present on this rail. SeEtta

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Black bear sign

I found this fairly fresh (within the last day) bear scat while walking my dogs at my friend's property just east of Canon City. Though not the largest scat I have seen, it is still pretty good sized (see that it is about twice the length of my cell phone, the only thing I had with me that was of a fairly standardized size). The scat had a lot of wild plum and apple skins in it. There is an orchard on the other side of the river. There aren't any wild plums right nearby but they are fairly common throughout riparian areas here so may also be on the other side of the river. SeEtta

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pretty "meadowhawk" dragonfly

Dragonflies are neat little critters that enjoyable in summertime in Colorado and many other areas. One family of dragonflies are called "meadowhawks" and this bright goldish-yellow beauty is a Band-winged meadowhawk (I that this species has been 'lumped', or put together, with the Western meadowhawks). The males are red and the females are yellowish (but in the sun, they are bright gold looking).
Be sure to double-click on these pics to enlarge them to see a high quality photos of this dragonfly up close and personal, especially the wing detail. SeEtta
Digg!

Bears, bears everywhere in Colorado


Photo from USGA Museum | John Mummert
A black bear showed up at the US Senior's Golf Tournament at the Broadmoor in Colorado
Springs a few days ago--it stopped the tournament until it traversed several courses.

A friend who lives in Colorado City, Co (sw of Pueblo) told me she had 3 different bears walk across her yard one day recently. And there is a bear hanging around that was just moved miles away to a wilderness area by wildlife officers.

In addition to the bears in the earlier post that I encountered in the foothills last week, there are also bears in my residential neighborhood in Canon City. My next door neighbor told me that they have been raiding his peach trees and one was even seen walking down the street in daylight. Yesterday my friend on whose property I bird frequently found a large amount of bear scat under his bedroom window. Today I was told that there is a "mean" bear hanging out in another location where I like to go birding. So I escort my dogs when I put them out in my yard at night and I am being bear-aware when birding everywhere. I don't resent the bears, this is the price we pay for living in a state still endowed with a lot of wildlife. I am saddened by it as many people do not view it that way and they demand that the bears get moved or killed. Even worse are those who add to the habitat destruction by moving into areas that should be wild and those who leave out garbage and bird feeders that mark the beginning of the end for many bears. SeEtta

Baby swallows leave the nest



These Barn Swallows have already fledged from their nest, but the young of the species is led back to the nest by the parents to spend the night for several nights after they fledge. They are so large, basically adult size (though their tails are shorter than on adults), they barely fit back in the nest. The bottom pic shows the empty nest with all the feathers that the parents collected to make a soft nest lining. SeEtta

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Keeping bear-safe: the facts about bear sprays

In my last post on my encounter with the mother black bear and her cubs, I noted I would be taking precautions for bears. One of those precautions is to carry bear pepper mace, a product that is licensed by EPA with standards for how far it will spray, the strength of the product, etc. I started carrying it at times of increased risk of bear encounters after a trip to Yellowstone Park over a decade ago. There has been some good research on it's effectiveness with bears (found more effective than guns) summarized in a very comprehensive fact sheet compiled by the U.S.G.S Brown Bear (like in grizzlies) Project.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates pepper spray for bears and lists those that are acceptable per their criteria. I recommend anyone considering purchasing bear pepper spray chooses from the EPA's list. SeEtta