Thursday, August 28, 2008

Baca NWR vital habitats

One last post on the Baca NWR in the San Luis Valley because it provides very important habitat for birds, fish and mammals. The top pic shows the some of the refuge's wet meadows, these in the Willow Creek watershed. Wet meadows are used by amphibians including northern leopard frog and many bird including waterfowl, Sora and Virginia Rail, and several waterbirds that migrate nest or migrate through the San Luis Valley including Sandhill Cranes.

The middle pic is of a female Lark Bunting (this species is the state bird of Colorado). They breed usually in the grassland habitat offered on the refuge but sometimes nest in shrubland.The bottom pic shows Crestone Creek the only perennial stream that moves down from the Sangre de Christo Mountains, through the town of Crestone into the refuge providing important riparian habitat with willows and cottonwoods. I saw an empid flycatcher, probably a Willow Flycatcher, in a cottonwood adjacent to willows along Crestone Creek near the headquarters area. The Rio Grande Sucker, a fish listed as Endangered by Colo Division of Wildlife, has been found in Crestone Creek as have the Rio Grande Chub, a fish species of concern in Colorado. I saw a number of minnows in this creek but have idea which species they belonged to. Both the top and bottom pics will enlarge nicely for close-up views (but the Lark Bunting pic does not) so double-click on them for more detail.
It is of concern to many conservationists including myself that a company that has the mineral rights under the refuge is pushing to conduct exploratory drilling for gas on the refuge. Many of us believe that a full Environmental Impact Statement evaluation should be conducted before they are permitted to conduct any drilling so the vital species, habitats and water resources are properly protected. We will soon hear the ruling by the USFWS. SeEtta

Loggerhead Shrike at Baca NWR

The Baca National Wildlife Refuge was only established in 2003 and is not yet open to the public. My Audubon chapter had a field trip there last summer and I birded there last week. It is a veritable jewell in the rough, waiting for funding to add staffing (currently there is a manager and some maintenance staff). The approximately 92,000 acres in it's boundaries provide a lot of habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. 14% of the Refuge is wetland habitat including lush wet meadows, playa wetlands and riparian habitat. Most of the upland habitat is classified as semi-desert shrublands and grasslands. The lower pic is a Northern Shrike that I photographed on the Baca NWR last week. It is always good to see shrikes since though this species is not known to be of conservation concern yet, many shrike species are in danger. SeEtta

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wow-confirmation that Crows recognize human facec

This is too cool--an article in the New York Times describes research conducted by John M. Marzluff that confirms what many researchers and birders have believed--that crows recognize individuals. I have personally seen this with birds including passerines. "Dr. McGowan and Dr. Marzluff believe that this ability gives crows and their brethren an evolutionary edge. “If you can learn who to avoid and who to seek out, that’s a lot easier than continually getting hurt,” Dr. Marzluff said in the NY Times article.This pic from the NY Times online shows a simple hat used by researchers, the caveman mask (this was the dangerous mask that researchers wore when they banded the crows, an activity the crows consider aversive), a Dick Chaney mask (that was used as neutral). SeEtta

Monday, August 25, 2008

White as Snow-y Egrets

As white as the feathers of Snowy Egrets are, it is their contrasting black legs and yellow feet that make them readily distinguishable from Great Egrets even when flying away and their distinguishable bills are not visible. The yellow bare skin on their lores (areain front of eyes) is visible in the top pic. These two Snowy Egrets were foraging along the Rio Grande River in the town of Alamosa, CO. Snowy Egrets breed in the San Luis Valley and I saw them in a number of locations including a group of 11 feeding together in a flooded field with 75 or so dark Ibises. SeEtta

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Swainson Hawks abound in the San Luis Valley

I have found that the San Luis Valley supports a high number of Swainson Hawks including the most nesting hawks of this species I am aware of in Colorado. In the northeast section of the San Luis Vally, Swainson Hawks outnumber Red-tailed Hawks. This is a dark Swainson Hawk that I photographed last week-end. Do double-click on this pic to enlarge it for very close up observation of this handsome hawk. SeEtta