Saturday, June 8, 2013

Recently fledged Common Raven

At the end of March this year I spotted a Common Raven going into a crevice above a rock face of a local cliff area called Castle Rock (as part of it looks sort of like a castle). I started watching this area and observed a pair of Common Ravens spending time around this location. On March 27 I spotted one of the ravens inside the crevice which now had what looked like nesting material in it--the photograph of that is the second pic here.
I continued off and on to check this apparent crevice nest. At the end of May I saw what appeared to be a nestling inside the crevice. I continued birding in the riparian forest across the Arkansas River from this cliff area. When I was about a quarter mile away I heard a lot of raven racket and walked to a spot where I could see the cliff area through my binoculars. I could see a lot of raven action with the parent birds calling loudly so I expected that the nestling may have fledged or they were trying to get it to fledge. I went back to a location directly across the river from the crevice nesting area and saw a fledgling raven close to the bottom with the apparent 2 parent birds closely watching (within a hundred feet at all times) and calling what appeared to be encouragement to the fledgling to hop up the slope to where they were. However the fledgling, which called back in fledgling voice (kind of plaintive in tone) but stayed below the ledge the parents were on as it could not figure out how to hop/fly up to them. As the fledgling was in a dark area I did not get photos of that.

Two days following the fledging I was walking on the trail across the river from the crevice nest. The two raven parents were in trees on this side of the river and they would call occasionally so I thought they were trying to get their fledgling to cross over to this side where the trees provided some shade from the hot sun. As I walked past one tree between the parents they both started loudly calling and circled that tree next to me. I looked over and the fledgling, as shown in these pics, was perched on a low branch only about 35 feet from where I was on the trail. I got these photos of this recently fledged Common Raven and left as the parents were quite agitated.

The last several years I have followed a pair of Common Ravens (likely not this pair) as they have nested and their surviving fledglings (often high mortality from these cliff nests) until they have taken flight far away. I have never been close to a fledgling and the fledgling didn't know what to think of what was making clicking noises at it (from my camera)so it just sat there looking at me. The average clutch size for this species is about 5 according to Birds of North America online though the ones I have followed previously only had 3 that made it to fledging. The last 2 years I have been able to follow them more closely and only 1 fledgling survived in each of those two nestings. I could never see due to the distance if there were more than one nestling in this crevice nest and only saw the one fledgling (though others could have fledged earlier that I was not there to see). ' The next day after I took these photos the flegling was gone from this tree and I was not able to refind it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Big spring for Evening Grosbeaks in Canon City area

I usually get Evening Grosbeaks at my feeders in the spring while many lowland areas only see them in the winter. This year was a big year for them with hundreds around Canon City and Florence including several dozen at least in my neighborhood. They were going through a lot of seed (I only feed safflower when the bears are out but they seem to love it) so I was buying it by the 25 lb bag at a feed store. Fyi, that is a Pine Siskin sharing the feeder in the top pic demonstrating how large these Evening Grosbeak are (which translates into how much they eat especially when there are 6-10 of them at your feeders at a time).

The number of Evening Grosbeaks has steadily decreased in the past 10 days as birds have presumably moved into their upland coniferous habitats documented in the Colo Breeding Bird Atlas I as preferred by them in this state. For the past 3 days including this morning I have only seen 2 birds, a male and female, at my feeders. It is time for them to be in their breeding areas and building nests so I hope these leave soon. If I am fortunate they will bring their offspring back with them to feed them at my feeders which they have only done twice. SeEtta

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Enlarged photo of Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I further cropped one of the photos below to super enlarge the face of this Yellow-billed Cuckoo to show it's grayish orbital ring. I haven't often either viewed a Yellow-billed Cuckoo up close or taken photos that provide the close-up views as I did with the bird I found yesterday in Van's Grove. I have seen in Sibley's and National Geographic (6th ed) that they have a yellow orbital ring and show drawings of both adult and juvenile birds with yellow orbital rings. When I cropped my photos to enlarge them it was clear that the bird I found did not have a yellow orbital ring-it was grayish. So I did some reading and now am confused. Birds of North America online states, "Orbital skin pale yellow in nestling; grayish in adult." McGill Bird Observatory (has banding photos) states, "A quick and reliable way to determine age in Yellow-billed Cuckoos is by the orbital ring, which is yellow in HY/SY birds (until late winter or spring) and grayish in older individuals." So, I wonder if anyone here has expertise with these cuckoos to address this apparent contradiction? I say apparent as a possibility is that both Sibley as well as Jon Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer ignored the yellow coloration on the orbital rings of the drawings of juvenile birds in their respective field guides (??). SeEtta

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Though this is the second Yellow-billed Cuckoo I have found this year (actually in the past 3 days), I could only hear the other cuckoo giving it's 'coo' song but was unable to find it visually. I found this Yellow-billed Cuckoo this afternoon at Van's Grove in southeastern Colorado. SeEtta