Monday, December 29, 2014

Both White-throated Sparrows still (or returned) to my yard

s Another Christmas Day find in my yard was both the black and the brown White-throated Sparrows. I hadn't seen for awhile but could be the weather and my schedule reduced my watching birds in my backyard. They are not calling like they did before but still going to my birdbath frequently. SeEtta

Cassin's Finch, a montane visitor

Some years montane birds that normally reside a higher up in elevation in the foothills or mountains engage in an attitudinal migration and visit lower elevation areas of Colorado. I have had two of another montane species, Red-breasted Nuthatches, visiting my yard for more than a month.

I spotted this single female Cassin's Finch on Christmas Day. It has been several years since I have seen a Cassin's Finch in my yard. I didn't see it visit my feeders but I have not had the time to watch lately.
While these female Cassin's are just brown and white I think their crisp streaking is attractive. Some females have a more distinct pale eyebrow and submoustachial stripe than this bird though these pale areas do show in a few pics. SeEtta

White-winged Scoter in Colorado Springs

The scoter 'invasion' into Colorado continues. While we only got a Surf Scoter in Canon City, Colorado Springs with a much larger pond has had all three scoters in the past month. I recently was near Prospect Pond and stopped for a few minutes to see if any of the scoters were still there-I was rewarded with this female White-winged Scoter. SeEtta Moss

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch(es), too

In the mix of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches I thought I saw one or more Brown-capped Rosy-Finches and I believe these photos, at least the top one, show field marks for a female of that species.  Birds of North America (BNA)online describes these as follows:  "Female similar to male but browns much lighter (contra Clement 1993); feathers of belly, rump, etc., with pink (instead of red) margins that are also narrower and less distinct, or sometimes nearly absent; and crown-patch sometimes less distinct."  


The Essential Field Guide Companion by Pete Dunn notes that female Brown-capped Rosy-Finches "are plainer and lead-colored." He further notes in reference to the Brown-capped species, "the uniformity in plumage and absence of contrasting gray crown distinguish this species."

Clearly these photos show bird(s) without evident pink but BNA indicates that occurs with female Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. SeEtta

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, flock of more than a hundred

Yesterday I drove up to Westcliffe in hopes that the snow there the day before had kept the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches that Jane Pederson had been nice enough to report had been seen on their CBC Sunday at the St Andrew Golf Course just outside of town. As she noted it is unusual to see this species on the floor of the Wet Mountain Valley as this is called as they are usually found at higher altitude (related to having snow on the ground which is what I hoped kept them at this lower elevation, albeit almost 8,000 ft in this high mountain valley).
As can clearly be seen that flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches was still there and I got a lot of pics of them though few reasonably good close-ups (though using 50X+ magnification and cropping a few that allowed that to get more magnification) as these birds rarely sit still-either moving along as they feed or flushing as a flock and flying hundreds of yards away and back every few minutes. SeEtta
Nevertheless this good sized flock of well over a hundred birds was most impressive especially as it has been some years since I have seen any Rosy-Finches.

The pic below is illustrative of the other problem in photographing these birds as they most often landed in grassy areas where they virtually disappeared in the stubble.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk, second of the season in Canon City area

I spotted this Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk (dark/intermediate morph) yesterday a little east of Canon City perched in a tree as shown in the top pic. This is clearly a different bird than the first Harlan's I found which had an unusual amount of white on it's face--this bird has some white in the loral area and a white 'streak' around it's forehead.
It also has some white mottling on it's breast and as shown in the bottom pic some bright white streaking on the underside of it's tail. Another very spooky bird, it flushed after I took a few photos of it in the tree from inside my car over 150 away. I was sorry to see it was soon met by a pair of local Red-tailed Hawks that escorted it off their territory. These poor wintering Harlan's must have a hard time finding locations to hunt and rest. SeEtta

Wintering Black Phoebe in Florence River Park

I found this Black Phoebe in Florence River Park today. As is often the case with this species I heard it's 'tsip' call first then found it visually. I hadn't seen any Black Phoebes for awhile in the area but the brutal temps in November likely kept them in the most protected locations where they would find some flying insects to sustain them. A few of this species usually overwinters in the Canon City to Pueblo area every year since the first Black Phoebe for the county that I found in 1995 stayed at least into February and survived one of our worst winters with a low of 18 below zero F that month. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Western Screech-Owl that I found dead

I found this dead Western Screech-Owl several days ago next to a very busy street on the edge of my town where traffic drives 50 or so in a 40 zone. I am sure it had tried to fly across the road and been hit by a vehicle--no blood, head twisted and signs of neurological trauma. It was near the Arkansas River which is habitat to Western Screech-Owls in this area. The middle pic is an enlargement of the top pic.
The bottom pic shows the amazing little feet on these tiny owls--they have good sized claws for the size of their feet and body. I find the bottom pads of it's feet interesting-not sure the purpose of those little papillae,. Poor owls, this species and others tend to fly low to the ground and are at risk from being hit by vehicles. This one had been hit not long before I found it as it's body was supple and still warm. Darn. SeEtta

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Both tan and white morph White-throated Sparrows visiting my yard


Earlier this past week I was delighted to find my first yard bird White-throated Sparrow species and not just one but two. And to top that off, one was a white morph and the other a tan morph. I learned from some research I did that birds of this species typical mate with a bird of the opposite morph-that is called "negative assortative (disassortative) mating" according to Birds of North America online.
While this species is known to use urban areas during migration and to come to feeders, I only observed them using my bird bath--and they used it often but only for drinking when I was observing. I do have feeders that they may have fed from or beneath when I was not observing. I found them by hearing their 'seep' calls, used for contact, which were different from birds I was familiar with-and while they were hear they gave the seep call often. They stuck together, coming to the bird bath together and perched in a large shrub near each other. Since this seems late for them to be migrating I hoped they might decide to winter in my yard but I watched them fly off at dark earlier this week and have not seen them again. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

First Harlan's Hawk this season in Canon City

I found this dark (intermediate) morph Harlan's Hawk in Canon City day before yesterday. When I first spotted it the hawk was hiding (for real) in the trees as shown in pic just below.
Once the hawk left the shelter of those trees it was immediately escorted away from that area by the apparent resident pair of Western Red-tails. Fortunately (shown in top pic) it found refuge in the riparian forest along the Arkansas River not far away.

As these pics show this hawk has a lot of white on it's head, mottled black and white breast, barred and mottled remiges, black outer primaries, and pale gray-rufous type tail (one of the many types found on Harlan's). I looked yesterday for it but did not refind it though it could still be in the area. SeEtta

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pretty Prairie Falcon

There is just something pretty to me in the face of Prairie Falcons though I suspect their prey see a different picture. I found this one this afternoon on my way to Pueblo. Interestingly I also saw one in Colorado Springs two days ago. Also saw an adult Golden Eagle on my way to Pueblo today. SeEtta

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pretty Ferruginous Hawk


I found this light morph Ferruginous Hawk in Pueblo County. This species is listed as 'Special Concern' in Colorado so I always enjoy seeing one of them. SeEtta

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lone Sandhill Crane in Canon City

This morning I spotted this single Sandhill Crane in a cut hay field on the east edge of Canon City. We do usually get some of these migrating cranes stopping over to rest and feed but usually they are several and usually not this late in November.
This crane was several hundred feet away and actively feeding, but it would come to attention when it heard the gunshots that sounded fairly close (within a half mile or so). When I drove further to look for other cranes-none found-it flew off and I did not see it again. SeEtta

Thursday, November 27, 2014

More Golden Eagle sightings past two days

Since last week when I spotted at least 3 Golden Eagles flying together I have been seeing Golden Eagles all around eastern Fremont and Custer Counties. Day before yesterday I saw a likely juvenile flying high above Red Canyon Park north of Canon City. Today I saw an adult flying around the Wetmore area before I found this likely adult perched on a power pole.
And just a little west of Wetmore I spotted this 2nd year (white at base of tail but no white spots on wings) Golden Eagle in flight. SeEtta

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Golden Eagle family still together


Yesterday I spotted 4 large raptors above a canyon in which I was driving. By the time I found a safe place to pull over I missed identifying one of the raptors though I believe it was also a Golden Eagle like the others I observed. In the top photo an adult Golden Eagle flies with it's legs in the down position as it is holding some prey (click on that image to enlarge it for better viewing)
The next 3 pics are also of an adult Golden Eagle. Two of the Golden Eagles I was able to id and age were adults.
At least one of the raptors was the juvenile Golden Eagle in the pic below.
Two of the Golden Eagles, an adult and a juvenile, perched near each other on an escarpment for a period of time--this would indicate that the juvenile was the offspring of a pair of Golden Eagles.
Birds of North America online indicates that young Golden Eagles can stay with their parents from 1-6 months. SeEtta