Sunday, December 20, 2015

Visiting Merlin

I found this Merlin last week but had computer problems so could not upload the photos. As Merlins are uncommon winter visitors in Canon City I believe it is the same Merlin as was seen by my friend Cathy near the Abbey the week before and likely the same as was seen by friend Linda on the Riverwalk before that.
I first spotted it perched in large tree on the other side of the Arkansas River from the Canon City Riverwalk where I was walking--see bottom pic for that view.
After watching it stretch and look around a lot for about 5 minutes it flew over to the river and harassed a pair of Mallard Ducks, in fact flushed them though it is way too small to be a real threat to them.
This is a Taiga subspecies of Merlin. Per Birds of North America online, "...breeds from Newfoundland to w. Alaska south into the n. US (Maine and n. Vermont, New Hampshire, and NY; n. Great Lakes states, and w. mountain states)." . SeEtta

Flight pic of visiting Merlin

After this feisty Merlin buzzed the Mallards and chased off a couple of Eurasian-collared Doves in trees across the river, it did a neat acrobatic flight show along the Arkansas River where I caught the above shot. I took these pics almost 2 weeks ago (and had computer stop working so just got it back up and running) and haven't seen this beauty since then. SeEtta

Pretty Prairie Falcon I found on Christmas Bird Count yesterday

I participated in the Pueblo Reservoir Christmas Bird Count for a half day yesterday. This is one of the nice raptors I found in the Pueblo West section of the count. Strangely it flushed when I drove within 100 feet of it and it didn't flush until I was further away walking back. As it landed on a utility pole down a trail I walked down and it let me get close to the pole on foot which I would have thought would be more invasive than in a car. Anyway I got some nice pics. SeEtta

Monday, December 14, 2015

Black Phoebe

While Black Phoebes have overwintered a number of times in the Canon City area this is the first Black Phoebe I have seen for awhile. SeEtta

American Pipits still in Colorado

This is one of two American Pipits I found at the Fremont Sanitation District Plant in Florence, CO today. They winter just south of Colorado in New Mexico and some are seen intermittently in Colorado.
Still unusual to see them in winter here as I am used to seeing them in large flocks in South Texas in winter. SeEtta

Monday, November 30, 2015

Red-naped Sapsucker on a cold winter's day


Today was a overcast and cold day with a lot of snow still on the ground from snowstorm the prior 2 days. This is my first of the season Red-naped Sapsucker which seems likely to be here for the winter season. In the top pic it is clear that the red throat feathers invade the black frame substantially-one of the distinguishing field marks for differentiating Red-naped from Yellow-bellied (which I also found today and will post later) Sapsuckers. The red throat identifies it as a male. While barely visible in top pic it's good sized patch of red on it's nape is clear in the bottom pic. Note the very dark back. SeEtta

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Merlin feasting on a bird

This Prairie Merlin is the last species I found on my birding trip last week.
Look below the tree limb and you will see dangling legs and feet from the prey that is being eaten by the Merlin, and in some pics part of it's lower body is evident.
The pics below are enlarged to better show the feet and long claws. You can see that it is feathered just above the joint.  It looks in the pic just below to have only 3 toes but with two of the toes are foreward and one toe is back.  Not sure what kind of bird has this configuration.

And the final enlargement  appears to show the head (looks like it has 2 eyes) of the prey bird between the Merlin's feet but maybe some other part of the body.  Not sure what this prey might be.  SeEtta

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk


On my trip east of Pueblo I also found this dark morph Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk in the area near Lake Holbrook. Another very spooky hawk that would flush as soon as I turned off the engine of my car. Again mostly blackish plumage (altho a little more dark brown in it) with white lorals. It also had red in it's tail though it was multiple thin bands across it. SeEtta

White goose among Canada Geese at Lake Holbook

In addition to a number of distant ducks and a few Am Pelicans I also saw several hundred Canada Geese. When the geese took off I could see this lone white goose flying with them. SeEtta

Prairie Falcon on other side of Lake Holbrook

On the other side of Lake Holbrook I found this Prairie Falcon making some nice diversity of raptors for the day. SeEtta

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk, this one in eastern Pueblo County


Yesterday I drove east of Pueblo looking for Harlan's Red-tailed Hawks and any other raptors I could find. I was rewarded for my efforts with a total of 3 Harlan's, 1 Merlin and 1 Prairie Falcon in addition to 7 Western Red-tailed Hawks. This is the first Harlan's I found which was in far eastern Pueblo County. It was very, very skittish so the closest I could get for pics was 400-500 feet which put my extended zoom to it's max. And it only perched on trees on private property away from the public road.

In addition to the mostly black plumage speckled with a little white as seen on these Harlanii Red-tails, the white loral area on the face of this dark morph Harlan's can be seen in these pics. In the middle pic though it shows a reddish tail you can see it does not have the light scapulars so distinctive on the backs of perched Western Red-tailed Hawks. SeEtta

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

This Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk was in western Pueblo County

I found this Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk at dusk when I took a detour on my way home from Pueblo. Given the low light and the fact I took these shots from my car with the engine running (I had only a few seconds to shoot these before it flushed) these pics came out better than I expected. In the top shot the white loral area is visible as is the whitish undertail and some white spots on it's otherwise blackish underparts found on an adult dark morph Harlan's. The blurry bottom pic does show the silvery flight feathers contrasted against it's dark body and underwing coverts and it's whitish tail.  SeEtta

Curve-billed Thrasher at Lake Pueblo State Park


In addition to the birds that are abundant around Colorado that are ever-present at Lake Pueblo State Park, I have never missed seeing at least one Curve-billed Thrasher if I looked in appropriate habitat. Just saw this one today. SeEtta

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pine Siskins coming back to town

For the past week or so I have spotted small flocks of Pine Siskins in and around Canon City though none in my yard yet as I haven't started feeding for the winter. Yesterday I encountered this one in a small flock at Tunnel Drive in Canon City. And it sat still long enough for a photo. I enlarged the tail portion below to show off the very yellow base of it's undertail. SeEtta

Friday, November 6, 2015

Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep in Bighorn Sheep Canyon

When I drove up Bighorn Sheep Canyon west of Canon City earlier this week I was looking for bighorn sheep as this is the time of year they begin their annual mating season. I didn't have to squint to see the big ram as he was right in the traffic lanes of H50. I drove slowly towards him in hopes he would leave the highway and he did. See bottom pic for view from inside my car of this ram and some of his harem.

His harem was right grazing on the side of the highway and he joined them while keeping an eye on me.

This ewe is wearing a monitoring collar--provides info to wildlife officers on where the bighorn sheep go during different seasons.

American Kestrel and Cedar Waxwings

Caught this American Kestrel just as it was above to bite down on a grasshopper.
This is one of a half dozen Cedar Waxwings I spotted yesterday feasting on juniper berries in Canon City.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Yellow-rumped Warblers in mixed flock

Yesterday I was delighted to find at least 10 Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging in a mixed flock on the Canon City Riverwalk with at least a half dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets, several Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, several Downy Woodpeckers, a couple of Am Robins, at least 2 Brown Creepers and one White-breasted Nuthatch. Since Yellow-rumped Warblers usually overwinter in the Canon City area it is not possible to know if these were migrators or some that will stick around.
Though the bottom pic of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet shows little of it's head (but part of the white eye ring is visible) it does nicely show the two white wing bars and the dark bar below them and the green edging on their coverts. SeEtta
There was a Black Phoebe on the MacKenzie end of the Riverwalk on Friday but have not seen it again. SeEtta

First Harlan's Hawk of the winter season in Canon City

While they breed in and near Alaska, Harlan's Red-tailed Hawks winter in parts of eastern Colorado. In the past several years I have been delighted to find a number of Harlan's Hawks in south central and southeastern Colorado including my home town of Canon City. I spotted this first of the season bird as I was walking the Canon City Riverwalk over the week-end. Harlan's are well known to be extremely skittish and the way this hawk flew gave me the impression it was a Harlan's. However it ducked into the cottonwoods south of the trail and disappeared. When I returned from my walk I searched for this hawk and found it perched in the cottonwoods about 300-400 feet away--thus my photos are limited by this distance. However, the white lores and cheeks, whitish chest, whitish underside of tail with otherwise blackish feathering are clearly seen in the top pic are distinctive for dark/intermediate-morph Harlan's.

The middle pic adds the view of the outer tail feathers that are whitish with dark middle and dark towards the terminal part of the tail, one of a number of tail variants found on Harlan's. I searched for this bird again in hopes of getting better pics but did not find it. Since many of the cottonwoods still have their leaves it could easily be perched in a tree and not visible. I did spot a rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk in one of the cottonwoods with a lot of leaves so could not get any pics of it before it took off. SeEtta

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a Canon City front range specialty

Today was overcast and drizzly most of the morning. When it stopped at mid-day I thought I would try for the Rufous-crowned Sparrows that are a specialty of my area.

I found these two (the bottom 2 pics are a second bird) in the company of a couple of Canyon Towhees, an association I most often find in this location.

I heard a Canyon Wren fussing then it sang once. A lot of Lesser Goldfinch were in the area-I suspect some are migrating and have stopped over with this rainy weather. Also had a flock of Sandhill Cranes-will post them later. SeEtta