Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dickcissels in sunflower field in El Paso County

After my medical appointment in Colorado Springs yesterday I decided to take a detour east on my way home to the southwest in order to do some birding in that area I haven't been to in a long time. While driving on Squirrel Creek Road in El Paso County (at the speed limit of 45 mph) I thought I heard a distant Dickcissel coming from a field filled with sunflowers. That seemed unlikely but... so I turned around , drove back by slowly--yes, not just one Dickcissel but several were singing in a field field with sunflowers on the south side of the road and more singing in a patch of sunflowers in a mixed field (a wooded area, a small pond, grasses that looked to be non native) on the north side.
I found this male Dickcissel on sunflower plants that made good singing perches for him (I rarely photograph them from the back so included the middle shot as it shows the back nicely). It seemed surprising to me to see them in these areas with sunflowers but they do like to have tall perches for their singing which sunflower plants can provide and I did subsequently find an older article in the Auk which described sunflowers as one of the tallest forbs in the breeding territories in this study. . As these males (at least 4 that I saw and I suspect more likely 6 males) were singing pretty frequently in mid-day (2 pm) I would think they are guarding territories with females on nests in those fields. The bottom pic shows the extensive sunflower field on the south side of the road. SeEtta