Natural History Journal

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about THE NATURAL HISTORY JOURNAL

Besides being home to horses and cattle, the Chico Basin Ranch also hosts an incredible diversity of native plants, animals, and insects. A closer look at the land will reveal micro-habitats varying from sandhills to sand sage habitat, shortgrass prairies and cholla cactus grasslands. These various ecosystems provide a home for a dizzying array of birds, grasshoppers, swift foxes, pronghorn, badgers, prairie dogs and more.

Birding Checklist

Birding Map

Dragonfly &  Damselfly Checklist

January 24, 2016

Prairie Falcons

Cliff nesting Prairie Falcons move to the plains in the winter.  Although this western species is most thought to feed on small ground squirrels, in winter their diet shifts to small birds.  The two most common bird species hunted by Prairie Falcons are Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks, both fairly common on Chico in the winter.  Prairie Falcons hunt using different methods. Research in Colorado shows that perching on a pole, watch and wait, is the most energy conserving hunting

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January 24, 2016

Winter Sparrows

American Tree Sparrows are poorly named because they aren’t found in trees, more often the weeds next to trees, and they breed on arctic tundra far from trees and winter mostly on the plains in weedy habitats.  Beginning birders are often intimidated by sparrows, they all look  the same, but American Tree Sparrow has a distinctive bicolored bill, a rufous crown, wings, and back, and the clear breast with a central spot or “stick pin” makes I.D. fairly easy.  They

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January 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday

17 May 2008 A typical group of birders looking for migrant and resident bird species when the northern area of the Chico was a large colony of Russian olive trees.  Russian olive is a non-native, state listed noxious plant.  The state of Colorado requires its removal from areas where its abundant fruits have caused a rapid colonization at the expense of native trees and shrubs.  Because Russian olives produce a bounty of fruits most years, birds and wildlife feast on

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November 23, 2015

Wintering Marsh Wrens

Marsh Wrens are found on the Chico during spring migration and also during winter.  They prefer to winter in cattails and there were two today in the small headquarters pond.  For an unknown reason, Marsh Wrens breed in the Boulder, Denver, Ft. Collins area but not on the Chico.  Most birds sing in spring, but when Marsh Wrens first arrive in fall, they sing short parts of their songs in addition to the common chip notes.  This is a bird

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April 30, 2014

Glossy vs. White-faced Ibis

Ibis must be ancient flying dinosaurs.  They look out of place wherever I see them.  Two look alike species often occur together in migration and they hybridize with increasing frequency.  To separate the eastern Glossy Ibis from the western species, White-faced Ibis, first look at the feathering around the eyes.  If you see narrow bluish or blue-white narrow feathers around the eye but not encircling it, you spotted the rare Glossy Ibis.  Check the eyes, they should be brown, not red,

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April 29, 2014

White-eyed Vireo – a rarity

My nemisis Chico bird, White-eyed Vireo, is an aptly named eastern species that prefers dense woodland scrub. Finally, I caught up to the one found this morning at the headquarters willows below the small pond where lots of visiting birders were able to see it actively foraging. Although this bird was not singing, their song is very distinctive. In the U.S. there are 15 vireo species all in the same genus, Vireo, so the common name and the genus name is the

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April 18, 2014

The Subtleties of Field Identification

Finally, a few sparrow species are on the move.  Here are two different sparrow species out in the cholla grassland.  The upper species was singing a very distinctive song so if heard it is easy to I.D.  This one has a  lookalike relative that is also found at the Chico, so the thin crown stripes without a wider white central streak, longish tail, shortish bill, thin eyering, and basically colorless face help to separate this Brewer’s Sparrow from the more colorfull, tan-breasted Clay-colored

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April 5, 2014

Teals

Finally, Blue-winged Teal arrived to join their close relatives, Cinnamon Teal.  Two of the easiest ducks to I.D., that is the males.  The females are a different story.  The bill shape is more spatulate in Cinnamon Teal and the white spot behind the eye more noticeable in Blue-winged Teal.  A very close inspection will also show some cinnamon wash on breast feathers on female Cinnamon Teal(s).  Hunters call a group of teal, teal, but grammar police call a group of teal, teals.

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April 3, 2014

Insects, Birds and Deer

One way to become a better birder is to explore every habitat type and learn what bird sepcies are unique to it.

May 3, 2013

First Owlet of the Season

A Great Horned Owl nestling poked its head out of a tree cavity for the first time on May 3rd.  Always popular with school groups and protected from potential predators by the tree nest.

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