Back to Chico Basin

Weird day. It snowed last night, and the forecast for today was rain and snow. I initially considered going to Cañon City, but then I saw online that a birder predicted a fallout in the Rocky Ford/La Junta area based on the weather pattern. I didn’t want to go that far, but I decided to head in that general direction—as the crow flies, Chico Basin Ranch is about halfway between my house and Rocky Ford.

It was misting when I arrived, and the road was muddy and slick. I made it to headquarters to discover I was the first birder there. In fact, for as long as I was there (until 2:30 or so), I was the only birder there. My feet got wet immediately and stayed that way all day. The drizzle was on/off, but never so heavy that it made birding miserable apart from frozen hands.

One of the first birds I spotted was my third-ever Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Soon after, I saw my first Colorado Northern Waterthrush. With two warblers in the bag early, I thought the day was shaping up nicely but I only saw Yellow, Audubon’s, and Common Yellowthroat after that.

Cliff Swallows

A flock of 15 Marbled Godwits flew over the pond and landed on the far side near a couple Willets.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

I tried to drive to Rose Pond, but I hadn’t gone far before I found myself at a standstill. The muddy road at this point was bottomless. For the next five minutes or so, I was basically stuck. At times, I really didn’t think I was going to make it out. I rocked my car back and forth and finally got my wheels off the road into the prairie. I was still facing the way I had been going, and when I tried to pull back on the road and turn around, I got stuck again. Another five minutes of back and forth and I finally got my wheels in the grass and drove back to Headquarters Pond through the prairie along the road.

Clay-colored Sparrow

I walked to Rose Pond. There wasn’t a lot going on. I did find a young Indigo Bunting feeding around the sage not far from the pond.

As I walked along the muddy path by the shore, a bird flashed by going faster than I could follow. So fast, in fact, that it could only be a falcon. It circled and landed in a tree not far away, allowing me to identify it as a Peregrine Falcon.

It flew off after maybe 5 minutes. I saw it later as I walked back toward Headquarters Pond. It was flashing low over the prairie back toward Rose Pond.

On my way to the banding station, I spotted two Black-tailed Jackrabbits chasing through the cholla. One took off running. The other froze.

I stopped at Fountain Creek to walk a couple miles in the continuing drizzle to get in my walking for the day. I ended up with 84 species, one of my best days in Colorado, if not my best. Nine of them were new for the year, one new for the state.

Great Horned Owl at Fountain Creek

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