Date: 2/12/18 9:27 am
From: Ted Floyd <tedfloyd57...>
Subject: [cobirds] Worm-eating shrikes, Crowley & Lincoln Counties; and other matters
Hey, all.

Here's a thought. Loggerhead Shrikes are absent in winter from northeastern
Colorado, yet widespread in winter in the Arkansas River drainage of
southeastern Colorado. There aren't many other passerines with
distributions like that. Mountain Bluebird approximates that distributional
pattern, but it's a pretty weak approximation; Sage Thrasher approximates
it even more weakly. Which raises a question: What is it about southeastern
Colorado that appeals to wintering Loggerhead Shrikes?

Yesterday afternoon, Sun., Feb. 11, Hannah Floyd and Andrew Floyd and I
pondered the matter as we observed at least 7 *Loggerhead Shrikes* along
and near Colorado Route 71 from Ordway north to southern Lincoln County.
The shrikes were actively and efficiently foraging on caterpillars in the
shortgrass prairie. Here's a photo of one of the shrikes and its prey:

<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-CShX1cBXAow/WoG2Bs8KPmI/AAAAAAAAWWE/-BrHEPtrvDAUBt1TZ8Tv1Wk428GHSNrXwCLcBGAs/s1600/LOSH%2B1.png>
<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-f1gm-S2hhbg/WoG2ZTTM1_I/AAAAAAAAWWQ/L4yNydvqajoLo3NSXdn46fn77v1NP5xYQCLcBGAs/s1600/LOSH%2B2.png>

As usual, click on the image to enlarge. Heidi Eaton tells us that these
appear to be the caterpillars of the army cutworm, *Euxoa auxiliaris*,
a.k.a. the "miller moth."


I wonder if the situation is ecologically analogous to the Mountain
Bluebirds feasting on the caterpillars of tiger moths in the genus *Grammia*.
Dave Leatherman has opened our eyes to this phenomenon
<http://tinyurl.com/wisdom-of-DAL>. The basic idea is that the distribution
in late winter and early spring of such species as Loggerhead Shrike and
Mountain Bluebird might be limited in part by the availability of these
juicy, abundant, terrestrial caterpillars. And I'll tell you this: Once you
get north of southern Lincoln County on 71, the terrain quickly goes from
semi-tropical to the cold depths of interstellar space. There are no
unfrozen caterpillars there.


A few other roadside birds from this past weekend down in southeastern
Colorado were headlined by this stunner:


<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HhhLN18ZEAQ/WoG5VikjvxI/AAAAAAAAWWk/V_ve1a2jT74aWueBkO1M6VCrxLDHtSFWACLcBGAs/s1600/03%2BINPE.png>


This *Indian Peafowl* was just ambling along U.S. 50 near Bent County Road
6.25. We decided that there are two types of humans in this world: Those
who delight in serendipitous encounters with the most spectacular bird on
Earth and those who are joyless pedants. Farther east along U.S. 50, in
Prowers County, we saw these roadside birds:


<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-99BVWZUowys/WoG6yR-xqvI/AAAAAAAAWW0/UlrfpiAlK5cJJbrOI0iXGdlrwOJNPaxIwCLcBGAs/s1600/GTGR%2B01.jpg>


Here's more of the flock, at closer range:

<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VeVJi7EM7Rs/WoG68tw1hGI/AAAAAAAAWW4/8txLSlh1uosJVUCGEMxQpOm0ZVd4OiiSgCLcBGAs/s1600/GTGR%2B02.png>


They are *Great-tailed Grackles,* and they made funny sounds
<https://www.xeno-canto.org/402536>.


Along U.S. 385, Prowers County, we saw this *Scaled Quail* watching us from
the other side of a chainlink fence:


<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tMjPRgcpHd4/WoHEiMBqIEI/AAAAAAAAWXY/J6LsEUBqjRcrzmsxE6iXkdOz4Z67k086wCLcBGAs/s1600/SCQU.jpg>


We actually did get off the main highways from time to time. At Hasty
Campground, John Martin Reservoir State Park, Bent County, on Sunday
morning, Feb. 11, we found a *Swamp Sparrow,* a *Marsh Wren,* a *Ladder-backed
Woodpecker,* a wayward *Black-capped Chickadee,* and *Hooded Mergansers*
and *Ruddy Ducks.* And *Snow Geese!* For 30+ minutes we watched a non-stop
procession from the east. Just a handful of *Ross's Geese* mixed in, best
we could tell. Anyhow we could see--and hear!--that the geese were putting
down on the reservoir proper, so we went up to the dam where we saw 100,000
Snow Geese <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6hncTU3NXs>. We sorted through
the flock a second time, and again got an exact count of 100,000 Snow Geese
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urIkHJYUuxQ>. (That's a joke. Joyless
pedant alert. Anyhow, a lot of geese.)


Let's see, what else? I mentioned a couple days ago that Willow Creek Park,
behind Lamar Community College, was decently birdy but frigid, with our
highlights being an *auduboni* *Hermit Thrush* and a previously reported
*iliaca* *Fox Sparrow.* Two Buttes State Wildlife Area, Baca County, was
even more frigid when we birded there on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 10, but
we found some nice birds, highlighted by *Rusty Blackbird, Winter Wren,*
and *Northern Mockingbird.* Also flyover *Sandhill Cranes, Rock Wren* and *Canyon
Wren,* 30+ *Pine Siskins,* several *Townsend's Solitaires,* flyover
longspurs (maybe chestnuts?), and *Mountain Bluebirds* galore. Like this
guy:


<https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-3sr7F12TNeY/WoHAOTxxcpI/AAAAAAAAWXM/jxH9Qzzdb7Ag5R9nkbRjWalgxCxv00-MgCLcBGAs/s1600/01%2BMOBL.jpg>


Lake Henry, Crowley County, was frozen solid. Bummer. Lots of *Bald Eagles*
there, though, waiting for the dead fish and influx of rare gulls. Maybe
this coming weekend? Box Springs Pond, just off Colorado Route 71, extreme
northern Crowley County, had a *Marsh Wren* chippering away. Lots of
raptors there and in the general vicinity, including *Harlan's Hawk, Great
Horned Owl, Prairie Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle,* and *Northern
Harrier.*


A final remark. All the birding and bugging and general merrymaking was in
connection with the 16th annual High Plains Snow Goose Festival
<http://www.highplainssnowgoose.com/schedule.html>, based out of Lamar,
Prowers County. The folks in Lamar are already scheming for the 17th
festival, February 2019.

Ted Floyd

Lafayette, Boulder County

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