Friday, October 18, 2013

Data Gaps

Black Squirrel

 During my research, I utilize several methods to find birds. Obviously I use Ebird to help track down recent sightings, but I also do a lot of reading on habitat and range using guides and the internet. Arizona is Ebirded to death.  The professionals will tell you that it's not true as there are some large gaps in the state that don't have many reports.  This is true.  But if you are like most people wanting to bird the state, you'll fly into Phoenix or Tucson and have no issues finding all of our hotspots with recent reports from those areas.

Black-capped Chickadee

This is not true for many places like, for example, Colorado or Wisconsin. Heading into Colorado was hit or miss.  I wrote down all the major and potential lifebirds to be found. However there were gaps in the data. Or in other words, there wasn't any data on certain areas at all!  If there was data, it was years old.  I had the same issue in Guatemala and Mexico. So on these trips, I had to bridge the gaps with my own experience.  For my Colorado trip, I had about 5 or 6 life birds to find.  My brother-in-law is leaving for Kuwait hence the trek north.  Everyone likes to be outdoors and so we hiked our way through the many beautiful spaces of Colorado Springs.

One of the first things I wanted to do was get the Black-billed Magpie with my camera.  This is a very common bird in Colorado Springs.  I have a post on them from long ago but I was just learning how to use my camera.  One of the places we went to bird was Sondermann Park.  It had several birds on my target list which included an Eastern Kingbird.  This is a beautiful trail along a stream full of birds!  While I dipped on the Eastern Kingbird reported there, I picked up a life bird I wasn't expecting. 

Black-billed Magpie

The Olive-sided Flycatcher!!!  Yes!  It just sat on the branch and said to us, "Here I am.  Take as many pics as you want!"  And I did.  If this had been the only life bird I found for the day, I would have been happy.  But as luck would have it, more birds would pop up along this trail.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

But since it's a life bird and a first for the blog, here are some close-ups of the flycatcher.  They are found in Arizona.  Some of them are in trickier spots to find around the state.  Some of them are too far to chase. And they do pop in Tucson during migration, but I kept dipping on this bird.  When we found this handsome bird, everyone moved on to find more.  Pat understands the word, "life bird" and is constantly trying to aide in my quest to find them.  So when I said "life bird", Pat stood with me longer to observe the bird while the others moved further down the trail.  But what we didn't realize was that there was going to be a cluster of activity along the stream's edge.

It was hard to take my eyes off of this bird, but when someone said, "Blue Jay!", I was forced to move.

But not without spotting the first of the year Downy Woodpecker!  Hairy Woodpeckers are common in Arizona.  The Downy is much harder to find, but in Colorado Springs, they dominate the landscape.  In fact, we saw many Downy Woodpeckers, Williamson's Sapsuckers, and Northern Flickers.  I think Colorado Springs is the headquarters for Northern Flickers:)

Downy Woodpecker

Finally!  As a child growing up in Wisconsin, I had seen many birds but I couldn't trace the dates when I saw them so decades later, I discovered my first common Blue Jay that most people see.  And it was awesome.  Technically, another lifebird in molt:)

Blue Jay

Another fun place to bird is Garden of the Gods.  It's popular among the tourists and overall, just a nice place to hike.

Garden of the Gods

This area is a hotspot for Western Scrub-Jays and Magpies.  There are lots of beautiful Aspen trees and red rock formations.

Western Scrub Jay

One last note.  I have learned to balance the birding bit by birding in local areas around the neighborhoods of family and friends.  Another spot that was not really birded well was Quail Lake which was 5 minutes from our place. So I jumped in the car and did a quick walk around the lake and discovered.......

Quail Lake in Colorado Springs

Several juvenile Common Grackles.  Another life bird!  I heard the "grackle" sound and watched them for quite a bit of time to make sure I was actually seeing a Common Grackle and not a Red-winged Blackbird or Great-tailed Grackle or Brewer's Blackbird:)  These birds were mixed in with Red-winged Blackbirds. It was really gray and cloudy making the black on the bird tricky.  But to ID Common Grackles, I looked for the yellow eyes(check), their vocalizations(check) and a variation in color from the bluish head and darker body(check).  In the pics, it's hard to see that bluish sheen on the head because of the lighting.

Common Grackle

We had a nice trip and visit.  I have more photos from several other places coming up.  And hopefully I will have added more data to Ebird that will be useful.  Recently, four of my lists that I marked as a Hotspot for Ebird in Colorado Springs were accepted. That never would have happened in Arizona. Hopefully other Ebirders will visit and bird these beautiful parks and trails.

Keep your eyes open for the hummingbird moth below during summer and early fall:)  Rumor has it that snow has fallen over there!

White-lined Sphinx Moth
They were all over!

Dear blogger friends, I will be visiting soon.  I'm on vacation right now and will be back next week. There is a lot more to report, but for now I hope all of you are enjoying fall....or spring wherever you may be.  All my best.  More soon.....
I'm linking up with Wild Bird Wednesday.  So many amazing birds out there!


  1. Enjoy your holiday. An interesting post from a different area. Well done with those lifers!

  2. Czarnej wiewiórki jeszcze nie widziałam, jak zresztą i wiele ptaków, które poznaję dzięki Tobie. Dziękuję i zyczę miłych wakacji. Pozdrawiam.
    Black squirrels have not seen, and for that matter many birds that recognize because of you. Thank you and have a nice holiday. Yours.

  3. Chris, Great shots of the Sphnix Moth. What a great find along with some great birds.

  4. All nice photos but I really love the Sphinx moth. Enjoy your vacation!

  5. You really scored here. The squirrels are cute and so different from what I'm used to seeing.

  6. Congrats on the lifers Chris! Your shots of the W.Scrub Jay and the Sphinix Moth are fabulous.
    Enjoy your vacation.:)

  7. Congrats on your lifer, Chris! Enjoy your vacation!

  8. Hi Chris have a great holiday. I especially liked the flying moth shots as well as the birds.

  9. Well done on the life birds Chris - some lovely photos.

    I just adore that Hummingbird Moth (you won't be surprised to hear :) )!!

    Enjoy your holiday.

  10. Love your new owl header and that black squirrel!!!! Always amazed at how you capture the birds and animals so well.

  11. Wow, the Sphinx moth is amazing. its colours remind me of the Mandarin duck without the blue-green colours.

  12. A wonderful post... enjoy your holiday.

  13. When arranging a world birding trip I go through the same though process, I gather field guides, maps, species list.... and target list! I use forums and trip reports of others who have trodden the same or similar footpaths, and then prey everything goes

    I forget how much planning goes into it, but its a great side to the trip.

    PS-Adore the black squirrel

  14. Lovely post. Enjoy your vacation!

  15. Great photos and very interesting description of finding birds.

  16. Well done Chris. Nice photography as always. Love the shot of the sphinx moth!


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