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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)

Live Zapata Bird Diary - September 15th, 16th and 17th.

15th September


Calm fine conditions with no real wind continue, the number and passage of birds seems to have reduced slightly. Certainly less Robins and Chipping Sparrows around.

 The first Western Tanager for me this morning, a species I found to be quite wide spread here in late June. An immaculate male Williamson’s Sapsucker followed yesterday’s imm. female. And a Gray Flycatcher allowed close and prolonged views mid afternoon.


SS Hawk 3

RT Hawk 3

Peregrine 1 juv.

American Kestrel 3

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 2

Black-chinned Hummingbird 1

Flicker 20

Red-napped Sapsucker 4

Williamson’s Sapsucker 1male.

Say’s Phoebe 2

Western Kingbird            5

W. Wood-pewee 4

Grey Flycatcher 1

Warbling Vireo 1

Clarke’s Nutcracker 4-6

Barn Swallow 12

Juniper Titmouse 2

Mountain Bluebird 10

W. Bluebird 25

Catbird 2

Audubon’s Warbler c60

MacGillivary’s Warbler 1

Wilson’s Warbler            5

Western Tanager 1

WC Sparrow 2

Lincoln’s Sparrow 5

Savannah Sparrow 1

Vesper Sparrow 2

Chipping Sparrow 40

Pine Siskin 12

Lesser Goldfinch 25

Spotted Towhee 2

Green-tailed Towhee 4

[ read more ]

Posted by Kate M. on 09/22/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 6 - September 14th

The weather remains in the same vain with still conditions and the on set of night frosts. The Hummer feeder still has at least 3 individuals hanging on despite the frosty starts to the day. Williamson’s Sapsucker was a nice addition. Also my first Townsend’s Warbler; a bird I expected to be commoner. I think the group of Pinyon Jay may be the same birds doing the rounds in the mornings.


Sparrows. The question has been raised that I’m possibly missing a few here and there. I’m only specifically listing numbers of particular species that I have had a visual on; I find the flight calls (remember I’m here on holiday from the UK!) far to subtle to take on board in such a short time span.

So there may well be some under recording of Brewer’s Sparrow for example.


Cooper’s Hawk 1 large immature.

SS Hawk            4

Peregrine            2

American Kestrel            4

Common Nighthawk            c30

Flicker             c20

Red-napped Sapsucker            2

Williamson’s Sapsucker            1 imm. Female

Western Wood-pewee                        3

Say’s Phoebe                         1

Loggerhead Shrike            1

Pinyon Jay            c30

Clarke’s Nutcracker           ...

Posted by Kate M. on 09/18/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 4 and 5 - NEW ARRIVALS!

Day 5

Overnight rain clearing by dawn to leave a clear bright day with a moderate northerly wind.

 The cooler weather seemed to produce some new arrivals despite the early part of the previous night being quite wet. I try to only list species that are probably migrants rather than every Scrub Jay I encounter. It’s also been pointed out to me that the birds I’ve been recording as Indigo Buntings (I’ve been picking these birds up on call) are almost certainly Lazuli, Indigo Bunting’s western incarnation.

A few new additions to the autumn’s list of birds. Totals below.

American Kestrel                        3

SS Hawk             3

RT Hawk            4

Northern Harrier            1

Common Nighthawk            c60


Posted by Kate M. on 09/16/2012

Friday, Sep 14, 2012
This time of year I always take a hunting trip which I just got back from this week. I join several friends and family for a few days of camping and hunting deer and elk. It’s one of my passions and an important tradition that I never miss. I returned home two evenings ago to cold rainy weather and snow on the mountains. It seems that when I left on Friday night, it was still summer. Now fall has definitely arrived, the trees are changing colors on the mountains and we had a light frost at the house this morning. Today I will go check cattle and put a few back that got out of their pasture. A week earlier I would not have packed a jacket but today I will, although I probably won’t need it as the daytime temperatures are still very nice.     
Posted by Jeff G. on 09/14/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 3

Overcast with a stiff southerly wind developing that brought a few showers.

Scrub Jays, Robins and Audubon’s Warblers have discovered the feeding station and drip I set up yesterday. Hopefully there’ll be a few more unusual visitors over the coming weeks.

The Common Nighthawks put on an amazing display at dusk coming within inches of me as I stood at the edge of the field, just beyond the HQ buildings. With a Coyotes calling in the distance, it made an atmospheric end to the day.

 A much-anticipated change in the weather is due over the next 48hrs with a northerly airflow and a drop in temperatures, which hopefully should bring more birds.


Audubon’s Warbler            c80

Virginia’s Warbler            2

Wilson’s Warbler                        6

Chipping Sparrow            100

White-crowned Sparrow            2

Green-tailed Towhee            5

Spotted Towhee                        1

Western Wood-pewee            2


Posted by Kate M. on 09/13/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 2

Another warm, calm day with a light southerly wind at dusk.

Covered most of the wooded areas of the ranch, the northern most fringe by the pivot being particularly lively, perhaps this is because this is the first stand of trees encountered by south bound migrants coming in off the plains.

Chipping Sparrows and Audubon’s Warblers continue to be the most numerous passerines. There’s still an apparent SE track to the direction in which the birds are travelling. An immature Summer Tanager, near the corrals early afternoon, was probably the most note worthy bird of the day. The evening concentration of approximately 200 Common Nighthawks at dusk made for quite a spectacle.

 Below are some migrant day totals.
Chipping Sparrow  110

Audubon’s Warbler  100

Wilson’s Warbler  3

McGillivray’s Warbler  2

Red-napped Sapsucker  1

Mountain Bluebird   18

Common Nighthawk   c240

American Kestrel   2

Red-tailed Hawk   4                       

Northern Harrier   1

Summer Tanager    1

Posted by Kate M. on 09/12/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary

This is first of a series of posts recounting fall bird migration through Zapata ranch and surrounding areas.

I’m hoping to see some really exciting bird migration over the next 3 weeks whilst at Zapata ranch. This is all a leap of faith, as the ranch itself has had no continuous monitoring during this period so fingers crossed! Check back regularly as I’ll be posting reports as things happen.

Most of the day spent on the ranch itself. A relatively quite but very enjoyable day, with the bulk of passerine numbers made up by Chipping Sparrows and Audubon’s Warblers with both species tipping the 100 mark. 14 Common Nighthawks were dancing in the in the pre-dawn sky as I left the cabin. A Great-horned Owl was a pleasant surprise in the mature cottonwoods.

A good 200 American Robins and another 80 Western Bluebirds rose up out of the cover surrounding the ranch HQ and headed in a SE direction, it’ll be interesting to see if birds here continue to head in that direction rather than the expected due south. Singles each of Evening Grosbeak and Black-headed Grosbeak flew over. A small group of Pine Siskins and a single Lesser Goldfinch were hanging around the head office, and a small flowering tree held 5 Wilson’s Warblers and a Virginia’s Warbler.

A single Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler flicked through the cottonwoods. 3 Indigo Bunting were picked up on call as they flew over.

Whilst at the feeder 2-3 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were joined by a single Black-chinned. Several more groups of Nighthawk were seen during the day bringing the total for the day to over 50. Below is a sample of some migrant totals to give some idea of numbers.

 American Kestrel  2

Sharp-shinned Hawk   3

Red-tailed Hawk   2

Turkey Vulture   12

Common Nighthawk   56

Posted by Kate M. on 09/11/2012

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