Saturday, December 31, 2011

Field Notes 12/31/2011

The day broke clear and cool across the San Luis Valley.  With the orange in the east, Diane and I started out on the first day of our San Luis Valley Bird Watching Odyssey. Diane had wondered what our first bird sighting would be.  We were hoping for the magpie but it was the Eurasian collared dove.  Magpie was second. We headed out to the Great  Sand Dunes to take part in the Christmas Bird Count,  which is why we started  our odyssey on the last day of 2011.

On our way out to the Dunes we saw a golden eagle. We had seen the eagle on Christmas Day so we hoped for and got a  return sighting—with the San Luis Lakes hard by.   The eagle sighting was followed by three ravens flying and landing on a fence post.
At the Dunes we took the Denton Spring trail, an alluvial plain to the southeast of the Dunes.  We hiked along an open area rising to pinon/juniper habitat leading to a line of tall firs and pines along a  fault where the trickling  spring emerged.
We saw:     
A single scrub jay  with a long tail,  a black capped chickadee singing and flying away, a robin high on a tree top, a Townsend’s solitaire--hard to see-- blending in at the springs.

A single magpie heard and glimpsed in the distance, many mountain chickadees flying through pinon pines, we were surprised by  a red-shafted flicker  (we are later reminded by an expert that they are now called northern flickers), a huge flock of crows in an impressive flyover,  a pinon jay is the last bird of our count.

On the trip home we turned down some side roads and saw a red-tailed hawk in a tree holding on in the wind,  a little flock of brown birds that turned out to be  horned larks, and as we drove down Highway 17  we were thrilled to see a bald eagle flying into the wind.
As we pulled into Alamosa we saw a town bird--the rock dove, better known as a pigeon.
A great bird watching day.

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