Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Rawinski

When  we are leaving for a bird watching field trip Diane will always  ask, “Did we get the Rawinski?” Yes!  we did. It’s in the birding bag with our binoculars, our food and our field guides.  The “Rawinski”  is  Birding Hotspots of South-central  Colorado  by John J. Rawinski.  It is a sturdy book made to take  into the field.  It has understandable maps  and directions and detailed bird lists.  The book also features great  photographs by Rawinski and beautiful  artwork  by Kelly Ortiz.

I had been trying to collect San Luis Valley birdwatching information but after several  hours on the internet  l did not  have anything in a usable form.  When Diane brought home the “Rawinski”  from the Narrow Gauge Newstand we said, “This is just the information we need in an easy-to-use format—a book.”   Diane and I have set a  goal of seeing as many birds as we can in the San Luis Valley this year. This is our SLV Birdwatching Odyssey.   Birding Hotspots of South-central Colorado  will be a great  help in our adventure.  And in a time of electronic bits and bytes and e-readers,  Diane and I are still a print-oriented people.
You can get your “Rawinski” locally at the  Narrow Gauge Newstand, 602 Main Street,  Alamosa, and support your local independent bookstore.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Field Notes 1/28/12

A Great Day to See Birds of Prey

Our first sighting of the day was two great horned owls perched in the same tree along Alamosa County Road 108. Another vehicle of birders pulled up behind us and took photos of the owls with a camera much better than ours.

Traveling west on Stanley Road we spotted a raptor on top of a pole. Fortunately, the shoulder of the road was wide enough that we could pull over and study this bird, which we determined to be a prairie falcon.  The white eyebrow, white behind its eye and stubby beak were our main clues. Continuing west on Stanley Road we saw a bald eagle and 4-5 red-tailed hawks.

We entered the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area at the east gate and tromped through the snow for about a mile and saw magpies.

We then drove north on U.S. Hwy. 285 and at Saguache County Road N (the southern boundary of Russell Lakes State Wildlife Area) we saw a rough legged hawk (our first identification of this beautiful raptor). We were rewarded with several more sightings of rough-legged hawks around the wildlife area. We didn’t spot any birds at Davey Lake or Trites Lake, so we drove back to Johnson Lake. As we were approaching the frozen lake on foot a great blue heron took flight. A few seconds later we spotted a coyote on the frozen lake (it noticed us at the same time). We pondered this question – did we startle the great blue heron into flight or was it eluding predation by the coyote? We’d like to think we saved the life of the heron – much to the dismay of the hungry coyote.

Our field trip ended at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge where we saw a golden eagle in flight and several more red-tailed hawks. It was wishful thinking to hope that we might hear or see a sandhill crane so early in the season but it never hurts to be optimistic.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Field Notes 1.26.12

A short trip to Riverwood Pond in northwest Alamosa to see new ducks on the open water.   We saw  eight common mergansers.  We watched a male and two females swimming together.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Field Notes 1/16/2012

Great Sand Dunes National Park-- a windy and cloudy day.  On the Mosca road by the San Luis Lakes we saw the golden eagle that we have seen before--flying low and being mobbed by two ravens.  At the dunes we walked through the picnic grounds and saw nary a thing.  We headed up to the campground and saw several dark-eyed juncos, a spotted towhee under pinon pines and a flock  of American robins flying overhead.

Looking to get out of the wind we hiked up Mosca Pass and heard a woodpecker but Diane saw only a flash of wings.  On the drive home we spotted a red-tailed hawk and a northern harrier. 

Back in Alamosa we checked out Riverwood Pond on which were swimming several Canada geese and two common golden-eyes.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Field Notes 1/14/20012

The  Monte Vista  Bird Watching Loop—Monte Vista NWR, Monte Vista Cemetery, Home Lake and Rio Grande SWA. On County Road 8 heading west we saw a bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk.  At the refuge a bald eagle was perched in the line of trees south of the headquarters.  The auto route yielded a surprise - a herd of about 50 elk.  At the cemetery we saw our friends the magpies and a northern flicker.  At Home Lake a solitary great blue heron stood on the ice and a song sparrow flew across  the ditch.

Down the road at the state wildlife area and along the river we recorded a belted kingfisher, a red-breasted nuthatch, more magpies, a female downy woodpecker. A hawk soared to the north. Once again we caught a glimpse of an owl as it dived behind  the tree line - not enough to get an ID.  Diane saw a furry lump up in a tree—a porcupine.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Field Notes 1/7/2012

We let the morning temperatures warm before starting out to the Blanca Wetlands.  Diane rode and I drove.  Near Splashland she spotted an American kestrel preening on a power pole.  East of Highway 17 a ted-tailed hawk sat high in a tree over a farmstead.  When we arrived at Blanca Wetlands, we spotted a large dark  bird flying to the north--probably a Golden Eagle.  As we walked near a frozen empty playa a small bird chirped and flitted into a bush. It was a song sparrow. We flushed a large brown bird, possibly a great horned owl, but it disappeared before we could make a positive identification.

At North Mallard Pond (an open water pond due to its artesian water source), a  great blue heron rose up and soared in the sky before landing. A duck took wing before we could get a good look. I thought it was a common goldeneye. Diane thought it might be a gadwall.

Leaving the wetlands we spotted a few LS’s (LS is a little bird that flits into the  bush  too quickly to identify -- as in a “little something.”)

Turning down country roads on the way home--scouting some future sites--we saw a common raven.

It was a good day—we learned that you will not identify every sighting but every sighting is a discovery.