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.

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