Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fiels Notes 5.20.12

The San Luis Hills south of Alamosa were our destination today. We drove south on Hwy. 285 to Antonito, then turned east at CR 8. We were treated to a verdant stretch of trees and flooded fields for about five miles. The mosquitoes were plentiful and we decided it would be a good idea to roll up the car windows. The habitat transitioned quickly to the arid, sage-covered San Luis Hills. We turned north on a BLM 4WD track about 1 ½ miles to John James Canyon. From there we hiked into the beautiful and isolated canyon. We were tantalized by beautiful bird songs from both sides of the canyon but actual bird sightings were hard to come by. Our first positive identification was a black-throated sparrow perched on a pinon tree. We also saw spotted towhees, common ravens and a Swainson’s hawk. We heard but didn’t see pinyon jays and western scrub jays. We stopped for a rest under a pinon tree and noticed a tiny rock wren on a nearby branch. Further up the canyon we saw a Cooper’s hawk searching for its next meal.

As we neared the truck after our five-mile hike we saw about 30 head of cattle milling near the gate through which we had to pass. As the cows moved away perpendicular to our approach they revealed a couple of bulls – just what we were hoping NOT to see - at the back of the pack. Thankfully the bulls moved on with the cows but stopped a couple of times to eye us suspiciously.
We ate our peanut butter sandwiches while sitting on the truck tailgate, then continued east on CR 8 to the lovely Lobatos Bridge, which spans the Rio Grande as it transitions from a flat, broad flow to the steep canyons of the southern San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico. A couple of species of swallows, western meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds are at home along this stretch of the Rio Grande.

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