Monday, July 23, 2012

Field Notes 7.19.12

We understand your pain, William Clark.

An evening trip to the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area started at the northwest entrance. We doused ourselves with bug spray and started out.  At the river’s edge we saw a new bird for us and our best sighting of our year-long birding odyssey – a black phoebe.  It was just a perfect sighting - the black-headed bird with a black chest and white belly flew back and forth from its perch on a bare branch, snatching insects from over the water. We had plenty of time to make a good identification. This was only the second or third time a black phoebe has been seen and reported in the San Luis Valley.
We also saw two orange-crowned warblers flitting in the riverside willows.

We started down the trail, excited to see even more winged creatures but as we pushed further into the dense deciduous forest we encountered a fearsome flying thing - the mosquito. We tried to continue on undaunted but at the point that I started breathing them in through my nose I called for a return to the truck. We were reminded of the great explorer William Clark who complained often about the troublesome “musquetoes” as he and Meriwether Lewis led their expedition across the heartland.
We drove down to the southwest entrance of the SWA and found this area to be much better bug-wise. The area was more open and relatively mosquito free. We saw a beautiful American goldfinch male and female land on a post not ten yards from us.  Further on at a cattail pond we saw two great blue herons, American coots and mallard ducks. A northern flicker flew up into a nearby tree and we flushed several squawking black-crowned night herons. We also saw a house wren, a marsh wren, a western wood peewee, two northern harriers, a Swainson’s hawk and a prairie falcon. We heard a sora in the dense reeds but did not see it.

We decided that we’ll get some extra strong DEET and mosquito net hoods the next time we return to the thick riverside forest at the northwest entrance.

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