Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Field Notes 9.9.12

Another fin and feather field trip.  We headed up to Big Meadow Reservoir near South Fork.  The fishing for me was terrible. I still think Diane is sending out vibes to keep me from catching fish because she doesn’t like to see them get hurt.

After about three hours of fishing I packed it up and we hiked around the reservoir for some bird watching -- which was not much better than the fishing.  We did see a red-tailed hawk overhead, its tail feathers glowed bright red as it soared under the afternoon sun. Near the inlet we found several Canada geese, mallards and two common mergansers.  A small pine tree next to a small aspen held dark-eyed juncos, mountain chickadees and a sparrow flitting too fast to identify.  A deer ran across the trail after getting a drink from the reservoir.

We drove west toward the Valley floor and saw the gray backs of several Swainson’s hawks on power poles. Although the sun was dropping in the western sky, we wanted to use every bit of the beautiful day to see birds so we stopped at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.  The waters along the auto loop were filled with American coots, ducks and geese although the low autumn sun made it hard to see what all was on the water.

We then moved on to the treed pull-out on CR 8.  This spot is always fun, filled with birds darting in and out of the willows, Russian olives and cottonwood trees. We thought we might have seen a female blue grosbeak. It had a thick bill and the metallic chink call of the blue grosbeak but it also had a dark crest which is not a field mark in the Sibley’s bird guide.  We also saw a green-tailed towhee, Wilson’s warblers, a western wood peewee, American robins, European starlings and a white-crowned sparrow.

Diane suggested that we head up CR 3 on the way home. This part of the drive was filled with red-winged and Brewer’s blackbirds flying across the road, so much so that I was afraid I was going to hit them or they me. Better to drive slowly and enjoy the trip.

As we neared U.S. Hwy. 160 Diane saw big birds in a crop circle.  She asked if they were geese or cranes. They turned out to be sandhill cranes -- about 200 of them from the irrigation ditch to the center pivot. Just spectacular!! Our first crane sighting last year was on September 18. We heard it calling as it flew above us while we were walking in Carroll Woods in north Alamosa.

We still weren’t ready to quit birdwatching for the day so we stopped at Home Lake east of Monte Vista.  It was Coot City there, along with a few western grebes, a lone double-crested cormorant and a white domestic duck with her white and brown offspring.

Reluctantly we decided to return home with a reminder that autumn had definitely arrived – the Denver Broncos would begin playing their first game of the season in less than 10 minutes.

We Love the Valley!!!

Go Denver Broncos!!

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