Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fields Notes 8.12.12

On our last good field trip we headed south on Rio Grande County Road 3 towards the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. About halfway down we stopped to observe a juvenile Swainson’s hawk in the middle of the road. Being concerned about its safety Brian got out of the truck to try to shoo it off the road. He thought better of this when he heard its mother screeching from a nearby power pole. Diane envisioned the mother hawk swooping down and digging its talons into Brian’s back. We did manage to move the funny young hawk closer to the side of the road where it would be out of danger.

We moved across to the wooded pull-out at the south end of the refuge off County Road 8. This has always been a hot birding spot for us. We were pleased to spot a green-tailed towhee poking around in the leaves on the forest floor. We also saw some lark sparrows and juvenile red-winged blackbirds with their much darker parents.

Our ultimate destination this trip was the Rock Creek area west of the Monte Vista refuge. As we climbed in elevation we saw numerous small birds flitting along the roadside which we believed to be horned larks. Some little birds darted quickly into the brown-colored brush and camouflaged themselves before we could I.D. them.

Soon we were in the foothills and mountain zones. We saw pine siskins in the evergreens and as we maneuvered a curve in the road we were surprised to see a blue (dusky) grouse standing on the gravel road. It flew into a tree and joined another grouse.

After a hike in the rain we explored a willow-covered creek where we saw several Wilson’s warblers, American goldfinches and dark-eyed juncos.

As we drove out of the Rock Creek area, we decided that even if we hadn’t seen any birds we still would have enjoyed the spectacular views as we cleared the canyon and looked out over the Valley. It was a wonderful trip. We saw a northern shrike and several American kestrels hovering over their hunting grounds once we reached the Valley floor.

Before going home we drove the auto loop at the Monte Vista refuge where we saw a lone coyote stalking waterbirds. We didn’t wait around to see if it had any hunting success.

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