Monday, October 1, 2012
Alamosa is famous for its clear sunny days and this morning was the best of the best. We hiked through Alamosa Ranch west of the golf course and were delighted to see a large variety of birds, all quite active on this colorful autumn morning. Here’s our list: white-crowned sparrows, black-billed magpies, barn swallow, American robins, mountain chickadees, Wilson’s warbler, two great blue herons, mountain bluebirds, yellow-rumped warblers, Canada geese, western grebe and ducks too far out on the ponds to identify. After our hike, we hit some golf balls at the driving range and heard sandhill cranes calling to each other as they flew so high in the blue sky that we couldn’t even see them.
A lovely day in Costilla County. Our first sighting of the day was along County Road Z where a Swainson’s hawk perched on a fence post. That in itself wasn’t remarkable but as we drove closer to the raptor it was fascinating to watch it gulping down a snake for breakfast.
We stopped at our Earth Team wetland property in LaSauses. The pen and pasture were full of cows and calves so we counted birds from the road. We saw eight sandhill cranes poking around the wet meadow about 200 yards east of the road. We also saw Canada geese in flight and a yellow-rumped warbler in one of the trees. Far to the east we saw one of the wild horses that roam the BLM lands in the rugged San Luis Hills.
We drove south from LaSauses and stopped to check out a large wetland east of the LaSauses cemetery. About 10 white pelicans cruised overhead and came in for a landing. We also saw some ducks in the distance as well as two duck hunters, this being the first weekend of waterfowl hunting season.
We drove west on Costilla County Roads U and V through the San Luis Hills to the little town of Sanford. We found a tidy little park in town where we ate our lunch. From Sanford we drove east on County Road Y. In a field northwest of the entrance to Pike’s Stockade we saw a large congregation of about 200 sandhill cranes. We stopped for a while to observe the family units of parents and juvenile cranes.
We were surprised the gate to Pike’s Stockade was open (it’s usually locked after Labor Day) so we drove in and walked the lovely trails. The huge trees didn’t hold many birds but the fall colors were absolutely gorgeous. The Conejos River has plenty of water at Pikes Stockade but is nearly dry near LaSauses. Along the trail we saw dark-eyed juncos and white-crowned sparrows. We heard ravens and chickadees.