Friday, November 16, 2012
Illness had kept me inside for a couple of weeks but I was feeling better and my good “doctor”--Diane-- needed sun and fresh air, those inoculants against cabin fever. We headed west along Alamosa CR 8, with a Diane-inspired turnaround to see a young prairie falcon looking forlorn and motherless on a wooden fence post. We stopped at the CR 8 woodlot to eat our sandwiches. We viewed the fields and sky. Numerous sandhill cranes crisscrossed overhead, their distinctive calls magnified by the crisp autumn air.
On the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge auto loop we identified a bufflehead, American coots, mallards and northern shovelers. We saw a hawk – probably a young red-tailed – on the wing. On the west side of Colo. 15 we watched a herd of pronghorns loping through the chico and several prairie falcons atop power poles.
At Home Lake
The lake was crowded with American coots, Canada geese and several buffleheads. Swimming among the Canada geese were four greater white-fronted geese. These unusual geese, with their pink bills and white face patches, were distinctly different from the Canada geese. This is one of the interesting aspects of bird watching--the randomness. Earlier while we were at the MVNWR we had talked about just heading home, but decided instead to continue on undaunted and stop at Home Lake. If we had continued home daunted we would have missed the rare sighting of the greater white-fronted geese.
We found ourselves in that nether time before the fall migration, before the big flocks had started moving around. We found ourselves at the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge. The flat but varied terrain along the Rio Grande is a great place for this kind of birdwatching. During the two-mile hike you pass stands of willows and wetlands. There are abundant spots for shorebirds on the banks of the low-running Rio Grande. You hike through large open areas where the big sky reveals several species of raptors.
In this nether time when birds moving around the Valley are few and far between it is still possible to see some good birds. At the Refuge today Diane and I saw an osprey scouting for fish in the river. Near a field in the dry grasses we saw a vesper sparrow, sitting so still we could see its chestnut wing patches and white eye rings.
We glimpsed some ducks, hard to identify in the late afternoon sun. They flew up and down the river, some taking to the Chicago Ditch.
A family of sandhill cranes flew overhead--Mother, Father and Child.