Wednesday, March 27, 2013
A Good Day for Ducks
We started across County Road 8S. Near the Refuge we saw marsh hawk, red-tailed and rough-legged hawks. At the 8S pullout, the field was filled with sandhill cranes (but fewer than this time last year). Among the Canada geese were about 30 snow geese - an unusual sighting and that many snow geese makes it that much more unusual.
Ducks and duck-like birds:
At the first pond east of the Refuge visitor center, we saw an unusual-looking goose. It had a white patch on its side and orange legs. We debated whether it might be a Canada goose hybrid because it was near a regular-looking Canada goose that might have been its mate.
Along the auto tour we saw the thrilling yet ominous sight of two peregrine falcons feeding on what was once a flying creature. Their golden eyes and sharp claws were clearly visible to the naked eye, not 10 feet away from the road and our car.
Our evening trip ended with the lovely spring symbol of American red-breasted robins, singing and courting.
We deployed the NRCS Earth Team down to the Valdez WRP, traveling on the South River Road from Alamosa. We saw bald eagles, American kestrels, juvenile rough-legged hawk, magpies, ravens and newborn calves in the winter-brown fields.
--Sandhill cranes northwest of Pikes Stockade
At the Valdez WRP in LaSauses, the frozen hard ground allowed us to explore the full extent of the entire property. We discovered a northern entrance along an irrigation ditch that will allow us to get to some prime birding habitat. On this trip we saw a bald eagle and an American kestrel, along with a black-capped chickadee, a marsh hawk hovering over the fields, sandhill cranes flying high in the sky and we heard red-winged blackbirds.
During our daily walks we’d seen more ducks and geese coming to the open water on Riverwood Pond. We understand that parts of the pond stay melted through the winter because of warm thermal springs that flow into the pond. After our walk and prior to a trip to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, we saw:
--Common goldeneye (male and female)
We then drove to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge for a hike along the Rio Grande River trail where we saw:
--Marsh hawk (yes, we know the accepted nomenclature is northern harrier, but we prefer the older version of marsh hawk)
--Two coyotes looking forlorn because they were tied to the ground by four spindly legs
The cold winter had kept us inside for at least a month but a break in the weather and a warming trend sent us west to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.
--2 rough-legged hawks
--First sighting of the season - numerous sandhill cranes crossing the blue skies. HOORAY!!
--2-3 cranes in field (intersection Rio Grande County 3E and 7S)
--Huge flock of ducks in flight (possible lesser scaup)
--10-20 red-winged blackbirds
--8-10 song sparrows
--20 pronghorns - territorial chasing
--Elk bedding down for the night
And the sun dropping below the San Juan Mountains.