The morning was cool for the end of July and the air was filled with the perfume of damp pine and juniper from yesterday afternoon’s monsoonal showers. The birds also were enjoying the weather.
I rolled down my windows as I drove slowly past the entrance station over to the Cottonwood Trail parking area. Bushtits twittered in a piñón pine, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher buzzed nearby, and a Western Scrub Jay called as it sailed in – music to my ears.As I started up the trail, I heard the unmistakable call of juvenile Cooper’s Hawks – much like someone with a harsh whistle. I saw one sail past and drop into the trees. Soon, it was back followed by another one and they perched side by side on a bare-branched tree. Already the female was noticeably larger than her brother. And then they called and were off again. I followed them to their next stop where the young male faced towards me and his sister had her back towards me. I could see the female’s mottled back, and the juvenile streaking and mottled shoulder of the male. They were intent on the job at hand – to find something to eat; however, in their impatience, they called out constantly, which of course only warned their potential prey. They were such fun to watch. The male took off towards the sound of a Cassin’s Kingbird. A friend I encountered further up the trail who was watching from another location told me that he almost caught it, but didn’t.
The only sound emanating from the stock pond was the croak of a bull frog.
Just past the blind, I laughed at a juvenile Juniper Titmouse. Its crest resembled Dennis the Menace’s cowlick, blowing every which way while it diligently gleaned insects – or Jasper’s fur in the breeze on our walks when he was younger and didn’t have arthritis.
I turned towards the mountains when I reached the Pino Trail. While some flowers have finished their life cycle,
others, like this late July-early August Broadleaf Milkweek are just starting to blossom.
A father and his six year old daughter came up the trail as I was looking at a juvenile Spotted Towhee. This youngster won’t have NDD (nature deficit disorder). She was full of questions about everything she was observing. We visited for a while, and I pointed out the creative architecture of an ant hill and its tiny worker ants. We speculated that perhaps it makes raised walls to protect the nest from rain run-off.
Clouds were building up over the mountains as I continued to climb up the trail and into the wilderness area. As I glanced towards the north, I spotted the aerial tram inching its way down the mountain. The upward-bound tram came out from behind a rock. They were close to the balance point where they would pass each other.
Reluctantly, it was time to turn back. As I approached Trail #365, a late-starting family was on their way up. The contrast between the shaded mountain trail and the sunny and valley was striking.
I spent the entire morning soaking in the wonders of the Sandia foothills and felt tired, but refreshed. Jasper was with me in spirit on my memorial nature walk.