Barb Hussey, Bonnie Long and I explored fall birds at Elena Gallegos Open space on September 24. As we got out of our cars at the parking area where the Cottonwood Trail starts, we could hear the chatter of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays announcing their presence as they moved around.
As soon as we started up the paved trail, we heard our first Townsend’s Solitaires piping at each other from opposite sides of a large juniper tree – then they both dispersed.
“Is that a kingbird?” Bonnie asked as a bird popped up momentarily in an adjacent juniper and appeared to have a yellow breast.
It flew off before we got a better look. However, further up trail we encountered the trio again. We weren’t looking into the sun this time and were able to clearly see the distinctive eye-ring of the solitaires.
Then, in the same bush, up popped a Sage Thrasher – the bird that appeared to have had a yellow breast when the sun was shining on its buff colored streaking. It was voraciously eating juniper berries.
Further up the trail Barb spotted a Williamson’s Sapsucker, which of course, quickly moved to the back side of the tree.
Northern Flickers were flying back and forth, and seemed to be chased by the Scrub-Jays. Clearly the Scrub Jays were feeling irritated by the recent arrivals even though each of these species have different food sources.
After checking out the blind, where there was very little water, we followed the trail up the hill and then south down through the ravine and up to the start of the Pino Trail, where we headed towards the mountains. We saw our first of five Juniper Titmice in this location.
When the trail came to the foothills trail 365, we headed north. “Walk way over to the side and be prepared to step off the trail,” I warned. “This is primarily a bicycle trail and cyclists can come whizzing around a blind corner.”
As we walked along this stretch, we passed a flock of American Robins, and spotted several mule deer in the fields.
We re-entered the Open Space at the sign that said Nature Trail, stepping carefully over the eroded rut along the edge. At this point, Bonnie had to hurry back to her car for another obligation. Shortly after Bonnie left, Barb spotted a female or first year Hepatic Tanager. We were probably about a week early for Western Bluebirds.
Our loop was 1.6 mi. We ended the morning with 15 species, with the Sage Thrasher the ‘bird of the day’.
There is a $1 entrance fee on weekdays and $2 on Sat. and Sun. While I came prepared with a dollar, I was glad to see there was a ranger available to make change.