Dec 29 - Finished!!
Walked the last point set in the Algodones Dunes on Saturday. Walked a total of 120.22 miles for the month which
is six miles short of what it took for each of the previous two count periods.
Lack of birds was the most notable part of the walks through to the last day but that is how it works in the desert, fluctuation. Let me rephrase that first part. Lack of “wintering” birds. The resident species were where expected. Crissal and LeConte’s Thrasher were about the most commonly seen birds aside from Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin and Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Numbers of Say’s Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Verdin seemed lower than expected. Very few Gamble’s Quail were actually seen or heard but their tracks were evident…mostly in open dunes which was a bit surprising. Greater Roadrunner…..tracks…were evident in the places expected but only saw one or two individuals for the whole point set. Never could get any to talk to me either so might have to brush up on my Roadrunner grammar with Nicole! Had one Ash-throated Flycatcher near the south end of the dunes.
Several mornings I walked in an hour before sunrise under a full moon in hopes of turning up some owls or poorwills or something in the deeper more heavily vegetated pockets. Nada!! No poorwills for the season. Only a few Great-horned Owls were seen or heard and those were on the drive in or in the one pocket that always has them. The two mile walks under the full moon were absolutely awesome though! Seems like I live two separate lives, total solitude all morning and then back to civilization and the office everyday.
19 Dec - A few birds of note on my dune walks the past few days. Birds were few but good.
LeConte’s Thrasher each day, lots of
Not much wildlife was “seen” this morning or Monday on my dunes walks. Tracks in
the sand are another story. In fact, they can tell the whole story, if you learn
to read them! Most things happen at night out there and most critters are calling
it a night as we are starting our day. The tracks tell of things that mostly happened
in the dark, even though it was still dark when you walked in, the track makers
have already gone to where they go to disappear. A few of the stories I got to
read in the past few days?
A lone Burrow Mule Deer crossed the high dunes in the middle of the night. At first
glance seeming to meander aimlessly across the dunes but upon closer inspection
you see that it was constantly moving in an easterly direction, always taking the
path of least resistance, you never try to go up a dunes slip face, yet managing
to stop at every small Palo Verde or shrub along the way to browse. It was moving
from one “pocket” area to another a mile or more over and along the way was feeding
on vegetation that does not get browsed often.
A Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat that had a VERY close call with a
Coyote but the “K-Rat”
made the safety of its burrow just in time. The tracks told that the Coyote happened
over a dune while the K-Rat was out in the open and they both threw on a big burst
of speed, the Coyote skidding to a stop at the entrance of the hole. This one must
have been older because it knew digging at the burrow was a waste of energy so went
on looking for something else to surprise. Coyote can sometimes be seen in the
daytime down in the pockets because that is where they spend their day but they
spend a lot of their night in the open dunes, always on the move, always searching,
for the one that is just a bit too far from it’s burrow.
A K-Rat that was not so lucky in the dunes was taken by a Great Horned Owl. Did
not hear that one coming I guess. Great Horned Owl leave very large and strange
looking tracks on the sand!
A Jackrabbit that snipped off a pencil sized branch of Palo Verde and spent a good
part of its night sitting in that one spot eating all but the largest parts of that
branch. Jackrabbits have teeth on both jaws so when they browse they make clean
little 45 degree cuts on every branch they snip. They can reach pretty high on
their hind legs too! Deer have no upper cutting teeth and they give a little tug
at the branch so they tend to leave more squared off and jagged tip when they browse.
Most reptiles are out for the winter but this morning there was the track of a lone
Colorado Fringe-toed Lizard that scurried across a dune in the warmest part of the
day yesterday. Only the second such track I have encountered this season.
13 Dec - Found the sparrows today! About 100 each of White-crowned and Black-throated with
about 40 Sage and a dozen Vesper all mixed in with one Chipping Sparrow. Eleven
Canada Geese flew over to keep it interesting. A male Northern Harrier