Weminuche Audubon Society field trip Saturday

Saturday morning, the Weminuche Audubon Society will host a leisurely, spring field trip at Terry Hershey’s Four Mile Ranch on Snowball Road. The free, five-hour event will commence at precisely 8 a.m., and the public is welcome. Please, leave pets at home.

With nesting season in full swing, society members and friends of all ages will casually stroll open meadows, ponderosa forests and aspen groves, while observing nest-building and general avian courtship behavior. Of course, varietal wildlife encounters are always possible in ranch country, where unspoiled views are spectacular and nature’s quiet melodies include singing birds, flowing creeks and a gentle mountain breeze wafting through the trees.

Participants must meet at the ranch located four miles north of U.S. 160 and Second Street, Pagosa Springs. Because parking is limited, carpooling is strongly advised. Those driving will park alongside the road, just south of the barn and sawmill on the left.

The end of May typically brings warm sunny weather — particularly through the morning hours — yet it appears our unusual monsoon-like weather could continue into next week. Therefore, field trip participants should bring ample water, sunscreen and a hat, but should also include appropriate footwear (for wet conditions) and a rain jacket. When lightening is present, the society discourages the use of umbrellas.

Because the outing will run past the noon hour, attendees should bring a sack lunch and consider throwing in a little insect repellant — it’s also tick season. Binoculars and bird books will be most useful, though the society has them available for loan, should anyone need them.

While trip leaders have not yet chosen the outing’s exact route, it may follow at least a portion of an established bluebird trail. In all, the society has 19 nest boxes strung along a substantial course, and weekly monitoring has verified significant nesting activity in at least four of them. One contains a female western bluebird apparently incubating one or more eggs.

Aside from bluebird nesting and courtship, volunteer monitors have recently noted an extensive list of indigenous birds, literally thousands of which are violet green swallows. Others include western wood pewees, Say’s phoebes, chipping sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers (Audubon’s warbler), Brewer’s blackbirds, western and mountain bluebirds, northern flickers, Canada geese, gadwalls, pygmy nuthatches, brown-headed cowbirds, Bullock’s orioles, western meadowlarks, various birds of prey and many more.

For more information on this leisurely birding and wildlife viewing opportunity, contact Dottie George at (970) 731-5759, or e-mail her at hgeorge000@centurytel.net.

As a reminder, the Weminuche Audubon Society will also hold its annual meeting Wednesday, June 17, at the Pagosa Springs Community Center. From 6 to 7 p.m., members will gather for an appreciation dinner and board elections. A public silent auction and year-in-review will follow between 7 and 9 p.m.

chuck@pagosasun.com


Photo courtesy Ben Bailey
A mother western bluebird patiently incubates an unknown number of tiny eggs tucked comfortably in a well-defined nest. While, a week earlier, the nest contained just one egg, female bluebirds will often lay one a day over the course of five or six consecutive days.


SUN photo/Chuck McGuire
Weminuche Audubon Society member Betty Reynolds examines the interior of one of 19 bluebird nest boxes at the Four Mile Ranch north of Pagosa Springs. Each box has a mirror mounted on the underside of its lid, allowing society members to quietly determine whether bluebirds or other species are utilizing it to raise a new generation of chicks.