Name of birding area: Mars Court Trailhead
Date of visit: July 7th, 2020
Mars Court is off the NM337 about ten miles south of the I-40. After the turning to Oak Flats on the east side of the road, take Raven Road for around a mile and and Mars Court will be on your right.
National Forest link to status and trail map for Mars Court: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cibola/recarea/?recid=64414
General information about the area – terrain/ habitat/ length of trail: A mix of conifers, deciduous trees and shrubs, including Ponderosa pines, pinon, juniper and oaks. It is cooler than in the valley, with a mix of shade and sunny areas, but it can get hot by mid-morning at this time of year. There is some easy walking and some areas where it is a little rocky underfoot, as well as some inclines. We took a one and three quarter mile walk.
Our walk: There is a fair size parking lot and two main trails. A map of the trails is on a notice board in the parking lot. One trail goes through the closed gates down the unpaved road starting on a shallow slope; the second trail – Wild Turkey – is narrower and on the left (west), as you go into the parking lot. This one is slightly rocky underfoot and winds down into David Canyon. We took Wild Turkey trail. It was very productive after the first couple of hundred yards: we saw a variety of birds including Chipping Sparrows, Plumbeous Vireos, White-breasted Nuthatches and Pygmy Nuthatches.
We continued down the hill into the canyon basin and saw Spotted Towhees, Brown Headed Cowbirds, Western Wood-Peewees, Black-headed Grosbeak, House Finches and Hairy Woodpeckers en route. At the bottom of the canyon, we turned right and walked along the basin. It is sunny and meadow-like here. We saw at least one family of Western Wood-Peewees, and Cassin’s Kingbirds while walking along this area. Before we turned right back up the trail to the parking lot, we saw Violet-green Swallows feeding a young one in a tiny crevice of a dead tree on our right.
The unpaved road back up to the parking lot has an incline – not too steep, but we noticed the climb in the heat!
We recommend this area. It is fairly quiet, which is important while social distancing. It is an interesting and productive birding location, with a variety of habitat and terrain. We have been back a few times since our first visit, and always see something different and interesting.
Mars Courtyard is wonderful and not very busy. Check out Turkey Trot Trail. That’s where we spotted the Black-throated Gray warbler near the beginning of the trail in the bushy area to the right of the trail. The Roots Cafe near the Tijeras Ranger station is an excellent outdoor lunch spot with healthy choices.
The burn area along Turkey Trot Trail has been good for Acorn Woodpecker the last couple of years.