As the Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders assembled in the parking area of the Ojito de S Antonio Open Space, a bird flew in and landed on a wire near the trailhead. As we began to focus our binoculars, it called – kideer – kideer – kideer, and I knew it was a Cassin’s Kingbird.
We saw movement in a piñon pine as we headed towards the meadow. It popped up, and we could see that it was a Juniper Titmouse. There were two of them.
Further along, an Ash-throated Flycatcher landed on a snag. It looked so perky as it perused for an insect, and then it was off flashing its rusty brown tail.The meadow and vestiges of an apple orchard was alive with bird activity. A Spotted Towhee sang its heart out from a bare snag. It was the first of six that we encountered on our walk through the Open Space.
Pine Siskins called from a conifer, and then flew off to the next tree. A male Black-headed Grosbeak flew in and tried to drown out the siskins with its song. A pair of Western Tanagers flew in.
“I have seen Western Tanagers every place I have gone to bird in the past two weeks,” I commented. Indeed, this appears to have been an irruptive year for this species as the flood through central New Mexico while headed north. This pair may well have arrived at their destination, since Western Tanagers nest in this Open Space.
“Look up on top of that ponderosa,” someone pointed. Three Cedar Waxwings had stopped to scan the area before taking off. Western Scrub Jays seemed to bounce off of tree branches as they popped back and forth.A flycatcher careened in and perched precariously on the end of a twig. It remained in one location long enough for us to determine that it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, rather than a Western Wood Peewee. About the time we felt comfortable with our identification, a pewee landed across the trail to give a comparison.
Some caught a glimpse of a pair of Black-throated Gray Warblers before they darted off. A resident of pinon-juniper habitat at this elevation, this is one of the few locations in central New Mexico to be able to see one. A Virginia’s Warbler flitted in the same area.
“I hear a Warbling Vireo calling,” Rebecca stated. We never saw it.As we headed up the path towards the large willow, I checked the edges of the road to see if poison ivy plants had started sprouting. They had and provided an opportunity for everyone to see what this plant looks like before it leafs out.
Some of us headed further into the Open Space to explore the piñon- juniper habitat. More towhees and a calling Bewick’s Wren.
As we headed back, someone signaled that there was a Cooper’s Hawk at the acequia. It jumped up and down several times, and then flew up into a tree towards what looked like a possible nest. While the Cooper’s Hawks in the bosque are already incubating and those who have nested in Albuquerque’s parks already have chicks, those at this elevation are just beginning the nesting cycle.
When we got back to the south end of the riparian area, the Black-throated Gray Warblers were back – and this time I got to see them. Perhaps they are starting a nest.
As I passed the marshy pond, I heard a wining noise, and then saw movement. I followed it with my binoculars to assure myself that it was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Madelyn had her camera pointed into a juniper. Puzzled, several of us gathered around to see what she was photographing. A female Broad-tailed Hummingbird darted in and out, reluctant to return to her nest. People waving their hands and pointing evidently upset her, so we edged away. When I glanced back after walking a ways, she had returned and sat on her tiny nest – unfortunately, situated on a low branch that overhangs the path.
It was definitely nesting season. We had experienced territorial singing and potential nest building, as well as glimpsing those that were still on their way to their nesting grounds.