Birthday Birding in the Sandia Mountains

“Gary talked with the ranger station this morning and discovered that there is no work going on today at Capulin, if folks still want to go there,” trip leader Karen reported to the assembled Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders. The group decided to head for Doc Long Picnic area first, since the schedule was changed and some folks might decide to meet us there.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

As we piled out of our cars at Doc Long, the one of the resident Cordilleran Flycatchers that nest under the group picnic shelter each year sat jauntily on sign in front of the shelter.

Some of the group remained watching the flycatcher, while the rest of us meandered up the road into the picnic area. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird buzzed by us as we walked.

“I see a warbler flitting around in the ponderosa,” Left stated. I finally got a good look at it.

“It’s a Grace’s Warbler,” I said.

As we walked along, we spotted two more as they made forays down to get a drink from the small stream. A few minutes later, a Chipping Sparrow stopped in for a drink.

A Hermit Thrush called in the distance and another one moved stealthily along the ground near where we were walking. The white tail feathers of Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Juncos flashed as they flew back and forth. We heard a Mountain Chickadee calling.

Two Ravens called raucously and beat their wings as they perched on the branch of a tree. “They are juveniles wanting to be fed,” Karen exclaimed.

They we heard the calls of two adults from across the highway. “It sounds like the parents are telling them to get their own food,” someone laughed.

As we headed back towards the cars, several people had spotted a Red-naped Sapsucker. Unfortunately, it had flown off.

When we arrived at Capulin Springs Picnic Area, the gate that has been blocking the area during the clean up was open. We had expected to have to park out on the street and walk in. Since the gate was open, we drove in and parked next to the road that heads down to the spring. A large pile of logs bore witness to the work of the U.S. Forest Service in removing the insect-infested trees that were a hazard to visitors.

Three Turkey Vultures circled over the area and Juncos called from the trees as we walked towards ‘The Log.’

Birder at 'The Log'

Fortunately, I always carry my umbrella chair in the trunk of my car during summer months and set it up in a good location to watch the action at the log. A few found rocks to sit on, while the rest of the folks stood.

A parade of birds began visiting the trickle of water in the bottom of the hollowed-out log – most one at a time and for only brief sojourns before taking off again.

The male and female Western Tanagers were hard to miss. Both Warbling and Plumbeous Vireos stopped by, as did Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A Stellar’s Jay was unmistakable.

“What is the bird with the white wing patches?” someone asked.

“A male Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler,” another birder explained.

A female finch flew in. “I think it is a Cassin’s,” Sally stated. “I need to see the bill.” Then it raised its head. “See, it has more of a conical beak than a House Finch,” she said.

“And look at the fine streaking on its breast,” I added.

Bonnie, who had intended to leave early, came to tell us that someone had fastened the gate – our cars evidently were out of view – and we were locked in. Fortunately, Gary who had gotten permission for us to enter, was able to reach the ranger station. “Someone will drive up and unlock the gate for us,” he reported.

Before the morning was up, we added Black-headed Grosbeak and Pine Siskin to the day’s list.

“We need to be ready to drive out when they arrive,” Melissa, another forest service volunteer, stated.

As we started to head back up the road, we stopped to watch a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Its crimson gorget shone in the morning sun.

“That’s the fattest hummer I’ve ever seen,” laughed Donna.

Weidemeyer's Butterfly

The butterfly aficionados stopped to admire a Weidemeyer’s Butterfly.

We had been hearing Red-breasted Nuthatches, but had not seen one. While we waited near the gate, one landed in a conifer and gave us a good view.

We went over the list for the morning and were delighted that we had seen 37 species.

Despite the mishap, it had been a delightful morning in the Sandia Mountains and a wonderful way to spend my birthday.

One thought on “Birthday Birding in the Sandia Mountains

  1. Again, Judy, thanks for the memories of this fine birding spot that is undergoing renovation. I hope they find a near-perfect replacement for the “Bird Log,” and that its placement will provide the same great view of the water flowing through it. Capulin Spring was closed during my brief visit to Sandia Crest two weeks ago. I wonder if the Dusky Flycatchers are still being seen in the NM Locust grove at the far end of the Snow Play parking lot.

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