Spring-like Birding at Alameda Open Space

“Immature Bald Eagle,” someone called as the large group of Central New Mexico Audubon’s Thursday Birders gathered in the parking lot at the Alameda Open Space. It was trying to evade the harassment of a flock of crows.

As we passed the wetlands, I pointed out the new blinds being built as part of the Bachechi Open Space being developed by Bernalillo County adjacent to the existing open space property. We could see work in progress creating a new parking area for horse trailers and construction on the Visitor Center.

Black Phoebe

As we crossed the foot bridge over the drain, we stopped to watch Yellow-rumped Warblers ‘fly-catching’ from the nearby elms. A Black Phoebe perched on a slender branch near the water and periodically flew out to capture an insect.

“Common Mergansers,” Lou called from the top of the levee. Two of them were swimming in one of the ponds below.

As we followed the path around the pond out to the river, we stopped to watch a pair of Downey Woodpeckers. At one point, the male was pecking into a very small twig at the top of the bare tree.

There were mostly pairs of Mallards and Canada Ducks in the deep water area of the river. A small flock of Ring-billed Gulls huddled on a sand bar.

“A couple of American Wigeons are swimming at the edge of one of the groups of Mallards,” someone signaled.

“What are they?” a new couple asked.

“See, they have no color on the tops of their heads,” someone explained as he pointed out some of the other field marks.

I heard a Killdeer calling. Another birder spotted it flying down river.

A Red-tailed Hawk was being harassed by a flock of crows as it circled over the cottonwoods on the far side of the river.

“What is that perched on the top of that tree?” someone asked. Gary put his scope on it and determined it was an American Kestrel.

“Bluebirds,” Lefty stated as we started walking back to the trail. There were two Eastern Bluebirds flying up and down from a nearby tree. A small group of Yellow-rumped Warblers also foraged under the same tree and two White-breasted Nuthatches worked their way up and down the trunk.

From the old bridge, we stopped to watch the gulls swirling just beyond where the land protruded into the river. Donna and I looked up just in time to see two juvenile Double-crested Cormorants fly overhead.

The Black-crowned Night Heron stood nestled into the willows on the west bank of the river a short ways north of the bridge. Everyone enjoyed getting an opportunity to study it.

Gail and Gary watched a Merlin – also being chased by crows.

I was finally able to round up the 27 birders and we headed towards the drainage ditch. We searched the shoreline, as well as the various bushes along the east side of the drain and were able to spot Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch and Dark-eyed Juncos, but no Winter Wren.

Ring-billed Gulls on Rio Grande

We headed up to the levee and down into the bosque and followed the path south along the river. When the shrubs provided a gap, we stopped to scope the gulls, which had now settled on a sand bar. They were all Ring-billed. Among the Mallards, we noticed a pair of Gadwalls – a new bird for the day.

It was a delightful day of birding in Albuquerque’s spring-like weather – with 28 species for the morning. “I am so glad I came today,” one of the birders commented. “We explored areas of the Open Space I was not aware of.”

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