Signs of Spring in Embudito Canyon

Crissal Thrasher

As I alighted from my car in the parking lot at Embudito Canyon, one of the sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico, I heard the gurgling call of a Crissal Thrasher high up on the hill to the south. When I headed down the trail into the canyon, another one sang out from the top of a cholla branch. While I was enjoying its song, the first thrasher flew in to join it – followed in quick order by two Curve-billed Thrashers.

While it was still chilly, the birds seemed to celebrate that yesterday’s wind storm had passed and that it promised to be a glorious day.

Joe, a birding friend from Thursday Birders, was just heading out of the canyon with his camera. “The birds were really coming into the melting water below the water tank,” he relayed.

Cactus Wren

Shortly after crossing into the Wilderness Area, I heard the familiar call of a Cactus Wren. It flew across the trail, landing on the top of a cholla branch. Another one followed it, landing at the base of the cactus. Hopefully, the wrens will be nesting in the canyon, which would be a first. With all of the successful nesting in Embudo Canyon, they undoubtedly need to expand their territory.

More Curve-billed Thrashers sang out to me as I walked along.

A pair of Canyon Towhees flushed from a bush. I can always count on a pair of them in this location – as well as further up the trail. They seem to hang out in the same territory during all seasons.

Western Scrub Jays sailed in pairs from juniper to juniper up on the hillsides – 8 in all.

A Ladder-backed Woodpecker worked the side of a cholla stem, calling as it flew off.

Western Bluebird

When I rounded the corner, I could see birds drinking at the ice melt. I was looking into the sun, but could clearly see the flashes of blue as Western Bluebirds flew in and out.

All of a sudden it was quiet. When I looked around, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a snag, high up on the hill above the canyon. The white of its breast glistened in the sun.

Gradually, the birds became active again. The first was a flock of Bushtits, secure in the knowledge that their size would not make them a lure. They could fuss all they wanted as they darted around in a Piñon Pine.

Dark-eyed Juncos silently flew from the hillside into a tree near the water run-off, and then dropped down to drink – Gray-headed, Oregon and one Slate-colored.

The bluebirds were next to approach the trickling water. When they returned to the hillside, they started singing – one of them emboldened to sing from the top of a Piñon Pine.

White-crowned Sparrows flitted in the scrub. I kept scanning, hoping to spot a Golden-crowned Sparrow. One looked promising, safely tucked in a Mountain Mahogany bush. I made not of its field marks so I could check it when I returned to the car (I was delighted that the field marks matched up).

The hawk left its perch and began circling over the canyon, quieting things down for a while. It was time to head back.

A Scaled Quail called from the hillside as I began to walk back to the parking lot. Further down the trail, a flock of about 8 Gambel’s Quail flushed from the bushes and flew further into the Open Space.

I passed Gale, another birding friend, on my way back to the car. She wanted to explore the canyon one more time before heading to Arizona.

It was amazing that most of the birds that nest in the canyon seemed to have paired up. Spring will be here soon!

5 thoughts on “Signs of Spring in Embudito Canyon

  1. Judy – for the past couple of years a Curved Bill Thrasher spends a lot of time in our Alameda yard. Only a couple of months ago did I do some reading on that type of bird and found that they really like cholla. Well, we have some amazingly big cholla in our yard. And I see that cholla is the perch for the Crissal Thrasher. I will enjoy looking up this specific Thrasher, too.

    Were you on your own, even though you ran into many folks you knew? I have walked here by myself once and wondered about the safety aspect. I did see a lot of folks walking solitary. Embudito – is it the one at the end of Indian School?

    I am tempted to go up there on one of my free mornings this week since the snow melt seems to be a great boon for these birds.

    Thanks for your great reporting.
    -Cirrelda

  2. Down here in Florida, the adult male Painted Buntings are becoming scarce, so they must be moving north ahead of the females and young birds, to claim territories. Warbler numbers are also down, so maybe they are already drifting up the east coast.

  3. Cirrelda, yes, the cholla cactus is the habitat of choice for the Curve-billed Thrasher; however, while the Crissal Thrasher may perch on one for a better view, it nests in desert scrub plants. A Curve-billed Thrasher spends time in my yard also, preferring to roost in a pyracantha. It is a male. Its mate must nest nearby in a cholla.

    I walk in Embudito almost weekly. It is very safe.

  4. Joe – isn’t it wonderful to be retired and go birding every day?

    The Cactus Wrens were not far past the entrance to the Wilderness Area. They flew over the little levee and down into the other side below the dam. I didn’t have time to see if there was a nest, although it may be too early. See my post from last spring at Copper Open Space – end of Feb. or early Mar.

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