“Oh, look at the beautiful Wood Ducks,” someone exclaimed as the Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders perused the wetlands at the Alameda Open Space – one of the sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. Two drakes were swimming side-by-side. There was no evidence of pairing yet.
A Song Sparrow flew into the bushes at the edge of the pond and a Spotted Towhee scratched nearby.
We looked out over the river from the paved deck of the water treatment building. There was a lone Common Merganser, along with many, many Mallards and Canada Geese, although not as many as there were two weeks ago. Only a few Ring-billed Gulls rested on a sandbar in this part of the river.
“There is a Neotropic Cormorant,” Matt stated. “It is sitting on the log over there.”
Someone spotted a raptor sitting in the bare branches of a tree quite a ways down the river. Through a scope, we determined that it was a Red-tailed Hawk.
We walked north through the bosque and under the bridge. On the other side, we checked the gulls – all Ring-billed. We were hoping for the California Gull seen a few days earlier.
Two Black-capped Chickadees called and hopped around in a nearby tree.
From the old bridge, we could see two Belted Kingfishers perched over the river. “They are canoodling,” Lannois exclaimed.
“Which one is the male and which one is the female?” someone asked.
I pulled out my iPod and checked my Sibley’s Field Guide app. “The female is the most colorful,” I explained.
Joe was able to capture one of them in motion as it briefly landed on the bridge railing.
We were amused watched a flock of crows harassing a gull north of the bridge, a short while later saw another flock of crows mobbing a Red-tailed Hawk, and nearby another flock was chasing after an accipiter. The crows seemed to be in rare form.
According to Stacey O’Brien, author of Wesley the Owl, corvids engage in “profiling to see how safe they’d be stealing from a predator!”
“Herons in the trees up the river,” someone stated. There were four of them. Several scopes focused on them, and when one of them turned and lifted its head, we were able to determine that they were Great Blue Herons.
The Black-crowned Night Heron was crouched in its favorite perching spot on the west side of the river, just north of the bridge.
A Killdeer foraged on a sandbar nearby.
A large flock of Sandhill Cranes called as they flew north over the Open Space. Within a week, all of the cranes will be gone from the central Rio Grande and their primitive-sounding, guttural calls will be a distant memory – until next fall.
We spent a little time exploring the edge of the drainage ditch; however, it was fairly quiet. Two Black Phoebes called back and forth to each other, and then one flew off into the drain. The other phoebe quickly followed in pursuit.
As trip leader Rebecca went over the list of species, everyone agreed that the Neotropic Cormorant was the ‘bird of the day.’