It was a picture-perfect Albuquerque winter day – clear and cold, but not too cold – as 24 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders assembled in the parking lot of the Shining River Open Space. A Great-tailed Grackle flew overhead.
“We are going to head north along the drain,” trip leader, Lannois explained as we were about to head out.
“What’s that in that tree?” someone asked. With the naked eye its pale orange breast looked like a female American Robin.
“It’s got a raptor beak,” Gary stated and set up his scope to get a better look. “It’s a Cooper’s Hawk,” he verified.
The first of several Ruby-crowned Kinglets was seen ‘kingletting’ in a bare brush on the side of the drain. Nearby a Song Sparrow also foraged.
We stopped to scan the branches of a large tree growing next to a fence that bordered the trail. Yellow-rumped Warblers, a White-breasted Nuthatch and a Downey Woodpecker were busy at work.
Both Black and Say’s Phoebes also were seen along the drain.
“I just saw a sandpiper along the side of the drain,” Becky reported. As we approached the location where she had seen it disappear among the grasses next to the drain, it lifted up and flew further north.
“There’s a snipe on the opposite side of the drain, just past the tumbleweed,” I announced. It was almost camouflaged along the bank.
Each time we got close enough to get a look at the sandpiper, it would fly further along. However, when it landed, we could see its bobbing behavior – sure sign of a Spotted Sandpiper. It normally is not seen in central New Mexico during the winter. It finally flew to the opposite side of the drain in plain sight. We could see its yellowish legs and white on the shoulder. As it flew south in front of us, Joe captured a photo.
We approached a residence that backed up to the trail that had numerous feeders and was a buzz of activity. Bushtits swarmed in a piñon pine and a couple of the tiny birds flew to the suet feeder.
“Look,” Lefty called. “There is a Bewick’s Wren on one of the suet feeders. I have never seen that before.”
One of the residences had a menagerie of exotic animals and birds – ostrich, dromedery, Guinea Fowl. When the dromedery saw us gazing in the yard, it came over to investigate. It tried to rub noses with me as I was attempting to take its photograph.
When we reached the Alameda Open Space, we crossed over the Paseo del Bosque bike trail bridge. There was a ‘myrtle’s’ Yellow-rumped Warbler in a tree bordering the bridge.
As we headed south along the bike trail, there were White-crowned Sparrows in the weeds and a Spotted Towhee in the woods below.
We stopped to look at a snoozing porcupine curled in the crook of a cottonwood.
A flock of six Snow Geese flew overhead, and later several groups of Canada Geese. “Let’s see if we can spot a White-fronted flying with them,” Rebecca challenged. But there were none. Some in the group thought perhaps some might have been Cackling Geese, but it was a difficult call.
We stopped to watch a raptor high above – a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
It had been a delightful morning of birding.