Pacific Wren Entertains Thursday Birders at Tingley Bosque Ponds

Northern Harrier

A Northern Harrier swooped low over the wetlands at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center, one of the featured sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico, as 20 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders started out along the path.

“It is a female,” Lefty announced. “Look at its face. It is disc-like, much like an owl, since it relies on its hearing to locate its prey.”

After perusing the nearby fields, it landed on a fence post, where it remained for several minutes, giving everyone a good look.

The bushes on the far side of the wetlands pond were alive with sparrows that popped up and perched on the top of the dry foliage. As they bounced from bush to bush, we noted their characteristics – short tails, strong facial pattern and some streaking. As they dispersed to the grassy area on the other side of the path, they had a bouncy flight. I counted twelve of them.

Savannah Sparrow, we concluded.

As trip leader, Rebecca, looked at some of them through her scope, she announced that there was a Lincoln’s Sparrow in the flock.

There was an American Kestrel perched on the top of a small tree just beyond the wetlands area. An accipiter soared overhead – a Cooper’s Hawk, we decided.

We were hoping for some Sandhill Cranes in the fields, but only saw Canada Geese.

“We are not going to stay here long,” Rebecca relayed. “We are going to spend the rest of the morning at the Tingley Bosque Ponds where several rare birds have been sighted. We piled into our cars and headed south.

Fortunately, the heavy equipment that had been doing brush clearing to clear some of the understory as part of the Middle Rio Grande Restoration project was gone. It had been quite loud and made it difficult to hear bird calls when I had visited the prior Friday. We made our way to the location were two species of ‘stub-tailed’ wrens, as the Winter and Pacific Wrens have been referred to, had been seen since December 20.

Pacific Wren - Photo by Joe Schelling

We had no trouble locating one of the wrens. It was quite active hopping up on top of a log, and then just as quickly, disappearing into the weeds.

We saw some activity nearby and thought perhaps it was another one of the wrens, but it was a Downey Woodpecker.

“We need to observe quietly,” I suggested, “so we can hear its vocalization. “The Pacific Wren’s call note is short and on the same pitch, whereas, the Winter Wren’s call note is more ‘sing-songy.’

We waited patiently. Maureen inched closer, hoping to elicit a sound. She and some of those standing closer heard a faint call of two staccato notes.

Pretty soon it flew over to an adjacent log where it displayed for us and then disappeared.

Some of us decided to head south where I had seen and heard a Pacific Wren the prior week and where Lefty and I had seen a wren earlier in the week.

“I’m going to stay here,” Rebecca said. “I heard both birds on Sunday and Christopher Rustay helped me differentiate their calls. Maybe it will vocalize where you are exploring.

We did not find another wren – and while we were gone, Rebecca did hear it call – a Pacific Wren.

A Bald Eagle patrolled up and down the river just beyond where we were searching for the wrens.

Two Northern Flickers chased and seemed to be frolicking with each other nearby.

male Rusty Blackbird seen on an earlier visit.

We also hoped to see the Rusty Blackbirds that had been in the same area. They hadn’t been showing up until around noon, and we wondered where they foraged earlier in the day. So far they hadn’t shown up and it was close to noon. Lefty and I decided to leave since we had seen them earlier in the week. Just as we reached our cars, Rebecca called to us to let us know that they had arrived. Lefty returned to have another look, but I decided to call it a day.

The display of the Pacific Wren was the highlight of the morning for me.

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2 thoughts on “Pacific Wren Entertains Thursday Birders at Tingley Bosque Ponds

  1. Wow, a good selection of birds! The Rusty Blackbirds are interesting to me, I’m looking at a flock of about 30 Redwing Blackbirds out the window right now, who didn’t start coming here till last year about this time. When I first saw them, I mistook the males for Rustys because they didn’t have their characteristic red wing bars yet, and seemed to have flecks of that brown “rust” across their heads and back. Anyway, are the Rustys are regular feature down in the Bosque? They are a rare bird for our area, and a bird of national concern as their numbers have been dropping rapidly in their home ranges in the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

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