“Since we are participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), we will be counting all of the birds we see today,” I told the 15 participants in the Albuquerque Bio Park’s GBBC, “but first I want to show you three unusual winter visitors that have been hanging out here at the Tingley fishing ponds since the first of the year. “While they are often observed further north in New Mexico during winter, this species does not wander to central New Mexico every winter.” This family – male, female and immature male – had been reported at this location since January 9. The stocked ponds must be like hitting pay dirt for this species that nests in Canada and Alaska.
“Watch for that bird that just dove to re-surface; it is a male Common Goldeneye. It will have a white circular patch on each side of its face. “It was the immature male and quickly dove under the water again. We later found the adult male diving at the other end of the pond,
and the female in the catch and release pond.
After everyone got good looks, we started counting Canada Geese – there were 46 – and Mallards, only six, since we didn’t count the mongrel species.
A Black-crowned Night Heron crouched on a log on the far side of the pond.
“Look at the Wood Ducks,” I gestured. “The males have stained-glass-like coloring on their heads.”
“Notice the birds sitting in the trees,” I pointed. “They are Neotropic Cormorants. Notice their long tails.” We watched them fly in and out and saw a couple of them swimming with their heads. We counted 12 of them, plus a Double-crested Cormorant sitting on the end of the island.
We wandered in to the bosque, where we were startled by a Cooper’s Hawk that zoomed through the trees at eye level. Last year we had been able to view a Great-Horned Owl sitting on her nest in this location. This year the owl chose a more secluded location – away from the construction vehicles that are working in the bosque.
“What’s that in the tree?” someone asked. It was a Great Blue Heron standing on an upper limb.
At the first pond we gathered near the viewing blind and were able to count Northern Shovelers,
Lesser Scaup, and
The first of several Song Sparrows for the morning busied itself in the shrubs alongside the pond.
We walked to the second pond where we first walked around the back side. Someone spotted a Bald Eagle sitting on the top of a bare snag across the river. We laughed as the crows tried to harass it; however, it seemed unperturbed and continued to sit majestically in place.
A single Red-winged Blackbird called from a tree above the reeds and a Bewick’s Wren called from the undergrowth, but didn’t show itself.
In the pond we saw a female Bufflehead, two Canvasbacks,
two Redheads, a Northern Pintail and a
Pied-billed Grebe, as well as a number of American Coots.
Next we followed the wetlands area south of the ponds. Two Spotted Towhees were whining, and then one of them started to sing. Both popped up to give us good views. A Marsh Wren called and then flew from one side of the water to the other, diving deep into the reeds.
We watched one of several Downy Woodpeckers and then located a Hairy Woodpecker pounding on the side of a bark-stripped snag.
“Look, a porcupine on the ground,” someone alerted us. It was the first one I had ever seen sleeping on the ground. It was snoozing right next to the trail and we walked carefully past it – without its opening its eyes.
On our way back along the service road, we added White-crowned Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch and White-breasted Nuthatch to our list for the day.
And then we stood in awe as the mature Bald Eagle circled over us – the perfect ending to our morning.