Two American Goldfinches greeted the Thursday Birders at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras. Their gold bodies glistened like tiny beacons in the new growth of the trees bordering a dry creek. The day was cool and calm, a respite from spring winds the prior few days.
From the archaeological site, Donna spotted a bird on a wire some distance away. With the scope, we could see that it was an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Other birds sighted or heard by the group included Chipping Sparrow, Juniper Titmouse and Western Kingbird. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird buzzed by.
The next stop was Otero Canyon, one of New Mexico’s Important Bird Areas (IBA). We had not gone far when Rebecca announced, “I hear a Black-throated Gray Warbler singing.” After watching the pinon pines where the wheezy, wheezy, wheezy, wheet sound emanated, he popped up and many got a good look. As we continued to bird, up to seven others were spotted. Otero Canyon is a major breeding area for Black-throated Grays.
“Look, there is a Gray Flycatcher sitting on that pile of brush in the canyon,” someone said. It didn’t sit still for long, but kept returning to the brush pile. Its tail had the characteristic downward flick. Gray Flycatchers breed in the Manzano Mountains, including Otero Canyon, but don’t breed in the Sandias. At least four Gray Flycatchers were heard singing.
We watched fascinated as a pair of Plumbeous Vireos engaged in nest building. They repeatedly made trips to a tree with an old nest, which they painstakingly began to dismantle, and then carried the nest materials to a new location.
A pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds was seen flying to the ridge. Cowbirds are listed as one of the potential threats to this IBA.
A pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled above us, their red tails visible to the naked eye.
Some of the group had to leave mid-morning, while others headed south on the trail through the riparian area. “I saw a small yellow bird fly in,” Jim told the group. Several got a good look before it flew up the hill, and identified it as a Hooded Warbler, seen only occasionally in the Manzano Mountains, according to the bird guide published by the Sandia Ranger District. It was proclaimed the ‘Bird of the Day.’
By noon when the group headed back to the parking area, the bird count for the morning came to 33.