“I saw an Orange-crowned Warbler when we first arrived,” trip leader Lannois announced to the rest of us as we trickled in to Capulin Springs.
It doesn’t get any better on a hot summer day than watching the birds as they come to drink and bathe at ‘the log’ at Capulin Springs Picnic Area in the Sandia Mountains. About 15 Thursday Birders sat on lawn chairs or perched on nearby rocks to watch the spectacle.
The log trough is fed by a nearby spring. Until this spring, the trough was shaded by the surrounding mixed conifer forest. Many trees fell prey to insect infestations, and last winter’s heavy snowfall downed the weakened trees. After clearing away the damage, the log was left less protected. When I visited on Memorial Day weekend, I was shocked by how barren the area seemed. However, new growth sprung forth from the stumps of the Box Elder and Rocky Mountain Maple, providing hope for a restored habitat.
The most prevalent visitors were the Gray-headed race of Dark-eyed Junco and Mountain Chickadees. They seemed bolder when approaching than the other birds.
Scruffy juvenile Yellow-rumped Warblers made a circuitous route before dropping down into the trough. A few females and molting males also stopped by. Virginia’s Warblers, identifiable with their bold eye ring, visited frequently. When they flew off, we could see the yellow under their tails.
Suddenly, there was a flash of yellow approaching. “Townsend’s Warbler,” Rebecca alerted everyone. A female perched hesitantly above the trough, and then flitted in and out of the under-story, before making her advance. As I admired her yellow face, with its dark face patch, my mind slipped back two months when our Audubon Naturalist Society group strained our necks to catch a glimpse of a male staking out its territory high in the trees outside of Seward, Alaska. On their southward trek, they are easier to enjoy.
Red-breasted Nuthatches enjoyed scraping insects from the branches over the log, as much as the water in the trough. We heard a Brown Creeper and Hermit Thrushes, and finally the thrush paid us a visit, hovering shyly on the sidelines. We could hear the song of Plumbeous Vireos, but none flew within view.
A female Western Tanager perched on a prominent branch high above the trough and flew to several vantage points, giving everyone a good look.
Sue Sullivan enjoyed sketching in her nature journal. Her sketches are posted at Flickr.
We could hear the wings of a pair of Band-tailed Pigeons as they flew and then perched in the tall conifers. A Red-shafted Northern Flicker squawked in the forest, before flying in close.
By 10:30 the log was in full sun and the bird traffic slowed to a trickle. During the next half-hour, only an Olive-sided Flycatcher provided excitement when it perched high on a snag. By 11:00, we called it a day.