Late Summer Birding in the Ponderosa Valley

The morning was refreshing as our Thursday Birder’s caravan drove past the Jemez Pueblo and through the Ponderosa Valley. We were glad we had gotten an early start. Our first stop was at the riparian habitat surrounding the reservoir just beyond Ponderosa. Violet-green Swallows coursed over the low water in the reservoir trying to catch the few mosquitoes that were still about. As we headed on the path, a Western Wood Pewee sat perched on a bare branch. In the distance we could hear the trill of a Canyon Wren. It had a halting quality to it. “It must be a juvenile who is practicing its call,” Rebecca quipped.

The bushes were full of birds. A female Western Tanager was foraging on berries. As we watched we spotted four different kinds of warblers – Yellow-rumped, Virginia’s Black-throated Gray and Yellow. I kept hoping for a MacGillvray’s, but none appeared. Chipping Sparrows and Least Goldfinches were fitting amongst the willows and sunflower plants.

“I see the wren,” Gale said. A Canyon Wren was perched on top of a large boulder, and then flew off to the rocks on the hillside. Almost immediately, a Rock Wren appeared. We watched it bobbing around on the ground, its pale feathers contrasting with the red soil.

“That layered hill over there is the Bandelier Tuff,” Larry gestured. “It was created from volcanic ash when the Valles caldera was formed.”
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Two of the group caught sight of a Lazuli Bunting. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher mewed from the hillside.

As we headed up the hill along side of the reservoir, we watched a Great Blue Heron staring stoically at the water. All of a sudden it darted into action, grabbed a large fish, positioned it, and then it let slide down its throat. A few minutes later, it took off, no longer hungry. A number of frogs sat on the mud eating insects and two Spotted Sandpipers in fall plumage foraged on the far shore.

Next we headed further up the road to the Paliza Campground where we enjoyed watching Western Blue Birds. In addition to White-breasted Nuthatches, the trees were alive with Pygmy Nuthatches. Stellar’s and Scrub Jays called from the Ponderosa Pines.

As we were sitting eating our lunches, there was a hoarse call. “A Clark’s Nutcracker,” Boyce announced. We figured the ‘camp robber’ was attracted to our picnic. It kept coming closer until we all got a good look.

Before we left, we enjoyed watching a Hairy Woodpecker fly between the pines. When we tallied up the birds, there were 45 different species!

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