Birding Sandia Ranger Station and Ojito Open Space

The air was cool, with a hint of fall, as the Thursday Birders gathered at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras. A flock of birds flew in to greet us. “Pine Siskins,” trip co-leader, Karen Boettcher, announced. Two Chipping Sparrows joined the siskins, and then they all flew off into the arroyo below.

We wandered along the path towards the archaeological site. A largish bird sailed in. “Look, it’s a Red-naped Sapsucker,” Charlotte exclaimed. We watched as he worked his way up the tree, flew off, and then flew back again.

A warbler kept popping in and out of the leaves. It’s most salient feature was its white eye-ring. It wasn’t until it flew off and we could see the yellow rump patch, that we had a definitive ID for a Yellow-rumped Warbler, already in its winter garb.

As we crossed the bridge over the arroyo, a bird flew in chattering, and then another one flew into an adjacent tree – Canyon Towhees. A Mountain Chickadee joined it. Some saw a Western Wood Peewee perched on a wire over the arroyo. Scrub Jays sailed in and out of the trees.

Western Blue Birds frolicked in the sprinkler water and Least Goldfinches sat in the trees alongside the parking lot.

From Tijeras we carpooled to the Ojito Open Space behind the San Antonio de Padua Church in Cedar Crest. As we drove up the road past the church, Pine Siskins feasted on the sunflowers. “That is a real treat,” Alice said.

It was so refreshing to hear the irrigation water running alongside the trail as we headed into the open space. The group stopped to read about the ancient acequias. In his essay, Saving the Commons, in his book, The River in Winter, Stanley Crawford provides a historical view of San Antonio de Padua and the struggles of the modern villagers to save the land from development, a story that shares themes with John Nichol’s book, Milagro Beanfield War. The story only recently came to a positive ending when the property was deeded to the county for an Open Space. The current villagers continue to maintain the acequias as they have for years. One of the group commented on the clear and freely flowing water.

As we looked over the little valley which was once an orchard, the leaves on the trees were beginning to yellow and were laden with red and yellow apples and pears. Several picked and munched on fruit as we walked. All of a sudden, a raptor zoomed by and landed at the top of one of the trees – a Cooper’s Hawk.

Two hummingbirds chased each other between the trees. Two Northern Flickers flew in, perched briefly, and then were off again. Some of the group stopped to observe a female Western Tanager.

We kept a watchful eye for the Poison Ivy that crowded alongside the road where another acequia crossed. It was starting to turn red.

Under the branches of the large willow, Charlotte and I heard, and then saw, immature Spotted Towhees.

Rebecca spotted a raptor sitting on top of a power pole on the ridge. At first, its size made us think it was a Merlin, but it lacked an eyebrow streak. Because the head appeared small in relation to the body, we concluded that it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Boyd alerted us to a Plumbeous Vireo calling. A Mountain Chickadee was busy in a pine. A Juniper Titmouse chatted and a White-breasted Nuthatch flew in.

As we headed back through the valley, two more Cooper’s Hawk’s circled above us. Some of the group stopped to watch a female Black-headed Grosbeak and a Townsend’s Solitaire.

At the two stops we saw 30 different species.


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