Fall Birding at Otero Canyon

The fire burning near the Hawkwatch site, necessitated a change of venue for the Thursday Birders, so we went to Otero Canyon. We stopped briefly at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras. The arroyo behind the ranger station was uncharacteristically quiet. As we headed back to the parking lot, we were delighted to watch two Ruby Crowned Kinglets work a desert olive. A Grey-headed Junco and White-crowned Sparrow were also seen.

Across the highway the sun reflected off the breasts of three Least Goldfinches.

As we headed to Otero Canyon, one car spotted a flock of Pinyon Jays flying over.

We were greeted by birds in the parking area of Otero Canyon. More kinglets, White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows flew in and out of a large bush. Across the street a Townsend’s Solitaire perched on top of a conifer.

As we headed down the trail, the air was starting to warm up and the leaves of many of the trees had turned golden. It was a great day to be outside.

A Red-naped Sapsucker caught our attention in an elm tree. It seemed unperturbed by our voyeurism. “Look how red its neck is,” Alison exclaimed.
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Another sapsucker flew into the next elm down the path. Dozens of holes dotted the bark of one patch of the forked trunk. “It looks pock-marked,” Pat commented.

The sap of the elm attracted more than the sapsucker. Juvenile Yellow-rumped Warblers were busy in the tree, perhaps finding insects that became stuck. Red Admiral Butterflies fluttered around the sap.

Further into the canyon we were delighted to hear a singing Townsend’s Solitaire and then watched as he flew from tree to tree.

A flock of Cassin’s Finches landed on the crown of a nearby conifer. “Notice how their call is a little different than a House Finch,” Rebecca mentioned. Those who had missed the Cassin’s Finches last week, busily compared the other differences between the two finch species.

All of a sudden a Juniper Titmouse popped up in a juniper bush, displaying its perky face.

We walked south along the trail where we observed a couple of Scrub Jays announce their arrival and an occasional Common Raven soared overhead. Ralph, at the tail end of the group as we headed back, was fortunate to see a Cooper’s Hawk.

Back on the main trail, we paused to watch the sapsuckers and Yellow-rumped Warblers again. A Mountain Chickadee called from a nearby tree and a Northern Flicker flew in and perched where we could get a good view.

When Rebecca asked for the ‘Bird of the Day,’ everyone had a different favorite.

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