Winter Birding at Alameda Open Space

“Look over there in the mud along the side of the irrigation ditch,” Donna alerted us.

“It’s a Wilson’s Snipe,” replied Charlotte.

It sat perfectly still and blended in with its surroundings, so it took awhile to make sure that all of the 15 Thursday Birders spotted it.

We were at the Albuquerque Open Space along Alameda Blvd. in northwest Albuquerque. Even though we didn’t congregate until 9:30 a.m., the temperature was still hovering around freezing.

Yellow-rumped Warblers flitted in and out of the bare branches of the trees on either side of the bike trail bridge. “The one that is at the base of the tree is a Myrtle,” I reported. “See, it is white under the chin.” All of the rest of the yellow rumps that we observed were Audubon’s.

When we wandered back along the trail, White-crowned Sparrows flew in and out of the bushes.

As we neared the underpass, we spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. “Look, it is flashing the red patch on its head,” Sarah exclaimed. It kept hopping along next to the edge of the ditch. It was a first for many of us to see a male kinglet raise its red crown.

We walked to the middle of the old bridge where we could look out over the river. A Great Blue Heron rose up and majestically winged its way up the river. Gadwalls and Mallards were swimming nearby. Further out were several pair of Common Mergansers. The white feathers on the males contrasted with the deep blue of the river water, and the rusty red heads of the females stood out against their gray bodies.

A group of about 40 Ring-billed Gulls rested on a sandbar further up the river. Rebecca scanned them with her scope to check for any rarities. Crows shared the sandbar with the gulls.

“Look over in the bushes at the base of the cottonwoods on the far side of the river,” Mary Lou beckoned us. “There are two Black-crowned Night Herons roosting.”

Several ‘vees’ of Canada Geese honked as they flew overhead.

We headed north on the ditch levee, scanning both the bosque and irrigation ditch, and then stopped at a place that was particularly ‘birdy.’ Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos flew in and out of the bushes at the base of the levee. Further in two Bewick’s Wrens alternated between scrounging in the undergrowth and flying up into the cottonwoods. A Spotted Towhee popped up in a shrub, and then went back down again. Two Northern Flickers flew between trees and a Downey Woodpecker worked the tops of a cottonwood.

“Have you noticed that several of the birds seem to be in pairs?” Rebecca commented.

Both Lesser and American Goldfinches worked at the seed heads of dried sunflower vines. “It is interesting to see the American Goldfinches in winter plumage,” Val shared. They come to our feeder at our summer home on Prince Edward Island,”

The sun had warmed the air somewhat. The sky was a deep blue. It was a beautiful morning. As we headed back, we stopped to admire an American Kestrel perched on top of a bare cottonwood – and then if flew off into the bosque.

At the bridge over the irrigation ditch, we had the opportunity to watch a snipe as it worked the edges of the water with its long bill.

We totaled 30 species by the end of the morning.

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