Winter Birding – Coronado State Monument

“Look for the Bald Eagles that were circling over the monument earlier this morning,” one of the staff of the Coronado State Monument told us as the 24 Thursday Birders set out to explore the area.

The monument is located on land that contains the remains of Kuana (“Kwah-wah”), a former Pueblo Indian farming village just north of the town of Bernalillo. Kuana means ‘evergreen’ in the Tiwa language; however on this cold winter day, only the Snakeweed hung tenaciously to its green stems.

After noting some White-crowned Sparrows along the fence, we headed towards the Rio Grande. As we approached, we heard the distinctive ‘rattle’ of a kingfisher from behind the bushes. When we arrived at a good vantage point, Lannois, the trip leader, set up her scope so everyone could get a good look at the Belted Kingfisher perched on a branch over the river.

A Raven, chased by a number of Crows, flew towards the river with strong, yet gentle wing beats. The Crows tired of the chase, settled back on the sand bars, and the Raven continued on its way.

A large flock of Canada Geese approached from the west in three “v’s” and then dropped down to the river, where they swam and fed with several other species of waterfowl, including Mallards, Northern Pintails, Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks and Common Mergansers.

A Northern Harrier patrolled the area adjacent to the east side of the river, making occasional forays over the river itself. The waterfowl seemed unperturbed.

A flock of 10 Ring-billed Gulls flew south as we trekked north along the river to the monument boundary. We were hoping to see some grassland birds, but the chaparral was quiet.

Say’s Phoebe perched on top of a sign next to the Visitor’s Center, its feathers fluffed up against the cold.

Some of the group took the opportunity to tour the Visitor Center exhibits, including a room dedicated to the remains of kiva murals. A display of colorful macaw feathers came from traders from Mexico, long before Spanish explorers. Several birds, including the Raven and Bald Eagle, were featured prominently in the murals, which depicted ceremonies essential to their way of life, including rain-making, hunting, war, fertility and healing.

While only a few of the group saw the Bald Eagles, we had an enjoyable morning birding- along the Rio Grande – and the Belted Kingfisher certainly was the Bird of the Day.


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