The Birds at Capulin Springs

No birds were at ‘the log’ when the first five of the Thursday Birders arrived at Capulin Springs. A couple of American Robins hovered close by watching us as we settled onto rocks and lawn chairs. Then, instead of coming to drink in the sun, they flew down and drank from the puddles formed from the water dribbling over the edge of the log and down the slope.

Log at Capulin Springs

Log at Capulin Springs

The other cars had spotted a flock of about 50 Red Crossbills on the way up and stopped to admire them. While our car missed the crossbills, we had the opportunity to view a wider variety of birds than those who arrived later.

New bushy growth has sprung up from the roots of the Rocky Mountain Maple that was cut down during the forest clean up in the spring of 2007, providing a less barren feeling than last summer. The woods were surprisingly quiet. Only two weeks ago birds had still been singing on their territories. Today we heard only an occasional whistle of the Cordilleran Flycatcher, the soft calling of Mountain Chickadees and occasional chitting of juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Even the tin horn call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch seemed muted.

After awhile, birds began coming into the log. Male and Female Yellow-rumped Warblers with feather wear approached, landing first in the nearby bush where they fussed around in the leaves, then moved to the edge of the shrub, and finally darted down into the log for a drink.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet, with red crown patch raised in excitement, took a quick bath and then flew off. A Virginia’s Warbler family – male, female and juvenile –with spindly-looking legs, bounced while they drank from one of the shaded puddles.

“Oh, a life bird for me,” Donna whispered excitedly when the bird was pointed out to her.

A scruffy-looking Mountain Chickadee made repeated trips to the log to bathe, as did a Gray-headed Junco.

Gray-headed Junco

Gray-headed Junco

Heavy wing-beats signaled the arrival of a Band-tailed Pigeon. It landed in the tree above us and then flew off.

When the activity at the log slowed down, several of the birders walked through the picnic area in search of butterflies. An Atlantis Fritillary paused for long drinks of sunflower nectar.

Atlantis Fritillary

Atlantis Fritillary

Returning to the log, we had an elusive visit from two Green-tailed Towhees that popped in and out of the gap at the far end of the log and finally took brief drinks from the shaded puddles.

“As part of the restoration process,” explained Beth, president of Central New Mexico Audubon which has been part of the group advising the U.S. Forest Service, “the deteriorating log will be replaced with one that is cut from a downed tree. At first they wanted to make an artificial one; however, the birders insisted they use a natural one.”

As we walked up the hill to the main part of the picnic grounds where we parked, we could hear the buzzing of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

It is always peaceful visiting the ‘Bird Log.’

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