The ponderosas were alive with the buzzing of Pine Siskins as the Thursday Birders pulled up in front of the Boettcher’s home in the Manzano Mountains. We sipped coffee and stood on their deck trying to keep our eyes on their many feeders.
Pine Siskins dominated one set of feeders, which they reluctantly shared with an occasional Stellar’s Jay, White-breasted Nuthatches and House Finches. A Hairy Woodpecker feasted on the home-made suet in the holes of a hanging piece of tree limb. At one point a Downey, which normally only visits during the winter, paid a visit to the suet feeder. A Pygmy Nuthatch stopped by.
A Red Crossbill flew in and landed on the exposed twigs at the top of a dying spruce.
“What is the other bird up there?” someone said. We studied a robin-sized bird with a pale apricot breast and eye-stripe, and then realized it was a female Black-headed Grosbeak. Pretty soon a juvenile flew in and started begging. The male watched from a nearby tree.
Rufous Hummingbirds dominated the nectar feeders. A Broad-tailed tried to take a drink, but was chased off by a Rufous.
Then it was time to head to Quarai National Monument. As we headed back down their street, a row of Violet-green Swallows perched on a power line.
Heading south on Highway 14 we spotted a plethora of Mourning Doves, an American Kestrel, Western Bluebirds, and Starlings. A Turkey Vulture soared gracefully over the grasslands.
We stopped in Manzano and walked around the small lake. Even though there was not a lot of sunshine, the trees were reflected in the still water.A lone female Mallard waded between the cattails. Barn Swallows swooped and dove over the water. A few Red-winged Blackbirds called from a tree bordering the water. A Spotted Towhee called and then popped into view.
“Oh, look, there’s a spotty,” Karen exclaimed. A Spotted Sandpiper was picking its way through the plants along the shore.
After circling the lake, we walked along the road to try and see the Lazuli Bunting that Walt had seen earlier, but it had disappeared.
Dark clouds were gathering as we arrived at Quarai. While we were grateful for the cooler temperatures, we hoped we could make the rounds before the rain hit. We checked in with the ranger to see what they had been seeing.
“The Great-horned Owl didn’t nest in the niche in the ruins this year,” he told us. “Sometimes one can be seen sitting on the branch of a cottonwood near the bridge.”
Heading down the main trail towards the ruins we stopped to watch a Blue Grosbeak. A female Western Tanager flew in as the grosbeak headed for another perch. A Lazuli Bunting joined the grosbeak, giving those who missed it at Manzano a chance to admire the bright blue plumage.
“A life bird for me,” Dennis said.
We heard a Yellow-breasted Chat as we reached the path that led through a lush stand of choke cherries. It also was swarming with mosquitoes. None of us had thought to apply repellent. The chat called for a bare branch, giving everyone good looks.In the clearing we saw a Northern Flicker and an Olive-sided Flycatcher in the trees, and sparrows in the grass. “They are Chipping Sparrows,” Karen told us. “See, they fly up and then back into the grass. It is fun to identify a bird by its behavior,” she continued.
As we walked back towards the picnic area, a Western Wood Peewee perched on the end of a branch. In characteristic fashion it looked from side to side. “As if to make sure everyone sees it posing,” Jeane commented.
By time we had finished our rounds, the clouds had blown off in a different direction and we enjoyed eating our lunches in the shade of the large cottonwoods. After going over our lists for the morning, we had seen 45 different species.