Birding Socorro County

The large wings flapped gracefully as the raptor glided across the pond at Turtle Bay adjacent to the Macey Center on the New Mexico Tech campus.

Osprey at Turtle Bay

Osprey at Turtle Bay

It landed on the top of a fir tree, where we could see that it was an Osprey, obviously on its way south. Ray Reid took this stunning photograph.

“I wonder where the kingfisher is?” Rebecca commented. “We always see one here.” As if he heard, a Belted Kingfisher flew over the pond, where Mallards, a Ring-necked Duck and an American Widgeon swam.

As the 14 Thursday Birders scanned the trees, a pair of Summer Tanagers darted from branch to branch. Lesser Goldfinches and Wilson’s Warblers also flitted amongst the foliage.

Sei, the trip leader, next led us to the deep water pond at the edge of the campus where a few American Coots glided slowly, while Barn Swallows dipped and swooped over the water.

“Look there is a Green Heron,” Mary pointed. It was perched on an inlet pipe. After carefully scanning the rocks, we finally located the Killdeer we had been hearing.

On the road leading from San Antonio to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, a lone Cattle Egret foraged between the legs of some cattle.

Our first sighting at the refuge was a Swainson’s Hawk that was circling overhead above the Visitor’s Center. Broad-tailed, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds buzzed around the feeders hanging along the side of the Visitor’s Center. Two Phainopeplas chased each other in and out of one of the trees. Others birds that were spotted included Pyroluxia, Mockingbird and Verdin. Donna and Jean saw a lone Lark Bunting.

Blooming Barrel Cactus

Blooming Barrel Cactus

While most of the cacti in the arboretum bloomed in the spring, the bright yellow flowers on the top of the barrel cacti were just starting to open.

Our five cars were the only ones on the refuge, which languished in the late summer sun. Almost all of the ponds had been drained and plowed to combat avian disease. There was very little bird activity on the Marsh Loop. Western Kingbirds, which already had left Albuquerque, were active in the trees, although we noticed several small flocks which appeared to be heading south.

A mama Ring-necked Pheasant scurried across a maintenance road, followed by 5 medium-sized chicks.

Red-winged Blackbirds clucked in the reeds at the Board Walk Pond, occasionally popping up. Neotropical Cormorants sunned themselves on the snag, along with painted turtles. A pair of Aechmophorus grebes swam at the far end of the pond, making accurate identification impossible. A Black Phoebe waited for insects.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

A Great Blue Heron flew in, and then quickly hid itself in the shade of the reeds.

After lunch, we turned around and headed back to the seasonal road. In places the lush grass and trees looked like a Wisconsin landscape.

“We just spotted an Olive-sided Flycatcher,” Lou and Bev, who were at the end of the caravan, reported through their two-way radio.

The vivid plumage of a male Blue Grosbeak stood out against the golden seed heads at the end of the field.

There was more bird activity at the north end of the Farm Loop. A Greater Roadrunner jumped up on a bush, more Western Kingbirds did aerobatics to get insects, Ray spotted a Loggerhead Shrike, and our car zeroed in on a Lark Sparrow.

“Look, there are two female Northern Harriers cruising over the fields,” Sylvia exclaimed.

We gathered in a patch of shade at the Flight Deck to tally up the list of birds for the day. Even though it seemed quiet, we had identified 45 species.

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