Fall Birding at Elena Gallegos

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub Jay

A Western Scrub Jay sailed in and landed in a pine tree as nine Thursday Birders started out on the Cottonwood Trail at Elena Gallegos Picnic area in the Sandia Foothills. Its sky-blue back glistened in the morning sun. Scrub Jays were active throughout the park. The morning was cool and crisp and the air quiet, despite winds out of the canyons further south in Albuquerque.

Elena Gallegos is at a slightly higher elevation and more of a piñon-juniper habitat than the other open space trails in the foothills.

Before long a couple of American Robins flew into a nearby tree.

“I hear a titmouse,” Rebecca said. And then a Juniper Titmouse popped out to the edge of a juniper.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

We flushed a flock of Western Bluebirds; however, after we stopped for a few minutes, they settled down and one perched obligingly on top of a juniper. As we watched, he spit out a seed. ‘He’s doing is part to re-seed,” Roger commented.

Western Bluebirds were everywhere as we followed the trails through the park – our most prevalent bird.

House Finches flew inn to join the bluebirds, perching together in some bare branches.

We heard the chattering call of a woodpecker. “It should be a Ladder-backed Woodpecker,” Rebecca commented. “They like to hang out in cholla.”

“There it is,” someone said, “in the row of cholla next to the fence.” We watched while it busied itself. It was a male; the red patch on top of its head was clearly visible.

“A Townsend’s,” Sarah signaled us. “It’s in the juniper with the mistletoe. It flew right into my line of sight.” That was the first of many Townsend’s Solitaires we would see that morning.

A couple of Canyon Towhees scrounged under the bushes. About that time, two Ravens flew in low, croaking as if to let us know that we were in their territory.

“Thrasher,” Sarah signaled. It flew into some bushes and out of sight. She carefully followed it until she could ID it. “Crissal,” she pronounced after she rejoined the group.

A gray-backed junco perched briefly on a bare tree. A Spotted towhee flew by and a small flock of Bushtits flew out of a pine – one-by-one. We stopped to watch a Pine Siskin eating the seeds of a snake weed plant.

A raptor soared in the distance over the foothills. After studying it we concluded that it was a Cooper’s Hawk.

"Five Stones of Elena Gallegos" When we emerged at the trailhead for the Pino Trail, we stopped to admire The Five Stones of Elena Gallegos, a one percent for the arts installation constructed by Bill Waters in 1982.

It had been a beautiful morning in the foothills – with 15 species.

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