Early Summer in the Jemez Mountains

Pine Siskins

Pine Siskins

The Thursday Birders were greeted by Pine Siskins gorging themselves on Lou Feltz’s thistle feeder. Since they were so engrossed on the nijer, they didn’t pay any attention to us as we gathered on the deck to decide where to explore. Lou’s cabin is nestled in a valley on Thompson Ridge at 8,600 feet in the Jemez Mountains.

“You have two alternatives,” Lou explained. “You can head right along the meadow, or follow me into the woods to see Williamson’s Sapsuckers. Or, you can just sit here and wait for the Evening Grosbeaks to visit the feeder.”

I definitely wanted to see the grosbeaks, but also wanted to see other birds in this mountain habitat. I headed out with the sapsucker group.

Violet-green Swallows dove and swooped over the meadow. The other group also saw a Tree Swallow. Later we would see two violet-greens perched on the top of some snags. “When you see a pair perched like that, you know that they will have a nest nearby,” Lou told us.

Red-winged Blackbirds called from the reeds along a nearby pond, and American Robins cavorted in the grass at the pond’s edge.

We heard a Black-headed Grosbeak singing, and then saw it scrounging in the pine needles at the base of a tree.

Thompson-Ridge The air was cool and crisp as we walked down the trail through the woods. As we walked, big puffy clouds started easing over the horizon, looking like mounds of whipped cream.

Bird song was everywhere as we walked down the trail, along with the buzz of Broad-tailed Hummingbird wings.

Two birds were perched on parallel vertical snags – a female Western Tanager and an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

At first it was difficult for me to hear the difference between the songs of the Western Tanager and the Black-headed Grosbeak. “The tanager’s song has more of a harsh quality at the end,” Sei prompted.

Gale and I saw a bird fly into a clump of needles at the end of a conifer, but we never saw it come out, nor move around. I moved slowly around to the side of the tree to get a better look. “It’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and it’s sitting on a nest. That’s why it seemed to disappear.” Gale came over to get a look. The tiny nest was tucked at the intersection of two branches.

A Northern Flicker called, and then flew to another tree. Someone noticed a Hermit Thrush silently foraging in a wood pile. A Western Wood Pewee constantly scanned the clearing, and juncos darted about.

Finally we caught sight of the Williamson’s Sapsucker. When I saw its striking black back, red nap and yellow belly, I realized I had never seen a male before. It was a treat to watch him quickly work one tree, and then move on to the next.

Bob spotted a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a while later a Pygmy Nuthatch.

The group dispersed and we began to make our way back. As I approached Lou’s deck, the other group was eating their lunch. Nancy came to the edge of the deck when she saw me approach. “Evening Grosbeak,” she called out and motioned in the direction of the next cabin where Donna and Ray were peering through their binoculars.

I headed their way. “Have you seen it?” I asked.

“Yes,” Donna answered, “but he is not here now. We’ll wait with you.”

We watched a parade of Black-headed Grosbeaks fly in and out at the feeder. Then something different flew in and dropped to the group. As I focused my binoculars on it, I gasped when I saw the golden eye brow of the Evening Grosbeak looking like a tiny headlamp with its head in the grass gathering fallen seed. And then it flew up and I could see its tawny breast and white wing patch.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

As we were eating and chatting, we watched a Stellar’s Jay approach the feeder area in a circuitous route. A Black-headed Grosbeak was more bold.

A steady drumming alerted us to a Hairy Woodpecker in a nearby tree, and then we watched a Northern Flicker fly in nearby and then disappear into its nest hole.

Those puffy white clouds had gradually turned gray, and now the sky was threatening rain. It was time to go. As we scurried to the car, big drops started dropping. It had been a glorious morning.

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