Nesting Birds at Embudo Canyon

Both Scaled and Gambel’s Quail were calling as the Thursday Birders headed north from the parking lot on Trail #401. The sun was just peeking over the mountains and it was cool in the foothills. The valley below sparkled in the clear air. A perfect morning to be birding.

Two kingbirds perched on a power line that stretched across the Open Space. “They sound like Cassin’s,” Rebecca said after hearing their kideer, kideer, kideer call. And then one of them flew off.

“I think you are right,” Gale said. “I didn’t see any white tail feathers as it flew.”

Cholla Blossom

Cholla Blossom

We stopped to admire a round, thickly woven nest tucked in the intersection of three branches of a cholla cactus. It looked like the type built by Cactus Wrens, one of the birds we hoped to see. The cholla is starting to bloom and the magenta blossoms seemed to sparkle.

An Ash-throated Flycatcher called and we scanned the cactus until we spotted it. A Northern Mockingbirds flew into a nearby juniper. A group of American Robins flew past us into the small canyon to the north.

A flash of orange caught our attention. A Bullock’s Oriole dove into a juniper, rustled around inside, and then popped up on top, giving us a good view.

We heard two Cactus Wren calling about 100 yards away. Then we spotted one fly to the left, followed shortly by the other one. However, they went out of sight before we could get really good looks.

A Canyon Towhee, the first of seven we would see that morning, glided almost silently into the scrub. I could see the rust under its tail as it bent down to forage. A Curve-billed Thrasher flew in, perched and sang its gurgling song.

Larry, who had wandered ahead on a side trail, came back with a report of a Western Bluebird.

We watched a trio of male House Sparrows in some apache plume. Suddenly one of them darted up, did a loop over our heads, and caught a bug. “A cicada, I think,” Jan said.

A Spotted Towhee called near the mouth of the small canyon, and a Western Scrub Jay announced itself as it flew in.

We stopped to watch three Cassin’s Kingbirds mob a Cooper’s Hawk, which quickly took cover under a shrub. The kingbirds must have had a nest nearby, since they continued to verbally harass the hawk even when it was under cover.

“I heard a Canyon Wren calling,” Donna reported.

“I see a bird on that rock over there,” someone pointed to an outcropping. Rebecca got the scope on it – a Greater Roadrunner that was all fluffed up.

“Look, White Swifts,” Rebecca pointed up.

“They look like they might copulate in mid air,” someone exclaimed. We could hear them chattering far above us.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

The Black-throated Sparrows were rather elusive. When I was at this spot two weeks prior, the males were active singing on territory. They must have started nesting. One finally popped up and stayed on theof a bush, singing its tinkling song.

“Let’s head back this way,” trip leader Rebecca suggested, “maybe we can get another look at the Cactus Wren.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

As if on cue, two flew in close to the trail. They seemed to be scolding us. We only lingered for a few moments, thinking that they had a nest nearby and wanted us to leave. Everyone got good looks this time – the perfect ending to the morning.

Gambel's Quail

Gambel's Quail

After we dispersed, I drove down to Antonio and turned north to Haines. A Gambel’s Quail was calling from the top of a four-wing salt bush.


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