Summer Birding in Otero Canyon

Canyon Towhee - Photo by Rebecca Purvis

Canyon Towhee - Photo by Rebecca Purvis

Our morning started out with a Canyon Towhee greeting our group of Thursday Birders as we assembled at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras. And then we were off to drive the three and a half miles south to Otero Canyon area.

“I always check out these trees for sapsuckers,” Rebecca said as we headed down the paved remains of the old road. “See the sapsucker holes? We have found Red-naped Sapsuckers here in the past.” However, no sapsuckers today.

Western Wood Peewee Photo by Rebecca Purvis

Western Wood Peewee Photo by Rebecca Purvis

We stopped first to admire an Ash-throated Woodpecker, and then to watch the bug-catching behavior of a Western Wood Peewee. The peewee was perched on the top of a snag, and without binoculars, it was hard to see. “It looks just like a stick,” Mary commented. And then it flew out, grabbed an insect, and was back on its perch with perfect posture.

An American Robin called from the trees on our left, as did a Bewick’s Wren. We continued walking down the old road.

A Plumbeous Vireo was singing as it gleaned insects in a shrub on the hillside to our right. When someone commented on its slate-gray plumage, Donna explained, “plumbeous is from the latin word meaning gray or lead.”

Further along we heard a Spotted Towhee calling. It was one five that we saw during our time in the canyon. And then a Hairy Woodpecker flew across the road and landed in a tree.

Near the top of the cliff on the far side of the arroyo, two Black-throated Green Warblers flitted in a conifer.

Large yellow butterflies floated from plant to plant. When I caught a glimpse of yellow movement out of the corner of my eye, I kept expecting to see a bird and was surprised when it was a warbler-sized butterfly.

Next we headed down to the Cedro Creek Nature Trail. Brown-headed Cowbirds swooped through the canyon. Since 29 people were participating on this walk, it was too large of a group to follow along the trail together, so we broke into two groups.

Movement in a low juniper caught the attention of those in our group. Two Juniper Titmice were foraging. In the same area we could hear a warbler singing. It almost sounded like a Yellow Warbler, but was a Virginia’s. Our group never saw it; however, those in the other group were lucky to spot it.

Another warbling song emanated from the trees above the trail. “A Yellow-rumped Warbler,” Boyd said. “That’s the second one so far.”

At the fork in trail, trip leader Lannois took our group up the Tunnel Trail. As we headed up towards the ridge we saw first a female and further along the male Western Tanager. Its red and gold plumage was like a small beacon in the trees. A Mountain Chickadee called from a conifer, and a White-breasted Nuthatch scavenged insects under the bark. Before we headed back, we stopped to watch a Red-tailed Hawk circling over the canyon below.

Gray Flycatcher - Photo by Rebecca Purvis

Gray Flycatcher - Photo by Rebecca Purvis

When we reached the Cedro Trail again, Pat motioned to us, “Gray Flycatcher,” she said in a loud whisper. We got there in time to see it fly across the canyon floor to the hillside right above us, where it perched in plain view.

When we were almost back, a rapid warbling song alerted us to a Warbling Vireo. There were two of them foraging in a large scrub oak, occasionally popping into view.

We stopped to see what Kirstoff, an archeologist from Switzerland, had found. He pointed out rocks with creolite.

Another great day of birding.

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