Banquet of Birds at Capulin Springs

The air was cool and there was a slight breeze when 20 Thursday Birders set up their lawn chairs or positioned themselves on a rock to observe the birds coming into “the log” at Capulin Springs. The box elders and maples, growing back from the roots after the area had to be cleared two years ago, were green and bushy. Foot-high grass was growing around the area where water drips out of the end of the log and trickles down the incline. It was like sitting down to a sumptuous banquet of nature.

Gray-headed Junco

Gray-headed Junco

The first bird that flew in was a Gray-headed Junco. We would see a number of them during the almost two hours that stayed watching The Log.

Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler

Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler

The most prevalent bird was Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers. They came both in male-female pairs and in family groups. The males were still in their striking black and white plumage, which set off their yellow throats and rumps.

The sound of wing-beats alerted us to a pair of Band-tailed Pigeons. They perched high in some conifers. Another pair flew in, and then they all took off. The pairs visited the area several times. This is one of the few places where you can be guaranteed to see this neotropical pigeon.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds periodically buzzed in, mostly females.

We could hear a Virginia’s Warbler calling, and finally got a glimpse of one.

A Green-tailed Towhee zipped into the bushes behind the log. It was easily identifiable with its rusty crown. In the shade, its back appeared olive-green; however, its tail looked almost chartreuse. As it perched, its long tailed looked perky when it popped up, as if to provide balance.

A Stellar’s Jay called from the woods, but never came into the area where we were sitting.

We could hear a Red-breasted Nuthatch calling, and then noticed movement as it flew into a tree opposite the water. It called again, sounding as if it were at some distance. And, then it flew down to get a drink. After having a drink, it flew back to its perch for a while, and then flew in again – this time for a bath.

A hauntingly beautiful song of a Hermit Thrush resonated from nearby and the call of a White-breasted Nuthatch emanated from the trees. Several of us heard the melodic sing-song voice of a Warbling Vireo

A series of Mountain Chickadees became arriving to drink and bathe.

A Northern Flicker landed on the side of a tree just beyond the log, and then took off. After a while, it flew back, with another one right behind it. One of them then flew into the end of the log, paused momentarily, hopped into the log for a drink, and then they both flew off.

“I hear a Pygmy Nuthatch,” Rebecca said. But it never came into view.

It was interesting to watch the way the birds approached the log. Most would fly into a tree a short distance away and then wait there to survey the situation. They would then fly into one of the bushes behind the log, where they moved around quite a bit. Only then would they fly to the edge of the log, peer quickly inside, and then pop down out of view. It made taking photos almost impossible.

“Oh look, a MacGillivray’s Warbler,” Cindy said. It stayed around and in the log for quite a while. Even though its darkish feathers seemed to blend into the shade, its broken white eye-ring stood out.

About the same time, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet paid a visit.

“I keep hearing a Golden-crowned Kinglet,” Rebecca mentioned. Awhile later, she pointed to the high branches of a conifer a short distance behind the log. “I can see it flitting around. It is flicking its wings open and shut as it forages,”

We heard the buzzy call of Pine Siskins. Pretty soon four of them began making their way to the log.

“Hear that clear ringing song?” Rebecca asked. “I think it is an Evening Grosbeak.” Boyd and Beverly, who had set up watch about 30 minutes before the rest of us, had seen one at the log before we arrived. We kept hoping that if we would be patient, we would be rewarded.

When it was almost time to leave, we saw what we thought was a female land in the tree almost above our head. It sat there, almost quivering. “It’s pooping,” someone said.

And then the male flew in. At first I couldn’t see it, so got up and moved to a better position. The golden feathers of the male were like a small light in the trees. Pretty soon he flew over to the other bird and started to feed it.

“This is really exciting,” Rebecca said. “They must be nesting nearby.”

The Log

The Log

The log was almost in full sun now and the birds were avoiding the exposure. It had been a wonderful two hours of birding – from the comfort of our lawn chairs. Counting the species that had been seen at the Sandia Ranger Station where we convened, we had seen 32 species for the morning, including our banquet dessert – Evening Grosbeaks.


One thought on “Banquet of Birds at Capulin Springs

  1. Your post captures the feeling of Capulin Spring. It has been several years since I visited there during the warm months. I understand the USFS plans to replace the old log. We placed a rubber lining inside it so that water from the spring flowed down its whole length, providing a long “bird bath” in plain view. I hope whatever is done there still provides the excellent view of avian and mammalian visitors. You make me miss the mountains as I sit here in South Florida!

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