Summer Birds at 10,000 Feet

House Wrens were chattering at the edge of the aspen grove – and those who were towards the head of the line as the troupe of 17 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders headed across the meadow – had a chance to see it. It was the first of three for the morning, so we all would have an opportunity to see one.

We started at the south 10K trailhead, but instead of following the trail, we headed across the meadow on the cross-country ski trail. Some of the meadow grasses and wildflowers were almost waist high.

“Look at the tiny flowers on the figwort,” Rebecca pointed to those of us at the end of the line. “It is one of the hummingbird’s favorite flowers.” I later learned from my Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains that the flowers are what they call a “hummingbird delicatessen” and contain nutrients important to hummingbirds.

We sauntered along the narrow trail that bordered the grove of aspens which has sprung up from an earlier clear-cutting – and enjoyed the early morning at 10,000 ft. The trail then turned into the mixed conifer woods. We could hear a light tap-tapping.

“Woodpecker,” said someone who was further up the line. We all scrunched together to get a look.

There were two woodpeckers busy chipping away the bark of a dying spruce.

“Three-toed,” Charlotte exclaimed.

We stood and watched them for about few minutes before they flew off to the right.

10-K---View The trail quickly emerged from the woods and we walked through another smaller meadow. From this vantage point, we could look out over the east mountain area.

This meadow was alive with a variety of birds. Green-tailed Towhees popped up from the grasses, Pine Siskins flew to a barren tree; Yellow-rumped Warblers busied themselves at the edge of the woods, and a Northern Flicker flashed red under its wings as it dashed across the meadow. A Cordilleran Flycatcher flew into a small snag and paused long enough for me to see its yellowish belly and white eye-ring – and then it flew off.

A Hairy Woodpecker pounded its bill into a conifer, while a second pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers worked the side of a dead spruce – and then flew off in the opposite direction from the previous pair.

As we walked into the next wooded area we encountered a buzz of activity. A mixed flock of birds were in a feeding frenzy. The nasal tin-horn call of feeding Red-breasted Nuthatches seemed to communicate their pleasure. Mountain Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches were equally busy.

Juvenile Gray-headed (dark-eyed) Juncos seemed to be everywhere.

“That one looks like it is canoodling,” Richard commented.

“It’s kind of late in the season for that kind of behavior,” I laughed.

“Oh, it’s just a female feeding a young bird,” someone replied.

A Brown Creepers inched its way up a conifer trunk. “Finally, a creeper for my year list,” Marge said gleefully.

We watched a Dusky Flycatcher fly out and then back from a low tree limb.

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

And then it was time to turn back. As we headed back down the trail, a Band-tailed Pigeon flew in and landed on a bare snag on top of a tree.

There was no sign of the woodpeckers as we back-tracked through the woods.

A few Violet-green Swallows swooped over the main meadow and a Warbling Vireo called from the adjacent woods. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird dropped down to enjoy a figwort.

Back in the parking lot we went over the list for the morning – 24 species. But we weren’t done yet – a chippie flew into the grass at the edge of the parking lot and Roger spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk across the highway.

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