Summer Birding in Jemez Mountains

Violet-green Swallows were gliding over the pond just west of La Cueva in the Jemez Mountains. Sixteen Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders were gathered on a dirt road just off the highway.

“And I see a Barn Swallow,” John said.

In the fields beyond the pond we spotted an American Robin and Common Raven.

“There’s a Western Bluebird sitting on the fence post over there,” Barb reported.

“Come over here,” trip leader Sylvia beckoned. “There are a lot of birds in the willows along the dammed creek.” We scrambled over a ditch to join her.

A small stand of willows was alive with bird activity. Birds would fly in, feed, fly off and then be replaced by others. Among the birds that visited the willows were Pine Siskin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Tanager, Western Wood Pewee, Lesser Goldfinch and both Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds.

“Listen,” Rebecca called. “Isn’t that the call of a Song Sparrow – maids, maids put on your tea kettle?” We never were able to spot it.

Two fly fishermen patiently trolled the area below the impressive beaver dam.

It was time to move on to our next stop. Before we left we were treated to a Great-blue Heron that flew in low over us, circled the pond, and then took off.

While we were paying our state parks day pass fee at Fenton Lake, we were treated to a Belted Kingfisher that flew low over the lake across from us.

We drove into the campground and pulled off opposite a meadow. A flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds foraged on the ground under the ponderosas.

On the far side of the meadow, some Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches used a small tree as a resting spot between forays to a nearby creek. Blue and yellow wildflowers blanketed areas of the field.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

A Western Bluebird flew in and landed on a camp fire grate. When it was perched, it looked drab; however, when it took flight to capture an insect in the grass beyond, its wings flashed a bright cobalt blue. Typical of Western Bluebirds, it hovered at the edge of the forest and didn’t venture into the meadow.

Fenton-Lake-Bluebird-profil Another bluebird flew into a ponderosa near the female, followed soon afterwards by another one. Juveniles, they were all fluffed up.

“Oh, look,” Sylvia exclaimed. “They are ready to be fed.”

We traveled further into the campground and stopped next to a stream and small pond that backed up to the woods. Brightly colored dragonflies danced across the water.

A Northern Flicker flew across the clearing.

A Western Wood Pewee darted in and out from a low hanging branch. Another flycatcher flew in – an Olive-sided Flycatcher. It was hotly pursued by a juvenile squawking to be fed. As we watched, the flycatcher activity picked up, with several of both species, including numerous juveniles, zipping between trees on the edges of the forest.

There also were Mountain Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers busy in the same area.

Fenton-Lake-meadow We scattered to several camp spots to eat our lunch. Some enjoyed the pond; others picked a spot next to a grove of willows. I sat at a table next to the stream. As we ate, two Song Sparrows foraged in the bushes along the stream, occasionally venturing into view.

A White-breasted Nuthatch flew in, and then a Hairy Woodpecker.

As we were heading away from Fenton Lake, we stopped to watch an Osprey fly over the lake and another one perched on the tip-top of a fir tree.

Our last stop of the day was Jemez Falls. On the way in, we stopped to watch a small flock of chippies busy in the grass next to the road. As the others pulled ahead, our car stopped to watch a Cooper’s Hawk wing its way through the trees.

As we walked down the .3 mile trail to the falls, we stopped when we heard a flock of Pygmy Nuthatches chattering in the low branches of a ponderosa. However, they never came into view.

Jemez Falls

Jemez Falls

The view of the falls from the overlook was spectacular. While the water cascaded over the rocks deep into the canyon below, several people were soaking in the water pooled behind the falls.

“I don’t see any birds flying out from behind the waterfalls,” I stated.

“You have to look up in the sky and hope they will be circling overhead,” Sylvia replied.

I guess the time to see them coming or going from the behind the falls is early in the morning or just before sunset. We kept scanning the sky, but the only birds we saw were two Ravens floating on the thermals.

While we were checking to see whether there might be an American Dipper in the water at the edges of the falls, we were treated to a male Western Tanager who flew into a tree alongside the cliff.

We took the opportunity to go over the list for the day as we sat and enjoyed the view. After going through the list, Rebecca counted the species – 42 for the day.

It was so pleasant sitting there enjoying the view, that it was difficult to drag ourselves up and head back up the trail. It was wonderful to be in the cool air of the mountains enjoying montane birds while the valley sizzled below.


2 thoughts on “Summer Birding in Jemez Mountains

  1. Hi! I love the descriptions of your birding day in the Jemez Mountains. 🙂 I hope our upcoming trip will be as fruitful.

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