Western Scrub Jays called and bounced from the tops of bare branches of the trees behind the houses bordering the entrance to the Copper Avenue Open Space as 19 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders assembled. They would be the most prevalent bird we would see during our two-hour walk along the trails of the open space.
The sun was shining and it probably was the nicest day since November – a great day to be hiking in the foothills.
“I can’t promise you a Cactus Wren,” trip leader Mary Lou reported as we began our walk. “I have been scouting for a week and haven’t seen one.” Cactus Wren had been the highlight of last year’s trip to the Copper Open Space at the end of March.
House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows and a Lesser Goldfinch were attracted to a feeder behind one of the houses bordering the open space trail. A Scaled Quail was chowing down at a seed block in the same yard. A Canyon Towhee scrounged in the underbrush on the open space side of the wall – the first of five we would enjoy.
We hadn’t gone far before we heard the unmistakable harsh rattle of a Cactus Wren – and then we spotted it sitting on top of a cholla cactus. Everyone got good looks before it popped down and out of view. A little further on, we saw two different roost nests.
A Curve-billed Thrasher hopped underneath a cactus not to far from the trail – one of three we would see.
As we walked further along the trail, a large flock of American Robins flew over head. “Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one,” I announced. “I wonder if they are migrating.” I had seen some of the online migration maps showing waves of robins on the move from Texas through the eastern U.S.
“Red-tail Hawk in the scope,” Rebecca called. It was far up on the ridge line. I could see the ‘belly-band’ through my binoculars.
A couple of juncos flitted through the papery-thin seed pods of four-wing salt bush.As we headed back down the trail, we heard several Cactus Wren calls. When we hit a stand of cholla, we saw two pairs of Cactus Wrens calling and chasing each other. One would fly up onto a cholla and call. Another would fly in, and then the one would pop down to the ground, with the other one in hot pursuit. For quite awhile enjoyed watching them play.
The musical singing of a Crissal Thrasher wafted toward us. We found it perched on the top of a juniper bush – its long curved bill in profile.
As we went over the 20 species on our bird list for the morning, a Red-tailed Hawk circled below the “U” Mound, and then landed on a boulder.