“I was here yesterday morning at about the same time and only saw six species,” Donna, the Central New Mexico Audubon’s Thursday Birder trip leader, told the assembled group of 21 birders. “I am hoping that with more eyes, we will have better luck today.”We hadn’t gone far when we heard what we thought was the call of a Juniper Titmouse – and sure enough one popped into view on the top of a juniper. It sang its heart out and then popped back down. Before long, we heard and then saw another one. It was some distance away, but I was able to capture a photo of it framed against the Albuquerque vista. Over the course of our morning, we encountered six of them.
A Mountain Chickadee called and then flew between two junipers.
“Look there is a raptor in that bare tree over there,” I told Hal. “We need Roger for a positive ID,” and I beckoned him over.
He put his scope on it. “It’s a Cooper’s Hawk. See, it has a long tail.” And then a moment later, “There’s two of them and oh my, I have an x-rated view through the scope,” while the rest of us witnessed the action through our bins. They then sat nonchalantly side by side. “See the difference in size between the male and female?” Roger pointed out to the newer birders in the group.Western Scrub Jays seemed to be everywhere – mostly in pairs. At one point we noticed one sitting on top of a conifer while another seemed to be foraging on the ground below it. “I think its gathering nesting material,” Gale announced.
Two Mourning Doves almost blended in as they sat sunning themselves on the railing of the blind. From the viewing holes in the blind, we watched a Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco foraging along the sides of the pond.
With their binoculars, several in the group followed two small birds flitting about in the bare branches of the cottonwood tree beyond the pond. Meanwhile, some of the others were back on the approach to the blind observing a couple of Western Bluebirds.
The little birds were streaked, but at such a distance that it was difficult to ID them. They later moved to another tree and I caught a glimpse of a yellow throat on one of them – a Yellow-rumped Warbler.
“I hear Bushtits,” Larry stated. All of the Bushtits we observed on our walk were foraging in pairs.A fluffed-up bird perched on the edge of a piñon pine some distance away. “It’s a Townsend’s Solitaire,” Mary Lou said. “When it flew, I could see the wing bars.” It was the first of five we spotted during the morning.
“A Broad-tailed Hummingbird,” someone announced when we were all safely across. And, we heard another one a little while later.
“I’m not sure what they are finding for nutrition,” the park ranger mentioned when we were sharing our sightings with him later. “Plants are about two weeks behind in blooming.”
A Gambel’s Quail darted across the road as we headed back towards our cars. Its top knot was almost flattened as it scurried.
When we were almost back to the cars, Gary and Roger pointed out a Red-tailed Hawk that had landed in a tree below us.
We heard the plaintive call of a Say’s Phoebe, and then saw two of them who seemed to be in a scolding, tumbling chase. “A little territorial tussle,” Roger commented.
Seven of us stayed behind to see if we could find the Western Screech Owl the ranger had told us about. We didn’t find the owl, but observed an interesting spectacle among a Juniper Titmouse and Canyon Towhee giving alarm calls from the underbrush while a Cooper’s Hawk perched in a tree nearby. When he couldn’t flush any birds, the hawk gave a low whinney call and then flew off.
It was a delightful morning of birding with definitely more luck that Donna had the previous day – with a total of 21 different species observed by all or part of the group.