The air was chilly as the caravan of New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders turned down a side street in Taquique to search for birds along the stream. There was so little rain the past two springs that it was dried up and not a magnet for birds. Even though the trees were not yet leafed out, the stream was gushing across one of the dirt roads that intersected it.
At first, it seemed quiet, and then we began noticing a variety of birds. A Say’s Phoebe flew out and then perched on a fence wire. Two Mountain Bluebirds frolicked across the stream with a Chipping Sparrow. Barn and Cliff Swallows circled and dove over the water and nearby fields. Two Lesser Goldfinches called as they flew across the road, landed briefly in a conifer, and then were off again.
“The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a Myrtles,” someone said. Sure enough we could see its white throat.
“Brewer’s Blackbird,” Rebecca called through the two-way radio from the end of the caravan as we inched our way out onto NM-55.
Several of us spotted the Eurasian Collared Dove sitting on the top of a light post next to the highway.
When we arrived at Manzano Pond, Lannois and Sally were waiting for us. “As we passed through Tajique, I thought there was a funeral procession,” Lannois laughed. “Then I realized that it was the Thursday Birders!”
A Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler chitted as it darted through the top of a tree. Several Red-winged Blackbirds called from the reeds. A Belted Kingfisher caught our attention as it rattled from a limb in the middle of a bare-branched tree. Its white throat stood out like a beacon, making it easy to spot.
A Downey Woodpecker flew into the tree over our heads and a Black Phoebe called as it flew up from the pond.
Another warbler caught our attention. At first glance we thought it was another Yellow-rumped.“That’s not a Yellow-rumped Warbler,” Gale exclaimed. “It is a Yellow-throated Warbler.”
We watched as it slowly and deliberately foraged in a tree at eye-level giving everyone good looks.
Trip leader, Bonnie, and Gale pulled out their field guide and started calling off field marks while several of us snapped photos. “White-neck spot, black face, black stripes on its side, white wing bars, white supercilium.”
It was a life bird for several and a New Mexico first for most.
Several of the group wandered across the road to explore the piñon-juniper habitat. Their first sighting was of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – which then flew across the road and landed in a tree where the rest of us stood.
“Black-throated-gray Warbler,” someone called, and everyone migrated to the hill. By time I arrived, the warbler had moved into the trees. Several also saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, with its crest exposed.
Before we headed back to the cars, a Townsend’s Solitaire darted over our heads.
The brief patches of sun we enjoyed at the Manzano Pond, disappeared by time we reached Quarai (Salinas National Monument). As we headed down the path towards the convento, we stopped to check out two birds perched on a tree behind the ruins.
Bonnie set up her scope and we determined that they were Cassin’s Kingbirds. “White throat and gray chin,” Karen reported as she gazed through the optics.
Beyond them two Turkey Vultures circled high in the sky.
Some of the group that lingered longer at the old church saw two Rock Wrens pop into view before they flew off.
We could hear the Great Horned Owl hooting. “It’s a male,” Barbara stated. “The male makes three hoots, then two short hoots – and is lower than the female.”
We wandered over towards where the sound was coming from. After watching a pair of kingbirds, the owl suddenly flushed and flew low through the bushes. The kingbirds sounded their alarm calls and a squirrel dropped to the ground like a rock and scrambled into the underbrush.A male Mountain Bluebird flew in and landed on a bush with bright yellow blossoms. It was followed by the female and then a Chipping Sparrow.
As we walked along the blooming hackberry bushes, two Black-chinned Hummingbirds were doing display flights.
We stopped over a small bridge and gazed out on a small pond.
“There’s a Wilson’s Warbler,” John called. It was flitting back and forth in the green shrubs that were just leafing out.
“It’s getting colder,” Bonnie stated. “Let’s gather back at the Visitor Center to go over the check list, and then you probably want to eat in your cars.”
As Bonnie read through the species and got to raptors, a Copper’s Hawk flew into a tree just beyond where we were standing.
When she got to tyrant flycatchers, we found out that John and Lefty had paused alongside the road by a stock pond and had seen a Vermillion Flycatcher on the bushes beyond the pond.
We all agreed that the Yellow-throated Warbler was the Bird of the Day.
As we got to our car it started sprinkling and before we finished our food, the rain started pelting down hard.
We were lucky to have a great morning of birding before the storm moved in.