Exploring Leona Curtain Wetlands Preserve

The Leonora Curtain Wetland Preserve, a 35-acre nature preserve owned and managed by the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens in La Cienega, has intrigued me for a number of years. Before retiring, I made frequent trips to Santa Fe for meetings and often stopped just outside the gate to peer through the trees before heading home. It is only open on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons from May thru October, and I did not want to have to make the drive back on a weekend. I was delighted to see it on the spring schedule for Central New Mexico Audubon’s Thursday Birders.

It was a beautiful spring day as 21 birders assembled in the parking lot for our private tour of the preserve with our trip leader, Sandra MacGillivray, one of our members who also is active with the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. While we were reviewing information about the preserve’s plant species at the kiosk, we began to hear birds calling and immediately directed our attention to the real reason for our visit. Spotted Towhees were singing and we heard Bewick’s Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Western Wood Peewee calling.

A Great-tailed Grackle shot across the field, straight as an arrow. A Northern Mockingbird next to the trail surprised us.

“Yellow-breasted Chat,” Sylvia alerted the group. As we wandered through the preserve, we heard at least three of them, hidden in the dense shrubs.

A lone bird hung tenaciously on a cattail at the edge of the wetlands and remained there for quite awhile, giving us good looks. As we focused on it with our binoculars, we were surprised to discover that it was a Song Sparrow. “I wonder if it nests here.” Rebecca commented.

“Common Yellow-throat,” Gary called from the back of the line. It darted between some reeds, and few were able to see it.

The trail arched through the trees where we heard a Warbling Vireo singing, but never could locate it.

The wetland pond was alive with Red-winged Blackbirds – calling from their cattail perches, scrounging at the edge of the water, and flying up and down from the trees. A Black Phoebe kept watch from a small branch hanging over the water. Barn Swallows darted over the water.

Some of us walked out on a small dock. Bullfrogs young and old hovered just under the shallow, murky water.

Another Common Yellowthroat called and we followed its movement until it popped into view in a small tree next to the water.

A couple of Brown-headed Cowbirds flew into a tree on the far side of the pond and one of the group spotted several Cedar Waxwings scoot past overhead and on into the woods beyond.

As we headed back, several Blue Grosbeaks treated us with their antics. Their cobalt-blue feathers and cinnamon-colored wing bars stood out brilliantly against the backdrop of the green foliage.

As we ate lunch, we celebrated two decade-birthdays and went over the bird list for the day – 33 species, including one added during the compilation – female Western Tanager.

It was wonderful being able to explore the preserve in our own private tour.


4 thoughts on “Exploring Leona Curtain Wetlands Preserve

  1. Love you like Lenora Curtin Wildlife Preserve — May the Santa Fe Botanical Garden use your frog pic on our Facebook. I would love to use it as part of the banner!!

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