I awoke before the alarm went off. It had been raining when I went to bed – and I could hear the rain outside my open window when I awoke. I flipped on the TV news, which reported that rain was expected throughout the morning. I was scheduled to lead a Central New Mexico Audubon trip through the Corrales bosque that morning. I would have to drive to the meeting place, only to tell the one or two brave souls that showed up that the trip was cancelled.
It was still sprinkling as I backed out of my driveway and headed towards Corrales; however, it looked as though the clouds were breaking up on the western horizon. By time I reached Corrales, it had stopped raining and the sun was coming out.
Ada arrived in her four-wheel-drive truck. “You’re the only one who can safely drive into the north Corrales parking area,” I laughed.
By 8:30, 14 Thursday Birders had assembled, many reporting that it had been raining when they left the house. Birders are a hardy and dedicated lot.
“We will go to Plan B,” I told the assembled group. “The northernmost location will be muddy and rutted with the rain, so we will try the Romero Road entrance. The birds were good when I scouted the original location earlier in the week; the same species should be at the alternative spot.”
We headed north along the drainage channel. The water, clogged with watercress, meandered slowly. Several Wilson’s Warblers flitted in the willows and a Barn Swallow slowly swooped over the water hoping that the insects would respond to the warming sun.
An empid flew out from the bushes along the water, caught a bug and then retreated to the shrub. We kept watching it.
“Who’s the Empidonax expert?” I asked. No one wanted to claim that distinction. We began calling out field marks: olive-gray back, conspicuous eye ring, bill narrow and short. It was in the shade, so it was difficult to get a good handle on the bill coloring. It was small and compact – and quite active. We began to narrow it to either Hammond’s or Dusky. Unfortunately, it was not making any vocalizations. Our best guess was a Hammond’s.
We could hear a Bewick’s Wren calling. After a while it popped up in the middle of a willow. On the bosque side, we heard – and then saw, a Downy Woodpecker busy on the side of a large cottonwood.A dot of red came closer – a male Summer Tanager. It landed in the midst of a tree. Ada was able to get a photo of it. And then the female flew into the next tree. Its yellow plumage blended into the yellowing leaves.
“A cormorant,” Rebecca signaled. We all looked up and watched the long-necked bird flap across the bosque.
“Its neck is straight, there is no crook,” Sei reported.
“And the tail is quite long,” Marge stated.
We concluded that it was a Neotropic Cormorant, while rare this far north, is occasionally spotted along the Rio Grande in this area.
We checked out the inlet channel before heading into the bosque. The first group of us flushed some Mallards. After they had flown off, the next group that peered into the inlet got a look at a Spotted Sandpiper.
The walk through the bosque path was fairly uneventful, with only the normal suspects: White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee and Spotted Towhee. A few stayed behind when the rest of us headed back to the levee after about half a mile. They got looks at a Cassin’s Vireo, a Western Wood Pewee and another empid.
While we waited for those still in the bosque, the rest of us walked south along a path behind some agricultural fields. Other than a Say’s Phoebe, our only other highlight was a crawfish walking along the muddy path, evidently washed out of the drain during the previous night’s torrential rains.
Over lunch at the Village Pizza, we went over the list for the morning – 29 species – not bad for a trip that almost got cancelled.