“Black Phoebe on the wall,” I gestured. We watched it fly down into the grass to retrieve an insect before taking off.
A small group of eager participants were gathered at the end of East Ella Drive in Corrales. When I had scouted for the trip the day before, I discovered that both Romero Road and the road into the north parking area were gated due to high fire danger.
Once we crossed over the irrigation channel, we began to see birds in abundance. A Western Scrub Jay flew into a nearby tree and a White-breasted Nuthatch called from nearby and Matt heard a Brown-headed Cowbird. Wilson’s Warblers were darting about from branch to branch in much higher abundance than I had observed the prior day.
A lone Eastern Bluebird flew across the irrigation channel and landed where everyone could get a good view.
Two Black-chinned Hummingbirds appeared to be setting up their territory. “The male is displaying for us,” Beth exclaimed.
We descended to a trail that crossed the drainage ditch, and then started scouting the trees over-hanging the water.
Yellow-rumped Warblers flitted in the tops of the cottonwoods. “Try to see their throats,” I suggested. “If it is yellow, it is the ‘Audubon’s’ sub-species that breeds in the western U.S. and Canada. If it is white, it is a ‘Myrtle’s’ sub-species that breeds in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Sometimes the eastern sub-species winters in New Mexico and mingles with the western sub-species.” Most of those we spotted were ‘Audubon’s.’
Further along a Chipping Sparrow flew in. Pine Siskins were buzzing, and then we were surprised by a female Cassin’s Finch. “Look at the face pattern,” said Matt. “It also has a slightly longer bill.” While they are normally only seen at higher elevations, there had been reports of an influx in the lowlands.
Below them we saw movement near the water and were delighted by a late Hermit Thrush and a Song Sparrow. Then a Lincoln’s Sparrow dropped down to get a drink. When it was done, it moved stealthily up through the understory, disappearing from view.
Two Cooper’s Hawks circled overhead. Then another raptor came over the horizon. “Look, a Peregrine Falcon,” Matt pointed.
“Did you see the long, pointed wings?” I asked as it disappeared.
We turned around to watch two Northern (Red-shafted) Flickers calling and chasing each other in a large cottonwood at the edge of the bosque.
A few Violet-green Swallows flew high over the drain. “They are so white underneath,” Maureen commented.
We headed up the levee on the eastern side of the drain and located the trail into the bosque. A Spotted Towhee whined in the underbrush and further along, we spotted a Downy Woodpecker.
At a clearing, we walked over to see what might be on the river. Two Canada Geese were on the other side and more Violet-green Swallows and a single Barn Swallow swooped over the water.
More Yellow-rumped and Wilson’s Warblers busied themselves in the tops of the trees. We stopped to watch a Black-capped Chickadee darting around in a shrub. Matt spotted a Virginia’s Warbler before it slipped away.
There were large areas where the bosque had been cleared for fire control. With the dry spring, it looked even more barren.
“Look over here,” Maureen motioned. “The cottonwoods have ‘swallowed up’ an old jetty jack.”
We headed out of the bosque and crossed the drain on the Dixon Bridge. We headed back to East Ella on the east side of the irrigation ditch to be able to check out the trees above the drainage ditch. Some White-crowned Sparrows flew across and landed near us giving everyone good views.
There were more Yellow-rumped Warblers. A pair of Cassin’s Finches flew in, giving everyone a chance to see a male.
“I hear a Black-headed Grosbeak calling,” Matt said.
“It sounds similar to a Robin, but with a more sing-songy cadence,” I suggested. Everyone heard it singing nearby. We were disappointed when it stopped and seemed to be moving further away before we had a chance to see it.
A Spotted Towhee landed on a branch in the open across the irrigation ditch – and next to it a White-throated Sparrow.
By time we arrived at the cars, 40 different species had been seen or heard by all or some of the group and the newer birders in the group had the opportunity to see new birds and learn more about others. We were delighted that summer birds were beginning to arrive in central New Mexico.