The insistent calls of Black-necked Stilts greeted the 14-car caravan of Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders as we stopped at a pond just north of the Isleta Marsh. Their dark, coral-pink legs stood out, whether they were stalking the edges of the pond or flying across the wet meadow.
The shoulder was uneven and there was a lot of traffic along NM-314 between Isleta and Los Lunas. Since today was my first day birding using my cane, I stayed close to the car enjoying what I could see from there.
From my vantage point, I could see the tentative explorations of a pale, fluffy, juvenile Black-necked Stilt.
Red-winged Blackbirds, both males and females, were out and about. The males called from territory, while the females seemed glad not to be stuck on a nest.
“Did you see the Swainson’s Hawk?” Rebecca asked as she walked towards me. “It was perched on the fence; however, now it is sitting on top of one of the power poles on the ridge-line. While I could see it, it was some distance away, so I was glad for a conclusive ID.
Two small birds flew towards me and then dropped into the tall grass before I could tell what they were. One had flown near the rest of the group letting them see it was a Common Yellow-throat. Later, one flew close to me so I could see its yellow breast and black mask.
Lefty was lucky to catch a glimpse of a Green Heron.
We drove down the road a quarter mile to the Isleta Marsh. Several Ruddy Ducks plied the pond. The males’ blue bills contrasted with the greenish water.
Also enjoying the pond were three American Coots and a Pied-billed Grebe. A pair of Mallards flew across the highway from irrigation ditch, their orange legs dangling underneath as they prepared to land in the pond.
Our next stop was River Park in Los Lunas. As we pulled into the parking lot, a raptor sailed in front of us, its wings pulled tight against its side. Rick, who was visiting from Iowa, thought it was either a harrier or a kite. Since Northern Harriers migrate out of central New Mexico during the summer months, we were hoping it was a Mississippi Kite and that it would make another appearance.
While the rest of the group walked the trail over to the river, I did my birding from the parking lot. While I kept a look-out overhead for a kite, the raptor never returned.
The cottonwood trees had seed clusters of white fluff – or cotton. It drifted in the breeze like the fluttery snowflakes at the beginning of a storm.
I watched a pair of male Robins in a nearby tree and the antics of a Greater Roadrunner that emerged from the bosque. A Black-headed Grosbeak called from across the parking lot.
While I was purusing the parking lot, the rest of the group delighted themselves with a Western Kingbird, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager and Bullock’s Oriole. I was just delighted to be out in nature and knew that these birds would remain through the summer when I was more able to seek them out.
After lunch at Henriettas, we headed to Bosque Farms to check out the rookery. I had spent a delightful afternoon last year counting these birds for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. (See “Counting Colonial Nesters in a Rookery). The owner of the property where hundreds of Snowy and Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons nest and roost, arrived as we were peering through his fence at the birds.
He was leery at first, since he and the birds have been harassed by a few neighbors – one of whom has used a slingshot – and someone from the village’s planning department suggested he could discourage them by dismantling their nests during the winter. When he found out we were birders from Audubon, he opened up and invited us into his yard for a better view. The calling and squawking of the birds provided a tropical ambiance.
Joe captured the expression of a hungry chick waiting for its parents to return.
The heat of the afternoon began to permeate the shade of the elms. It was time to head home. It had been a delightful day of birding. It was good to be out.