The Cassin’s Kingbirds were squawking loudly back and forth as I opened my car door at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras, one of the sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. In the distance I heard Ash-throated Flycatchers calling with their similar, yet different call. At this elevation is was cooler than it was at home and I relished being able to get out.
The trail through the archaeological ruins behind the Visitor Center is one of the few places on public land that is open for birding during this time of severe fire danger. The Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders had visited a few days earlier and had seen 22 species. I was anxious to see how far I could trek.
One of the Cassin’s Kingbirds landed nearby.
An insect-sounding rattle alerted me to a Chipping Sparrow. I found it perched in a bush and watched its throat and mouth vibrate as it called.
After about .25 mile, there was a bench. I saw down for a few minutes to enjoy the antics of two Ash-throated Flycatchers. A Barn Swallow swooped low over the hillside where one of the Tijeras Pueblo ruins is located.
Since the bench was in the sun, I didn’t linger and made my way slowly along the path.
There was another bench in about another .25 mi. – and this one was in the shade, so I sat again.
Before long, a Juniper Titmouse, popped out of a juniper just across the trail from where I was sitting. It regarded me quizzically and then hopped down and was on its way.
A Spotted Towhee was my next visitor. It zoomed across the trail and landed in the bushes behind me. I kept hearing its drink, drink tea song, periodically followed by its mewing whine. After a while, it flew back in the other direction.
My next visitor was a Black-headed Grosbeak. Its rust-colored body disappeared quickly into a tree, but later popped up, perched on top and began to sing. Two juveniles with their streaked breasts and tentative looks perched on a wire behind the tree.
I kept thinking I should move on, but each time I was surprised with a visit from a new species. This time it was a family – male, female and juvenile – of Lesser Goldfinches. The golden breast of the male caught the sun and glistened from the top of the same tree where the Black-headed Grosbeak had just left.
Two Say’s Phoebes must have a nest under the eaves of a home bordering the preserve. First one and then another flew to the house, landed on a wire near an electrical box and disappeared under the eaves.
As I continued to sit, I reminisced about when I started birding – while I was recovering from my prior knee replacement surgery. I could not do a lot of walking, so I drove to the Rio Grande Nature Center and sat on a bench in the herb garden studying the birds. I haven’t done a lot of sitting on my birding treks since then.
I walked a ways up the trail and then headed back. While not as active, the Cassin’s Kingbirds and Ash-throated Flycatchers continued to frolic in the scrub.
When I was almost back, I stopped to admire three Western Bluebirds, resident breeders at this location.
After I returned to the car I wondered whether I would have seen all 14 species if I had continued to walk instead of stopping to sit. Today’s visit reinforced the notion that ‘if you sit, they will come.’