Swamp Sparrow in Corrales Bosque

“Ring-necked Pheasant!” Terrye signaled.

As we looked, it rose up and flew from where it was foraging next to the drain – and into the Corrales bosque.

Twelve Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders were walking through the new snow near the East Ella Road entrance to the bosque. A little further on, we spotted a Great Blue Heron cruise over the drain.

The snow had been coming down steadily as we huddled under the overhang outside of Little Anita’s waiting for the group to assemble and Rebecca, our trip leader, handed out maps showing our three stops for the morning. I almost turned back when the snow started accumulating along Paseo del Norte as I drove towards our meeting spot; however, it looked as if it was clear along the river, so I persevered. By time we started walking along the drain, the snow began to dissipate – and soon had stopped.

The birds were slow to come out. The most prevalent bird was Song Sparrow. Throughout the hour we explored the area, we spotted four different ones, with a variety of coloring. There was a pale-streaked one that appeared to be a southwestern sub-species, a dark-streaked eastern sub-species, and a juvenile eastern with fine streaks that resembled a Lincoln’s Sparrow. They skulked under the scraggly branches on the sloped bank leading to the water’s edge – where their streaking provided a perfect camouflage. They crept down the bank to get a drink

Song Sparrow - Photo by Joe Schelling

or take a bath.

Song Sparrow bathing - Photo by Joe Schelling

Our target bird was a Winter Wren that had been spotted in this area during the prior Sunday’s Christmas Bird Count. We searched unsuccessfully for about a third of a mile, before turning back.

As we walked along, we flushed some Mallards and an American Coot. The rattle of a Belted Kingfisher attracted our attention, and we saw it sitting on a branch over the drain.

Belted Kingfisher - Photo by Joe Schelling

A flock of twelve Canada Geese honked as they flew south over the bosque.

Our next stop was the Romero Road entrance to the bosque – one of the featured spots in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico.

It did not appear to have snowed this far north in Corrales and the road at the end was extremely muddy. A Northern Harrier flew just ahead of us as we found a place to park at the end of the road.

The clouds had lifted and the sun was coming out as we walked north along the drain. Our first bird was another kingfisher. “I think it is a male,” Rebecca said. Almost immediately, it took off and flew past us – rattling the entire time.

Some White-crowned Sparrows flitted about waist-high on the opposite bank and a couple of Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos called as they flew from tree to tree.

Our target bird for this location was a Swamp Sparrow – also seen on last Sunday’s CBC.

We flushed three birds that flew from our side of the drain to the other side. Two immediately disappeared into the underbrush. One paused – “Ruby-crowned Kinglet,” I announced.

“Why don’t you play the Swamp Sparrow song,” Rebecca asked me. Even though the app on my phone was not very loud, it seemed to do the trick. Before long, one popped up and perched on the top edge of some gnarled branches.

“That’s it,” stated Gary, who is familiar with them from the east. “Look at the chestnut color on its wings and back.”

Swamp Sparrow - Photo by Joe Schelling

As we headed back to the cars, we passed a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows. “There’s a White-throated in that flock,” Rebecca called, as we tried to re-find it.

Our third stop was on Rebecca’s CBC route – behind the Seventh Day Adventist compound. It was where she had seen a Western Screech Owl the last two years. Today, it was snuggled into its hole; however, we could peer at it through the scope as it opened one eye to keep a watch on us.

“There’s a Cooper’s Hawk in the top of the tree,” Joe signaled.

We wandered behind the boarded-up buildings were we heard, and then saw, a Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker and an American Robin.

A flock of small birds flushed from a fir tree. Only one landed where we could see it – a House Finch.

It had been a successful morning – and now it was time to go and enjoy pizza together. I was glad I had not let the early morning snow deter me.


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