The morning was cold and I was pleased that the isolated snow showers that hovered over a couple of the canyons to the north had not reached the area where we planned to bird.
We headed up the main trail east of the parking area. It seemed fairly quiet compared with the cacophony of bird sound I had encountered about the same time in the morning the prior week in Embudito Canyon.
The first bird we encountered was a Canyon Towhee perched briefly on a shrub just south of the trail.
Three birds were sitting on the chain link fence surrounding the water tank – White-crowned Sparrows.
As we headed up the hill, our body temperature warmed in the morning sun.
“There’s a raptor circling high over the mountains,” someone in the group reported. Robert and Rebecca set up their scopes.
“It’s a Golden Eagle,” Robert stated. We watched it until it disappeared behind a rocky protrusion on the crest of the mountains.
Further along, we spotted another raptor – an accipiter. “It’s a Cooper’s Hawk,” Roger, a HawkWatch volunteer, stated. Notice its slow wing flap.
We entered the Wilderness Area, which brought us into a piñon-juniper habitat. A bird was perched on the top edge of a juniper. It was puffed up and backlit against a white-gray sky, making it difficult to ID. We kept inching closer. “I can see an eye-ring,” Joe informed us.
Once we got to a better position, we could clearly see that it was a Townsend’s Solitaire.
There was a flurry of bird activity nearby – Dark-eyed Juncos and a Juniper Titmouse.
As I was hoping to get a better look at the titmouse, others in the group were able to observe a Crissal Thrasher on the other side of the trail.
Near where the thrasher disappeared, the group watched a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. It disappeared into a tangle of shrubs; however, characteristic of this species of woodpecker, it never stays in one location for very long. Pretty soon, it emerged and flew across the trail into a stand of junipers. It was followed by its mate. As they moved around within the bushes, everyone finally got a good look – at least at one of them. The male’s bright red crest was raised, giving it a bushy appearance.
We walked up to the waterfall. Some of the group headed further up the trail, while the rest of us headed back to the parking lot. As we descended we were greeted by the calls of Western Scrub Jays as they sailed back and forth between the shrubs.
Before leaving the area entirely, I decided to drive north along Antonito to Haines. Two Curve-billed Thrashers and some White-crowned Sparrows were busy at the block feeder.
Where Haines turns into Rebonito, a vehicle was parked next to an entrance into the Open Space – and a Canyon Towhee was perched on its hood, singing its heart out.
It was a beautiful winter morning to be birding in the Sandia Foothills!