Unusual Sightings at Bachechi Open Space and Alameda Wetlands

“Before we explore the Alameda Open Space,” trip leader Kathleen told the assembled Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders, “we are going to walk through the new Bachechi Open Space where I saw a Killdeer with her chicks yesterday.”

Alameda Open Space is one of the sights in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. One of the field trip participants told me she had reviewed the site description before the trip.

As we walked around the east end of the Alameda wetlands, we stopped to scan the waterfowl on the pond. There were a few Mallards and a couple of Cinnamon Teal, but only one Wood Duck pair, compared with earlier in the year. Since this is nesting season, chances are they are near their nests in trees throughout the Open Space.

A few swallows darted around over where we stood. “They are Violet-green Swallows,” I stated. “I can see their white cheeks and rump patches.”

After crossing a bridge over the inlet stream, we entered the Bachechi Open Space and walked through areas with newly planted natives which had recently been flooded with irrigation water from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s old Lane Lateral, the running ditch at the north side of Bachechi between the new open space and the ponds. While the water had seeped into the soil in most planting beds, the area planted with native grasses still had surface water.

We could hear a Killdeer calling and soon located mama, who was hustling to the edge of the wetlands calling her brood. With careful scrutiny, we located the three tiny chicks walking towards her on their still-spindly legs. One, by one, they joined her and huddled under her wings, with just their legs showing.

baby Killdeer sheltered by mother - photo by Joe Schelling

From the far side of the wetlands, papa was calling, as if to say “is everyone safe?”

The chicks were not content to stay sequestered under their mother’s wings for long. First one, and then the others ventured out and began exploring again.

Killdeer chick

Once again, mom called them back to the safety of her spread wings. It was time to move on so as not to disturb the Killdeer family any more.

We exited the Bachechi Open Space, walked north a short distance, crossed over the Bridge at the Alameda Open Space and then walked up onto the levee and over to the river next to the Water Re-Use Facility mentioned above.

As we were crossing the bridge, someone spotted a bird perched high on a bare snag in a cottonwood tree up on the levee. We set up the scopes to get a better look. The sky was gray behind the bird, making it difficult to ferret out field marks with our binoculars.

“Blue Grosbeak,” someone stated. It is blue with rusty wing-bars.

“We need to make sure it isn’t an Indigo Bunting,” Rebecca replied. The bunting would be more probable for this time period, rather than the grosbeak that normally doesn’t arrive until early May.

Our final conclusion was a Blue Grosbeak. Fortunately, Phil Trine captured a photo, which with considerable editing, was able to bring out the colors.

Blue Grosbeak - photo by Phil Trine

We heard the scratchy call of a Bewick’s Wren coming from a bush near the top of the levee. Before long the wren popped into view before flying into another bush.

There were a few pairs of Canada Geese on the river and we could see a few female nesting on sandbars.

We headed north through the bosque, stopped to scan the trees for the Yellow-rumped Warblers we could hear calling – 3 Audubon’s and 1 Myrtle.

“There’s a Western Kingbird,” someone exclaimed. “It is on the backside of the tree with the warblers.”

It was a ‘first of season’ for me.

Along the river north of the bridge, we again scanned the water. Rebecca was sure she could see a Peregrine Falcon eating prey on a sandbar. We trekked further north to get a better view – and confirm the sighting.

A large raptor flew into the top of a cottonwood on the far side of the river across from where we stood. Unfortunately, it landed with its back to us, so it took a while for it to turn enough to see its sides and throat – a Swainson’s Hawk.

Eastern Phoebe - photo be Joe Schelling

Before heading to the cars, we took time to scan the trees and shrubs along the drain. When we were almost to the bridge, Rebecca called out that she was hearing an Eastern Phoebe.

“I don’t know their song,” I said.

“It sounds like they are singing their name,” Gale replied. “phoebe, phoebe – with a lilt.”

“Well, we won’t have travel all the way to Villanueva this year to see one,” I stated. We usually see them near the bridge over the river just before the state park there.

According to Sibley’s field guide, they nest almost exclusively on man-made structures such as bridges. The following day on eBird’s report of rare birds for New Mexico, someone reported seeing two of them in the same location that acted as if they might be nest-building. If so, it would be a Bernalillo County record.

As we gathered in the parking lot to go over the bird list, it was hard to decide the ‘bird of the day’ – the Killdeer, the Blue Grosbeak or the Eastern Phoebe.


3 thoughts on “Unusual Sightings at Bachechi Open Space and Alameda Wetlands

  1. This is close to where we live and it is exciting to know you saw a Bewick’s Wren. I have been reading the biography of Bewick and have not gotten to know these birds in real life yet. Gotta get over there. The Killdeer chick story is one I will share at my next Prehistoric Preschool class, Judy – we are covering Bird Track and Sign there the end of this week.

    I did a post on my blog about Thomas Bewick, Judy – he made his etchings from wood in a time when copper was the norm – and he created some of the first “bird books.”

    Thank you soooo much for your good reporting here!

  2. Judy, You gave me too much credit. I felt the bird on the sandbar was a hawk but Gary Shirk made the Peregrine Falcon call.
    I enjoyed your description of our wonderful morning of birding.

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