A Band-tailed Pigeon flew off as we approached ‘The Log’ at Capulin Spring Picnic Area, one of the featured sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico.
After setting up our folding chairs, Barbara Hussey and I noticed three Cassin’s Finches in the branches above our head. After a few minutes, they flew down to drink from the trickling water at the bottom of the log trough.
“Oh, look, a beautiful male Western Tanager has joined them,” I exclaimed.
It had been several years since I last enjoyed watching the birds at Capulin Springs. For the past three years the US Forest Service and certified volunteers from the Friends of Sandia Mountain have been cutting and removing trees damaged by bark beetle – many of which had fallen precariously – and updating the entire picnic area. The road down to the viewing area is closed and it is strictly a walking path.
The picnic table has been removed and replaced by comfortable benches. It used to be a real disappointment to arrive to view the birds and find people picnicking at that table, unaware of nature’s parade of avian species coming and going. The new picnic area is further down the road next to a new restroom.
Both Yellow-rumped and Graces Warblers called from the tops of the conifers. We were glad we had not let the forecast for heavy winds deter us. While the winds kept picking up, we were sitting in a semi-protected area and the gusts didn’t discourage the birds from going about their business.
A parade of woodpeckers visited the log: a stunning male Red-naped Sapsucker,
a Hairy Woodpecker,
and a Downy Woodpecker who didn’t stay long enough to be photographed.
Nearby, we watched a pair of chattering House Wrens obtaining nesting material from a remaining brush pile, and then taking it bit by bit up a tree to where they were building a nest.
“What’s that in front of us?” Barb asked. When we could view it better, we identified it as a Dusky Flycatcher.
Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin and a Hermit Thrush took turns bathing in the shallow water that pooled in the bottom of the hollowed-out and deteriorating log. We were glad that collaborative plans with the US Forest Service and Central New Mexico Audubon are under consideration to replace the log.
We had heard the peet of a Cordilleran Flycatcher in the trees. It finally flew in and perched on the fence surrounding the area that protects the spring.
A Spotted Towhee called from behind us, then flew to another branch and called again. In the midst of his circling the log area, as if staking his claim, he stopped for a drink.
A Black-headed Grosbeak sang sweetly from nearby and finally visited the log briefly before we had to be on our way.
It was wonderful to be able to enjoy the birds at Capulin Spring again.