There was a flurry of bird activity near the parking lot at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras as the Central New Mexico Audubon gathered.
“We’ll bird around the ranger station for about half an hour,” I told the assembled group. “Then we will head over to the Ojito de San Antonio Open Space.” Both are sites featured in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico.
Both Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds were cavorting near the ranger station. “How can you tell which is which?” someone asked. We compared the white on the tails, the shades of gray on each head, and the white chin of the Cassin’s, as well as listened for their distinctive calls.
“Juniper Titmouse,” I pointed to a nearby juniper where one kept pausing during its foraging so we could get a good view.
“Look, there is one on the top of the wall,” someone reported.
A Bullock’s Oriole stood out like a tree ornament as it nestled in a piñon pine across the arroyo. There also were Western Tanagers.
We stopped to watch a Say’s Phoebe near the opening of a large drain pipe. “See if you can see whether it might be nesting inside,” Rebecca suggested to Joe. He couldn’t see a nest, although it kept going inside after catching an insect.
“A Great Blue Heron flew over,” someone exclaimed. We wondered where the water might be that attracted it.
Two immature American Robins sat tentatively on a wire over the arroyo.
Other birds included Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Bluebird and American Kestrel.
“Hopefully we will get to see the Indigo Bunting that has been reported at Ojito,” I enticed the group before we headed over there. “I saw it yesterday; I hope it hasn’t left.”
A Western Scrub Jay was perched on the top of a bar snag along the trail into the open space. The first of several Black-headed Grosbeaks flew in.
“What is that bird at 10:00?” Kate asked.
I saw a dark blue bird. “Indigo Bunting,” I called to the group.
When I looked at it more closely, I realized it was singing and it wasn’t the song I had heard the bunting sing the day before.
“That’s the song of a Blue Grosbeak,” Rebecca stated. We looked at the bird more closely and realized that the bird we were watching was indeed a Blue Grosbeak. It flew off to another tree, continuing to call.
Spotted Towhees were everywhere – some singing and some giving their whiny call. None of them came into view as nicely as they did the prior day when I captured this photo.
Up near the property line, we heard a Plumbeous Vireo calling, but were not able to spot it.
“Ladder-backed Woodpecker,” Bob stated.
“Swallow,” someone pointed. A single Violet-green Swallow circled over the orchard of the open space neighbor.
We followed the trail through the piñon-juniper woodland a short ways; however, there were not any birds, so we returned to the orchard area.
The Blue Grosbeak was continuing to call. Then we heard another song – the Indigo Bunting. It perched on a tree giving everyone good looks.
As we worked our way back along the trail, we stopped to look at a Western Tanager and two Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers called from the junipers.
“There’s the Indigo Bunting again,” Rebecca alerted it. As it perched on a tree in the confined area surrounding the trail, it sounded much louder, although the cadence was the same.
When we went over the checklist, we were delighted that 44 species had been seen – and everyone was excited with the appearance of the Indigo Bunting.