Exploring the Birds at Bluewater Lake State Park

“Our first stop will be near Bluewater Village,” trip leader Becky told the group. “A birder from the area told me about a forest road that accesses the bottom of Bluewater Creek that has good riparian habitat.”

We stopped to scan a prairie dog village just off the freeway in hopes of spotting a Burrowing Owl, but only saw mound after mound with prairie dogs.

Becky, who was riding with me, led us into Bluewater Village to search for the forest road. Driving up and down the streets of the small community we spotted many Brown-headed Cowbirds and Eurasian-collared Doves, along with a few Western Kingbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Lesser Goldfinches, and of course, House Sparrows.

The search for the forest road proved to be a ‘Burk Adventure,’ a term coined by my sister and her husband for unexpected adventures on a trip. No sooner had we turned onto County Road 29 than we encountered a cow that had escaped from the nearby field and was zig-zagging back and forth anxiously in the road. I drove slowly, not wanting it to run in front of my car. When it finally found a way off the road, we turned a corner only to see a large road grader inching its way down the road. There was no way to pass it, so we enjoyed the Western Meadowlarks and a Red-tailed Hawk until it finally came to a place to pull over and let us go by. The road dead-ended not too long afterwards; so we retraced our steps, getting in line behind the grader again. We never did find the trailhead.

The drive from Prewitt to Bluewater State Park wound through piñon-juniper habitat. I had no sooner told those in my car that “we should keep our eyes peeled for Pinyon Jays,” than we spotted one on the outskirts of the small community just outside the state park. “Notice how short its tail is, compared with a Western Scrub Jay,” I told my passengers.

Pinyon Jay

We parked just inside the park so cars without a state park permit could purchase their day use pass. As soon as I got out of the car I could hear the wicked-sounding laugh of several Pinyon Jays, and then one flew close by giving everyone good looks. There also were both Western and Mountain Bluebirds in the fields.

“There is a sparrow in the grass,” someone pointed. A Chipping Sparrow.

We watched a Say’s Phoebe catch insects nearby and an Ash-throated Flycatcher calling from across the field.

On the road to Bluewater Creek trailhead, there were several Common Ravens.

The group followed the rocky trail down to the creek. In several locations there were large, smooth boulders with no place for me to safely plant my walking stick for support. Bev and I decided to observe the birds from a rocky vantage point halfway down the trail, while the others continued to the bottom.

Thursday Birders along Bluewater Creek

“I can see the Rock Wren,” Joe alerted the others as he was almost to the creek bottom. I could hear it calling from my vantage point.

I could hear the buzzy song of a Western Wood Pewee down in the canyon.

We could see swarms of Cliff Swallows soaring above the canyon and flying into their nests tucked into cracks on the cliff face.

Cliff Swallow nests

As I scanned the swallow flocks, I saw three that were white on the breast, consistent with a Tree Swallow.

We watched a Western Tanager land on a juniper just below us and listened to, but could not see the Plumbeous Vireo singing nearby. A flock of Bushtits gleaned insects from several nearby trees. An occasional Broad-tailed Hummingbird flew by.

As we ate lunch, I inquired about the birds along the creek. They did not have any additional birds that I had not seen or heard from my rocky perch. I was glad I had not tried to go further.

We watched Western Bluebird parents catching insects and delivering them to their nest hidden in the trees. Immature Chipping Sparrows bounced in the weeds nearby.

We had hoped that there might be some early shorebirds along Bluewater Lake; however, it had very few exposed mudflats. Great Blue Herons and Common Ravens were taking advantage of these spots, while one was fishing in the lake.

Great Blue Heron

We stopped at Acomita Lake on our way back to Albuquerque. Flame Skimmers darted over the water as we watched a large group of American Coots and six pair of Ruddy Ducks plying the water. Mallards and ten Turkey Vultures were resting on the far shore, alongside three Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Eight Great Blue Heron were evenly spaced nearby as they stared intently into the water hoping for dinner.

It had been a delightful day and the opportunity for me to visit some new locations.

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