A Black Phoebe sitting on the railing of the bridge over the acequia greeted the 20 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders headed north from East Ella in the Corrales Bosque.
“Spotted Towhee on the trail head,” I alerted the group as the trip leader for the day. It popped in and out of the leaves as it scrounged. “There must be another one nearby. Yesterday they were all in pairs.”
As if on cue, we were able to hear and then spot its mate in the undergrowth next to the trail before they disappeared.
Two Wood Ducks were swimming in the full irrigation channel ahead of us. There had been no water when I had scouted the prior day. When we got closer, they flew off towards the river.
A Hermit Thrush skulked silently in the underbrush next to the trail. A little further on, Lefty spotted two of them in a yard that backed up to the open space.
A small flock of birds landed nearby and started scarfing up the few remaining berries on a Russian Olive and appeared to be eating the base of the flowers on an adjacent tree – 8 Cedar Waxwings (unfortunately backlit),
a Lesser Goldfinch and a few American Goldfinches in breeding plumage.
We crossed over the riverside drain and entered the bosque. Due to the wild-fire the prior summer, a lot of the understory has been cleared out. While there were fewer trees for the birds, it made it easier to observe them. We stopped to look at a pair of Eastern Bluebirds.
“Notice that they have red throats and whiter bellies, than Western Bluebirds do,” I explained to some of the newer birders in the group.
A little further along, I pointed out a Cooper’s Hawk’s nest. “The female was refurbishing the nest when I was here yesterday,” I told the group. As if on cue, one of the hawks flew in letting us here the territorial kekking.
The trail narrowed through some dense understory and we were able to see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. At first it was difficult to see, but then if flew out in front of us. We let those who had not seen one before move to the head of the line to get good looks.
As the trail opened up into a clearing, three Black-capped Chickadees busied themselves. A Bewick’s Wren sang from the underbrush behind them, only popping up once.
Lefty pointed out another bird that flew to the left – a Gray Flycatcher. “Notice how it flicks its tail downwards while it perches,” Lefty explained.
We watched a pair of Bushtits foraging, but didn’t see their nest.
We emerged from the bosque and then walked north along the drain, where we saw both Black and Say’s Phoebes.
A group of five Cinnamon Teal were swimming in the drain and a pair of Mallards bobbed heads in a courtship display.
“I’m surprised we haven’t seen a Northern Flicker,” someone said after we were back on the levee trail. Just then, another person in the group spotted one head in a tree.
Our last birds were a pair of Western Bluebirds, which was surprising since they normally have migrated to a higher elevation by mid-April.
While we were going over the sightings list after lunch at the Village Pizza, someone pointed out the window at a Swainson’s Hawk flying by.
The group was divided between the Cedar Waxwings and the Gray Flycatcher as their favorites for the morning – both signs that migration was underway.