A Walking Meditation – Birding in Embudito Canyon

A Curve-billed Thrasher gurgled his rich, melodic song just beyond the trailhead to Embudito Canyon as I left the parking lot. I could feel the tension wash away as I headed down the trail. It had been a stressful week and I knew I had to head to my favorite Sandia foothills birding locations to regain my equilibrium.

Just beyond me I heard the rattle of a Cactus Wren. Before long he flew and landed nearby, letting me have a good look, before he dropped down. A Scaled Quail called from one side of the canyon and a Gambel’s Quail from the other side.

As I entered the Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area, I thought about David White and Susan Guyette’s book Zen Birding. They describe birding as a spiritual practice, where “the bird and the birder are not isolated separate selves, but mere parts of a larger reality.” In another chapter, they explain that the “master birder is one that does not know all of the answers.”

I scanned the rocks just inside the wilderness area for Rock Wrens, the location I have always seen them in the past. This year I have not seen one and wonder whether the fact that the plant life adjacent to the rock out-cropping burned last summer has anything to do with their absence.

The Black-throated Sparrows have recently arrived back to the canyon. They were not yet singing on territory and I could only hear their plink-like chip calls all around me. I caught a glimpse of a couple foraging on the ground under the still-dead three-winged salt-bush.

I stopped to admire a Cactus Wren’s nest, and

Cactus Wren nest

Cactus Wren nest


across the trail another Curve-billed Thrasher was singing on top of the cholla that held its more cup-shaped nest, well hidden in a crook of the cactus.
Curve-billed Thrasher singing above nest

Curve-billed Thrasher singing above nest


Normally, I heard a number of Western Scrub Jays calling and sailing between the junipers. Today I only heard one. They become more secretive as they enter their breeding period.

A pair of Mourning Doves flew into a large Mountain Mahogany shrub at the east end of the canyon and nearby I heard a Rufous-crowned Sparrow singing. Then one starts singing closer to the mouth of the canyon and I can see it perched on the top of a bush.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Rufous-crowned Sparrow


The sun has warmed the air and there is very little wind in the protection of the canyon and I head back.

As I am about to leave the wilderness area, a Black-throated Sparrow makes a brief appearance on top of a cactus.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow


My hour and a half of birding was truly a walking medication as I concentrated on enjoying each bird, and was truly able to be ‘in the moment.’

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