Summer Birds Along Hyde Park Road in Santa Fe National Forest

An American Robin was singing from the top of a tree as the cars of Thursday Birders arrived at the Little Tesuque Picnic Area, the first stop on the trip I was leading along Hyde Park Road, featured in Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos and Northern New Mexico.

As we walked through the picnic area, I could hear at least three different Cordilleran Flycatchers singing. One of them was fairly close, but kept moving around. I finally located it sitting up high in a fir tree. “It’s about 2 o’clock,” I told the group. Many in the group saw it before it flew over to another tree, where others were able to see it.

“Let’s check out the structures around the picnic shelters and along the restroom,” I suggested. These flycatchers are particularly fond of nesting on them. We were not able to locate any nests.

We stopped to gaze in the willows that practically obscured Tesuque Creek. “There is the possibility of MacGillivray’s Warblers here,” I stated. However, there was no movement. Later, while he was re-checking the shrubs, Lefty was lucky to spot one fly out and over the picnic area.

There was movement in a small tree at the base of the hill behind the picnic shelter. “It’s a Hermit Thrush,” I announced. As we watched it, we could see that it had nesting material in its bill.

“Let’s cross over to the Black Canyon Campground,” I told the group of 18. “There is parking along the highway for those not camping.”

A Western Tanager was singing from the top of a bare snag across the highway from where we parked. Everyone got a good look before it flew off.

As we started towards the trail leading to Hyde State Park, Bernie spotted an Evening Grosbeak. When it flew off, we discovered that there were two of them, their white wing-patches flashing as they sailed past us.

As the trail came into a clearing, we stopped to watch a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird perched on top of a fir. It had its back to us; however, just before it flew, it turned to wow us with its red gorget.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

And, nearby a Cordilleran Flycatcher sat on a branch giving us a good view.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Cordilleran Flycatcher

While we were walking along the trail, a few in the group wandered into the campground where they spotted a Cordilleran Flycatcher nesting next to the campground host’s site – “just like Judy said,” Reuben told the group.

nesting Cordilleran Flycatcher - photo by Joe Schelling

nesting Cordilleran Flycatcher – photo by Joe Schelling

Our next stop was the Aspen Vista Picnic Area. As we were getting out of the cars, we noticed an Evening Grosbeak perched across the road.

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks, a species that roves to take advantage of buds, seeds and insects, must be taking advantage of the tent caterpillars that have invaded the drought-affected aspens in the area, as well as other plants.

tent caterpillars

tent caterpillars

Violet-green Swallows swooped back and forth just over the trees.

As we started walking along the trail into the picnic area, we heard the harsh-trilling song of Chipping Sparrows and the song of several male Green-tailed Towhees defending their territories.

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

As we wandered down a trail into the woods, we noticed two small birds flying back and forth across the trail. When one of them landed, we could see that it was a Brown Creeper – and soon realized that it was a pair carrying nesting material to the nest they were building behind a strip of loose aspen bark!

Brown Creeper nest at bottom of crack

Brown Creeper nest at bottom of crack

When one of them landed on the trunk, it would slip behind the bark where it used its slender, down-curved bill to fashion the hammock-like nest.

Brown Creeper building nest

Brown Creeper building nest

According to Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s All About Birds, it can take up to two weeks to fashion a nest.

A little further along the trail we heard a Warbling Vireo singing and someone located it on a ponderosa branch.

Warbling Vireo - photo by Joe Schelling

Warbling Vireo – photo by Joe Schelling

As we ate our lunch, we watched several pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Mountain Chickadees in the nearby trees.

Our last stop was the Santa Fe Ski Area. Our timing was just right. When I was there earlier in the week, there were a number of trucks going up and down the service road behind the buildings, making it difficult to hear birds.

As I got out of my car, there was no truck noise and I glanced at my watch – 12:10 pm. The workers must be at lunch!

A Sharp-shinned Hawk soared over the mountains.

As we walked up the service road, I could hear Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Dark-eyed Juncos singing.

We stopped to watch a bird flitting high in a conifer. While it was difficult to see clearly, the song emanating from the tree was clearly that of a kinglet. Finally someone was able to see the red on its crest confirming the ID.

A pair of Dark-eyed Juncos flew into the base of a nearby tree, and then out of sight. After a while, they flew across the road giving us good views.

As we returned to our cars, there was a bird sitting on the top of a tree along the ski slope. There were different speculations of what it might be. I walked closer to get a better view – our 3rd sighting of Evening Grosbeak for the day.

It had been a wonderful day enjoying high elevation species and escaping the heat of the valley.


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