Migration Highlights – Ellis Trailhead to Upper Tram

We needed to get out of the heat and wildfire smoke lingering at lower elevations, Barbara Hussey and I headed for the Ellis Trailhead on August 20. Our plan was to bird along the service road to the upper tram.

Migration was in full swing. We had our first Wilson’s Warbler before heading south from the parking lot.

Wilson’s Warbler

“There are two kinds of sparrows,” I commented as we watched a small flock working the edges of the service road and then fly into the grass along the edges.

“Chippies for sure,” Barb responded.

“There are a few that have some streaking primarily on the sides,” I stated. “Vesper’s. I don’t think I have seen them along here before, but since they nest at higher elevations, it makes sense that this might be a migration corridor.”

As we progressed down the trail, the sparrows kept just ahead of us – 10 Chipping Sparrows, both adults

adult Chipping Sparrow

and juveniles.

juvenile Chipping Sparrow

We could hear, and occasionally see, Mountain Chickadees – only 2 or 3 at a time, not traveling in mixed flocks like they did the first week in August. Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Juncos also were prevalent.

We started adding other warblers – Yellow-rumped (fewer than in early August), Orange-crowned, Virginia’s and MacGillivray’s.

As we approached the ski area, we stopped to admire our first of four Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

“I wonder if there will still be House Wrens.” Barb commented. Sure enough, there was one near the edge of the woods, as well as another one near the base of one of the ski buildings.

“A goshawk just flew into the trees,” Barb called out. By time I looked, it had disappeared.

“Say’s Phoebe,” I exclaimed. “It seems strange to see them at this altitude.” It was fly catching off a fence.

Say’s Phoebe

On our early August trip we discovered that the Ten-3 Restaurant was selling boxed lunches and decided in Thursday Birder tradition, we would treat ourselves to what turned out to be a delicious, if pricey, lunch we ate on a deck behind the building so we could continue to watch for birds.

On our return to the trailhead we added our fifth warbler – Townsend’s, as well as two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a juvenile Hermit Thrush, and Steller’s Jay, as well as 3 Turkey Vultures.

Mid-way back when we stopped to take a breather after making it up the grade, Barb pointed to the sky – the Northern Goshawk was soaring over the area!

When we were almost back to the Trailhead we watched the tail-end of a Red-tailed Hawk disappear over the trees. As we headed back down the Crest Road, it was perched just past a curve. I pulled over to the side of the road to take its picture. Unfortunately, it turned its head just as I clicked the shutter.

juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

We ended our outing with 23 species, including 6 warblers.

The walk along the Ellis Trail Service Road

(the eBird Hotspot now reads: Cibola NF — Ellis Trailhead – Service Rd No 488) is at an elevation of 10,200 ft. The trailhead is the last one before arriving at the Crest. The road is wide and level, with two or three slight hills. The mileage on my eBird app showed we walked 4 miles. That included walking up the stairs to the restaurant level.

2 thoughts on “Migration Highlights – Ellis Trailhead to Upper Tram

  1. Pingback: Ellis Trail to Upper Trail (8/20/20) – Judy Liddell – Central New Mexico Audubon Society

  2. Thanks for including us on your exciting walk along Ellis Trail. Interesting observation about Vesper Sparrows. Here in south Florida I saw only one sparrow species since the beginning of last year’s fall migration, a single White-crowned. Normally we were seeing several species, so here’s hoping that migration will warm up down here as well. I do miss hiking in the Sandias!

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