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Price’s Dairy-Valle de Oro NWR

05/29/2013

Yesterday while getting some nyjer seed in Corrales we got a hot tip from the owner, and fellow birds and beer attendee, about Bobolinks seen south of Albuquerque. Since my wife had to work very late, and it was Birds and Beers night at O’Neils pub, I put the kids in the van and drove down to check things out.

But before I even walked into the pet store, I saw a Cooper’s Hawk on a light post and managed to get a shot of it as it flew off.

Cooper's Hawk, Corrales NM

Cooper’s Hawk, Corrales NM

We made our way South on I-25 to Albuquerque’s South Valley and the former Price’s Dairy.  It’s now known as Valle de Oro NWR, one of the largest and first urban wildlife refuges in the country.  And here’s a quirk of New Mexico, the refuge’s location south of Albuquerque puts it 30 minutes away from half of New Mexico’s population.  And New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country.

Getting there was really easy. It isn’t too far from I-25 and runs alongside the Rail Runner tracks, although there isn’t a stop there.  But if people were serious about getting visitors there, then maybe some day there could be. In the 30 minutes that we were there we saw the Southbound Rail Runner, a cargo train and an Amtrak train all speeding by.  That was enough for my daughter to want to go back. She does want to be a train driver some day.

The layout of the place is still pretty primitive, and awkward to really bird.  The refuge is an old dairy farm, so access roads and irrigation ditches cross it from North to South.  And most of the birds were either on barbed wire fences that run along the ditches, or in the flooded parts of the fields, which were interior from the roads.  I walked for a bit, but ended up taking our van down the dirt roads as a sort of mobile blind. This actually worked for the smaller birds, but we scared a large group of egrets and a Great Blue Heron into flying away.  There is a bridge over the large ditch a quarter of  a mile from the paved road, so you could make a U-turn and come back the other side, but we just turned around and came down the way we went.  Another word of advice is to put on some bug spray.  My daughter and I both got bit by mosquitoes quite a bit.  She had her very first bite and was freaked out seeing a bug drinking her blood.

We were there to see a Bobolink, but saw lots of other birds instead.  Barn Swallows were sitting on the barbed wire fences and would let me get pretty close before flying off.

Barn Swallow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Barn Swallow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

There was also a large group of Egrets sitting on the East side of the ditch road maybe a 100 yards down the way, along with a Great Blue Heron, Kingbirds and a Meadowlark.

Various Birds , Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Various Birds , Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Western Meadowlark, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Western Meadowlark, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

There were both Cattle and Snowy Egrets there, and in an unusually large number according to ebird.  I’ve never seen Cattle Egrets in their mating plumage and it looked pretty neat.

Cattle Egret, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Cattle Egret, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Snowy Egret, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Snowy Egret, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Cattle Egrets in field, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Cattle Egrets in field, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

And here’s the Great Blue Heron just getting ready to fly away from us.

Great Blue Heron, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Great Blue Heron, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

And a small flock of White-faced Ibises flew into the flooded field while we were there.  Afterwards at Birds and Beers I had learned that a Glossy Ibis was seen there before, but there was no way for me to tell if one was there with the kids in the van.

Ibises, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Ibises, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

 

There were lots of birds sitting on the barbwire fences and posing really nice.

Western Kingbird, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Western Kingbird, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Blue Grosbeak, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Blue Grosbeak, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Say's Phoebe, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Say’s Phoebe, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Barn Swallow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Barn Swallow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

We even got a close look at a Swainson’s Hawk as it flew up from the grass and lit on a fence post right across from the van.

Swainson's Hawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Swainson’s Hawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

But we did get to see one Bobolink.  It was on one of the fences and was singing it’s little heart out.  What a great looking bird.  They travel over 15,000 miles between their Winter and Summer grounds.  And the males do a complete costume change from drab brown Winter plumage to this showy black, white and yellow (perfect Pittsburgh colors) breeding outfit.

Bobolink, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Bobolink, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Bobolink, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Bobolink, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

 

I plan on going back to Valle De Oro soon.  There are some parts that are in the Bosque and I’d like to see some more Bobolinks before they leave.  Here is where you can go to see them, they’ll be along the ditches.

 

And I’ve learned how to insert hyperlinks, hopefully it’s not too annoying.

 

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From → birding

3 Comments
  1. Great blog post. Birds & Beer, Bobolinks & Trains, AND you took the kids. Fantastic.

  2. Hi, I just came across this post and I’m very impressed with your photographs. I’m a member of the Friends of the Valle de Oro and would like to encourage you to submit some of your photos to our contest. You can get information on our website, friendsofvalledeoro.org The deadline is September 30th. You have to be a member to submit photos. You’ll be able to find information on becoming a member on the website, too.

    Best,
    Kathy

    • steve permalink

      Thanks Kathy, but none of my photos are from this year. I moved away from ABQ in February. Jennifer has used some of my photos already though, that’s my Bobolink on Facebook. Cheers.

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