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Capulin Spring – Sandia Mountain

06/09/2013

Due to the drought and the fire danger, lots of places in and around Albuquerque are closing down. The entirety of Sandia Peak, but East and West sides, are closing tomorrow along with most of the Bosque along the Rio Grande.  I understand the reason and wanted to get up to a very popular spot before things shut down.  Capulin Spring is a famous spot for birders.  It’s a hollow half-log that is filled with water, and is usually the best source of water in the area.  I was there last year with the family and was impressed by what I got to see.   A friend of mine was up there earlier this week and spotted not one, but two bears.  This made me want to leave the kids at home, and I did.  But as it turned out, I didn’t see any bears, just what they are notorious for doing in the woods.

I didn’t even need to go far from home to see my first bird of the morning (not counting the usual backyard birds).  I spotted a Burrowing Owl within 3 minutes of leaving my house.  I saw one in the same spot last year, but I hadn’t seen one this year until now.  I may have even seen it’s burrow and you can be sure that I’ll be checking up on it.

Burrowing Owl, Rio Rancho NM

Burrowing Owl, Rio Rancho NM

I took the very rough northern route to Sandia Crest Road.  There are miles of rough and rocky dirt road driving before hitting the paved part.  I stopped in one section and manged to see what I think was an Evening Grosbeak (yellow eyebrow?), but I didn’t get a photo of it.  But I did see a Say’s Phoebe, a Plumbeous Vireo and some Black-Chinned Hummingbirds.

Flycatcher, Sandia Peak NM

Say’s Phoebe, Sandia Peak NM

Plumbeous Vireo, Sandia Peak NM

Plumbeous Vireo, Sandia Peak NM

And my first Wild Turkey in New Mexico!

Wild Turkey, Sandia Peak NM

Wild Turkey, Sandia Peak NM

And a lot of squirrels and these cute little chipmunks kept crisscrossing the road.

Chipmunk, Sandia Peak NM

Chipmunk, Sandia Peak NM

Once I made it to the Capulin Spring parking lot I made haste down to the log and had to stand in line to see the birds!  There was already a crowd there (including some lady with a dog.  This makes no sense to me, why bring a dog birding?).  So I birded near the benches and I saw a House Wren and this MacGillivray’s Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

MacGillivray’s Warbler, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Once I got a chance to move up and get a clear look at the log, thanks to a couple people leaving who had some serious lenses, a 500mm and an 800mm.   Here’s the famous log with various birds getting a drink.

The Log, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

The Log, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

The birds would come and go in waves interspersed with little chipmunks and “dark knight” Squirrels like this.

Batsquirrel, Capulin Spring, NM

Batsquirrel, Capulin Spring, NM

I’ll just post the better bird photos here and rely on the captions for IDs.

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Chipping Sparrow, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Chipping Sparrow, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Pine Siskin, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Pine Siskin, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Stellar's Jay, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Stellar’s Jay, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Stellar's Jay swallowing a drink, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Stellar’s Jay swallowing a drink, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Female, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Female, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Black-Headed Grosbeak, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red Crossbill, Female, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red Crossbill, Female, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Northern Flicker, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Northern Flicker, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Western Tanager, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Western Tanager, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Mountain Chickadee, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Mountain Chickadee, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Hermit Thrush, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Hermit Thrush, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Northern Flicker, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Northern Flicker, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Cassin's Finch (?), Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Cassin’s Finch (?), Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Western Tanager 2, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Western Tanager 2, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red Crossbills in the Log, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Red Crossbills in the Log, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Pine Siskin, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Pine Siskin, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Talk about an exciting day.  I’m curious to see what the birds do without any people bothering them for however long the mountain is closed.  I felt bad because the Flicker tried to come in 3 or 4 times but was scared off before it finally got a drink from the log.   Maybe I’ll bookend the closures and get back there the first day it opens again.

Here are some bonus birds.  I saw this bird from the Capulin Spring parking lot.  I can’t tell if it’s a female or non-breeding male Western Tanager, or a female Scarlet Tanager, which would be very rare and not likely.

Western Tanager, Female or Imm Male, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

Western Tanager, Female or Imm Male, Capulin Spring, Cibola NF NM

And as I was driving back down the Crest Road I spotted this Accipiter high up in a tree.  I thought that it may be a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, but the head looks like it sticks up awfully high from it’s shoulders. Plus it seemed to be fairly large.

Accipiter in a tree, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Accipiter in a tree, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Capulin Spring is the magic spot that results from having something necessary in a confined area.  If you ever visit New Mexico, you should be sure and visit.  Judy Liddell and Barbara Hussey’s  great book Birding Hotspots of Central New Mexico is a great resource for Capulin Spring, or anywhere else in Central New Mexico, I use it often.

Thanks for making it this far,

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From → birding

3 Comments
  1. Great shots, Steve, on what looks like a fabulous morning in that special spot. Let the monsoons begin so they open it up again soon!

    • steve permalink

      Thanks Joe, it was very cool. I was hoping for a Pygmy Nuthatch to show up, but none did. And that log is so bright! Really hard to shoot birds against it in the Sun. Hopefully the new one will be darker.

  2. oab1303 permalink

    Reblogged this on In Love With Auroras.

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