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Not Quite Summer Doldrums

07/21/2013

First off, this is going to be a photo-heavy post, so I apologize in advance.  I’ve been pretty busy in my free time to post some blogs over the past 2 weeks.  But I got out a few times to see some birds and ended up seeing some good ones.  I added a life bird and knocked another one from my challenge list. I still have a few that I can’t seem to see, but I’m making plans to knock as many out as I can before Summer is over.  Now on to the birds.

I spent last weekend doing the bird walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  The second bird that I saw was quite a surprise.  I noticed movement behind me and saw a fairly good sized bird fly up into the hollow in a tree.  I saw the rear-end through binoculars and thought to myself “that’s an owl!”.  Sure enough, it was a Western Screech Owl.  Not sure what it was doing out during the day, but someone thought that maybe it was a pretty young bird.

Western Screech Owl, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Western Screech Owl, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

The rest of the walk was down-hill from there.  The Summer doldrums were in full effect.  Nothing exciting has been coming or going, and most of the birds are tending to nests. Here’s a Bewick’s wren that we were looking at when I saw the owl fly into the cavity.

Bewick's Wrenl, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Bewick’s Wren, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

And the best Blue Gosbeak that I’ve yet taken.

Blue's Grosbeak, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Blue’s Grosbeak, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

And I’ve noticed these little Sarlacc pits throughout the Bosque and never knew what they were.  Turns out that I was close, they are antlions.

Antlion Pits, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Antlion Pits, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

After the walk was over, I decided to head out to the Sandia Foothills to try and see a Scott’s Oriole.  Someone on the walk said that he saw one the previous day.  So I headed up to Bear Canyon Trail to try my luck.

The first bird that I saw were some Black-Throated Sparrows.  These were the first ones that I saw this year.  They were singing away from Chollas and anything else that was sticking up.

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Black-Throated Sparrow, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

As usual, the only large birds flying around were Turkey Vultures.  But I managed to get a good shot of one flying over head.  I told them that I was fine and was only going to be hiking for a few minutes, but they still followed me around.

Turkey Vulture, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Turkey Vulture, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

I found a bird sitting on a nest, but couldn’t see what it was.  I’m thinking Canyon Towhee, but again, I’m not sure.

Bird on Nest (Canyon Towhee?), Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Bird on Nest (Canyon Towhee?), Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

And near the nest was… this thing.  Maybe there’s a camera hidden in it?  Maybe some bored kids?

Faux-Pigeon, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Faux-Pigeon, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

And some good news.  We’ve been getting lots of rain lately, and some flowers are finally starting to bloom.  Hopefully this is a harbinger of good things to come.

Cholla blooms, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

Cholla blooms, Bear Canyon, ABQ NM

During the week my daughter was attending a Summer camp. This let me have lots of quality time with my son.  We went to the Botanical Gardens on Thursday, and then to the Rio Grande Zoo on Friday.  On the way to the zoo Friday I noticed some Cattle Egrets in a field with some horses.

Cattle Egrets, ABQ NM

Cattle Egrets, ABQ NM

And at the zoo I saw a very odd duck in the pond near the band shell.  I’m pretty sure that it’s a leucistic Mallard.

Leucistic Mallard, ABQ Biopark NM

Leucistic Mallard, ABQ Biopark NM

Some docents had a pair of beautiful Kestrels, here’s the female.

American Kestrel, ABQ Biopark, NM

American Kestrel, ABQ Biopark, NM

This Peacock made a call right beside us and scared the crap out of my son.  He didn’t let any Peafowl get near him for the rest of the day.

Peacock, ABQ Biopark, NM

Peacock, ABQ Biopark, NM

Here’s an Eagle Owl from one of the shows.  This bird may make a Great-Horned Owl think twice about messing with it, it was huge.

Eagle Owl, ABQ Biopark, NM

Eagle Owl, ABQ Biopark, NM

 

 

 

 

The rains also brought the opening of the areas that were closed earlier in the Summer due to the fire danger.  I had wanted to get back up to Capulin Spring the first day that it was open, but didn’t want to take the kids up there because of the bears.  So I had to wait until today, Sunday, to go there.  I wanted to see if there was an increase in the number of birds around after spending a few months without people. I was up early and out of the house when I spotted a Swainson’s Hawk not more than 100 yards from the house sitting on a street light.

Swainson's Hawk, Rio Rancho NM

Swainson’s Hawk, Rio Rancho NM

I made it to Sandia Crest and Capulin Spring about an hour later.  There were some birds along the path to the log, but that was it.  The log was devoid of birds.  It was really odd.  There was some water in the bottom of the log, and some chipmunks taking drinks, but nothing with feathers.  But back along the trail were some Mountain Chickadees, White- and Red-Breasted Nuthatches and a couple of Green-Tailed Towhees.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Capulin Spring, Sandia Crest NM

White-Breasted Nuthatch, Capulin Spring, Sandia Crest NM

Green-Tailed Towhee, Capulin Spring, Sandia Crest NM

Green-Tailed Towhee, Capulin Spring, Sandia Crest NM

I really wanted to head down to the Doc Long Picnic Area to try and find some Pygmy Nuthatches.  But I met a birder from DC who was out here to see the Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail.  She wanted to see some Red Crossbills, so I offered to take her up to the Crest House to see if any were up there.  But near the top I saw a bird out of the window that looked interesting.  So we pulled over to see what it was.  It ended up being a Western Bluebird with some interesting coloration.

Western Bluebird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Western Bluebird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Western Bluebird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Western Bluebird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

And high up in the trees we spotted some immature bluebirds hiding out.

Immature Western Bluebirds, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Immature Western Bluebirds, Sandia Crest Road, NM

And buzzing around us was a female Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year, and a challenge bird that I needed.  I wasn’t expecting to see them again until later in the year.  But I also saw this Hummingbird, which I don’t think was the same one.

Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest Road, NM

We also saw lots of butterflies flying around and I managed to get a good shot of this orange one.

Butterfly, Sandia Crest Road, NM

Butterfly, Sandia Crest Road, NM

 

Due to my time constraints, I parted ways with the out of towner and went down to the Doc Long picnic area and Bill’s Spring.  I had some luck with birds here before, and hopefully I’d finally see a Pygmy Nuthatch.  But similar to Capulin Springs, the spring area was empty of birds.  I saw a Cooper’s Hawk glide through the trees, which I’m sure did a lot to drive the birds in the area to ground.  I heard some birds up in the leafy trees, but I couldn’t see or photograph anything to pin down an ID.  But I did see a great butterfly that landed near me.

Butterfly, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

Butterfly, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

I decided to call it a day and head back to my van and then go home.  But I saw lots of small birds flying around the parking area and went to see what they were.  More Mountain Chickadees and this Nuthatch.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

But nearby was a small, white and black bird that I took to be a Black-and-White Warbler.  But this was the wrong time and place for those birds.  Lucky for me I had recently ordered The Warbler Guide.  This is an amazing book.  The detail and photos are extensive.  I was able to figure out that I was watching a Black-Throated Gray Warbler.  And not even one, but two of them.  One was an immature that was still begging for food from it’s parent.

Black-Throated Gray Warbler, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

Black-Throated Gray Warbler, Doc Long Picnic Area, Sandia Crest NM

What a great bird that I never knew existed, and a life bird for me.  This was for sure the bird of the day for me.   Sorry for all of the photos, but thanks for making it this far,

 

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment
  1. Great shots, Steve! You’ll have to tell me where you saw that little owl next week. Your butterflies are a Painted Lady and a Weidemeyer’s Admiral – cool!1

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