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Busy October Birding

10/21/2013

This past week ended up being pretty busy on the birding front.  It started with an alert earlier in the week about a Common Loon on the Rio Grande River.  I recently signed up for rare bird and list needs alerts through ebird.  This is turning into a double-edged sword, the number of birds that I want to see are far out-numbered by the ones that I can actually get out for.  But I was able to get down to the river later in the day to hopefully see the Loon.  But alas, it wouldn’t be so, the Loon was nowhere to be seen.  But I did manage to get a lifer Western Grebe, and then a second one on the opposite side of the dam.

Western Grebe, Rio Grande River, ABQ NM

Western Grebe, Rio Grande River, ABQ NM

I also saw a couple of Great-Blue Herons, this was a younger one actually in the river.

Great-Blue Heron, Rio Grande River, ABQ NM

Great-Blue Heron, Rio Grande River, ABQ NM

Saturday morning was the fall Belen Marsh Clean-up.  I wrote about the secret marsh here earlier in the year.  I did the clean-up in the spring and knew that my help was really needed.  The only problem was that my daughter had to come with. But we ended up having a great time and she managed to find a good deal of trash.  The birds on the water were pretty thin compared to the rest of the year, just a few Mallards were about.  But we did see a late Burrowing Owl and a few Red-Tailed Hawks, like this one.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Belen NM

Red-Tailed Hawk, Belen NM

My friend Dean was also along for the ride that day.  Since we were south of Albuquerque, we decided to head down to Bosque del Apache, another hour south.  It was the first weekend open after the Congressional fiasco.  Our first stop, just inside the border of the refuge and at the very first turn-off, would give me one of my longest nemesis birds.  First we saw some Northern Shovelers and these 3 American Avocets sitting in some water.

AMAV, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

AMAV, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

We saw another Red-Tailed Hawk flying overhead.

RTHA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

RTHA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

We were still trying to see if there were any different ducks on the pond when I saw a really big raptor flying overhead.  I looked at it 2 or 3 times before I realized that it was really a Golden Eagle.  I’ve spent most of my time here in NM trying to see one, and here was one when I wasn’t expecting it.

GOEA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

GOEA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

And then it met a second one and spiraled off towards the Northeast.

GOEA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

GOEA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

My other target bird of the day was a Pyrrhuloxia, which I needed for my life list and my Guidebook Challenge.  But alas, I’d dip on that big-time, again.  But the Golden Eagles made the entire day.

After visiting the visitor’s center and picking up the bird guide that I’ve been looking for, the big Sibley’s guide, we were off to the tour loops.  But before that we saw the aftermath of a major train wreck from the morning before.

Train Derailment, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

Train Derailment, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

You can see the automobiles that were in the cars which went off the tracks.  Lucky for the refuge that the train didn’t travel a bit longer, there tank-wagons just a few cars after the accident.

Heading onto the tour loop we saw lots of ducks in the ponds on the East side of the road.  We stopped at one of the observation decks and saw maybe a thousand Northen Pintails.

NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

The Raptors continued to fly over, we saw a Peregrine Falcon quickly fly south over the pond, and then some Northern Harriers moved into the area.

NOHA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

NOHA, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

We watched one hunt down a service road between the flooded fields.  It was amazing to see it effortlessly fly down the road about 4 feet off of the ground and in and out of the brush.  I wish that any of my photos turned out nearly okay, but they were all crap.  But wow was that cool.  And then another Harrier flew over the ducks and scared a few of them into jumping out of the way.  I have no idea if a Northern Harrier can take a duck, but the Pintails weren’t taking any chances.

NOHA and NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

NOHA and NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

There were 2 Harriers together and they both took turns bothering the ducks.

NOHA and NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

NOHA and NOPI, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

The day was still going, so we decided to head to the Marsh Boardwalk.  There were reports of Eared Grebes there, which I needed as lifer birds.  We ended up seeing 4 of them (although one could have been a Western, but I didn’t know it at the time).

Eared Grebe, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

Eared Grebe, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

There were also lots and lots of Snow Geese, a few Ross’ Geese, some gulls and a Blue-Winged Teal at the Marsh too.

SNGO and RBGU, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

SNGO and RBGU, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

SNGO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

SNGO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

I’m pretty sure that this is the same young Great-Blue Heron that I’ve been seeing at the Marsh Boardwalk all Summer.  It really let me get nice and close for some photos.

GBHE and SNGO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

GBHE and SNGO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

GBHE, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

GBHE, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

This American Coot was flying from one side of the boardwalk to the other and I managed to get a neat shot of it in flight.

AMCO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

AMCO, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

After we left the Boardwalk area the number of birds really dropped off.  We saw some Say’s Phoebes, some White-Crowned Sparrows, some American Robins and the Sandhill Cranes were beginning to arrive.

SACR, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

SACR, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

I took some advice from a friend on the way out of the refuge and took a side-road back to San Antonio to try and see a Pyrrhuloxia.  There were none around, but we did see a lot of Gambel’s Quail.

GAQU, San Antonio, NM

GAQU, San Antonio, NM

GAQU, San Antonio NM

GAQU, San Antonio NM

We ended up having a really good day with almost 40 birds at the Bosque alone.  I got lifer Golden Eagles!, Eared Grebes and Ross’ Goose.  You can see our list here.
This is just Saturday’s birding, I went out Sunday  too.  I started at the Rio Grande Nature Center for their usual weekend walks.  I contemplated just going to the foothills of the Sandias because I really need to see Rock and Cactus Wrens this year.  I’ve been there a dozen times this year to no avail.  But there were some Marsh Wrens being seen at the RGNC, so I thought that would be a good excuse to do the walk and then head to the foothills later.  It would end up being a near-epic day for October birding.

There were lots of water fowl at the usual meeting place, the wetlands viewing blind.  I saw my first Ring-Necked Ducks of the fall.  But this Snowy Egret was very photogenic.

Snowy Egret, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Snowy Egret, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

The usual suspects were at the first feeders on the walk, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Mountain and Black-Capped chickadees, White-Crowned Sparrows and even a Hermit Thrush and Downy Woodpecker.  The highlight at the main pond was a very noisy Belted-Kingfisher and some Wood Ducks and even some Gadwalls.

BEKI, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

BEKI, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

But the Marsh Wrens were finally flushed out with some pshing near the back pond, which is usually hidden from the public.  It was crazy to see the large group of birders being very quiet, but leaning in waiting to see if anyone should show up.  Finally a Wren appeared to chastise whomever it was disturbing it’s turf.  It would fly from one clump of leaves to another and not sit still for more than a few seconds.  And then there was another one!  They got separated, and I was finally able to get some shots of one of them.

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MAWR, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Lifers seem to be getting harder to get for me, and the Marsh Wren was a good example of this, but wow was it fun.  The rest of the walk was just as exciting.  We saw lots of Eastern Bluebirds, a Townsend’s Solitaire, a Brown Creeper and five coyotes at the north end of the walk.

Coyote, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Coyote, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

I managed to get a pretty good shot of a Northern Flicker too.

NOFL, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

NOFL, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

An oddball Steller’s Jay and White-Throated Sparrow were seen near the banding station, as well as a captured American Robin.  And then the craziest part of the walk happened on our way into the gardens.  An amazing birder, who is a transplant from South Carolina and still getting the hang of Western Birds, asked me if we ever had Golden-Crowned Kinglets. And then went on to tell a quick story of one that she had seen back East which was mimicking some Tufted Titmice, and that she had never heard of a Golden-Crowned Kinglet doing that before.  I told her no, which is easy because I barely know anything about birds.  By this time we were into the gardens and looking at a few birds in a Juniper near one of the feeders when we spotted a small bird with gold and black stripes on the head with a warbler’s body.  It was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet!  None of us could believe it.  I never managed to get a photo of it before it flew off, but enough of us saw it that it was confirmed.  And then we mentioned our discussion of not more than 2 minutes earlier and everyone had a good chuckle.  I later checked ebird and the last report of a GCKI at the nature center was in 2005.

Before leaving the Nature Center I checked the wetland pond again and saw the last new bird of the walk, a pair of Cackling Geese.

Cackling and Canada Geese, American Wigeons and Mallard, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Cackling and Canada Geese, American Wigeons and Mallard, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

It’s hard to distinguish Cackling Geese from Canada Geese based on coloration.  But CACG are a bit smaller than CANG, which is also hard to see unless they are right next to one another.  But the best way to be sure is to look at their heads.  CACG have a stubby bill compared to CANG, which is easily seen in this photo (Cackling Geese are in the foreground and Canada Geese are in the rear).  At the end of the day we had 45 species during the walk, which is the most since we were getting over 50 during May.

After the RGNC, I once again went to the foothills to try and get the other Wrens that I need.  I tried a different location which I had never been to before, but was told was really good for Cactus Wrens.  But once again, I dipped on both types.  But I found a nice place to hike with some great views of the city.

Albuquerque NM

Albuquerque NM

I did manage to see a few birds there, but nothing new.

CBTH, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

CBTH, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

WSJA, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

WSJA, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

And lots of different butterflies, which I don’t know any names of, but this one was pretty.

Butterfly, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

Butterfly, Copper Open Space, ABQ NM

What a great weekend of birding, 98 species in 3 days isn’t bad for the end of migration.  I only had 1 warbler, Yellow-Rumped, which is very different than September. I picked up 7 lifers, Golden Eagle, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Ross’ Goose, Snow Goose, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe and Marsh Wren, and 2 of those towards my NM Guidebook challenge.  I’m up to 233 species for the year, and I’d be very happy with 250 before New Years.  I’d have to say that my bird of the day would be a tie between Golden Eagle and Golden-Crowned Kinglet.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers.

 

From → birding

3 Comments
  1. Awesome shots, love the NOFL…

  2. Rebecca Gracey permalink

    Steve, You have some wonderful pictures such as the belted Kingfisher in flight, and how about that Coot in flight, cool.

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