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Two Loony!

11/03/2013

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got to see a Common Loon here in New Mexico.  It was at a lake 90 minutes north of me and was a lifer.  Well, thanks to the ebird rare bird alert emails that I signed up for (total enablers to a bad habit) I saw that a different Loon was also in the area.  A Pacific Loon was being reported on the Okhay Owingeh Pueblo, not too far from the Common Loon.  I got a chance to get up there on Friday to try for it.   Like the Common Loon, it seemed to be hanging out enjoying the nice fall weather in New Mexico. But this one was a bit more difficult to find.

The Pacific Loon was being reported at the Okhay Owingeh fishing lakes, near the Okhay Owingeh RV park.  I retraced my route from earlier in the week, but continued on Route 84 instead of turning off towards Santa Cruz lake.  The road to the lakes was surrounded by reeds and is a very good spot to stop and see what is hanging out.  I saw some Lesser Goldfinches first, and then a Spotted Towhee and some Sparrows on my way out, definitely worth the time to stop and creep along the reeds.

The first pond that you see was empty of anything with feathers, so I continued north until I saw the larger lake.  This one was much more picturesque and had lots of birds in it.

Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

I saw plenty of Canada Geese, American Widgeons, American Coots, some Gadwalls but no Loons.  I drove around the lake a few times and spotted some dark birds with long necks and with some white on them, but they were Western Grebes.

Western Grebe,Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Western Grebe,Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

There were 3 of them sleeping out in the middle of the lake.  I drove and walked around some more. I managed to get some pretty good shots of a Western Grebe that got really close to the shore, but no still no Loon.

Western Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Western Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Western Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Western Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

And nearby was a tiny Pied-bill Grebe.

Pied-Bill Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

Pied-Bill Grebe, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Lakes, NM

I even checked out the nearby river and only saw some White-Crowned Sparrows and quite a few butterflies, including this one.

Variegated Fritillary, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Variegated Fritillary, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

I was circling the lake for over 90 minutes with no sight of the Pacific Loon and was considering cutting my losses and heading home when I saw a long-necked bird on the far sight of the lake. I did a double take and sure enough, it was the Loon.

Pacific Loon, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Pacific Loon, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

I had no idea where it had been hiding, but I jumped in the car and drove over to that side of the lake to get a closer look.  But when I got over there, it disappeared again.  I looked around and saw it back in the middle of the ponds with the snoozing Western Grebes.

PALO, WEGR & AMCOs, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

PALO, WEGR & AMCOs, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

As similar as the coloring may be, the 2 birds are clearly built differently.  The PALO has a much thicker build and a distinct checker pattern to the back.

Pacific Loon, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Pacific Loon, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

PALO, WEGR & CANG, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

PALO, WEGR & CANG, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

What an exciting bird to see.  It never got very close to the shore while I was standing around.  But I spent another hour watching it dive and cruise over the water before I decided to leave.  Plus the lakes were closing soon.  I did see some Song Sparrows hanging out on a woody section of the lake property between the 2 fishing lakes.

Song Sparrow, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Song Sparrow, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Song Sparrow, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

Song Sparrow, Okhay Owingeh Fishing Ponds, NM

I headed back to Rio Rancho with a pretty good day.  Seeing a second Loon in 5 days and also getting some good shots of the Western Grebes.

A friend of mine was hosting a Star Wars marathon Saturday morning on his new 87″ TV.  But I didn’t want to sit through the train-wreck of the prequels, so I decided to check out a spot near his house for Rock Wrens.  There were some reported at the Northern end of Petroglyph National Monument along the Piedras Marcadas trail.  This is a nice trail to see some petroglyphs and not pay any usage fees.  The parking area is sort of hidden behind a strip mall and a quick-change oil place.  Plus I’m pretty sure that I saw Bryan Cranston there before, turning around in the parking lot.  Maybe seeing my camera made him think that the paparazzi was stalking him.

I headed out along the trail and saw that I wasn’t the first one out that morning.

Animal Tracks, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Animal Tracks, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

I had a couple with 2 dogs following me, so I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to see much wildlife that morning.  But I would end up being pleasantly wrong.  I was about half a mile along the trail and nearing the end of the large boulders when I spotted a bird up on a rock.  It was a Rock Wren watching me.

Rock Wren, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Rock Wren, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Another bird for my life list and one that I needed for my Guidebook Challenge.  And it was joined by another one lower down on another boulder.

Rock Wren, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Rock Wren, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

They were doing their stereotypical deep-knee bends and appeared to be distracting me from a possible nesting site.  They were down they trail by a number “3” sign post.

I also saw some other birds.  There were a few Say’s Phoebes doing display flights.

Say's Phoebe, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Say’s Phoebe, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

And a bird Petroglyph on a nearby rock.

Petroglyph, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

Petroglyph, Piedras Marcadras Canyon, ABQ NM

I still had some time to see if I could spot a Pipit out on the West Mesa and still miss Jar-Jar Binks, so I took a quick drive out near the smaller airport there.  I managed to see an Eastern Meadowlark, I heard it buzzing as it flew away.  A nice surprise for New Mexico.  I didn’t get a photo of it, but watched some Horned Larks chasing one another over the pastures out there.  And managed to see one sitting on a barbed wire fence.

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ NM

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ NM

On my back past Double Eagle Airport, I got to see some aerobatic planes practicing.

Aerobatic practice, Double Eagle Airport, ABQ NM.

Aerobatic practice, Double Eagle Airport, ABQ NM.

Another nice weekend.  I managed to see my 2nd ever Loon, get another lifer and challenge bird in my neighborhood, and sit through 12 hours of some of my favorite movies.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments
  1. We get some common loons here in central Florida during the winter. It’s nice to see them, but it would be nice to see them in their breading plumage.

  2. Sharon permalink

    I saw the Pacific Loon the day before you, but had no camera. Your photos of the birds and of the beautiful view of the mountains across the lake have preserved the day for me too!

  3. Your persistence paid off. Great post!

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