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Albuquerque Christmas Bird Count 2013

12/17/2013

This past Sunday was the local Christmas Bird Count. I had a sick kid at 3AM that almost kept me from getting out.  But my lovely wife said that she could handle things at home, and the worst seemed to have passed.
I was assigned a pretty large area with some great local birders, a husband and wife team.  We met at their house and did some counting from their driveway as we waited for the Sun to come up from behind the mountains.  The surprise bird was a Chickadee singing from across the street.  But everything else were the normal Rock Pigeons, Crows and some Doves.  As we loaded up the car and headed off, our area of responsibility was explained further and it was really big place for the few of us.

We hit a couple of local parks looking for Peregrine Falcons and Merlin, but didn’t see either ones.  We saw lots of Dark-Eyed Juncos and a flock of 40-50 Bushtits though. We soon made our way to the Journal Center area where our group’s target birds were located.  Supposedly there was a solitary Pygmy Nuthatch in an area of pine trees spread out over quite a large area.

But the first birds that we saw were Cedar Waxwings, lots of Cedar Waxwings, maybe a 150 of them in the various trees.

Cedar Waxwings and a Flicker, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Cedar Waxwings and a Flicker, Journal Center, ABQ NM

We got a real treat when a pair of Cooper’s Hawks flew in over a building and all of the birds in the area left at once.  The pair of hawks settled into some trees and they also ended up being our first raptors of the day.

We set off to get some caffeine and to try and find that Nuthatch.  There are lots of trees lining the various parking lots and roads, but nothing quite resembling a forest.  We did see more Cedar Waxwings eating some cherries.

Cedar Waxwing, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Cedar Waxwing, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Cedar Waxwing, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Cedar Waxwing, Journal Center, ABQ NM

And this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet doing a decent Hummingbird impression.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Journal Center, ABQ NM

But we got a really nice treat when I spotted a familiar yellow bird in one of stands of pine trees.

Pine Warbler, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Pine Warbler, Journal Center, ABQ NM

It was a Pine Warbler, and a different one that the one that I spotted at UNM the previous week.  We couldn’t believe it.  It let us get some good looks at it before flying off into some other sycamore trees.

Pine Warbler, Journal Center, ABQ NM

Pine Warbler, Journal Center, ABQ NM

And not soon after this we saw another odd warbler, an Orange-Crowned Warbler.  It didn’t stick around as long as the Pine Warbler did, but I did get one okay shot of it’s backside.

Orange-Crowed Warbler (honest!), Journal Center, ABQ NM

Orange-Crowed Warbler (honest!), Journal Center, ABQ NM

There were plenty of Yellow-Rumped Warblers and American Robins in the area too.  But we never did see that Pygmy Nuthatch, and apparently missed a Great Horned Owl what was also in the area.  But other people came by and found them after we had moved on.  We spent some time around the Albuquerque Academy where we saw lots of White-Crowned Sparrows and this Red-Tailed Hawk.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque NM

Red-Tailed Hawk, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque NM

We also added some woodpeckers and a Say’s Phoebe to our tally.  After that we went to Oso Arroyo and found some Scaled Quail, Curve-Billed Thrashers and a Spotted Towhee.  Plus no ABQ bird count wouldn’t be complete without some Greater Roadrunners. We saw some more Cooper’s Hawks flying around too, but no Crissal Thrashers nor any Cactus Wrens. After we trekked back to our car we drove around looking for Merlin and Falcons again, with no more luck and headed back to Ashli and Larry’s house, our starting point.

There reports from earlier in the day of a Brant Goose at the Nature Center, a very rare bird and a surprise for the count. So we decided to race the setting Sun and try to see it before the park closed.
We made it to the ponds but no geese were around.  There was a pretty group of Common Mergansers on the Candelaria Wetlands.

Common Mergansers, RGNC,  ABQ NM

Common Mergansers, RGNC, ABQ NM

We had heard that it was last seen on the Rio Grande, so we ran down there hoping to get a look before the gates were closed on us.  But alas, there were no Geese there at all either.  But we did see a group of 4 Ruddy Ducks and a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting down on a sandbar. And a large flock of Blackbirds were putting on quite the show for us across the river.

Blackbird Flock, RGNC, ABQ NM

Blackbird Flock, RGNC, ABQ NM

Blackbird Flock, RGNC, ABQ NM

Blackbird Flock, RGNC, ABQ NM

We ran back to our cars before closing time and got to see a really nice view of the Sandias in the setting Sun.

Pink Sandias and Moon at Sunset, RGNC, ABQ NM

Pink Sandias and Moon at Sunset, RGNC, ABQ NM

What a fitting end to a long and fruitful day counting birds.  At the tally party we found out that there were 118 species counted with one provisional.  Our Orange-Crowned Warbler was the only one seen and the Pine Warbler at the university was seen again, but 2 is always better than none. I wonder if there was a bird of the day?  My guess was that it was the Brant, which I hope to see this week.

My last Albuquerque CBC for a few years, I’m starting to get sad about moving.  We’re down to 6 weeks left in New Mexico and fewer chances for me to get the last birds that I’d like to see in.  And I’m really going to miss all of the friends that I’ve made here in the birding community. But I’ll save that for my year end and best-of blog.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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