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Common Loon in New Mexico

Two weeks ago a Common Loon was reported on the Rio Grande right here in Albuquerque.  I tried to see it on 2 different occasions, but it was already gone.  And then last week another Common Loon was reported on a lake a bit north of Santa Fe.  It was still there today, and the stars aligned so that I could get up there and try again.  It’s a lifer bird for me, and one that I’ve always wanted to see.  I just didn’t think that place would be in New Mexico.

The bird was at the remote Santa Cruz Lake, about a half hour north of Santa Fe and over 90 minutes from my house in Rio Rancho.  I stopped along the way to visit my favorite taco shop, El Parasol, who has amazing vegetarian tacos.  I was very surprised to hear some young birds in some sunflowers at the front of the shop.  It was a pair of hatchling Lesser Goldfinches and their parents.  I ran back to the car for my camera and managed a few good shots of the young ones begging for food.

Lesser Goldfinches, NM

Lesser Goldfinches, NM

Lesser Goldfinches, NM

Lesser Goldfinches, NM

I got my food to go and continued on my way.  The changing seasons are taking me by surprise and I was not prepared to be racing a setting Sun.  Google Maps took me through a very small settlement near the lake, which had a single lane road through it and even what looked like a lone gas pump in someone’s front yard.  I shortly made the turn-off to the lake and was surprised to see a nice little lake hidden away in a canyon.

Santa Cruz Lake, NM

Santa Cruz Lake, NM

I stopped when I saw a small bunch of birds flying by the side of the road, they were some Western Bluebirds.

Western Bluebird, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Western Bluebird, Santa Cruz Lake NM

But I wasn’t there to see Bluebirds, as nice as they are to see.  The Sun was already behind the canyon wall and the light was going with it.  Plus I had no idea where the Loon could.  I pulled into the first parking area along the water that I saw.  There was an aluminum fishing pier jutting out into the lake and just beyond the far end was a bird swimming around.  I walked out onto the pier and sure enough, it was the Loon!

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

I watched it diving and then feeding on a crawfish.

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

As it dove and fed it came even closer to the pier and I managed to get some good shots despite the lighting.

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

I could even see it filling up it’s gullet with shellfish.

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

As it turned out, the Loon was the only bird on the water and I was the only human there watching it.

Lonley Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

Lonley Common Loon, Santa Cruz Lake NM

I sat along the sure enjoying my tacos and eventually watched it swim out of sight around a spit of land.  It was another lifer for me, and a great bird to sit and watch do it’s thing, even if for just a little bit.

I got back into the car and went back home.  The day’s show wasn’t over yet, I was treated to a magnificent New Mexico Sunset that I had to stop and take a few photos of.  East of me was early snow on the Santa Fe Mountains, and to the west some beautiful colors.

Snow on Santa Fe Mountains, Santa Fe NM

Snow on Santa Fe Mountains, Santa Fe NM

Sunset near Pojoaque NM

Sunset near Pojoaque NM

Thanks for making it this far.  Enjoy this Thunderbird stretching it’s wings across the darkening sky.

Thunderbird over Jemez Mountains, NM

Thunderbird over Jemez Mountains, NM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Busy October Birding

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.

 

Birding in Santa Fe

Today I went to Santa Fe in order to try and get some birds that I needed for my challenge.  I chose 2 spots to visit, the Randall Davey Audubon Center and the Santa Fe Ski Area. I was up early enough to see the Dawn Patrol from the Balloon Fiesta (see my previous post about that) and made it to Santa Fe in time to join the usual Saturday morning bird walk.  It was really, really cold at the start and only 6 or so people were there for the walk.

We saw the usual birds for the area, Juncos, Scrub-Jays, House Finches and a few others.

Spotted Towhee, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Spotted Towhee, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

White-Winged Dove, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

White-Winged Dove, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Cassin's Finch and House Finches, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Cassin’s Finch and House Finches, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Western Scrub-Jay, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Western Scrub-Jay, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

We saw this Black-Billed Magpie inspecting a large tent that was set up for a wedding before it posed on this fence.  I never realized the blue on this awesome looking bird before.

Black-Billed Magpie, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Black-Billed Magpie, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

And I apparently wasted a trip to Melrose Trap to see Red-Naped Sapsuckers last weekend, we say 2 of them today (that fuzzy lump on the right of the tree is number 2).

Red-Naped Sapsuckers, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Red-Naped Sapsuckers, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

A Ruby-Crowned Kinglet was also flitting around in the same tree as the Sapsuckers.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

And nearby was a tree with three Hairy Woodpeckers in the same tree.

Hairy Woodpeckers, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Hairy Woodpeckers, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Hairy Woodpecker, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Hairy Woodpecker, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

And I managed to get two lifers and two challenge birds there.  We saw two Evening Grosbeaks fly into the top of a very big Cottonwood and I only managed this one poor photo.

Evening Grosbeak, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Evening Grosbeak, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

And the other bird was a Clark’s Nutcracker.  There were lots flying overhead, and we even saw a group of 4 at one time, but this was the only one that landed in a tree long enough for a photo.

Clark's Nutcracker, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

Clark’s Nutcracker, Randall Davey Audubon Center, SF NM

I really wanted a better look, and a photo of, a Pygmy Nuthatch, but didn’t get to see any.  After Randall Davey I went further north to the Santa Fe Ski Basin in search of Gray Jays.  This was a bird that I was told frequented there, but I would need to look hard for them.

I pulled into the ski area and saw quite a bit of snow on the runs and around the parking lots.

October Runs, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

October Runs, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

This ended up being very far from the truth.  I saw my first Gray Jay flying into a tree before I even turned my car off.  There ended up being a lot of them flying around the buildings and base of the ski lifts.

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

They were joined by some Steller's Jays, both of which were feeding from a pile of something right by the ticket booth for the one running lift.

They were joined by some Steller’s Jays, both of which were feeding from a pile of something right by the ticket booth for the one running lift.

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

They were joined by some Steller’s Jays, both of which were feeding from a pile of something right by the ticket booth for the one running lift.

Steller's Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Steller’s Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Gray Jay, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

And this red squirrel was also doing it’s best to look for some food amid the snow.

Red Squirrel, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Red Squirrel, Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

And the fall colors, as much as we get in NM, were in full swing.

Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

Santa Fe Ski Basin NM

After getting three lifers today, and challenge birds, I’m down to 20 left from the guidebook.  And if you count the ones that I saw outside of New Mexico, I have 11 left, of which I should be able to get half of those.
Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balloon Fiesta!

This week was the 42nd International Balloon Fiesta, and my 3rd, here in Albuquerque.  If you have never been to it, it is amazing.  The size and scope of the balloons is really hard to describe.  The sheer number of balloons in the sky at one time is awe-inspiring and seeing the various special shapes flying is mind-blowing.   This year had the most flying years since we’ve moved here with only 1 day being cancelled due to high winds.  And the winds that day ended up being so bad that a train West of ABQ was actually blown off of the tracks.  But the rest of the days gave quite a show.

My family went to the launch ground at Balloon Fiesta Park on 2 mornings and we watched from our house the rest of the days.  Being on the ground is really worth the trip at least once.  My wife’s employer is one of the sponsors and put on a good time for the employees and families by offering hot drinks, breakfast and a great view.  I’m going to post a lot of photos here and will let them speak for themselves as much as I can.

Each flying day begins with the Dawn Patrol.  A few balloons equipped with running lights that lead the way and check the winds for everyone else.

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Propane burner

Propane burner

Raising the Colors at dawn.

Raising the Colors at dawn.

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Annabell the flying cow

Annabell the flying cow

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oops

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Zia Balloon

Zia Balloon

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Balloon in the Bosque, there are so many in the air at once that landing spots can be slim pickens.

Balloon in the Bosque, there are so many in the air at once that landing spots can be slim pickens.

And here are some views from our house in Rio Rancho, which is North-West of Balloon Fiesta Park.

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touchdown!

touchdown!

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That’s it for the balloon photos.  I hope that everyone uses the Fiesta as an excuse to visit Albuquerque and New Mexico.  I’ll certainly miss it for the next few years while we’ll be away.

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Melrose Trap and Eastern New Mexico

I decided to head out to visit the Melrose Trap this past weekend.  I had been wanting to get there and time is running out for me in New Mexico.  Melrose trap is a small grouping of Cottonwoods and White Poplars near a cattle watering hole in an otherwise barren country.  The tall trees make a nice target for birds traveling through the area and so it boasts quite the list of birds and is a must-visit place during migration.  Well, I got there a bit too late, but still had a good day.  I ended up missing a Flammulated Owl by a week and a Northern Saw-Whet owl by a day.  I still got some lifers on the weekend and some ok photographs of some other birds.

I left late Friday night, after my kids were asleep, and drove 3 hours or so to Sumner Lake State Park.  I slept in our Honda Element underneath a pretty sky.  Not as nice as the sky in Alamogordo, but nicer than the city.  I woke the next morning before the Sun to get to Melrose Woods as early as I could.  I did stop by the water to see some gulls flying around.

Gull, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Gull, Sumner Lake SP, NM

And I was greeted by this awesome pre-dawn sky.

Pre-Dawn Sky over Sumner Lake, NM

Pre-Dawn Sky over Sumner Lake, NM

I quickly left the park and headed for the main road.  Along the way I noticed some Ravens sitting in a tree.  And then a raptor shape on a power pole.  I pulled over to get a closer look and it was a Prairie Falcon, lifer for me and the 3rd bird of the day.

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

It didn’t like me near it and flew a pole away from me.  I hopped back into the car and continued on my way.  I found where the woods were supposed to be, but didn’t see anything that looked like anything famous.  I turned down a farm-road and saw another Prairie Falcon flying low along the grassland.  But nothing that was taking me towards the woods.  So I went back to the highway and looked on my phone for a clue.  I found a blog post that mentioned a chained gate and the lack of signage.  So I really was there.

Melrose Trap from the road.

Melrose Trap from the road.

There were a few other birders from Albuquerque there, but nobody I really knew, other than the famous Jerry.  Who owns the biggest list in New Mexico, over 500 birds.  They had been there the day before and saw the Saw-Whet Owl.
The first bird that I saw was a Townsend’s Warbler way up in a tree.

Townsend's Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Townsend’s Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

The majority of the warblers there were Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

And another Townsend’s was nearby.

Townsend's Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Townsend’s Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

A pair of American Kestrels flew into the top of one of the dead Cottonwoods.

American Kestrel, Melrose Woods NM

American Kestrel, Melrose Woods NM

And I also glimpsed an Accipiter through the trees, but it didn’t sit long enough for a better ID or a photo.  Jerry told me where to find one of the birds that I needed for my big list and for my guidebook challenge, a Red-Naped Sapsucker.  And the bird was exactly where he said that it would be.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Melrose Woods NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Melrose Woods NM

This would be the first of three that I’d see that day, but I’ll get to that later.  You can see the characteristic row of holes of Sapsuckers.  I saw a couple of American Goldfinches.

American Goldfinches, Melrose Woods NM

American Goldfinches, Melrose Woods NM

This Northern Flicker was making  most of the noise in the woods, other than the chirps from the various warblers and sparrows.

Northern Flicker, Melrose Woods NM

Northern Flicker, Melrose Woods NM

I found a few Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers in the fields surrounding the woods.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Melrose Woods NM

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Melrose Woods NM

Along with a picturesque fence.

Fence and Windmill, Melrose Woods NM

Fence and Windmill, Melrose Woods NM

And many, many sparrows. I saw Chipping, Song and White-Crowned Sparrows. in the fields and in the woods.  Some of these may be Clay-Colored Sparrows, but I couldn’t tell them differently from Chipping.

Chipping Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Chipping Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Song Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Song Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Adult), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Adult), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Immature), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Immature), Melrose Woods NM

There were even a pair of Hermit Thrushes in the leaf-litter near a huge, fallen Cottonwood.

Hermit Thrush, Melrose Woods NM

Hermit Thrush, Melrose Woods NM

And thus ended my morning at the Melrose Trap.  I really missed the hot time to be there.  Hopefully I’ll make it back in May some year.  I got to see some nice Sunflowers by the gate on the way out.

Sunflowers, Melrose Woods NM

Sunflowers, Melrose Woods NM

After leaving Melrose Woods I decided to play tourist a bit and see Billy the Kid’s Grave and the Trail of Tears memorial.  Driving around I saw signs for Bosque Redondo Park and remembered being told to check it out.  I found a series of lakes without any water fowl present at all.  I drove around one lake and then into some thicker brush when I saw lots of birds flying around one tree.  I got out and noticed a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers chasing each other in and out of the tree.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And, what I think was, a Virginia’s Warbler in with the others.

Virginia's Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Virginia’s Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

I saw a Northern Flicker flying around some other brush and then I thought that I saw it fly into the tree with all of the Warblers in it.  But looking closer it was a Red-Naped Sapsucker.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And then I thought that I saw a Hairy or Downy WP was in another part of the tree. But it was another Red-Naped Sapsucker.  You can see that this one has a cleaner breast.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Other birds were flying into some Russian Olive across the road.  I looked and saw a Female Western Tanager.

Western Tanager (female), Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Western Tanager (female), Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And a very odd bird that may be an Immature Bluebird or an Immature Cedar Waxwing.

Imm Bluebird or Cedar Waxwing?, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Imm Bluebird or Cedar Waxwing?, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

There was a peculiar Turkey Vulture sitting in a tree during the middle of the day. Some of it’s cousins were circling overhead, but this one just sat there and let me get pretty close without doing anything.

Turkey Vulture, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Turkey Vulture, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

This turned into an exciting visit to a place that I would have just drove past normally.  I stopped at one of 2 restaurants that were open in Fort Sumner for lunch (which would have me puking along the side of the road a few hours later) and then headed back towards Albuquerque.  I really wanted to see a Golden Eagle.  It’s been my nemesis bird since I moved to New Mexico.  I even detoured at Moriarity and drove to Estancia hoping to see one, but no luck.  I did see a couple of Red-Tailed Hawks on poles, and a 3rd Prairie Falcon for the day.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk feeding, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk feeding, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Continuing my tour of New Mexico spots, I stopped by the Blue Hole at Santa Rosa.  It was a… Blue Hole with lots and lots of divers there.  I found out later that it’s a very popular spot to dive in the Southwest.  But I guess I don’t have the appreciation for it.

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa NM

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa NM

Another aerial display started this past weekend in Albuquerque, the annual Balloon Fiesta.  I’m going to wait and make a dedicated blog post after another visit at the end of the week, but here’s a teaser from this morning.

Angry Bird Balloon, Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque NM

Angry Bird Balloon, Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque NM

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The West Mesa

We live in Rio Rancho, which is Northwest of Albuquerque proper.  South of us, and West of Albuquerque, is the West Mesa.  It’s home to Petroglyph National Monument, a serial killer and Shooting Range Park.  The mesa was formed by a series of small volcanoes which erupted along a line and can easily be seen to the West from almost anywhere in Albuquerque.  It’s a fairly sparse place with lots of cholla, yucca, sagebrush and grass covering the dry land; which is what the area around my house is like, but with a bit less Juniper.  I was told to go out towards the shooting range to try and see Sage Thrashers, which are passing through now in migration.  I decided to head out Sunday morning before meeting a friend to watch the Steeler game.
I got off to a late start because of an unwanted house-guest.  My wife and kids were standing around in the living room when my wife jumped and said that she saw a bug crawl under our daughter’s dance bag.  I was expecting a cricket, maybe a spider.  But I moved the bag and a scorpion ran off across the floor.  I grabbed our bug-catching jar and managed to corral it. It was really exciting, and scary at the same time.  This was the first scorpion that I have seen in New Mexico, and the biggest bug that we’ve seen in the house.

Bark Scorpion, Rio Rancho NM

Bark Scorpion, Rio Rancho NM

Someone mentioned that it was a Bark Scorpion, which appears to be a pretty common type found out here.  My wife wouldn’t let me let it go in the yard, so I dumped it over our back wall and into the empty scrub between our plan and the main road.  After this episode I headed out to the West Mesa to find some of the Sage Thrashers.

The first bird that I saw was a Hawk sitting on a radio tower near the small airport that is west of the volcanoes.  It was really dark, and I didn’t get a quick ID on it until it flew off towards the runways.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Double Eagle Airport NM

Red-Tailed Hawk, Double Eagle Airport NM

I continued on my way and followed the signs for the shooting ranges to the West.  I’d never been out this far before and wasn’t too certain what was ahead of me. But I shortly saw some more birds flying around.  I stopped and ID’d a couple of Barn Swallows doing their thing.  And then some sparrow-looking birds sitting on a wire fence.  They ended up being some Horned Larks.

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ NM

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ NM

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Horned Lark, West Mesa ABQ, NM

I kept going and the sounds of gunfire, and the number of too-big pick-up trucks passing me, continued to increase. The road turned to the north when I saw my first Thrasher sitting on a cholla.

Curve-Billed Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Curve-Billed Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

After much deliberation (the light was really bad, I had gotten away too late), I decided that this was too big, and the bill too curved, to be a Sage Thrasher.  It was a Curve-Billed Thrasher.  I continued on  and drove by the shooting ranges.  I saw some other sparrow type birds around the ranges, but didn’t want to linger around with my big lens.  So I kept driving.  The road was coming to another curve to the South and I parked to get out and walk around for a bit.  And what did I see in front of me but some shrubs full of birds.  I got a pretty good look at smallish birds with streaked breasts and straight bills.  Sage Thrashers!

Sage Thrashers, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Five Sage Thrashers, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Sage Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Sage Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Another bird to go towards my guidebook challenge, which I’ve given up completing, and a lifer, and the 2nd one in 2 days (I’ll get to that at the end, I just remembered it).
They were really skittish and flew off into the thicker brush.  I walked back to my car triumphant when I noticed a nice yellow butterfly on a thistle.

Butterfly and Thistle, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Butterfly and Thistle, West Mesa ABQ, NM

I stopped a few more times on the way off of the Mesa and into town for some disappointing football.  I somehow noticed this Northern Shrike way off on a juniper.

Northern Shrike, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Northern Shrike, West Mesa ABQ, NM

And this bird that I’m not 100% sure of, but called it a Quail.  It was a bit of a ways off and never turned around in the minute that I was watching it.  I can’t tell if it was a Scaled or a Gambels, but Scaled would fit the area better.

? Quail, West Mesa ABQ, NM

? Quail, West Mesa ABQ, NM

And finally  as I was passing the area where I saw my first thrasher of the day, there it was again, but almost right out of my window.

Curve-Billed Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

Curve-Billed Thrasher, West Mesa ABQ, NM

 

But I can’t believe that I forgot about the lifer that I got on Saturday.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that they had an interesting yard bird.  A Lewis’ Woodpecker was hanging out in a tree across the street from her.  I contemplated going to see it for a half hour, but finally decided to go for it, it was too easy to pass up.  So I took my daughter along and drove over to the other side of town.  We saw plenty of Scrub-Jays at first, but no Woodpecker.  But after walking back and looking at the tree again, we finally saw it!  What a neat bird.  It looked like a crow, but a closer look showed the pink belly and when it flew it definitely had long woodpecker wings.  We watched it fly-catch for a bit and then fly into a pin-oak after acorns.  What a neat bird!  We never get anything this cool over on the West-side (no offense Green-Tailed Towhee).

Lewis' Woodpecker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

Lewis’ Woodpecker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

And here is another shot of it pecking holes in another tree.

Lewis' Woodpecker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

Lewis’ Woodpecker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

These photos are cropped severely so that I could get some detail out of them.  But it was a nice bird to watch.  We also a Northern Flicker on the same block.

Northern Flicker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

Northern Flicker, Northeast Heights ABQ, NM

So two lifers, and two challenge birds, in one weekend.  As far as that challenge goes, the closures in the Summer and some bad luck, really shot my chances on seeing all the birds right to hell.  I have 21 left to see in New Mexico, but some of them are gone for the season.  Some I saw out of New Mexico, so if I take that caveat, the list goes down to 15.  Some of them I can still see this year, but I’m certain that Lazuli Buntings, Scott’s Buntings and Painted Restarts are gone for the year.  And they won’t be back before we leave for Portland and Ireland.  But it was still a fun thing to work towards, and I have some complaints for the author.  But so far it’s been an okay year for birding, and my first year keeping track and having limited availability to get out.  I’m currently at 218 birds for the year and 184 in New Mexico.  I’d be happy getting 200 New Mexico birds before I move, and I could do it with a bit of luck.

Well, thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

September Birds

I haven’t posted in a long time. I’ve been really busy, too busy to get out much, and too busy to post up.  But tonight my wife is out and the kids are asleep.  So I’m going to post some photos from some recent trips.
My parent’s and some other family were in town for a visit.  I still got a chance to do the Saturday birding hike at the Rio Grande Nature Center (RGNC).   It wasn’t an amazing morning, but I got to see a Townsend’s Warbler, but didn’t get a photo.

There were a pair of Belted Kingfishers hanging out by the big pond.  They would fly around calling at one another and made quite the racket.

Belted Kingfishers (2), RGNC ABQ NM

Belted Kingfishers (2), RGNC ABQ NM

And the group got to see a tree full of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings, RGNC ABQ NM

Cedar Waxwings, RGNC ABQ NM

Two of the Waxwings were immatures and didn’t look like the adults.  While watching the Waxwings a surprise visitor made an appearance, a Grey Catbird flew into the tree near them.

Gray Catbird (top) and Cedar Waxwing (bottom), RGNC ABQ NM

Gray Catbird (top) and Cedar Waxwing (bottom), RGNC ABQ NM

This is the 2nd Gray Catbird that I’ve seen this year, but the first one in New Mexico.  It ended up being the bird of the day for the group.

On Monday I took my visiting family to Jemez Springs and to Valles Caldera.  We were planning on going to Bandelier National Monument, but recent heavy rains flooded the place again and we decided to skip it.  But I got to add some life birds at Valles Caldera.  There were lots of Mountain Bluebirds around the visitor’s center.

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird, Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird (female), Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird (female), Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird (juvenile), Valles Caldera NM

Mountain Bluebird (juvenile), Valles Caldera NM

And two Vesper Sparrows.

Vesper Sparrow, Valles Caldera NM

Vesper Sparrow, Valles Caldera NM

There was also a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Valles Caldera NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Valles Caldera NM

And this Hummingbird was buzzing around the feeders that were on the front porch of the visitor’s center.  I never got a good look at it, but I thought that it was a bit large for a Hummingbird.

Hummingbird, Valles Caldera NM

Hummingbird, Valles Caldera NM

My dad turned 60 while he was here.  We took him to the ABQ Botanical Gardens and Aquarium.  Birds weren’t the goal of the visit, but I got to see an Osprey circling the big pond there looking for something to eat.  But it quickly flew off towards the Rio Grande without catching anything.

Osprey, ABQ Biopark NM

Osprey, ABQ Biopark NM

And I saw a couple pairs of ducks.

Wood Ducks and Mallard Ducks, ABQ Biopark NM

Wood Ducks and Mallard Ducks, ABQ Biopark NM

Today I got a day off and decided to go back to the Jemez Mountains and Valles Caldera in the hopes that I could see an American Dipper and maybe some new Woodpeckers.  I had also learned of where I could maybe find some obsidian.  But the weather was lousy.  It was cold, windy and rainy almost all day. I did manage to see lots of birds, but nothing new.  And I also didn’t see any obsidian and I have yet to see Elk up there.  But I did see this Hairy Woodpecker fly across Route 550 and land in a tree.

Hairy Woodpecker, Zia Pueblo NM

Hairy Woodpecker, Zia Pueblo NM

And in Jemez Springs I got to see lots of Robins and a Townsend’s Solitaire, and even a Cooper’s Hawk chasing some birds through the junipers.  This Downy Woodpecker flew in and gave me a good view of it’s head from behind a post.

Downy Woodpecker, Jemez Springs NM

Downy Woodpecker, Jemez Springs NM

Further up NM Route 4 I saw lots of sparrows and Western Bluebirds along the road.  But the rain was coming down pretty good and none of my photos turned out good.  I drove further up NM 4, past Valles Caldera in the hopes that I could find some obsidian.  I didn’t see any and it was really windy, cold and wet.  But I did find lots of birds down a forest road.  Lots of Chickadees, Kinglets, Nuthatches, a Red-Tailed Hawk, Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers and some Stellar’s Jays.

Northern Flicker, Jemez Mountains NM

Northern Flicker, Jemez Mountains NM

Western Bluebird, Jemez Mountains NM

Western Bluebird, Jemez Mountains NM

White-Breasted Nuthatch, Jemez Mountains NM

White-Breasted Nuthatch, Jemez Mountains NM

Stellar's Jay, Jemez Mountains NM

Stellar’s Jay, Jemez Mountains NM

And I’m not too sure what this is, but I’m assuming an Immature Western Bluebird.

Western Bluebird (?), Jemez Mountains NM

Western Bluebird (?), Jemez Mountains NM

This area was very close to burned areas from either this past year or last year.  It was eerie to see the bare trees.  But there were lots of green around and in the burned areas.  So hopefully some more wet years will help bring the areas back.

Jemez Mountains NM

Jemez Mountains NM

Jemez Mountains, NM

Jemez Mountains, NM

and finally on my way home I decided to check out Fenton Lake State Park.  I had seen signs for it, but wasn’t sure what it was.   Turns out it’s a smallish lake in some beautiful mountains.  There were great rock formations above the lake and quite a few people fishing in the rain.  And those people were joined by this Osprey which I saw dive into the lake 2 times.  The second time it was successful and paraded it’s catch in front of everyone getting wet.

Osprey with Catch, Fenton Lake SP, NM

Osprey with Catch, Fenton Lake SP, NM

 

I’m hoping to get out to the RGNC one more time this weekend.  But it’s almost October and who knows when I’ll get back out this fall.  And we’ll be busy with a trip to Pittsburgh for the holidays and then it’s Oregon in February.  But that will be an adventure in itself since we’re driving there through Arizona and California.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Update

I’ve been fairly busy this Summer.  Too busy to post until now.  But I’ve been out looking for more birds for my challenge and seeing some other parts of the state.  I even flew out to Detroit and drove a new-to-us car home.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anything too exciting.  I still have 23 birds to go and I don’t think that I’m going to do it.  There are some southern part of the state birds that I think that I’ve missed.
However, I’ve managed to see some neat birds and I’ll apologize now for the photo dump.

I took my kids to hike the volcanoes that are on the west mesa.  My daughter has been very interested in volcanoes lately and lucky for us we live to lots of old volcanoes.

My daughter at the top of one of our volcanoes.

My daughter at the top of one of our volcanoes.

Collared Lizard, Petroglyph NM, ABQ

Collared Lizard, Petroglyph NM, ABQ

I’ve been back to Valle de Oro NWR, aka Price’s dairy, a few times.  Hopefully they get lots of action during migration.  They are hoping to get lots of Sandhill Cranes to visit.

Western Meadowlark, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Western Meadowlark, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Common Nighthawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Common Nighthawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Lark Sparrow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Lark Sparrow, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Swainson's Hawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Swainson’s Hawk, Valle de Oro NWR, ABQ NM

Last year I got to see some lifer Mississippi Kites in Corrales.  I got word that they were back again this year at the same location and I got to see 4 of them flying around the Cottonwoods.

Mississippi Kite, Corrales NM

Mississippi Kite, Corrales NM

Mississippi Kite, Corrales NM

Mississippi Kite, Corrales NM

A couple of Saturdays ago I got made big plans to head down to Socorro to Water Canyon and Bosque del Apache.  According to EBird I should have seen 10 or more new birds, and lots of challenge birds.  But as it turned out, I had a pretty mediocre day bird-wise.  I did get to drive up an amazing road to the top of a mountain and see a couple of cool observatories.  The only new bird that I picked up was a Pygmy Nuthatch.  But I needed that for my challenge.  I also saw a rare version of a Dark-Eyed Junco.

Lousy weather to start birding, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

Lousy weather to start birding, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

Red-Backed version of Dark-Eyed Junco, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

Red-Backed version of Dark-Eyed Junco, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

VLA from the top of South Baldy Peak, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

VLA from the top of South Baldy Peak, Water Canyon, Socorro NM

I made my way to Bosque del Apache in the hopes of different luck.  But as it turned out, I dipped on everything that I wanted to see.  But there were lots of Blue Grosbeaks, which are always nice to see.

Immature Great Blue Heron, Bosque del Apache NWR

Immature Great Blue Heron, Bosque del Apache NWR

Turkeys, Bosque del Apache NWR

Turkeys, Bosque del Apache NWR

Blue Grosbeak, Bosque del Apache NWR

Blue Grosbeak, Bosque del Apache NWR

On the way home I decided to stop at Belen.  More for lousy burritos than for birds.  But I ended up seeing a very impressive sight.  Hundreds of egrets and some other usual birds.

Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Egrets and Phalaropes, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Ruddy Ducks, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Ruddy Ducks, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Wilson's Phalaropes, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

Wilson’s Phalaropes, Belen (aka Taco Bell) Marsh, Belen NM

More recently I’ve been to Tramway Wetlands in Northern Albuquerque.  There’s been quite a variety of shorebirds visiting the really gross waters there.

Wilson's Phalarope, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Wilson’s Phalarope, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Lesser Yellowlegse, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Lesser Yellowlegs, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Solitary Sandpipere, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Solitary Sandpiper, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Spotted Sandpipere, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

Spotted Sandpiper, Tramway Wetlands, ABQ NM

As a birthday present, I got to go on a Thursday birder trip to the East Mountains. The focus on the trip was to see Hummingbirds, and wow did I see some hummingbirds.

Rufous Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

Rufous Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

Rufous and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, East Mountains NM

Rufous and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, East Mountains NM

Calliope Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

Calliope Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

Female Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

Female Hummingbird, East Mountains NM

I also managed to see some Pinyon Jays, but only managed this photo.

Pinyon Jay, East Mountains NM

Pinyon Jay, East Mountains NM

Western Scrub Jay, East Mountains NM

Western Scrub Jay, East Mountains NM

Juniper Titmouse, East Mountains NM

Juniper Titmouse, East Mountains NM

And on my way home from the trip I stopped by Tingley Ponds, which were very empty.

Black Phoebe, Tingley Ponds, ABQ NM

Black Phoebe, Tingley Ponds, ABQ NM

Dragonfly (Blue Skimmer), Tingley Ponds, ABQ NM

Dragonfly (Blue Skimmer), Tingley Ponds, ABQ NM

I’ve found another Owl Burrow on the Westside.  This one is right behind my house, maybe 300 yards away from where I’m typing this.  I’ve always seen 1 owl sitting on a flood control wall.  But I finally walked over and got to see 5 owls.  It looked like 4 Immatures and an adult.  Here’s one of the younger ones.

Burrowing Owl, Rio Rancho NM

Burrowing Owl, Rio Rancho NM

And I also saw a Jackrabbit running away from me.

Jackrabbit, Rio Rancho NM

Jackrabbit, Rio Rancho NM

Yesterday I went on the bird walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  But on the way I passed a dead Cooper’s Hawk on the side of the road.  I stopped to check it out and it looked like one of this year’s birds.  But at the nature center I would have a better encounter with one.  Rio Grande Bird Research was there doing banding.  Their mist nets are set up during migration and they always take the time to show those of us on the walk what they have caught if anything.  It’s always neat to see some small song-bird up close.
Yesterday we were walking around the north part of the nature center and spotted a Cooper’s Hawk flying around the fields and through the trees.  Just a minute later I noticed that a Cooper’s Hawk was caught in one of the mist nets.  I ran down to where they band and told them.  They excitedly ran down to free the young hawk.

Cooper's Hawk caught in a mist net, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Cooper’s Hawk caught in a mist net, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

And here it is just prior to be released.

Cooper's Hawk, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Cooper’s Hawk, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

They also had a MacGillivray’s Warbler and a Bewick’s Wren which they brought out to show us.  I had the pleasure to release the Wren, it was nice to feel how soft and light it was.

MacGillivray's Warbler, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

MacGillivray’s Warbler, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

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

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

But to backtrack a second, the very first bird that we saw at the start of the walk was a lifer for me, and also one that I needed for the challenge.  A female Bullock’s Oriole was in a tree next to the pond blind.  As a matter of fact, there were 2 of them.

Bullock's Oriole, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Bullock’s Oriole, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

And this young Snowy Owl was in the observation pond trying to figure out what turtles were all about.

Snowy Owl and turtles, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

Snowy Egret and turtles, Rio Grande Nature Center, ABQ NM

After the Nature Center I drove out to the foothills to try and see some wrens that I needed and maybe a Scott’s Oriole.  But I hiked up 2 different trails and didn’t see anything new.  But I did see some Virginia’s and Yellow Warblers flitting around the trees.

MacGillivray's Warbler, Embudito Canyon, ABQ NM

Virginia’s Warbler, Embudito Canyon, ABQ NM

And this Ladder-Backed Woodpecker was at one of the parking lots.  But no Cactus or Canyon Wren, or Scott’s Oriole for me.

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Bear Canyon Trailhead,  ABQ NM

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Bear Canyon Trailhead, ABQ NM

That’s basically it.  I’m going to the local scooter rally this coming weekend.  It’s in the mountains, so there’s a chance that I can see some birds in between the rides and beer drinking.

Cheers.

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In my Element

My wife has been looking for a Honda Element off and on for as long as I’ve known her.  As luck would have it, friends of our’s were selling their’s for a very good price.  But it was in Detroit.  But after crunching the numbers it was still a good deal for me to fly up there and drive it back, which is what I did on Friday.  I got in late afternoon and got to meet my friends’ daughters.  The older one is exactly a day older than my oldest and their younger one is a bit over a week older than my son.  So it was neat to compare the kids, and wow were they similar.  Especially the older girls, they are going to cause so much trouble when they finally meet some day.   We then walked to a great local bar where I drank my way around Michigan and had an okay veggie burger on a great pretzel bun.  The following day I woke up and headed home.  The first time driving the new Element was on my way out of town.
I had asked for some advice on where to stop to bird on the way home and found out that you can bird at Fermilab outside of Chicago!  I was going to stop in Chicago for lunch anyway, so I thought that I could pull it off.  After a late start and so much traffic in Chicago, I decided to skip lunch and just go to Fermilab, and it was late in the day.  I made it there and saw some birds in just a few minutes.

Here is the A.E. Sea, one of a few ponds on the grounds.

A.E. Sea, Fermilab, Chicago IL

A.E. Sea, Fermilab, Chicago IL

The first birds that I noticed were a hundred swallows flying over the water.  Then a few Mallards and some shorebirds near the shore.

Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer and Herring Gull, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer and Herring Gull, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Another pond had some Great Egrets, Canada Geese and this Great Blue Heron.

Great-Blue Heron and other birds, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Great-Blue Heron and other birds, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Did I mention that it was really cold and windy?  I was smart enough to bring my raincoat along, which served as a windbreaker for me.  I found a well grown-in field and followed a trail hoping to get to the back edge of the water.  I never found the water, but I did find a small bird that was making a very odd call towards me, a series of buzzes and clicks.  It was a Sedge Wren, a bird that I never even knew existed.

Sedge Wren, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Sedge Wren, Fermilab, Chicago IL

And some American Goldfinches were hanging out on nearby wires.

American Goldfinch, Fermilab, Chicago IL

American Goldfinch, Fermilab, Chicago IL

But I didn’t see any Bobolink, Vesper Sparrows or Dickcissels, but I did hear an Eastern Meadowlark.  I left the meadow and headed back towards the exit, and the wetlands, when I saw a sign for the bird viewing area.  So I ignored my schedule and stopped to check it out.  I found a path that meandered between 2 of the bigger ponds where I saw a Caspian Tern flying overhead.

Caspian Tern, Fermilab Chicago IL

Caspian Tern, Fermilab Chicago IL

The Tern landed and joined 10 or so other Terns on the ground.  There were also more shorebirds nearby.  This photo will show you the diversity of the birds in such a small area.

Variety of birds at Fermilab Chicago IL.

Variety of birds at Fermilab Chicago IL.

I think that I see a Solitary Sandpiper, some Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, various Swallows and a Red-Winged Blackbird.  There was a tree with 30-40 swallows sitting in it too, but the lighting was horrible for photos by this point.  Since I had only driven a few hundred miles out of my almost 2000 mile journey and the Sun was setting, I decided to finally get out of town.  I managed to make it a fair amount into Missouri before finding a place to catch a few hours of sleep.

I was up with the sunrise Sunday morning and excited to get close to Oklahoma.  I was so excited to maybe see a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher and I had found a few places to try my luck along I-40.  After getting breakfast at a Pantera Bread, where the kid behind the counter had never heard of a red-eye before, I was off.   One thing that I noticed along the way was the number of dead Armadillos on the shoulders of the road.  Do assholes hit them on purpose?  That is the only explanation that I could think of.  What a shame, they look like a neat animal to have around.
Finding the Scissor-Tails ended up being really easy.  I was passing by a field and I noticed some really light colored birds sitting on a fence among some European Starlings.  I had no idea what they could have been, so I did a U-turn at the next exit and went back to see.  I stopped on the shoulder near them and got one in my binoculars and I saw a really light-colored Kingbird.  I had no idea what it was since the tail was normal sized.  But I looked it up with my Sibley App and behold, it was a juvenile Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher!

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Juvenile, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Juvenile, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

I ended up seeing 5 in the one spot.  There appeared to be a family group of 2 adults and 2 juveniles, with another male making a fly-over.  I also saw some Eastern Meadowlarks, but they were very camera shy.  If I had to give a number, I must have seen at least 30 Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers in Oklahoma.  I stopped a few more times where I managed to get some photos of a male flying.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,, Roadside Oklahoma

I was almost into Texas when I recognized the name of an exit.  There was an Ebird list of Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, along with Mississippi Kites, 10 of them. So I stopped once again to see what I could.  I didn’t see any Kites, but I spotted a couple of Lark Sparrows sitting on a fence.

Lark Sparrows, Roadside Oklahoma

Lark Sparrows, Roadside Oklahoma

And a regular old Western Kingbird sitting on a wire (sorry, I love you guys, but those Scissor-Tails are so cool!).

Western Kingbird, Roadside Oklahoma

Western Kingbird, Roadside Oklahoma

And I spotted a curious brown bird hopping in and out of a small stand of trees in a cloverleaf.  It looked brown and very plain.  I had to ask for some help and turns out that it was a female, and maybe young, Painted Bunting, another life bird for me.  But if I had been able to ID her there, I would have tried much harder to see a male version.
And of course, another Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher was out catching some of the many, many grasshoppers that were everywhere.

Scissor-Tailed Flycathcer, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycathcer, Roadside Oklahoma

Which landed on a sign, which I feel was trying to tell me something…

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

I wish that I had more time to explore Fermilab.  It’s now on a short list of places for me to go back to.  I recommend checking it out, I have no idea how much of the science stuff that you can see.  And apparently they have a herd of Bison.  I also want to go back to Oklahoma and to the Ozarks and spend more time there.  I made a pass of the Oklahoma City Bombing Monument and it was too emotional for me to stop.  I can remember exactly where I was when I heard about the bombing and the day care that part of the destruction.  But I’ll go back some day.  And I’m curious as to why OKC needs a giant, but beautiful, skyscraper in tornado alley.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

Not Quite Summer Doldrums

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.