September is just flying by, and Fall arrives in just two more days. The signs have been appearing that we’re moving past summer with the sunflowers in full bloom, chamisa starting to turn yellow, bird migration well underway, and for a couple of days a ridiculous taste of winter. It’s been three weeks since my last update but there aren’t too many pictures to share this time, mostly because I haven’t been getting out there nearly as often as in the past and haven’t seen much to photograph on the days I do. Butterflies seemed to have wound down early this year likely due to little rain, and getting re-focused on birds seems to take a little adjustment. The virus is still about, so I’ve also been a little picky about deciding where to go to minimize running into others. Early in September, I did run down to Calabacillas Arroyo to look in on the Western Screech-Owl shown as the final picture of the last blog post; this time, I caught it out in the open with its claws gripping the edge of the cavity (rather than tucked deep inside).
Later that morning, Rebecca and I took a look around Piedras Marcadas Dam, where we did see a good number of Monarchs as expected but failed to spot any caterpillars or chrysalises on the milkweed. Since it was nearby, we then checked out the native plant habitat at the Open Space Visitor Center. Most interesting sighting that morning was an unusually large flock of Barn Swallows lined up on the power lines.
The next day on a short visit to Embudito Canyon, I was fascinated by a good-sized gopher snake that I’d surprised resting next to the trail. As I came closer, it slowly moved under a bush and surprised me by rather quickly disappearing into its underground burrow through such a small opening.
Starting late in the afternoon a day or so later, we’d get hit by the most unusual Arctic cold front blasting down from Canada. The day before was in the 90’s and somewhat hazy from all the forest fires in the Southwest this year; overnight high winds developed and brought cold rain (snow in the nearby mountains) and temperatures down to the 40s; good reason to stay inside for the next few days. This was soon followed by multiple reports of people coming across large number of dead birds that died for no obvious reason. Recently, a likely explanation has been published in this ABA Report , which is well worth reading.
By the following week, things had pretty much returned to normal with daily highs back in the 80s but with pleasantly cool temperatures overnight and in the mornings, definitely a sign that Fall is nearly here. There have been continuing reports this last month of quite a few warblers migrating through including a number of fairly uncommon species. Along with everybody else, I have been seeing Wilson’s Warbler just about every time and every place I’ve been. This may be the best photograph of one I’ve gotten this year,
and was taken on a very birdy morning with Rebecca along the ditches in Corrales. A few of the other keepers from that day include a Cassin’s Vireo (a first for me),
a Yellow-breasted Chat, unusually down at the water instead of buried in a thicket,
and one of several Common Yellowthroat.
Two flowers that caught my eye included a Sunflower (one of zillions this year) in Corrales,
and Clammyweed from another visit to Embudito Canyon later that week.
Not much else blooming or flying in Embudito that time, but close to the end of my walk I’d get a nice shot of a Gray Flycatcher.
A little bit later, I noticed a lizard hanging out on a large rock a pretty high and far away. As I was looking at it, a Rock Wren flew in to perch just next to the lizard. It seemed most unusual to me that neither one of them took any notice of the other; one would think the lizard would run off at anything close to it, and it wouldn’t surprise me for the wren to grab it as a snack (something seen regularly with our roadrunners).
Last Friday, Rebecca and I thought to take a look at the Coyote del Malpais Golf Course in Grants, NM. We’d been wanting to try a new location and hadn’t been there in quite some time. An eBird report listed 70 species seen there recently, so it seemed likely to be a good choice. And we were not disappointed, seeing some 36 species in little more than an hour covering less than half the area of some earlier visits. Just like everywhere else these days, the warblers were out in good numbers, but we’d see a couple I’d yet to see this year, including a Townsend’s Warbler
and a Black-throated Gray Warbler.
Among the several duck species, Pied-billed Grebe, American Avocets, Black Phoebes, and such, there was a nice flock of White-faced Ibis at first hanging out in the water,
and later flying off in the distance before circling back.
I wonder about the guy on the right tweeting out instructions to the the others, but he seems to appear to be blabbing away in both shots, making me wonder if everything’s okay with his bill. A highlight of the day came right near the end when we spotted a sparrow-like bird whose identity was a mystery to both of us (not too surprising for me, but it’s rare for Rebecca not to nail it on sight). We’d later check with some friends and reference sources to decide it was a non-breeding/immature Chestnut-collared Longspur, a new species for the hotspot checklist.
Two other goodies from this morning’s walk in the Corrales bosque near Romero Road included a Lark Sparrow
and (one of many) Lesser Goldfinch.
I’d see another Northern Waterthrush there, too, but the photographs didn’t quite work out.