Just back from another wonderful day of birding with my usual co-conspirators (Rebecca and Matt), as Matt and I joined Rebecca in scouting the plains east of Albuquerque in preparation for her Thursday Birder trip there next week. Despite rather toasty temperatures and pretty high winds, by the end of the day we got 3 of our 4 target species in addition to quite a few others leading to Matt’s total for the day of 57 species.
First up was a single Mountain Plover, casually wandering down the gravel road we were on, but hanging around long enough for excellent looks and a few pictures.
These guys (according to Kaufman’s book) are only found in a few locations in the United States, and though it looks like they shouldn’t even be here, apparently can be found here regularly around this time of year.
Next, we headed onward to a very short grass prairie habitat in search of the Long-billed Curlew. Along the way, we saw a number of Horned Larks (apparently enjoying a snack of one of the many grasshoppers popping around),
Lark Sparrows, Lark Buntings (though I don’t remember seeing them), several raven nests of which we’re pretty sure we saw some Chihuahuan Ravens, and a Loggerhead Shrike.
Although we didn’t see one of our target birds, the Burrowing Owl, at our next stop Matt quickly spotted our next target, the Long-billed Curlew, quite a ways off, but unmistakable with that outrageous bill. With the wind blowing quite strongly by then, few other birds were about.
Since we were pretty close and had heard good reports about the area, we next detoured to Galisteo, and spent several hours wandering along Galisteo Creek. The area has a permanent creek lined with tall cottonwoods and looks like a fabulous birding area, especially earlier in the day. We ran into some friends from the Thursday Birder group and another dedicated birder from Santa Fe, who gave us some ideas of what to look for where. We were unsuccessful in tracking down a Yellow-billed Cuckoo Matt heard call once, but did get a great look at a Swainson’s Thrush, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, warblers, and several other species even as late in the afternoon as we were and the gusty winds. Even found another Black-chinned Hummingbird nest (my third this week!).
Our last stop was at a ranch where Rebecca knew of a resident Barn Owl we hoped to see – turned out there were two of them. Somehow, they were sitting quietly out of sight right next to us until they’d flush and fly off harassed by smaller birds. Here’s an example of one flying away.
Eventually, one tried hiding in the rafters of an open structure and I got one quick picture before he bailed and headed off to parts unknown.
We got one last chance to practice quick focusing our cameras on a flyby before this guy headed way up in the trees to get away from the little birds and humans chasing it.
Interestingly, we also had a Swainson’s Hawk in the same area, which we’d first seen as we approached the ranch, and then several other times flying very low in the same area that we were watching the owls. All in all, a good day with good company.