Before catching up with a few friends at Tingley Ponds on Saturday to help them find the unusual Rusty Blackbirds and Pacific Wren, I decided to stop by the Albuquerque Botanic Garden to see what was about. Not too many birds at this time of year, but there were a few Wood Ducks hanging at the pond, including this pair quietly paddling around.
We did get lucky later the afternoon at seeing both of the target birds, but it wasn’t until later in the week when I returned to show them to Matt that I got a pretty good picture of that Pacific Wren, who gave us quite a show and was unusually talkative during our visit.
Tuesday seemed like a good day to drive up to Sandia Crest to see the rosy finches while they are still around. A smaller number this year stopped by while I was there including several instances when only a single bird would arrive instead of the more typical swirling flock. Pictures weren’t that great during the short times they were there, but I did get a pretty good one of one of the Steller’s Jays that were about along with white- and red-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, and juncos.
Matt and I had a great morning on Wednesday, first tracking down the Thayer’s Gull that had been reported recently near the Alameda Bridge, and then finding both the Rusty Blackbirds and the Pacific Wren — it’s a good day when Matt gets to add three birds to his State (310 species) and County (232 species) lists including one that was a lifer!
Fairly entertaining to see while we were hunting down that wren was this Cooper’s Hawk apparently enjoying a day at the mud spa, behavior I’ve never seen before.
The next day, the Thursday Birder group headed out to the open country east of the Sandias near Estancia on a successful hunt for Ferruginous Hawks and several other raptors. This one waited rather patiently on a telephone pole for me to take his picture,
but eventually tired of my intrusiveness and took off for parts unknown.
In addition to a large number of Ferruginous Hawks, there were a few Red-tailed Hawks (including two of the dark morph form) and American Kestrels seen, Loggerhead Shrikes, a huge flock of Horned Larks (with a couple of Chestnut-collared Longspurs),
a couple of Sage Sparrows (unusual for this area), and a few Western Meadowlarks.
Yesterday, Rebecca and I drove down first to Bernardo NWR and then on to Bosque del Apache NWR. Bernardo seemed to be the place to go for Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese (not to mention the 8 Bald Eagles we saw during our short visit), with considerably larger numbers of both than we’d see at the Bosque. A nearly full moon still up that morning made a pretty good backdrop for the geese flying about.
Just as we were closing in on the Visitor Center at the Bosque, Rebecca spotted a raptor-like bird in a cottonwood on the side of the highway and had me pull a quick u-turn to check it out. Turned out to be a Merlin, and close to where we’d seen one during the Festival of the Cranes back in November. Much better lighting this time for a picture of this fairly uncommon bird.
The feeder at the Visitor Center brought in a White-throated Sparrow in among the large flock of the more usual White-crowned Sparrows.
Birding was fabulous at the Bosque that day. Among the raptors, there were large numbers of Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers, a couple of Ferruginous Hawks, several Bald Eagles, and, as we were leaving to head back to Albuquerque, a surprise Prairie Falcon. We were watching one Red-tailed perched in a tree when a second one flew up and and drove the first one off.
During the day, we’d also get to see the Long-billed Curlews that have been reported near the Willow Deck recently, a Wilson’s Snipe, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Hooded and Common Mergansers, and quite a few other species.
Most entertaining at the end of the day was a Great Blue Heron who’d been hanging around near the fee station all day, and who apparently had one of those itches that just won’t go away.