It is about the right time of year to see a few eagles on the Rio Grande, but this week more than surpassed my expectations. Last Wednesday, I rambled around the Rio Grande Nature Center and ran into two other regular birders in the area, neither of whom had been seeing much. That’s not too unusual for this time of year, and I wasn’t seeing very many birds either. But at a few points on the Aldo Leopold Trail there are pretty good views up and down the river, and I got to watch my first nearly adult Bald Eagle of the season as it swooped and dove several times on a small sandbar, obviously something drawing its attention.
Just about the only other bird I got a picture of that day was this one of a male Northern Shoveler.
The next day, the Audubon Thursday Birder group also took a walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center, and would see a few more birds, including a close fly-by of an immature Bald Eagle and a distant view of a mature adult Bald Eagle. Despite the pretty quiet morning, I did get a few good pictures of several other birds, including this one of a Hermit Thrush that came out pretty well.
As we were heading back to our cars at the end of the morning, someone pointed out the huge flock of Cackling Geese on the Candelaria Pond. Very similar to Canada Geese, Cackling Geese are much smaller, have much shorter necks and different bills.
There were a few Canada Geese on the pond, too, which made the comparison quite distinct. A special surprise among the flock was a single Greater White-fronted Goose. And, to top it off, after we stopped looking at the geese and headed for the cars, a Greater Roadrunner popped up with a nice salamander snack.
On Saturday, a couple of us headed out east of the Sandias near Moriarty to scope out an upcoming trip to look for longspurs. We didn’t see any that day, but did find a few flocks of Horned Larks, which is a good sign that longspurs may be hidden among them. We did get a few good looks at a male Northern Harrier, several Loggerhead Shrikes,
and more of the Ferruginous Hawks we’d seen on a visit earlier this month.
But, hey, this is Eagle Week, and sure enough, an absolute highlight of the day was spotting a Golden Eagle about three telephone poles away while driving a dirt road in the area of the King Ranch. After scoping it for a few minutes, I started to amble down the dirt road to see if I could get a little closer for a picture. When it took off, amazingly it headed right back down the road over the car so we all got really good up close looks at it; certainly closer than I’ve ever been to one before.
This morning’s mission was to head back to the Rio Grande Nature Center and later the Pueblo Montano Open Space (on the west side of the Rio Grande south of Montano) looking for Great Horned Owls, who should start nesting soon and have been seen near the Nature Center recently. No luck on the owls, but I did see seven snoozing porcupines at Pueblo Montano and a couple near the Nature Center.
Crossing the bridge near the Nature Center, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was hanging out in the olive tree on the western bank of the acequia and posed nicely for a picture.
I started out by walking north on the bike trail and then cutting west to the river on the Aldo Leopold trail, where I saw a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches, a Spotted Towhee, Hermit Thrush, Downy Woodpecker, and a couple of other birds in addition to the usual American Crows.
Checking out the river from the small beach area north of the Nature Center, I arrived just in time to catch this immature Bald Eagle as it flew over me heading north along the river.
That sighting would have been enough to make my day, but as I headed further south to the other beach area south of the Nature Center, not only were there two Great Blue Herons roosting in a tree across the river, but there were three more Bald Eagles hanging out in another tree. A mature adult took off as I moved closer, circling once before heading upriver.
I hunkered down across from the remaining two and watched them for about 10 minutes, hoping the adult would return.
Instead, first the really immature one and then the more adult one took off about a minute apart heading upriver.
Pretty incredible to see four Bald Eagles right there in the middle of town, not to mention that amazing view of the Golden Eagle earlier in the week. There are only two species of eagles in the United States, so seeing both of them and so close definitely made my week.