This week included a good number of sightings of Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks, such as this guy at Tingley Ponds on February 1,
but most of the good pictures this week were of good little birds, mostly skulking around in the bushes. Minutes after getting several shots of that hawk, I spied this little Bewick’s Wren chattering away at my presence.
On Sunday, a short visit to Embudito Canyon on a cool and windy afternoon lucked out with excellent views of the rather rare Green-tailed Towhee that had been reported there recently.
The next day, I met Cheryl from Santa Fe to head back to Tingley to look for the Pacific Wren again. With the recent flooding of the marshy area, the Rusty Blackbirds seem to have departed, and while we did see a Stub-tailed Wren, neither of us could be certain if it was a Pacific or a Winter Wren and we really didn’t get to see it all that well or that long. On the way back, Cheryl spotted a Brown Creeper, and the next day Matt and I would see another; the third time I’ve seen them already this year; last year, I’d only seen it once.
Tuesday, Matt and I met at Alameda Open Space to look for a couple of unusual gulls that had been reported recently. No luck on that score, but a Black Phoebe posed nicely for me in a colorful tree right next to the pedestrian bridge.
We noted there seemed to be even more Black-crowned Night Herons roosting on the west bank of the river just north of the bridge than the last time I’d been there, and it was simply amazing to watch how the gulls could distinguish the silhouette of a distant bald eagle from the crows, cormorants, ducks and other large birds – only an eagle alarmed them and caused them to lift off the water.
Taking that as a hint, my plan for the next morning was to park it in the middle of the bridge and wait for the signal from the gulls in hope of getting a closer view of an eagle. Good plan, and actually got a couple of pictures just as I arrived, but it was way to cold and windy to hang around long enough for another one to pass over, so I decided to head back to the Rio Grande Nature Center to see if maybe the Bald Eagles were still roosting where they’d been the week before. No luck on that score either, but got a surprisingly nice picture while I was there of a Bushtit gathering nesting material.
Usually, these guys are in a large flock and constantly on the move, making it rather difficult to get a picture of one.
This week, the Thursday Audubon Birders took it easy and went up to the Crest House at the top of the Sandias to look for the Rosy Finches while sitting in a nice warm place with hot coffee. Unlike my last visit when you had to wait awhile to even see a single one, this time we had the more usual large flock that stayed around for a surprisingly long time. While the three different species were present, my pictures are of the Gray-crowned, and three of them came out pretty well.
If you look closely, you can see how fluffed up and downy they look, which may contribute to their choice of habitat in a cold, almost arctic environment. Now, I’d like to explain how I patiently staked out this next location and waited for hours to get this shot, but in truth, I didn’t realize the bird had left until later that morning when reviewing my pictures. It did come out pretty good, though, didn’t it?
In addition to all the rosy finches, there were an unusual number of Steller’s Jays visiting the feeder along with a few more ‘good little birds’. This little guy is a Mountain Chickadee.
Several White-breasted Nuthatches came by while we sat watching,
and every now and then, the less common Red-breasted Nuthatch would dart in for an instant before vanishing with a bite to eat.
All those marvelous birds made the drive up more than worthwhile.
For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been out looking for nesting Great Horned Owls in areas we’d seen them before. These owls tend to start nesting about now and earlier than most other birds, so searching the leafless trees for old hawk nests has the potential for finding one. Although there have been a few reports of the owls being seen in various locations around town, we’ve been unsuccessful so far this year in finding any active nests. Just to check, this morning I went back to the new Route 66 Open Space to visit a nest that I’d seen fledglings in last year. That nest also looked abandoned today, but as I was rambling along the creek back to my car, I noticed a peculiar shape in one of the cottonwoods, and sure enough, it was a Great Horned Owl roosting for the day.
It was a little easier to see this guy from a different angle, but that camouflage pattern and pose was just amazing to see.
Will definitely be visiting again soon to see if a nest develops.