It’s been unusually chilly here lately with some mighty cold breezes, and on the few times I’ve gotten it together to get outside it seems most of the birds are pretty much hunkered down too. But the sun’s usually shining and some of those birds are out and about despite the cold. Undeterred by the weather, a small group of us headed out for the Audubon Thursday Birder trip to the East Mountains and the Paa-ko neighborhood. It was a good day for Mountain Bluebirds and a few others, but somehow we missed finding the Pinon Jays that are seen there sometimes. Not the best day for photography, either, so this first picture isn’t great but a record of the first Sage Thrasher I’ve ever seen.
My first impression on spotting it high in a cedar tree was of a thrasher, which I assumed would be the more common Curve-billed or Crissal, but that beak was short and straight so it had to be something else. Naturally, it toyed with us hopping around at some distance behind a wire fence, but at least we got good looks at it. Another bird hanging out in the same yard was a gorgeous male Western Bluebird.
A visit to the Rio Grande Nature Center a couple of days later turned up several Great Blue Herons far across the river where the ice was finally beginning to break up, a few Canada Geese and Mallards, and the occasional Common Merganser. Both of the larger ponds in the area were still mostly frozen, making for some interesting behavior from the various ducks that normally hang out there.
Monday, things had warmed up a bit and I headed down to the Alameda Open Space hoping to spot a Bald Eagle, whose presence is usually noted by the large flock of gulls suddenly taking to the air whenever one shows up. I found it interesting a few weeks ago that the gulls totally ignored other large dark birds such as crows and ravens that would pass over, but take to the air whenever an eagle appeared. Oddly on this day, as I approached two guys with scopes searching the large flock of Ring-billed Gulls hoping to spot the Glaucous Gull that had been reported recently, this mature Bald Eagle was cruising high above, without any obvious commotion among the gulls below.
Something about its behavior must have convinced the gulls it wasn’t an immediate threat and they remained on the water, although when I pointed it out to those two guys, they said they were wondering why the flock of gulls had gotten a little more agitated in the last few minutes.
On my way back toward the bike trail, several people had noticed a Great Blue Heron perched up in an old gray tree.
I tried not to disturb it making my way up to the bike trail hoping to get a better angle on it with the sun behind me, but it decided it was time to move on and I only had time for this quick shot, which came out pretty well all things considered.
A cute little Ruby-crowned Kinglet awaited me in the parking lot, busy hopping around a small tree apparently hoping to catch a few insects.
In the several pictures I got of this guy, it was always hiding behind those tiny branches thinking it was invisible, I guess.
Yesterday, although the forecast was for a warmer day, a chill wind was blowing at Los Poblanos Open Space and the few Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese about were mostly settled on the ground. I’d hoped to spot a few raptors as this area is usually good for Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, and Northern Harriers, but none seemed to be around that morning. A little surprising given the huge flocks of what surely are tasty Rock Pigeons, shown here on the buffet line.
I don’t recall ever seeing such a huge flock of these birds and nowhere near that many last year. An introduced bird that can be somewhat obnoxious and quick to empty my bird feeders (grumble), and which has gained them the nickname ‘rock pigs’, in their way they are rather handsome.