Busy days around here what with Christmas, company coming to visit, two more Christmas Bird Counts, and the New Year just around the corner. Up until yesterday, I hadn’t gotten many good pictures since my last post, partly due to the weather but mostly from getting caught up on stuff around the house rather than getting outside.
Two weeks ago at the Rio Grande Nature Center, a pair of Ring-necked Pheasants were making their presence known by calling back and forth to each other, with the male in particular loudly and repeatedly calling while strutting about.
On the pond that day were a pair of Green-winged Teal.
Another good bird at the Nature Center that day was this Pied-billed Grebe serenely floating along.
The Audubon Thursday Birders headed out to Valle de Oro NWR on December 19 for a fairly quiet day of birding, but one that would turn up some pretty good birds, including a Harlan’s Hawk, Horned Larks, an immature and mature Bald Eagle flying along the Rio Grande, lots of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and American Crows, and a few others including an American Pipit right at the end of the morning.
The Valle de Oro Christmas Bird Count took place a couple of days later on Saturday. A surprisingly large number of people showed up for that event at 6:30 am on a cold and snowy morning, where we broke up into small groups assigned to different areas in the 15-mile diameter count circle and headed off for a day of spotting and counting the number of birds and species we could find. The preliminary count at the end of the day was an excellent 109 species. Our group of four, assigned to the northern half of Bosque Farms came up with 41 species including a couple of Wilson’s Snipe and an unexpected Townsend’s Solitaire.
On Christmas Day, I managed to get out to Embudito Canyon and got lucky spotting a Cactus Wren that had been making its distinctive call near the end of my walk.
Although we know they have been here year-round for the last few years and nest here in the spring, they’ve been rather secretive lately and not seen on every visit. I made sure to report it to the folks that would be assigned to the canyon for the next day’s Sandia Christmas Bird Count.
For the Sandia count, a fellow birder and I drove almost 60 miles at about 15 mph covering the eastern edge of San Antonito. Right off the bat we saw two different Loggerhead Shrikes, which we had to write up since they weren’t expected to be seen in the area that day, and ended up seeing another 18 species on a rather quiet day for birding possibly due to a bit of a breeze that kicked up as the morning progressed. Overall, the preliminary count for that CBC was at least 67 species, a good but not record-setting number.
On Saturday, my friend Rebecca joined me to scout out this week’s Thursday Birder trip to Tingley Ponds, which I’m supposed to lead. It turned out to be a gorgeous, almost warm morning, and as I’d hoped, there were a good variety of waterfowl on the ponds, along with a few other birds putting in a brief appearance. A male Belted Kingfisher seems to have taken up residence on the south pond, and a few of the ducks we saw included a male Canvasback,
male American Wigeon,
male Ring-necked Duck,
and what is probably a female Redhead I’d mistakenly thought was a female Green-winged Teal.
There were also some female Common Goldeneye, Common and Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, and the usual Mallards and American Coots paddling about.
It’s also that time of year for all the porcupines to stand out sleeping in the leafless trees. I think they’re around all year, but I only seem to see them during the winter, and Tingley is one of the best places to spot them. Of the three we saw that morning, here are pictures of two of them, the first one all curled up into a cozy ball,
and another one stretched out a bit to soak up some sun.
Rarely seen this close, we surprised a Muskrat sunning in the icy ditch connecting the two ponds. After pretending for a minute that we didn’t notice it, it finally turned and snuck back into the cattails.
Another bird I’ve been looking for in all the likely places recently finally showed itself this morning at Los Poblanos Open Space, the first Western Screech-Owl of the season for me.
Wrapping up the year, it’s interesting to realize this is my 134th post since I started this blog back on March 5, 2011. Since that time, people have viewed it almost 17,000 times and since I added that Flag Counter on January 30, 2013, there have been 3,161 unique visitors from all 50 States, DC, and 80 other countries. Pretty cool. My butterfly lifelist is now up to 337 species in the US, including 140 seen here in New Mexico, with hundreds more from those foreign trips. That list was pretty easy to come up with since I really only got into it in late 2010 and kept a good record. Birds are another matter entirely, since I was never into listing per se and have been birding somewhat seriously for probably 30 years – lists I have made from foreign trips account for more than 2000 species. I really should go through the ABA list of 976 species in North America north of Mexico and the 539 species on the New Mexico Ornithological Society list for the state sometime and try to get an estimate of how many I’ve seen.
The New Year starts in just three days, and if the past few years are any indication, it should be another marvelous year for capturing some of those fascinating natural moments.