Once again, somehow more than two weeks have passed since my last posting, so the time seems about right for a new one. Lots of cold and gray days lately as winter kicks in, so I just haven’t gotten out much to take many pictures. That, and my favorite lens is starting to act up again, a problem to be rectified shortly with a new bigger zoom expected to arrive any day now. I did finally get to Embudito one day last week for probably the first time since returning from Peru in late November. Those Peru pictures also have been taking up way too much of my time for the last month and a half, but we’ve finally managed to identify most of the butterflies and lots of pictures from the trip are now on my website. A little late in the day for birding, but there were still a few out catching a bit of sun. A bit of a surprise since their range map shows them wintering south of here was seeing a couple of Black-throated Sparrows perched on the cholla.
A year-round resident is the Canyon Towhee, which posed nicely for its photograph.
After two weeks off since Christmas and New Years Day fell on Thursday, it was fun catching up with everybody on last week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip in search of some of the many hawks that hang out east of the Sandia Mountains at this time of year. The trip usually starts in Moriarty NM, heading south toward McIntosh and Estancia and driving some of the dirt roads in the area looking for hawks on power poles and irrigation equipment. After lunch, the group then heads a little north to check out more of those dirt roads. Although we didn’t spot the Rough-legged Hawk (except at too far a distance to be sure) or the Golden Eagle that had been seen during the scouting trip earlier in the week, we did get plenty of Red-tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks along with a few Northern Harriers.
Another treat was the number of Loggerhead Shrikes seen that day. At one point, one was all fluffed up on a fence post just feet away, but fled the scene long before I could get the camera on it. Others were a bit more cooperative.
Saturday, Rebecca and I decided to see if we could hike into Cienega Canyon hoping to see a few of the special birds that had been reported there on the Christmas Bird Count, including Golden-crowned Kinglet and Pacific Wren. We wouldn’t see many birds that morning other than the Brown Creepers that seem to be everywhere this year, and only heard a Great Horned Owl calling from some hidden spot close by. Prepared for the worst, we were surprised to find only patchy snow on the road into the canyon, no wind, and temperatures that ended up being pretty nice. The best part, though, was that an early morning fog had crystallized on the trees making for quite a magical scene.
Close up, the hoar frost crystals were even more stunning.
Naturally, I hadn’t thought to bring my macro lens that day, which would’ve made for some interesting pictures of a rather unusual weather event. As the morning passed, the temperature slowly rose to start melting the ice and causing the crystals to fall from the trees. So quiet there with no wind, you could hear them falling. Interestingly, sometimes the tops of the trees would still be coated with ice while the lower branches had cleared, or one side would be ice-free while the other side was still coated, all I imagine reflecting small differences in temperature in the immediate vicinity.
After that delightful walk, we headed up to Sandia Crest House to look in on the Rosy-finches. They first showed up on November 11 and should be here until about mid-March. The Sandia Crest House is one of the easiest places to see these birds who normally live above the tree line in high mountains. Their behavior makes seeing them pretty special. Usually, and that day was no exception, you sit around for a half hour or so waiting for them to appear. But when they do, they all arrive at once in a huge swirling mixed flock of the three species (Black, Gray-crowned, and Brown-capped) to hit the feeders for a minute or two before the entire bunch disappears on the wind only to return again a few minutes later. Not the greatest light for pictures that day, here’s about the best I got and if you look closely, you’ll see four of them. Audubon Thursday Birders are scheduled to return there on February 19, so I’ll hope to get some better pictures.
Very enjoyable post. Lovely photos.
You captured and described the winter experience of being in the mountains very well.
Thanks, everybody. Glad you’re enjoying it.