While we’re not dealing at all with anything like the East Coast’s snowpocalypse, it has been pretty chilly around here of late, and the birds seem to be staying pretty quiet and hunkered down for warmth. I’ve checked out most of my usual haunts but just am not hearing or seeing much lately. Weather’s finally starting to warm up, though, pushing into the mid-60’s by this weekend so the next few days are looking good. A week ago Sunday I did finally see an adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree at Valle de Oro – too far away for a picture, but also saw one of the usual American Kestrels much closer.
With pretty good weather on Martin Luther King Day, I decided to go check out the eastern plains near Moriarty where we’d had to cancel our annual Thursday Birder trip a few weeks earlier due to snow and muddy roads. The roads had completely recovered by that Monday and with the sun shining let me get some pretty good pictures of some of the many hawks that populate the area this time of year. One of the better ones is of this Red-tailed Hawk seen along Clements Road.
A couple miles east on Clements Road where there is a marvelously time-worn barn, a Loggerhead Shrike let me get just barely close enough to photograph.
Most of the birds I saw were on that stretch of Clements Road east of Hwy. 41. West of the highway the road was a little treacherous with mud and ice, so I went back north on Hwy. 41, just past I-10 and got on Valley Irrigation Road just east of and parallel to Hwy 41. American Kestrels, a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, and good-sized flocks of Western Meadowlarks were there, and a huge flock of Horned Larks surrounded the car as they fled in front of me. They finally settled down next to the road and let me take a few pictures.
Coolest bird of the day, however, was this Ferruginous Hawk, who for awhile would fly down the road to the next pole every time I tried to get a bit closer. This is a picture from fairly far away but shows well its distinctive field marks of that white breast and head and those rufous (reddish) thighs.
It finally agreed to let me take a close picture through the sunroof if I promised to quit fooling around and move along.
In the Corrales bosque the next morning, a porcupine was typically snoozing away high in a tree, but in a fairly open spot so you got a better sense of their shape – usually they’re all balled up and just look like a fuzzy lump.
Last week’s Thursday Birder trip to Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area was sunny but still pretty chilly most of the morning and we were able to see a pretty good variety of birds, but unfortunately none that I was able to photograph well. A couple of days later, Rebecca and I returned to Corrales to scope out a few locations for an upcoming Thursday Birder trip and saw a few good birds although it was still pretty quiet out that morning. Highlight of the morning, however, was another mammal. I’d hoped it was a beaver, which I’ve yet to see around here, but it turned out to be a muskrat. Still pretty cool, as these guys usually do their best to disappear the instant they know you’re there.
All quiet at my local patch, Embudito, yesterday, but I did see a Canyon Towhee busy exploring the snowmelt for something to eat.
This morning, I stopped by Tingley Ponds thinking at least the ducks should be around and they were along with the American Coots, a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and Canada Geese, but the numbers seemed lower than usual and they were all keeping their distance from me. So it was off to the Rio Grande Nature Center. Again, pretty quiet as I walked the Aldo Leopold Trail, although I did spot a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Hairy Woodpecker, a couple of Northern Flickers, and a Belted Kingfisher along the way as well as a couple of porcupines. No waterfowl on the river, which seemed unusually low, and none of the Bald Eagles I was secretly hoping to surprise were around. The ponds at the Nature Center itself did have a nice mix of ducks, including this male Wood Duck (you can’t help but take photos of those guys)
and it seems the female Red-winged Blackbirds are back for the season. It’s interesting that the females all seem to flock together during the winter with the males not showing up much until later in the year.