So the calendar rolls over to 2017 tonight after an interesting and good (other than in politics) 2016. It just happened to come to me the other day that 2017 is a prime number, which hasn’t been the case since 2011 (another auspicious year in which I retired from that work thang) and won’t happen again until 2027. The political thing is concerning, but hope remains it won’t get too out of hand and unduly impact our daily lives. Enough said – that kind of stuff is not the subject of this blog in which I hope to share some of those amazing natural moments I experience getting outside pretty much every day.
Oddly, not many photographs happened in the first few days since my last posting mostly due to unusual weather around here. For only the third time in the six years I’ve been going out with our Audubon Thursday Birders, we actually cancelled our walk last week after waking up to a cold rainy morning. The next couple of days were all about Christmas and luminarias broken up with a little bit of wind and snow. The day after Christmas, however, the sun came out and made for a pleasant day for the annual Sandia Christmas Bird Count, where Rebecca and our friend Bonnie joined us cruising around Tijeras counting all the birds we’d see. Our special sighting of the day was a Lincoln’s Sparrow, and it was fun seeing lots of Mountain Bluebirds in our area; overall the count spotted 70 species, a good total for the circle.
With all the leaves having fallen, this is the time of year I start keeping an eye out for old Cooper’s Hawk nests where the Great Horned Owls will soon start nesting. Those big dark lumps in the trees usually turn out to be either nests or sleeping porcupines; lately, quite a few of them have been porcupines dozing away. This one in Alameda Open Space was almost at eye level, but usually they are way high in the trees.
One day this week, I got out early and headed first to the Rio Grande Nature Center. Pretty dang cold (for Albuquerque) out there, but calm and sunny so a few birds were out, although they seemed pretty quiet and mostly trying to stay warm. I’d spot two porcupines there, which was a little unusual since I don’t often see them in that area. A small Russian Olive tree next to the bridge across the irrigation ditch usually has a kinglet or some other bird in it, but that morning had at least four different species sitting out trying to warm up in the sun. This one is what I think is an immature Lesser Goldfinch.
With the day warming up a bit, I headed next to park at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and walk along the east side of the Rio Grande. A couple of women walking their dogs told me to keep an eye out for a porcupine in the trees maybe a mile down the trail – I guess they hadn’t noticed the two way up in the trees right there at the parking lot :-). Other folks had been regularly reporting a Peregrine Falcon and a couple of Bald Eagles in that area, but I wouldn’t see them that day, and I’m thinking maybe they were on the other side of the river where there are many more cottonwood trees. I did spot a Great Blue Heron who seemed to be stoically waiting for the day to warm up,
and a pair of Common Mergansers (that’s him on the left and her with the great hairdo on the right) floating downstream.
The Audubon Thursday Birder group this week met at Durand Open Space, which is on the other side of the river but several miles further south. It always surprises me how many more birds we see with all those eyes looking than one sees wandering around alone. That morning would be no exception, with the group of 32 people picking up 31 species over the course of a couple of hours. One more bird would’ve met our success criteria of birds/people >1, so we added the porcupine spotted near the end of the walk to even things out. One of the first birds spotted that morning, way across the river was one of the two Bald Eagles for the day, who flew from its perch on seeing us coming.
We only have Bald Eagles here along the river for maybe another month, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for them in the days ahead.
Lots of the birds we saw that morning seemed to prefer hanging out in a single small tree, unfortunately in line with the sun and gray clouds making them almost impossible to photograph. Eventually, however, we made it around to the other side where lighting conditions were much better and all the birds had been hiding in the brush along the riverbank. Among the many species we’d spot there was one I’d been hoping to see for the last month or so, one of a small flock of Cedar Waxwings.
Also working the Russian Olive trees there on the bank was a Spotted Towhee,
Eastern Bluebirds, and several other species. On the way back to our cars, it was fun to see a Say’s Phoebe and this American Kestrel both “kiting” over a field before plunging down to catch whatever they saw moving down below.
Off the next morning on a short visit to Alameda Open Space, I would see Bald Eagles harrassing the gulls on two occasions but never got a good photograph (guess another trip is in order soon), but was glad to see a female Belted Kingfisher perched on the powerline. It was my photograph of possibly even the same bird there that first motivated me to start this blog back in March 2011 (the last prime number year).
Here’s to another amazing year ahead – Happy New Year’s, everybody!