Here’s some of the photos from a few good outings over the last couple of weeks. Over the third weekend in January, Rebecca and I headed down to the area around Truth or Consequences, NM, to join Kim Score’s CNMAS trip to Percha Dam and to scout out a few locations Rebecca’s planning to include in this year’s Birdathon coming up in mid-May. In addition to Percha Dam, we’d spend time looking around Caballo Lake, Animas Creek, Paseo del Rio, Mim’s Lake, and several locations along the western shore of Elephant Butte Lake. At some of those spots at Elephant Butte Lake, we’d come across small groups of javelina (or collared peccary). I don’t see them very often and when I do, they’re usually pretty far away or on the run. One group we came across on a dirt road close to the lake was a little slower to take off, especially one young one that didn’t seem too bothered by us or in the mood to run.
All weekend, we were surprised to see Verdin pop up in several places, a bird I usually don’t see very often at all…of those we’d see on this trip (Mim’s Lake, Paseo del Rio, and Percha), this is my best shot showing that yellow head and those red epaulets.
A late afternoon trip to Animas Creek (a unique habitat for New Mexico of large sycamore trees along the creek) didn’t turn up the Bridled Titmouse we were hoping to see (and did early in 2019), but had plenty of our other target for the area, Acorn Woodpecker.
After an interesting evening staying in the restored CCC cabins of the Dam Site Lodge (pelicans, herons, mergansers, and grebes appearing at dawn on the lake below), we met up with Kim and the group at Percha Dam State Park the next morning. Before we even got organized to start the walk we had lots of Phainopeplas flying around, a bird we’ve had a little trouble seeing lately in its usual spots closer to Albuquerque.
More amazing was getting a great look at that Bridled Titmouse right out in the open also just as we were getting ready to get started.
As expected, the walk was quite good and we’d see a good variety of birds as the day went on. A highlight was having a mature Bald Eagle fly right over the group,
and later at Percha Flats on Caballo Lake, while not a highlight for the day flybys of some of the Ring-billed Gulls were a nice opportunity for some in flight photos.
Later that afternoon we stopped by Paseo del Rio Campground at the base of the Elephant Butte Dam, not only was it good to find a Verdin and the expected Pyrrhuloxia and cool to see a Great Blue Heron in its unusual, but regular, spot up on the cliff, but to also spot a Great Egret hunting in the water,
and have two Osprey fly by.
In what was probably about an hour walking around the area around 4pm, we’d see 17 species which seems pretty good for this time of year.
Taking our time the next morning headed for home, we were unsuccessful in hoping to see the Golden Eagles, where a year ago we’d seen several perched on the power poles along the freeway south of Bosque del Apache NWR. A stop further north at the Bernardo Wildlife Area turned up a close view of a female Northern Harrier,
none of the Snow Geese we’d heard folks had been seeing recently, and not nearly as many Sandhill Crane as had been reported just days earlier.
It was pretty good, however, seeing several White-throated Sparrows working the swampy ground covering.
This week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip returned to Bernardo where we finally managed to spot the White-throated Sparrows again,
along with a pretty good look at the Harlan’s race of the Red-tailed Hawk.
As usual, with all those eyes and a number of excellent birders on the trip, we’d end the day with a nice variety of species.
This past weekend, I got out to start looking for some of those owls that could start nesting in a few more weeks. In Corrales, where Great Horned Owls had nested last year and we got to see one for the Albuquerque Christmas Bird Count on December 15, this time I got to see both adults and even get a shot of them both looking right at me.
Not yet nesting either, just on a hunch I checked in on the Albuquerque Academy where I’ve spotted them on a winter roost in past years, and sure enough managed to spot one of them.
This ponderosa is close to where they’ve typically nested and when they do, is the easiest to watch of any in town.
I also had to stop by Columbus Park where the Western Screech-Owl has reappeared after being off somewhere since last June.
Finally, after wandering around the Rio Grande Nature Center bosque without yet finding the owls that are undoubtedly somewhere around, it was a major thrill to get to see a Bald Eagle on the east side of the river where I’ve occasionally seen one in past years. For the first time there, this one didn’t immediately fly off and sat there posing nicely for me.