Almost the end of January and nearly a month since my last post. Seems I’ve been a bit distracted lately, and either not getting out much at all or at the wrong time of day. Weather’s been mostly good if a little chilly, but this time of year can also be rather slow for birding in the areas I’ve been visiting. Did have a few interesting sightings nonetheless over the last few weeks and thought I’d share them here.
Met up with some friends at Tingley Beach on January 6 for birding, and saw a few good birds and first porcupine for the year. Fun spotting a Great Blue Heron preening away high in the top of a cottonwood.
Didn’t get a photo of the porcupine that day, but did see one awake in a tree a few days later at Calabacillas Arroyo.
The next day, a Canyon Towhee teased me from a cholla in Embudito.
One of my better outings was the next day at Rio Grande Nature Center and the adjoining bosque along the Rio Grande. Pretty quiet (other than a few crows flying about) until I got to the river, where I first got a close look at a Great Blue Heron who stayed around long enough for a photo before flying off up river.
Next, it was a treat to see a mature Bald Eagle on the far side of the river on a snag they’ve used in past years. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like flying any closer while I was in the area.
Starting back toward the Nature Center I came across a couple of other photo ops, first a House Finch close to the trail in a Russian Olive,
and then an Eastern Bluebird, in the shadows a bit higher up in a cottonwood.
New for me was finding a trail close to the river between my two usual access points. New for the birds, too, who’d been hanging out on the water not expecting any people to show up. This gave me a chance to get close to several Common Mergansers, who typically seem to head for the hills as soon as they detect nearby humans. Got an okay shot of the male,
but was quite happy with this one of a female.
A few days later, we decided to revisit the Northern Geologic Window that was part of our area for the Albuquerque Christmas Count back in December. Of the 117 species recorded on the count, we were the only team to get Sagebrush Sparrow and Crissal Thrasher, and wanted to find them again and try for better photos. Both species were still there, but my only good photo was of the Crissal Thrasher.
Embudito’s my ‘local patch’ and where I seem to go several times a week. It hasn’t been very birdy at all lately, but still worth going for a little outdoor exercise if nothing else. It was a treat coming across a couple of Black-throated Sparrows for the first time in quite awhile, and fun that they were so busy working under some bushes they ignored me entirely as I stood directly above them trying to back off the zoom enough to include the whole bird.
Last Friday, we were off to the East Mountains for a Climate Watch survey, which we do twice a year counting all the birds we see in 5 minutes at each of 12 locations. Our focus is on bluebirds and nuthatches, which this time turned up a good number of Western Bluebirds, a few Mountain Bluebirds, and a single White-breasted Nuthatch. We also had several species of hawks this year that likely kept the numbers down for the smaller birds in the area. After completing the survey (and a good lunch at Rumor Brewing), we drove east to Moriarty and south to Clements Road, which at this time of year can be good for seeing several raptors. We would see a Rough-legged Hawk and a few Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, but have had better luck in the past. I did catch one of the Ferruginous Hawks as it flew by.
The most unusual sighting of the day and an absolute highlight was coming across a tree in someone’s yard that had 3 Great Horned Owls perched in it.
In the photo above, two of them are quite obvious on either side of the main trunk; the third one is just above and to the left of the obvious one on the left. A friend mentioned seeing a nesting pair in the area early last year, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen an owl out there, let alone three of them! Even crazier was seeing a fourth owl perched in the next tree over.
No nests in sight, and no idea how/if any of these were related.
Naturally, that had me out a few days later (January 26) checking in on one I’d seen a few months ago a friend had mentioned seeing as recently as January 10. Took me awhile to spot this guy, but yep, that shape finally jumped out at me, and of course, was looking right at me when I finally saw it.
Walking the ditch in Corrales two days later, of course I had to look for the pair that seems present year-round near the nesting site they’ve used for years. It took two passes by those trees, but finally spotted one of them in a somewhat different location than usual.
A quiet walk in the bosque near the Open Space Visitor Center the next day didn’t turn up many birds at all, but I did get a look at what I’m pretty sure was a female Western Bluebird hiding in the shade.