Dovekies!

Just getting around to the post now, but Sunday we went up to Plum Island to look for the Dovekies that had been reported. We got to the island a little before 9. They had been reported at both parking lots 1 and 7, but since the birds were just flying past 1 we headed straight down to 7.

We did pause briefly at the Salt Pannes for 2 Northern Harriers and a single Snow Goose and then slowed again for 9 more Snow Geese dropping in to the Forward pool near the New Blind.

At 7, we took a brief scan from the platform and then moved down to the beach. There were a couple birders down by the rocks but otherwise no one around. Scanning through the water, I quickly found plenty of Common Eider and a few Red-breasted Mergansers but little else.

Not too long after commenting on how little was out in front of us, a Dovekie popped up! We all got good looks in the scope as it just sat on the water. After a minute or two of watching, Paul Roberts arrived on the platform and I quickly waved him in the general direction. My father took a turn at the scope and both said ‘there’s two!’ I jumped back on but only saw the one (whether it was the first or second is an open question).

We moved back up to the platform to talk to Paul and the growing crowd. Paul immediately started congratulating me on the [fisher][/nature/GBCBC2006.html]. He was really excited about it and proceeded to tell me every story he had about fishers in Massachusetts. The dovekies had disappeared in the meantime, and the crowd kept growing to probably 15 people.

Eventually a single dovekie reappeared closer to the rocks. For a while, it was diving continuously but eventually sat again, giving everyone more good looks. Paul told his story about almost having to clean one off his windshield in a storm in the 70’s. People started leaving, and we decided to move on as well.

It had been nice and sunny, but had clouded over just before we moved on. It started to feel fairly nasty, so we didn’t feel like checking everywhere. We did stop at Hellcat for a bathroom break. I took a quick look for the Snow Geese without luck but did have lots of pintails and some Canada Geese that appeared small to me, but I couldn’t make them into anything.

We moved on to scan from lot 1. There were good numbers of scoters and Long-tailed Duck fairly far out. Two Common Loons were right up close and there were multiple Horned Grebes around. At one point an Alcid flew over the horizon. I followed it for a while but had a hard time getting any details. I didn’t get much of any color on the wings other than dark, so on review at home decided that Dovekie was most likely. So two on the day for me as well.

A couple of people who had been at 7 earlier came by. They didn’t have much different, just Bonaparte’s Gulls. I took a quick scan for those, but nothing jumped and I wasn’t that interested in sorting gulls at the moment. The other people had failed to find a gannet. Of course a minute after they left, a nice adult cruised by.

We then packed up and headed out. On the way home, we stopped for the Blue Goose that has been hanging around Spy Pond in Arlington. Even across the large pond, it was quite obvious. I need to check, but 12 Snow Geese is probably my high total in Massachusetts (or not as I see 70 at Joppa and 30 at Plum in 2000 and 2003 respectively).

Another very nice day in the field (of course when you check off a top most wanted bird, it could be hideous weather and no other birds at all and still be a great day).

Day 4 (Saturday) – Up to the Mountains

Today was a bit limited by the fact that Enterprise closed at 2. We got up and were out a little after 7, first stopping at Einstein’s Bagels. We started our way up towards Sandia Crest.

Three Gun Spring Canyon

Our first stop was Three Gun Spring Canyon. We found a few birds in the housing development on the way in, but nothing interesting. Walking up the trail, we quickly found a few Western Scrub-Jays, along with a Curve-billed Thrasher, Bushtits, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and more juncos.

Scrub Jay

Further up the canyon, we found a few more good birds and lots of spectacular scenery. The bird highlights included a Crissal Thrasher (lifer #6), a couple Canyon Towhees, and a quick view of Western Bluebirds.

I wish I took a photo, but there was a sign telling us that hang gliding wasn’t allowed in the middle. On our way back, we took a different trail and ended up back on the road below the parking lot somehow. A few White-crowned Sparrows were about it for down there.

Sandia Crest

We then started for Sandia Crest. Quite a nice ride on the highway before reaching the road to the crest. Last time out here, we had gone to Cienega Canyon at the start of the road up, so I hadn’t really been on the road.

The road up is fairly good for winding mountain roads. Apparently no major storms yet as there were only a couple small spots of snow off to the side. Several fairly spectacular views but nothing more than a couple of juncos and robins.

At the top, we parked in the upper lot. Another birder was just about to leave, so we talked to him and got a few details. Walked over to pay and found out it was free for the holiday weekend.

Ethan’s camera had stopped working, so he went to the gift shop to try new batteries. I walked up to take a look at the view, which was truly spectacular. Ethan came out with new batteries and a camera that still wouldn’t turn on. I headed down to the feeders while he went to take in the view.

View from Sandia Crest

Sandia House

A couple Rosy-Finches appeared and took off very quickly, good enough to say I saw some, but not what I was hoping for. I stood down at the base of the stairs and waited. Ethan came down and shortly after, a large flock flew in. I managed a few blurry shots before they took off again.

Black Rosy-Finches

(one more)

We decided it would be worth getting the scope, so Ethan went for the car. Forgetting Sandia Crest is at almost 11,000 feet, he ran up the stairs and almost had heart attack #2. The flock made another pass while he was gone and a Steller’s Jay flew over as well.

As soon as the scope was set up, the birds decided to leave for a while. We were entertained by lots of ravens high overhead and of course the views all around were still spectacular. Ethan decided to go check out the trail that lots of people were walking, and as he left a Clark’s Nutcracker flew over (life bird #8).

Eventually both Ethan and the finches returned. The wind had picked up a bit by now, so once they left again, we packed up and went to the gift shop for finch apparel and then the long drive back down.

Rest of the day

That basically ended the birding, although there were a couple White-winged Doves flying around.

We stopped at Ethan’s to drop off all our stuff before we returned the car. As we were about to go, his neighbors, Juan and Mary, came out. They were about to take their dogs out for a walk, but offered to take us out for lunch and then drop us off. We quickly agreed and headed to return the car.

At Enterprise, we dropped off the car. The Accounts Manager asked us if there was anything we thought could be done better. Ethan asked for a drop box or later hours. She said that wasn’t possible because of their location on the grounds of a dealership and gave him a 10% off coupon for his next rental.

We hopped in with Juan, Mary, Jack, and Cholito, which proved interesting as the dogs really liked to lick us and look out the window. They were planning on a cafe nearby, but it was closed. After debating a few options, they decided to bring us to Barelas Coffee House, which was basically a Mexican diner. The place was packed when we walked in (probably about 2PM) and we had to wait a little while for seats. It was well worth it, as the food was by far the best we had. Ethan and I both had chicken enchilladas, Juan and Mary split 3 burritos (the waitress gave Juan’s to Mary by mistake and she ate half before they realized).

After eating, we decided that we wanted to crash, so they dropped us off at the house and invited us for soup for dinner. We crashed for awhile, then did most of our packing.

We eventually went over to Juan and Mary’s and watched them prepare the soup. I have no idea what was in it, but it smelled delicious. Mary also was making a tea that smelled as good. Juan talked to us about the course on inventing that he was taking at work.

Eventually we sat down and ate. There was the soup, some sort of yogurt/tofu mush, and some rice. Apparently the Mexican (Bolivian?) way is to put the stuff on the plate, take a bite, have a bit of soup from the side, and go back and forth. Everything was quite tasty, although rather different.

We sat around for quite a while talking. Juan was telling us about his work at the Intel factory and Mary was talking about her teaching and how she’s about to go back for her master’s. They’re very interesting people, but eventually we needed to get back and go to bed.

We finished packing and got to bed. Up early the next morning, the taxi got to the house a few minutes ahead of time. Both flights were on time, even with lousy weather in Hartford. The bags came off the baggage claim quite wet but that was the worst of it. Stepped outside and almost immediately caught the shuttle back to the hotel and back home we went.

Day totals: 21 species (3 life, 7 state)

Greater Boston CBC

The Greater Boston Christmas Bird Count was last Sunday, December 17th. The Waltham section had a great day, tallying 49 species and helping to add Turkey Vulture to the cumulative count total (Newton had a few more than us).

I started at 5:30 by heading out for owling with my mother. Two steps out the door, she said “is that a screech-owl I’m hearing?” Only the second one we’ve heard from the yard. I debated about trying to call it in, but decided to try later and go for more now.

We headed to the Paine Estate and walked in from the high school side. Stopping every few feet to play recordings, we had no luck. Getting close to the house, we finally turned back. A few feet back and we were able to hear a distant screech-owl.

Back at the car, we first walked down the hill a bit to check the pines between the high school and middle school and were rewarded with a Great Horned calling from the other side of the high school. Quite the start, although we had no luck at our next two stops and the yard one had shut up by the time we got back.

We picked up my father and then headed to Dunkin’ Donuts to meet up with the rest of our group. It took a few minutes to get everyone there, but we were ready to go by a little after 7. And we had some birds as there were plenty of gulls, crows, pigeons, and starlings around. Eric pointed off in the other direction and said “Raptor!” A Cooper’s Hawk had stopped on a dead tree. A very good start for everyone.

We headed over to Dunback, with targets of Long-eared Owl, Baltimore Oriole, and Blue-headed Vireo. I found the Long-eared pretty quickly but we couldn’t find the other targets (the Lexington group that covers the other half of Dunback did though) and didn’t have any other owls or much else. After checking the pines and gardens, we started back and got a very quick flash of a small hawk. Nothing other than Sharpie was really possible, but it wasn’t quite enough to count.

My parents and Barbara Howell headed off to look for Turkeys and to work Beaver St. The remaining group (me, Eric, Christine King, and Lew Bushnell) worked our way out a bit more slowly. We ran into Paul Roberts, who had a sharpie, so that did get added in. Reaching the parking lot, we heard crows making a racket beside the school and wandered over. At first we didn’t see what they were squawking at, but did find the Hairy Woodpecker that was calling. Moving around to get a better view, we noticed a Red-tail perched quietly. The crows did have something after all.

We moved on to Hardy Pond, where we found several good birds including 3 coots, many Common and Hooded Mergansers, and 2 Great Blue Herons. The best bird was a grackle, only the second I’ve had on the count (almost too bad that the count total was over 600 this year).

Our next stop was the Lot 1 area. Church was just getting out, which made getting in a bit tough. It had also clouded up and there was very little activity in the field. We did have a Great Blue Heron fly over, presumably off the pond nearby. Lots of robins and starlings were taking off and a few jays started screeching at the pines. We circled around to the trail to go over to the pines, getting slightly distracted by a bunch of white-throats and a Carolina Wren. At the pines, we didn’t find anything the jays would be on, but did flush 2 rabbits.

We then went to the back field, where a red-tail flushed from just beyond the pines. A second one joined it almost immediately, so the jays weren’t just fooling around. We then went over to the pond, finding close to 10 cardinals on the way. Three more Hooded Mergansers on the pond, but no heron.

Running a bit behind schedule, we headed over to the new section of Beaver Brook, on the former Met State property. A few feet into the woods, Christine spotted a “small red-streaked bird.” That description had me a bit baffled, but it made more sense once bird was replaced with hawk. It was a fairly distant view and the bird faced us the whole time, so we struggled a bit with the id before finally settling on another Cooper’s.

For me, the highlights of the day came came next. We reached the main trail and Eric said, “boy that’s a funny looking robin.” A few seconds later and we realized that it wasn’t a robin, but an Eastern Bluebird. In fact, there were two, a male and a female. My first for Waltham, and definitely a bird that I’ve been trying to find for quite a while now.

Male Bluebird

Female Bluebird

We continued around and made the short loop. Two flickers and a minimum of 50 Mourning Doves were good. Although we were supposed to meet the rest of the group at noon for lunch, we were back at the bluebird spot at 11:50. Our first flock of juncos was working through. I looked down at the marsh and saw a good-sized mammal and said “Muskrat down there.”

The rest of the group got on it and we quickly realized that it was no muskrat. We initially thought otter and quickly moved on to fisher, although still not sure. It started grappling with something and we could see that it was locked onto what did appear to be a muskrat! It soon noticed us and stopped moving as much. I got a little closer for a couple marginal pictures:

Fisher

Fisher

Fisher

A life mammal and quite the way to see one. Well late for lunch, but that was not a problem.

We quickly hurried over to Wendy’s, where we met up with the rest of the group and Judy Marino, who had spent the morning at Prospect Hill with Nancy Hammond. They hadn’t had a great morning, but did find our only Creeper and Red-bellied Woodpecker, so it was well worth it.

The Beaver St. crew had fewer birds than us, but some equally good sightings. At the Paine Estate, they wandered around with almost nothing for a while and then heard a large group of crows. Running over, they found a Great Horned Owl. They had one there last year too. I walk through between one and three lunch breaks a week and still haven’t seen one there.

They then moved on to the UMass Field Station. Checking the community gardens, they found a male American Kestrel sitting on one of the posts. Moving on to Lyman Pond, they found lots of geese and mallards but no Wood Ducks. Checking the spot where we had a Great Blue Heron scouting the day before, there were several jays making another ruckus. At first it appeared to be over nothing, but my father kept looking and eventually noticed a screech-owl

After lunch, we went over to the Charles River where Chrstine immediately found this Red-tailed Hawk feasting on a squirrel:

Red-tail with sqirrel

At the bridge, a Belted Kingfisher made several passes. There were a few good birds along the river, but it wasn’t great. A Red-winged Blackbird at the first bench was a nice surprise (my first CBC record). One Great Blue was in a usual spot and there were more mockingbirds than expected. We found the 3 Ring-necked Ducks that had been around, along with 5 Hooded Mergansers. On our way back, 7 Common Mergansers flew overhead. We couldn’t find a Fish Crow at all though (of course, when I went to lunch at the Asian restaurant there on Thursday there were at least 10).

We continued on to the Gore Estate. There were plenty of juncos near the house. Walking along the edge of the farm field, a large raptor appeared. A very nice Turkey Vulture passed right overhead, working straight to the north. Although we knew this was a good bird, we didn’t realize until the tally that today was the first time it had been recorded on the count.

At the far end, there were geese all over. I eventually counted 141 before noticing another raptor standing just beyond the edge of the flock. It looked fairly big but wasn’t a Red-tail. I started to move closer when a Red-tail buzzed in and chased it into the trees. CLearly an Accipiter, but I had to get quite close to assure myself it was just a Cooper’s and not a Goshawk.

It was getting a bit late, so we didn’t have that much time to go to that many more places. I decided that Hardy Pond was probably worth a second look and my parents went off to check for turkeys and another staked out screech-owl (no luck, but we found a message on the answering machine from the homeowners who did have the owl after).

On the way, we had another Great Blue Heron flying over the Beaver St. rotary. At Hardy Pond, there were Great Blue Herons everywhere! We confirmed at least 6 and I’m fairly sure that there were 7. All the other birds were still there, although we didn’t check the counts that carefully.

It was a great day. The Fish Crows or Wild Turkeys would have been nice (especially since that would have pushed us to 50 on the day) but we can’t complain too much. The team was great to bird with, everyone contributed a lot. It was especially nice to have enough people to split up and really cover a few more areas.

For those interested, I’ve put my tally sheet up.

Dunback Stuff

A few pictures from Dunback Meadow, November and December 2006.

Raccoon

This guy was in the morphing owl tree at the end of November.

Heron

This guy was hunting by the Clarke School in early December.

Heron

A little closer.

Wrapup

Overall, we saw 84 species of birds, 11 butterflies, and 4 dragonflies, plus a few mammals, lizards, and other things. It was a great four days. And I missed plenty, so I can’t wait to get back.

For planning, we relied primarily on the New Mexico Bird Finding Guide. This is an excellent book (even though my copy had the index out of order). Definitely a must if you head to the state. There were a few spots that I thought could use a bit more details, but that’s likely from the scarcity of birders in the state. The annotated checklist was extremely useful, although I would have liked bar graphs as well.

I also read reports on birdwg05 and rosyfinch.com. For butterflies, there’s DesertLeps and SoWestLeps. I also sent a personal note to someone for a few more details. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in odes, but TexOdes has very occasional posts.

We picked the hotel in Socorro pretty much at random, as with the meals. Since Ethan has the house in Albuquerque, we didn’t have to worry about that, but there’s plenty around (there were several large conventions going on while we were there).

The weather was spectacular the entire time (almost too warm, it didn’t feel right to look for the rosy-finches in a light jacket). It’s probably more likely to be much colder at this time of year, so packing heavy stuff is necessary.

I’ll end by repeating that the evening flight of cranes and geese at Bosque del Apache is something that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime.

A few of the pictures really don’t work scaled down, so here’s a few full-sized:

Socorro

Bosque Ducks

Bosque Cranes

Bosque Geese

Evening Flight

Bernardo Cranes

Three Gun Spring Canyon

Rosy-Finches

Day 3 (Friday) – Back to Albuquerque

Today we slowly worked our way back to Albuquerque. We started with the continental breakfast at the hotel, which turned out to be our choice of white, wheat, and raisin bread, coffee, and orange juice.

NMT

Our first stop was at the New Mexico Tech campus. The directions were a bit misleading and we drove way past the parking area, almost entering a security restricted zone. Coming back, we found the correct parking lot, which was covered with American Crows. There was supposed to be a pond around with potentially good birds. We wandered around a bit before finding it. Lots of wigeon, coots, and domestics. A yellow-rump and some juncos around the edges.

There was a small wooded area on the other side, so I wandered over to check it out. Ethan decided to see what was in the building. I found a Cooper’s Hawk, a kingfisher, a Mountain Chickadee, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Ethan came back with a t-shirt and a pile of brochures about the conference for science teachers going on inside.

We then headed back to Rt. 25 and started back north. I had picked out a few stops along the way and Ethan wanted to stop at the wildlife refuge that we see signs for, so we would hit whichever one came first.

La Joya Refuge

As it turned out, there were two stops at the same exit. We started with the one on the right, the La Joya refuge. Not sure where the waterfowl were supposed to be as it was all desert scrub and a small stream. Lots of flickers and crows with some White-crowned Sparrows and Bushtits along the stream. On the way out a thrasher popped up. I jumped out with the scope but it took off and couldn’t be refound. The quick view was enough to say it was a Sage Trasher, although I wouldn’t count it as a life bird.

Sevilla NWR

The Sevilleta NWR was on the other side. Most of it is closed to the public, but there was a visitor’s center. The center had a flock of House Sparrows and some Western Pygmy-Blues. One of the brochures gave directions to one of the segments that was open to the public (I don’t have any idea where the other is still). However, it was down the road that we didn’t take in the middle of La Joya so we skipped it.

Bernardo Game Lands

Next stop was the Bernardo Game Lands. Before going to the gamelands themselves, we drove down Rt. 60 to check out a few ponds. A small bird on the wires caused us to pull over. Pulling out the scope, we found a flock of Mountain Bluebirds (life #5). A few Cedar Waxwings were mixed in.

Mountain Bluebirds

We also found a few cranes, a harrier, and some ducks, again mostly shovelers. We then went up to the gamelands, where we drove the loop. A few hundred cranes, a couple more bluebirds, and a couple Great Blue Herons were about it. Some of the cranes came right up to the road, so no complaints.

Cranes

Cranes

Belen

Our next stop was supposed to be Willie Chavez Park in the city of Belen. After a quick stop for gas, we found the park (missing the turn). However, being Veteran’s Day, it was very crowded. We didn’t stay and worked our way over to the Madrone Ponds instead. Once I read the directions correctly, we found them quite easily.

It was after 11, so the birding at the ponds was pretty dull. We only found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, some Bushtits, and a kingfisher. A few American Rubyspots were hanging around near the start of the path, apparently a Valencia county record (almost certainly due to lack of coverage). A few other odes were flying including a forktail (I think either Mexican or Desert) and a Variegated Meadowhawk (which posed nicely and I got a great shot of the branches behind it). Back at the car, a raven flew over, not sure which species, although from habitat I’d lean towards Chihuahan.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

Albuquerque

We decided to skip the rest of the stops and headed back to Albuquerque, where we finished up the meat at Ethan’s house. We rested for an hour or so, and then decided to go to the Rio Grande Nature Center.

Rio Grande Nature Center

We got to the nature center somewhere around 3:30. The parking lot closes at 5, so we didn’t have a ton of time. We walked through the visitor center and checked out the pond, which had lots of Wood Ducks, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, and others. We then took a quick walk through the grounds. There were some of the typical birds around (Mountain Chickadee, Mourning Dove, House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-winged Blackbird).

I decided to watch the feeders for a bit, while Ethan went back to try to get some duck photos. There were a few juncos and a banded Spotted Towhee around along with the things mentioned before. I tried to turn one of the finches into a Cassin’s but finally decided it was just an odd House.

Nature Center Feeders

As it was getting a bit late, we went back to the parking lot to check out the pond on that side. There were a few more ducks including Bufflehead and a Black Phoebe. Scanning the edge of the water for more Wood Ducks, I found a Wilson’s Snipe. We decided to move the car out to the street and then walk the trails before it got dark. On the way to the car, a Double-crested Cormorant flew overhead.

The trails themselves were fairly dead but still had some nice sightings. At the river, an adult Bald Eagle flew over. On the way back, we found a couple Black-capped Chickadees and a Cooper’s Hawk. It was a nice walk regardless.

We finished the day with dinner at Los Cuates. Excellent food (I had the steak and potato burrito, which was basically a shephard’s pie in a tortilla, Ethan had fajitas). They were a bit overzealous refilling the iced tea, but that’s not a complaint.

Day totals: 49+ species (1 life, 8 state), 3 dragonflies (2 new, 1 only to genus), 1 butterfly

Day 2 (Thursday) – Bosque del Apache

Up a little after 6 to be at the Bosque close to 7. We quickly loaded the car, then stopped at the gas station up the street for some breakfast. Ended up with prepackaged donuts, but good enough.

The view from hotel

We got down to the Bosque by 7, but decided to drive up the road a little ways first. That wasn’t all that exciting, but we did get our first flickers and the only Loggerhead Shrike of the trip on the way back. We eventually stopped at one of the ponds along the road, and started working through several species of ducks. Lots of Redheads and a few Canvasbacks made up the big part of the flock, but there were quite a few other species as well.

Ducks

We then entered the refuge proper (I was surprised that there was noone manning the gate at the busiest season, not that it mattered with my duck stamp) and went down to the Flight Deck. There were plenty of cranes, dabbling ducks (mostly Northern Shoveler), and quite a few coots. Once we walked out to the observation deck, we got a good look at an adult Bald Eagle sitting above everything.

Flight Deck View 1

Flight Deck View 2

After the Flight Deck, we turned around and started for the Marsh Loop, first stopped as several Western Meadowlarks flushed off to the side.

We stopped at each of the ponds along the beginning of the loop, picking up more ducks and a few other birds including a Merlin, a Bonaparte’s Gull and a Say’s Phoebe (the first one I’ve actually seen well.)

At the Lagoon, we got out and walked. Across the boardwalk, we saw many coots and Pied-billed Grebe. There were also lots of Aechmorphus grebes, although I wasn’t completely convinced that they were Western. About halfway down the boardwalk, a male Yellow-headed Blackbird flew over, my first lifer of the trip. I would have liked a longer and better view, but it was pretty unmistakable.

Coot

We took a brief walk up the hill beyond the lagoon and ended up chasing some small birds around for a while. One was a Bewick’s Wren (only one of the trip), but the rest didn’t want to cooperate. There were also a few lizards around.

Before we got back in the car, we walked along the front of the lagoon a bit, getting better looks at the ducks (ring-necks and redhead mostly) and grebes. A Clark’s came up very close, which was enough to confirm that at least some of the others were Western, life bird #2. We also had a very cooperative Black Phoebe and a couple Orange Sulphurs.

Black Phoebe

I stopped at the portapotty, but upon seeing the rather large wasp walking around the seat, I decided I could wait.

We continued around and saw lots more of the same. Lots of dabbling ducks, mostly shoveler and pintail. At the trails, we started to walk and people returning warned us about the mosquitoes. We kept going anyway.

That may have been a mistake as they were quite bad (I should have snapped a couple shots of Ethan’s back entirely covered). The birding was slow here (it was probably 10:30) with a few flyby cranes and lots of juncos (mostly Gray-headed with some Oregon). The butterflying was quite good and there were a few Variegated Meadowhawks flying around (although they didn’t cooperate very much for the camera). I ended up with 8 species of butterflies here: Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Ceraunus Blue, Western Pygmy-Blue, Common Buckeye, Monarch, and Common/White Checkered-Skipper.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Ceraunus Blues (male dorsal, male ventral, female ventral)

We then joined the Farm Loop, where we promptly saw 3 coyotes (no pictures unfortuantely). At the various lookouts, we got more than enough views of cranes. One had a small group of Mule Deer and some photographers that told us where the best spots for the evening flight would be.

Mule Deer

Around the bend we found those fields. There were already several hundred cranes feeding. And, as we pulled over, a Prairie Falcon was circling overhead. After getting a brief look to confirm, I grabbed the camera and hopped out. It apparently had flown off in the meantime and given that everyone else pulled was staring at the cranes through a camera, I didn’t even bother asking where it went.

Cranes

We enjoyed the cranes for a while, along with Southern Dogface that was fluttering around the car, and then finished the loop. Back at the flight deck were incredible numbers of Snow Geese. I picked out a few smaller-looking birds but couldn’t say for sure any were Ross’s. On the other side, where the meadowlarks were earlier, a Cattle Egret was working.

Southern Dogface

Southern Dogface

Geese

Cattle Egret

After finishing the loop, we hit the visitor’s center and gift shop. At the feeders was a Spotted Towhee and not much else. We decided to eat lunch at the picnic tables. While carrying the cooler over, a sapsucker flew into the trees right at the doorway. Unfortunately, it disappeared by the time I put the food down and ran back.

We ate and I then wandered around the parking lot while Ethan read the paper. There wasn’t too much around, mostly White-crowned Sparrows, but I did find a single Verdin, as well as some type of Lady (butterfly) and a Common Green Darner.

Walking back to the car, I added a Sleepy Orange and got a nice shot of a grasshopper.

Sleepy Orange

Grasshopper

We worked our way around the Farm Loop again, getting ready for the evening flight. First, however, we stopped at the flight deck again, so I could get my Menotomy shirt pic.

Menotomy and Geese

We made a couple stops on the way to the fields, picking up another eagle and a definite Painted Lady, but nothing too exciting. A perched Buteo had us going for a few minutes, but unable to find any reason for it not to be a Red-tail, we kept going. At the fields, we just sat back and waited. Lots of cranes with blackbirds, crows, pipits, and mourning doves mixed in. I tried to find some Brewer’s Blackbirds in the flock but couldn’t find any I was confident about.

Eventually, the geese started coming in.

Flying Geese

Geese and Cranes

Scanning through with the scope, I found the stubby, warty bill of a Ross’s (life bird #4 on the day) but didn’t find the bird to go with it. I did eventually find another, but it took some effort.

The noise was spectacular, we were calling people and just holding up the phones. I’m not going to attempt to describe the experience in words, just will say that it’s something that everyone should do at least once in their life.

Finally, a little after 5 (probably close to 2 hours at the fields), the bugs started getting to be too much so we headed off for the night. Quite a day.

Back at the hotel, we just went to the El Camino. I got the chicken-fried steak, which was quite good. Still waiting for the soup that came with the meal though.

Ethan wanted to send a postcard to a friend, so we went to the gas station to get one. Not only did they not stock any, but the clerk and his friend didn’t seem to know what they were. We went across the street, where not only did they have some, but they gave us detailed directions to the post office and probably would have given us a stamp if they had one.

Daily totals: 59 species (including 4 life and 30 for New Mexico, along with Goldfinch sp, and Sapsucker sp). Also 11 butterflies (5 new) and 2 dragonflies (1 new)

Merlin at Hardy Pond

Posted to ArlingtonBirds:

I stopped by Hardy Pond for my lunch break today to scout out a bit for the CBC. It’s almost entirely open still (apparently the only
partially frozen spot is the sliver visible from my house). Started
with 2 Great Blue Herons. Lots of mergansers still around (about 10
Common and 20 Hooded). Didn’t notice any other ducks (beyond
mallards), although there have been Ruddies, Ring-necks, and Wigeon
around the last week or so. There were two coots and at least 5
swans fairly close (2 of which were up on land, heading straight for
one of the houses) and lots of gulls on the rocks in the far corner.

I walked away from the scope to check the close corners and
immediately noticed something splashing away at the edge of the boat
ramp. It was fairly dark and Green Heron popped into my head, but I
quickly realized it was a falcon. I grabbed the scope and was able
to confirm it as a Merlin and then watched it splash around. I was
able to watch for a few minutes (no idea how long it had been there
before I noticed it) and got to see it dunk its head and wings and
turn around several times. The most interesting part was that there
were 4-5 mallards right there. They were paying attention, but in a
curious way. One female swam to within a couple feet of the bird. I
wish I had a good camera with me, but I did manage to get my
cameraphone up to the scope. I’ve yet to get an acceptable picture
out of that, but this one may have worked. I’ll see tonight and with
any luck will have something to show.

The Merlin eventually took off directly from the water, made a very
short circle over the water, and then headed off over the baseball
fields. I had to take off, but that was a very good lunch break.


And the cameraphone did work somewhat:
Merlin