Monthly Archives: May 2010

Orange Birds Love Purple Food

Some of you may have read Fat Finch’s blog last week and discovered that the writers are awaiting a call from the Nobel Committee as a result of their scientific discovery that orange birds love purple food. To assist the writers, I offered to do an independent study to see if I could replicate their results. Armed with essential scientific research tools–binoculars, the Canon with the long lens, an 8-pound can of grape jelly and a beer–I set out to do my own study.  I observed eight or nine Western Tanagers and two Bullock’s Orioles over a two-hour period:

A subject eyes the grape jelly feeder

More subjects volunteer for the study

Other orange birds arrive

Some traditionalists stay with usual food sources.

Western Tanager with insect

But orange birds vote overwhelmingly for grape jelly.

Bullock's Oriole, Western Tanager

The clear winner: Grape jelly

Some fortunate birds are able to eat with no conflicts.

Delectable grape jelly

Enjoying the grape jelly

But occasional disputes break out over ownership of the jelly feeder.

Western Tanagers

Another dispute

Incoming

My observations confirm Fat Finch’s original conclusion, and I cannot wait for the Nobel Committee to award the well-deserved prize. I hope to get the opportunity to conduct more research. Next time perhaps I should bring an additional beer. In the meantime, you should follow Fat Finch’s blog for always interesting birding information.  If you enjoy that blog you might also want to follow The Golden State by the same author.

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Sunday Photo Blogging: It’s Good to be King (A Western Kingbird, That Is)

Taken at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area near Belen, New Mexico.

Western Kingbirds

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbirds

Western Kingbirds

Western Kingbirds

Bye-bye

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A Study in Orange

Bullock’s Orioles have arrived in New Mexico.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock's Oriole


Grape jelly--Yum!


Oriole ballet

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Photo Friday–Mine!

Western Tanager

Western Tanagers

Western Tanagers

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The Belen Marsh

Last week I had a horrible day in court in Los Lunas, which is the county seat of Valencia County, south of Albuquerque. I lost a case I should have won. The preparation and presentation were as good as I could have possibly done. Some days the judge does not agree with you.

After a bad day in court I needed some time outdoors. The Belen Marsh is about 10 minutes from the Valencia County Courthouse, and I knew that I would feel better if I spent some time there.

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Tribune has written a nice article on the Belen Marsh, which is located right next to a Taco Bell and is sometimes known as the Taco Bell Marsh, and Ryan Beaulieu, the young man who is credited with discovering the Belen Marsh and bringing it to the attention of the birding public.

When I arrived at about 5:30 p.m. it was cool and very windy. The first thing that I saw was a Western Kingbird sitting on the fence next to the Taco Bell. The light could not have been more wrong for a photo but still, it’s a beautiful bird.

Western Kingbird

There were many male and female Red-winged Blackbirds on the cat-tails in the marsh, and I began to feel better as I listened to their beautiful song.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

There were many Black-necked Stilts walking around in the marsh. It was fun to watch them walking and picking through the marsh. I began to smile as I watched them.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

It was even more fun to watch the Wilson’s Phalarope spinning in tight circles as they fed. As I watched them I found that I was starting to forget all about my bad day in court.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

There were beautiful Cinnamon Teal, shy Ruddy Ducks and stately Northern Shovelers in the marsh. As I watched them swim serenely in the marsh ponds I felt the last traces of stress and anxiety slip away, and I began to truly enjoy the early evening in the marsh.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Ruddy Ducks

Ruddy Duck

Northern Shoveler

I began to prepare to return to what these days passes for civilization and noticed a group of Short-billed Dowitchers feeding near the edge of the marsh.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Watching these lovely shore birds as they fed was a wonderful conclusion to a pleasant visit. I left the Belen Marsh with my mind and spirit refreshed.

Here is a short video of Black-necked Stilts and Wilson’s Phalarope feeding in the marsh. I did not have my tripod with me and the wind was pretty fierce; still the video does show the feeding behavior of both species.
(Best viewed at 720p.)

The Belen Marsh is a small 16.5 acre “accidental” depressional wetland that occurred when a high water table in the area caused water to seep into an area that was excavated to obtain dirt for a nearby road construction project. It is a small but important birding area, and New Mexico birders appreciate the efforts of the Belen Marsh Committee, the Valencia County Fair Association and the Central New Mexico Audubon Society to maintain it as a marsh.

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Wordless Wednesday


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Birding at Quarai

Quarai Mission Ruins

Birding safari buddy Bosque Bill and I went to Quarai Ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument near Mountainair, New Mexico, to participate in an International Migratory Bird Day bird walk. The walk was led by Hart Schwarz, neotropical bird specialist for the Cibola National Forest.

Quarai is about a one and one-half hour drive from Corrales and the Albuquerque North Valley. Bill and I arrived only a few minutes late and were happy to find that several people arrived after we did. We walked from the monument headquarters to a large grove of cottonwoods to begin our walk. As we stood around chatting and shivering in the 43 degree F. cold, we noticed that the cottonwoods above our heads were full of Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers. In fact, they were everywhere in large numbers throughout the walk. I am sure we saw well over 100 of them during the course of the day.

Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler (male)

As we left the cottonwood grove we walked through a field where Mountain Bluebirds were busily hunting insects.

Mountain Bluebird

There were Mountain Bluebirds in the trees as well,

Mountain Bluebird

along with more Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Another Yellow-rumped Warbler

We crossed a bridge over an arroyo. There was a pool of water in the arroyo, and I was lucky enough to get a (slightly out-of-focus) photo of a Gray Catbird just before it flew away.

Gray Catbird

We saw several Wilson’s Warblers throughout the day, but this is the only one I saw that was not deep inside a tree. It was too far away for a good photo, but you can see its little black yarmulke quite well.

Wilson's Warbler

There were many Yellow Warblers, including this pretty female,

Yellow Warbler (female)


and this beautiful male.
Yellow Warbler (male)

Yellow Warbler (male)


We saw quite a few Ladder-backed Woodpeckers too, which I wrote about yesterday.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers

There were Dusky Flycatchers all along the arroyo.

Dusky Flycatcher

Everywhere we went there were more Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yet another Yellow-rumped Warbler


On the way back, we were treated to the lovely sight of a Lazuli Bunting.

Lazuli Bunting


Lazuli Bunting


As we returned to the picnic area for lunch we saw a Black-headed Grosbeak. We had seen them earlier, but this one was close enough for a photo.

Black-headed Grosbeak


Black-chinned Hummingbird

We saw and heard many Broad-tailed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, but most were too far away for photos. I was able to get a photo of this Black-chinned male. At least you can tell that it’s a hummingbird.

Bill and I had a lovely day at Quarai. I expect to attend the International Migratory Bird Day celebration there again next year.

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Love Among the Quarai Ruins

This past week I read in the newspaper that there would be a bird walk at the Quarai Ruins, a 17th century Spanish pueblo mission, to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on May 8, 2009.  I called favorite birding buddy Bosque Bill, and we decided that we would go. I picked Bill up at 6:30 a.m., and we drove to Quarai. We saw beautiful birds, and the ruins are gorgeous. There will be more in later posts on both of these subjects. For Mother’s Day, however, I have a love story.

She was a beautiful female Ladder-backed Woodpecker all alone in a huge cottonwood tree that was just beginning to get its summer foliage.

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker

But what is this? She has caught the eye of a handsome male Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Male and female Ladder-backed Woodpeckers

Just that quickly love was in the air, and in the cottonwoods.



And how else can I end a love story? Of course they lived happily ever after.

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Photo Friday

I have been in court quite a lot lately, and I have not had the opportunity to get out with my camera as much I would have liked. However, I am fortunate that my morning and evening commute takes me through a semi-rural area where I occasionally have the opportunity to photograph birds. Earlier this week I stopped by a field that was being irrigated and enjoyed watching the birds bathing and foraging in the flooded field. The Great-tailed Grackles were especially fun to watch.

Ring-billed Gulls were enjoying the irrigated field too, along with an unusual visitor for New Mexico.

Ring-billed Gulls, and an usual visitor right in the middle

I have never seen a Franklin’s Gull along Rio Grande Boulevard, and I was excited to see one.

Franklin's Gull

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The Short Grass Prairie

Milnesand, NM is on the Llano Estacado, one of the largest mesas on the North American continent. In the mid-1800′s the numbers of individuals of native mammal species—bison, prairie dogs, pronghorn, elk, grizzly bears, and gray wolves—rivaled or exceeded those now in the African Serengeti (Howe 1994). The land is remarkably flat and featureless; nevertheless, the short grass prairie ecosystem of the Llano Estacado provides important habitat for any number of species of birds and animals. Although it was a bit early in the season to see many of  the bird species that will be here later in the season,  here are a few of the ones that I saw:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird

Lilian's Eastern Meadowlark

Cassin's Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Loggerhead Shrike


Say's Phoebe

Lesser Prairie Chickens

The birds seemed to enjoy old farm equipment on an abandoned farm.

Canyon Towhee

Curve-billed Thrasher

I was surprised to see Blue-winged Teal on a small pond at an abandoned farm . . .

Blue-winged Teal

. . . and even more surprised to see these birds walking across the prairie.

Long-billed Curlew

Of course there were animals too.

Pronghorns

Mule deer

Although I saw a prairie dog town with Burrowing Owls, it was on private land, and I could not get close enough for good photos. They were out there though!

Burrowing Owl in a Black-tailed Prairie Dog colony

I grew up in the Pecos River Valley in the short grass prairie of Southeastern New Mexico. It is always a pleasure to return.

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