Red Crossbills in the Sandia Mountains

As any birder in the US knows, the summer months are the doldrums of birding. We have hummingbirds and some year-round residents, but many birds are farther north during the summer breeding season. Capulin Springs in the Sandia Mountains is a place that is almost always a good place to see a variety of birds in the summer. The reason is water. At Capulin Springs the spring water has been directed through a hollowed-out log to create a lovely oasis for bird drinking and bathing.

The setting is really lovely.

Capulin Springs

The magic birding log at Capulin Springs.

Birders in the Albuquerque area have been excited to see the unusual numbers of Red Crossbills in the Sandias this summer. They flocked to the water in the hollowed-out log.

Capulin Springs

Red Crossbills flock to the water.

The Crossbills were in many different plumage phases. This male was really pretty.

Capulin Springs

Male Red Crossbill.

A few people reported that they had seen White-winged Crossbills among the Red Crossbills. I believe that this is a female White-winged Crossbill. Note the white wing stripe.

Capulin Springs

Female White-winged Crossbill.

Farther up the mountain we saw a group of crossbills around a puddle at the edge of a parking lot.

10K parking lot

Red Crossbills enjoying a rain puddle.

We had a lovely time watching the birds, chatting with other birders and taking photos. Here are a few of the photos that I took:

Here is a video of crossbills and other birds enjoying the water at Capulin Springs:

It has been an unusual treat for New Mexico birders to see so many crossbills at one time. We are hoping that they will stay in the Sandias for awhile.

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A Return to Bitter Lake

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a relatively unknown wildlife refuge located on the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico. Because I am from Roswell, I grew up going to Bitter Lake on a regular basis. Last weekend I went to Roswell to visit with some friends, and of course I couldn’t wait to make a trip out to the refuge. Bitter Lake is a winter home to many Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and other winter migrants. I posted earlier this year about my trip to Bitter Lake in February.

I was surprised by the number of Black-necked Stilts that were at the refuge this past weekend. It appeared that there were at least 100 of them in the ponds. I had a lovely time watching and photographing them.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

There were other birds present as well, although many of them were in areas that were too far away for photographs. I am accustomed to seeing White-faced Ibis there, and I love the way that the sun highlights their plumage.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

White-faced Ibis

There were lots of Killdeer running around, and I was disappointed that I did not see any little fluffy chicks.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Killdeer

Red-winged Blackbirds sang from the marshy edges of the ponds.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlarks sang in the grass.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Western Meadowlark

I was interested to see Turkey Vultures walking around near one of the ponds.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Turkey Vulture

And it is always a delight to see Great Egrets.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Great Egret

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a very different place in summer than it is in winter. It is a lovely place to visit any time of year.

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Warbler Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding

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Warbler Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

I have recently returned from a week at The Biggest Week in American Birding, a ten-day birding festival in Northwest Ohio. Nothing in my experience as a New Mexico birder prepared me for the dazzling array of migratory warblers that I encountered on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, located on the south shore of Lake Erie. I have been slow in getting blog posts together, in large part because I had such a wonderful time in Ohio that I arrived home totally exhausted. If you’re a birder, you MUST go to The Biggest Week. Kenn and Kim Kaufman and their dedicated team put on a wonderful event.

One of the warblers that I really enjoyed seeing was the Black-throated Green Warbler.

The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding The Biggest Week in American Birding

I am still going through my photos, and I will do several more posts on The Biggest Week. Be sure to check back.

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A New Mexican at The Biggest Week

From the first time that I heard of The Biggest Week in American Birding, a birding festival on the south shore of Lake Erie in Ohio, I wanted to go. I had planned to go last year, but professional obligations kept me from attending. This year I was determined to attend. I rented a little cottage right on Lake Erie very near Magee Marsh.

I arrived rather late on Saturday evening, and I was pleased to have dinner with birding friends Dawn and Jeff Fine and equally pleased to see and meet other old and new birding friends.

The next morning I woke up early and headed for Magee Marsh. I was looking forward to attending a photo workshop with Christopher Taylor. I had followed him on Twitter for four years. I am an admirer of his work, and I was anxious to meet him in person.

Our little group of eight photographers set out along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, looking for warblers and other migrants.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Christopher Taylor (far right) leads a group of photographers in search of migrants.

There were many warblers in the trees, but many of them were in the shadows. This is a situation that I am not much accustomed to encountering in sunny New Mexico, and I struggled a bit to adjust my camera.

The Biggest Week in American

Yellow Warbler

I seem to have a certain effect on birds when I attempt to photograph them.

Biggest Week in American Birding

This is the most common view I had of warblers on my first day in Ohio.

This Palm Warbler was sitting prettily on a branch until I tried to photograph it.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

A Palm Warbler flees from my camera.

We spent some time watching a Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling still in the nest. Here is the nest, which was right on the boardwalk.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Do you see the hole in the tree? That’s the chickadee nest!

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding an almost-grown fledgling,

A highlight of the morning was seeing a pair of Great Horned Owlets that were almost ready to fledge.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Aren’t they adorable?

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Another look at the Great Horned Owlets

Of course, being a handsome, successful photographer isn’t only endless birds and admiration. There can be fallout from standing under trees filled with warblers.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Chris Taylor is appalled that those lovely warblers would treat him with disrespect.

I am now four days into my personal Biggest Week. I have seen more warblers in three days than I have seen in my entire life, and I’ve even taken photos of some of them. My slow internet connection makes it difficult for me to do many blog posts, but they will come along in a few days. In the meantime, please enjoy Christopher Taylor’s beautiful photos here

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Wings on Wednesday

This would normally be a Wordless Wednesday post. However, several weeks ago Roberta Beyer, owner of The Fat Finch, asked me to lead a photo workshop as an event for her wonderful birding store. I happily agreed, and I wondered if anyone would attend. The event proved popular far beyond our expectations. I recruited favorite birding friend Bosque Bill to assist me, and Roberta recruited two more photographers. Our little group met at The Fat Finch early this past Saturday morning. After a basic “How to operate your camera” talk by Bosque Bill we set off to photograph birds. Everyone had a wonderful time, and most participants learned how to move their cameras off of the automatic settings.

Here are some photos of birds that I took during the workshop:

Sandhill Crane portrait, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Crane portrait

Sandhill Crane portrait, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Crane portrait, another view.

Sandhill Cranes, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Cranes fly into the Rio Grande Nature Center.

Sandhill Crane, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane, Rio Grande Nature Center

Sandhill Crane coming in for a landing.

Spotted Towhee, Rio Grande Nature Center

Spotted Towhee

Canada Goose portrait, Rio Grande Nature Center

Canada Goose portrait

Canada Goose enjoying the sun, Rio Grande Nature Center

Canada Goose enjoying the sun

It was a fine workshop put on by New Mexico’s best birding store. Be sure to visit The Fat Finch when you’re in the Albuquerque area!

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Mountain Chickadee, Sandia Crest

Mountain Chickadee, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Mountain Chickadee, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Mountain Chickadee, Sandia Crest,

Mountain Chickadee, Sandia Crest, New Mexico


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