Tag Archives: Sandia Mountains

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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Hummingbirds at Sandia Crest–Part I

Recently Bosque Bill and I drove to Sandia Crest to enjoy the scenery, the wildflowers and the birds that are in the area. Sandia Crest rises to 10,600 feet above the Rio Grande Valley below, and it is an easy one-hour drive from my house in Corrales. There were fewer wildflowers than we saw last year, undoubtedly because of the lack of rainfall. The hummingbirds, however, were out in force. There were Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds and a Calliope or two, although I did not get any photos of the Calliopes. Almost all of the birds that we saw were females. The males have probably already begun their migration south.

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

A kerfuffle amongst the ladies.

Female Rufous Hummingbirds, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Incoming female Rufous Hummingbirds

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Female Rufous Hummingbird, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Female Rufous Hummingbird

These single photos do not begin to show the numbers of birds at the feeders and how active the birds are. I will show those in my next post.

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Filed under Albuquerque birds, New Mexico birds

Nuthatch Babies!

This past Saturday afternoon I met some friends for pizza and beer on the east side of the Sandia mountains. It’s fun to spend time with friends whom you have originally met online and later meet in person. These friends–Rich, Gin, Marlita, Eric and Wendy–are even nicer and more fun in person than they are online. After we finished our lunch, Rich and Gin invited us to their lovely place in a rural residential area. Their garden area reminded me of the birding venues in Arizona where people open their homes to birders and allow them to sit in their yards and gardens to photograph birds. The major attraction for me was a large gourd containing a White-breasted Nuthatch nest.

Both parents were very diligent in attending to the nest. We could hear that there were chicks in the nest, but we were not able to see into the gourd. We were really anxious to get a look at the chicks.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Talking to the chicks in the nest.

White-breasted Nuthatch

A morsel for hungry chicks.

White-breasted Nuthatch

A morsel for hungry babies, another view.

White-breasted Nuthatch

One parent goes into the nest …

White-breasted Nuthatch,

… and emerges from the nest carrying a fecal sac for disposal.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The parents work hard all afternoon, hunting to feed their chicks.

A Western Wood-Pewee watched from a nearby tree.

Western Wood-Pewee

A Western Wood-Pewee keeps its eye on the scene.

White-breasted Nuthatch

A nuthatch parent returns to the nest with more food for the chicks.

For the first time we get a glimpse of one of the chicks.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch parent and chick.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The parent emerges with more waste.

This tiny, still-blind, chick was not ready for the parent to leave, and noisily demanded more food.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tiny, blind nuthatch chick.

It called for the parents while they hunted …

White-breasted Nuthatch

The tiny chick continues to call for the parents.

… and was joined by a second chick.

White-breasted Nuthatch

We were finally able to see two chicks. Wonder if there are more?

What good nuthatch parents!

White-breasted Nuthatch

A good nuthatch parent!

I hope I can go back to take more photos when the chicks are a bit bigger!

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Black Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.


Black Rosy-Finches, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

Black Rosy-Finch, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

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Rosy Finch Banding at Sandia Crest

I was so happy that Catherine Hamilton, a lovely person and a brilliant artist, came to visit me in December. We had fun birding around the Albuquerque area. One of the “must-do” items on Catherine’s agenda was Rosy Finch banding at Sandia Crest. Catherine, Bosque Bill and I set off early on a cold Sunday morning hoping that the Rosy Finches would appear in significant numbers. It has not been a good snow year in the Sandias, and the Rosy Finches often do not come to the Crest House in large numbers if their other food sources are not covered with snow. However, when we drove into the parking lot at 9:00 a.m., the first thing that we saw was a huge flock of over 100 Rosy Finches circling the Crest House. Catherine jumped out and got all three species and a Steller’s Jay before Bill and I even managed to get our camera equipment together. The pressure was off, and we knew it was going to be an excellent day.

We went inside the Crest House to watch the birds and the banding. Rosy Finches were flying in from everywhere. The trees were full of them.

Rosy Finches in a piñon by the deck at the Crest House.

Rosy Finches in a piñon by the deck at the Crest House.

Even the trees below the deck were covered with Rosy Finches.

Rosy Finches wait in the trees below the deck at the Crest House.

Rosy Finches wait in the trees below the deck at the Crest House.

A Black Rosy-Finch studies the goodies on the deck at the Crest House.

A Black Rosy-Finch studies the goodies on the deck at the Crest House.

A Gray-crowned Rosy Finch flies towards the deck.

A Gray-crowned Rosy Finch flies towards the deck.

There are three Rosy Finch traps. The birds approach very enthusiastically.

Rosy Finches fly to the trap.

Rosy Finches fly to the trap.

Banding a captured Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch.

Banding a captured Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch.

Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy Finch wing stretch.

Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy Finch wing stretch.

Catherine Hamilton a/k/a @birdspot discusses the finer points of Rosy Finch identification with another birder.

Catherine Hamilton a/k/a @birdspot discusses the finer points of Rosy Finch identification with another birder.

Catherine really enjoyed watching the bird banding.

Catherine really enjoyed watching the bird banding.

Being there when the Rosy Finches are banded allows people to get really close looks at them.

Terry Hodapp gets a Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch ready for photographs.

Terry Hodapp gets a Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch ready for photographs.

Terry Hodapp holds a Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch while Steve Fettig takes photographs.

Terry Hodapp holds a Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch while Steve Fettig takes photographs.

Terry holds a Black Rosy-Finch for Steve to photograph.

Terry holds a Black Rosy-Finch for Steve to photograph.

A highlight of the day was Catherine’s releasing a Hepburn’s Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch.

Catherine carefully holds a Hepburn's Rosy Finch and prepares to release it …

Catherine carefully holds a Hepburn's Rosy Finch and prepares to release it …

Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy Finch release at Sandia Crest House, New Mexico.

… and it's gone.

We stayed at Sandia Crest for four hours. During that time the Rosy Finches continued to circle around and return to the deck. The trees were still full of finches when we left.

Here you can see all three species of Rosy-Finches.

Here you can see all three species of Rosy-Finches: Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, and Black Rosy Finches.

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Autumn at the Rio Grande Nature Center

One of my favorite places in the Albuquerque area for birding, walking and clearing my head is the Rio Grande Nature Center. This fall I went on two separate days to take photos. The first time that I went, the rumored appearance of an Horned Grebe was a major attraction. Sure enough, this cute little water bird was swimming in the Candelaria Wetlands pond. Bosque Bill and I were able to get excellent views of this lovely little bird.

Horned Grebe at the Candelaria Wetlands pond.

Horned Grebe at the Candelaria Wetlands pond.

Horned Grebe, Rio Grande Nature Center.

Horned Grebe

The Canada Geese in the photo give you an idea of how small this little grebe is.

Horned Grebe and Canada Geese

Horned Grebe and Canada Geese

When we walked over to the Visitor’s Center pond, we were delighted to see a Double-crested Cormorant posing nicely for us.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

A female Belted Kingfisher was hunting from the cottonwoods near the pond.

Female Belted Kingfisher

Female Belted Kingfisher

Even though it was overcast that day, the autumn colors were really spectacular.

Fall colors at the Rio Grande Nature Center.

Fall colors at the Rio Grande Nature Center.

When I went back two weeks later with friends from Colorado, the first thing we saw when we walked into the Nature Center was the little face of a Pocket Gopher peeking out of his hole.

Pocket Gopher

Pocket Gopher

It was a beautiful sunny day, and the Painted Turtles and Red-eared Sliders were enjoying the nice weather at the Visitor Center pond.

Painted Turtles and Red-eared Sliders

Painted Turtles and Red-eared Sliders.

An American Coot was very obliging in showing off his bright red eyes and red beak spot for us.

American Coot

American Coot

I was so happy to see that Hooded Mergansers are beginning to appear at the Nature Center.

Male Hooded Merganser at the Visitor Center pond, Rio Grande Nature Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Male Hooded Merganser

We walked across the Bosque Trail and over to the Rio Grande. Although we didn’t see any birds, the views across the river to the bosque on the other side were lovely. You can see the volcanoes on Albuquerque’s West Mesa in the distance.

Looking across the Rio Grande to the Bosque.

Looking across the Rio Grande to the Bosque.

Closer view of the volcanoes

Closer view of the volcanoes.

Afterwards, we walked over to the Candelaria Wetlands pond. There were many Canada Geese on the pond, flying over the pond, and taking off from and landing on the pond.

Canada Geese, Candelaria Wetlands pond, Rio Grande Nature Center.

Canada Geese

Canada Goose flying over the Candelaria Wetland pond, Rio Grande Nature Center.

Canada Goose

The geese were coming right up to the blind, which is located at the east end of the parking lot.

Canada Goose at the Candelaria Wetlands pond blind.

Canada Goose at the Candelaria Wetlands pond blind.

There were Ring-necked Ducks in the Candelaria Wetlands pond …

Male Ring-necked Duck at the Visitor Center pond, Rio Grande Nature Center.

Male Ring-necked Duck

… and American Wigeon too.

Male American Wigeon at the Candelaria Wetlands pond

Male American Wigeon

There is a beautiful view to the east across the Candelaria Wetlands pond to the Sandia Mountains.

Sandia Mountains seen looking east across the Candelaria Wetlands pond.

Looking east towards the Sandias.

It was a lovely day at the Nature Center.

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Stalking the Elusive Three-toed Woodpecker

Last weekend Bosque Bill and I drove to the Sandia Mountains in another attempt to see the elusive Three-toed Woodpecker. Our previous attempt had yielded a rainy walk, a few wet warblers, some soggy squirrels, lots of hummingbirds but no Three-toed Woodpeckers.

We drove to the parking lot at the Ellis trailhead. Bosque Bill spotted the Three-toed Woodpecker near the parking lot before I could even get my camera out of the car. The light was far from ideal for photos, but I was able to get some photos that clearly show the identifying marks of this elusive woodpecker.

Three-toed Woodpecker

These woodpeckers flake bark rather than excavating wood, which results in large patches of flaked bark on trees.

Three-toed Woodpecker flaking bark from a fir tree


Three-toed Woodpecker

After taking many photos of the woodpecker we walked up the trail to Kiwanis Cabin. The Sandias, particularly Kiwanis Meadow, were covered in wildflowers. It was a beautiful walk. The views across Albuquerque from Kiwanis Cabin are spectacular!

We had a successful day as we saw not only the Three-toed Woodpecker but also towhees, warblers, flycatchers, hummingbirds, nuthatches, ravens and other birds. It began to rain just as we were finishing our lovely post-birding picnic. It was a wonderful birding day.

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