The weekend’s crane survey didn’t satisfy my birding needs, so I headed out late in the morning on Monday. A visiting birder had reported a McCown’s Longspur from a small pond at the end of an inconspicuous road on Albuqueruque’s West Mesa (west of the volcanoes). Jim McDowell Road now has a soil conservation building/composting center near the end along with an abandoned prison building-like structure surrounded by barbed wire. A drug-rehab program for prisoners called Second Chance (controversial not only for its ties to Scientology) was located along the road in the past in, according to the wiki article, was the old West Side jail. That explains the barbed wire.
I found the small, fenced in patch of water and muddy concrete easily. Dozens of Horned Larks flew around, twittering. I don’t know what got into them, but they didn’t sit still for more than a few seconds at a time before a few of them spooked and sent the whole flock into a whirling mass of birds. Although I heard a call that might have been a Chestnut-collard Longspur, I didn’t notice any birds other than the Larks. Mike Bruce, a local ABQ birder, pulled up but didn’t have any luck either. He did tip me off to a few good birding spots for next spring.
From this tiny pond, I was off to the Corrales bosque where I’d seen the Varied Thrush twice last week. Lots of birders converged on this spot over the weekend and found some good birds for the area including a Pacific Wren (formerly the western subspecies of Winter Wren), Gray Catbird, and White-throated Sparrow. I was hoping to find at least one of these birds.
The Varied Thrush seems to have moved on. No one has seen in it a few days. Despite finding a lot of American Robins, Hermit Thrushes, and other leaf-litter feeding birds father north along the ditches, I couldn’t turn up the Varied. In this feeding frenzy of birds near bridge over the ditches at Dixon Road, I found at least one Brown Creeper (Sandoval bird 85) and the previously reported Gray Catbird (NM bird 240, Sandoval bird 86). I couldn’t get a photo of the catbird because I was distracted trying to find a White-throated Sparrow in among all the Gambel’s White-crowned Sparrows. Before I knew it, the catbird was gone, skulking in the brush where no amount of pishing could bring it back out. Catbirds are uncommon along the Rio Grande, but rarely linger into winter.
The flowing ditch had some bird activity along its banks, including the second of my target birds, a Winter Wren. It “chip-chipped” often while I observed it, bouncing up and down quickly with each chip of its double-note call. Rock Wrens often do “knee-bends” as they call–perhaps this is typical behavior for some wren species. Winter Wrens, from the eastern part of North America, give a call that is most similar to Song Sparrows while the western Pacific Wren sound more like a Wilson’s Warbler. Nathan Pieplow at earbirding.com has a great post on the call differences. The bird I saw sounded like a Song Sparrow, which is consistent with the light brown throat and eyebrow color just barely visible in my photo to the left.
As I walked south towards the Varied Thrush spot, I found the odd Mallard from last week. I think this may be a Mexican Mallard; if not, it certainly has a lot of characteristics of the southern Mallard populations in Mexico. This time I got several photos through the scope. I’ve submitted this as a Mexican Mallard to eBird, with the pictures, and await judgment.
While driving back to Corrales Road, I saw this funny-looking brown and black sheep. I have no idea what breed it is, but it must not be too common.