Spring is on its way

Bewick’s Wrens seemingly sang everywhere today at the Rio Grande Nature Center. This song confused me last summer when I first moved to Albuquerue–to my ear it is similar in cadence and structure to a Song Sparrow. Here’s a comparison of the two using recordings from xeno-canto.org. (Bewick’s Wren photo by J. N. Stuart from Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

Bewick’s Wren

Song Sparrow

They are clearly different songs, but with so much regional variation in Song Sparrow songs, I assumed I was hearing just one of the many dialects of that species. Only when I learned that Song Sparrows are not common summer residents in New Mexico did I realize the difference.

Other signs of spring were a male Red-winged Blackbird winging across the Candelaria wetlands, some Mourning Cloak butterflies flying around, and nest building by a pair of Bushtits.

I was at the nature center this morning to join the Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday birding group. I arrived an hour early to do some birding on my own and finding the wintering Lincon’s Sparrow (Bernalillo County bird 189), a bird I missed before because I wasn’t looking in the right spot. As soon as I neared the cottonwood logs and tangled bushes near the end of the garden, it popped right up in the open for me. A male Ring-necked Pheasant picked for seed below one of the feeders.

The walk itself was nice once the temperatures warmed up a bit. A Greater Roadrunner perched relatively high in a bush and called. This is the first I’ve heard one and the call reinforces the fact that they are huge ground cuckoos. I made a bit if a fool of myself when I happily called out “Golden-crowned Sparrow”, misidentifying what I later determined to be one of the immature White-crowned Sparrows which happened to look someone yellowy on the crown. Oops. I late made up for this gaffe by leading the group to the Lincoln’s Sparrow site an making sure everyone got to see the bird. It cooperated well by perching out in the open in a cottonwood and staying still long enough to get a scope on it.

A few of the group went to check on the Great Horned Owl nesting along the Bosque Loop trail west of the nature center. Presumably the same pair nested nearby last year and also in plain sight of the trail. The owl on the nest today seemed to be sitting a little higher, possibly indicating the eggs have hatched.


The day was still pleasant in the late afternoon, so Melissa and I walked to Sunflower Market mostly to get some exercise. Not one block from our apartment, we heard the sweet warbling song of a Curve-billed Thrasher from on top of one of the buildings. He was no doubt proclaiming his prime territory of several tangled cholla cactus bushes. Another thrasher sang further up the street. A Western Scrub-Jay sat in a tree, an odd sight away from the city outskirts. On the way home I peeked in the cholla where the thrasher sang earlier and was surprised and delighted to see a Greater Roadrunner sitting on a nest. I will be returning often to check on it and get some photos.

55 species for the day, not bad!

Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick’s Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch

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