I’ve been attending the CNMAS Thursday birder trips on and off since last August. Although these trips mostly go to local spots, they still have the potential to turn up some unusual species for the area. Last fall, I skipped out on two trips: one which turned up a Rusty Blackbird near Jemez Springs and another on which everyone got to see a beautiful White-tailed Kite at Bosque del Apache. Last week, I was lucky enough to attend trip trip which turned up one of only a few sightings of Painted Redstart in Bernalillo County! This gorgeous little warbler is commonly found in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico (and of course further south into Central America).
On my way to the walk at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center, I stopped by the Rio Grande Nature Center where a Violet-green Swallow and some Cliff Swallows had joined the ubiquitous Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Tree and Bank Swallows must be around somewhere! Some odd blackbird from the trees in the parking lot revealed two male Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
The little bit of rain overnight did not bring any water into the Tramway wetlands on the north side of town. This area is the outflow for most of Albuquerque’s storm water, yet there was only one tiny puddle in a sea of dirt.
I caught up to the group at the Open Space Visitor Center where Turkey Vultures were leaving their night roost in the bosque and kettling over Coors Boulevard. The walk was uneventful at first until a warbler flitted across the path and into some ornamental conifers flanking someone’s yard. The trip leader, Gail, excited said she thought it was a Painted Redstart. This bird is almost unheard of this far north, so I and others in the group were skeptical at first. Gail spends a lot of time in southeastern Arizona, where this bird is fairly common, so we should have trusted her. The group, not wanting to miss this good of a bird, stuck around waiting for movement. Finally, Lefty noted the bird feeding in some nearby red-leaved trees–and indeed it was a Painted Redstart (NM bird 253 and Bernalillo bird 190)! Unbelievable. [Joe and Phil managed to get some identifiable pictures; Joe posted one on his blog.] Everyone in the group was able to get a look at this beautiful warbler. Thanks to one birder’s Blackberry, I was able to get the word out to other local birders, and the redstart has remained there until at least yesterday afternoon.
The walk couldn’t top that bird, so was it worth it to continue walking into the bosque? Despite some brief and cold showers, we made our way towards a Great Horned Owl nest along the levee which contained three downy young. A migrating Osprey (Bernalillo bird 191) flew overhead and an odd dark Red-tailed Hawk passed us to the north. It had a mottled white chest and a light tail without banding–maybe a Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk, a subspecies (or even full species) which nests in Alaska and winters mainly in Oklahoma and Texas. More rain showers and some thunder and lighting forced me back to the visitor center while the rest of the group went forward.
After the trip and some pizza for lunch, I went to the Alameda Bridge area where I found a total of seven Neotropic Cormorants! Just a couple had been here in February and March. Does this increase in numbers mean they are expanding the range of this species north?
Sad news on the local nesting roadrunners. Last week I had seen one nestling and one of the parents was on the nest up until a few days ago. Last Thursday, both of the parents were off the nest and in the road or a nearby yard; only one egg was in the nest. I haven’t seen either roadrunner on the nest after that. I hope my checking on the nest didn’t force them to abandon it. I have no idea what happened to the nestling that did hatch.
[Painted Redstart photo by Dominic Sherony at http://www.flickr.com/photos/9765210@N03/3204311332/; CC BY-SA 2.0]