Today our tour van left at 7:30 for a trip to the Sandia Mountains, with stops on the way there and on the way back. Our first stop was to a Sandia Ranger Station and the adjacent Tijeras Pueblo Site. There is a water drip off the back side of the Ranger Station and birds flock to this source of water in the morning. American Robins, Western Bluebirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Pine Sisken, House Finch, Cassin’s Finch (my 1st LIFER of the day), Dark-eyed Junco, Cedar Waxwing, Townsend Solitaire and a Sage Thrasher were all there. What a show!!!! And as we walked around, we also saw Canyon Towhee, Williamson’s Sapsucker and Juniper Titmouse (my 2nd LIFER of the day). Near the end of birding day, on our way back to the hotel, we stopped in at the ranger station again to see if we could find anything new for the day and we did – a Merlin. And still, shortly after we left the station, just less than a block down the road, we saw a Greater Roadrunner.
When we left the ranger station in the morning we headed up to the top of the Sandia Mountains, the “crest” as it is referred to. It is here that a banding program is carried out in the winter months. In this harsh, COLD, windy place, two young men have been banding birds (mostly Rosy Finches) for the past 5-6 years. This is the most southern winter location where Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Black Rosy-Finch and Brown-capped Rosy Finch can all be found. Each of these is recognized as a separate species. We saw all three of these species today (three more LIFERS for me). Also in the mountains today, we saw Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, and more Pine Sisken, We tried for three species of Nuthatch, but came up short – we saw White-breasted and Red-breasted, but failed to locate a Pygmy Nuthatch.
After coming back down from the mountain, we cruised around on some back-roads. There was a reported Northern Shrike in the area, but we did not locate it. However, what we did see was an ENORMOUS number of bluebirds. HUGE flocks. Mostly Mountain Bluebirds, but also Western Bluebirds. Many bluebirds congregate in this area in the winter. It was a very impressive site.
I have not mentioned in there posts anything about the evening programs put on by the ABA at the hotel. There were three. The first was called A Bird in the Hand: Banding Adventures by Ashli Gorbet. Ashli lives in Albuquerque and has been a long-time bander. She gave an excellent presentation about bird banding in general and some of her own experiences. The second evenng program was The Rosy-Finch Project in the Sandia Mountains by Raymond VanBuskirk and Michael Hilchey. They gave a history of the project, detailed what they have learned about Rosy Finches and some of the mysteries they have uncovered about these birds. The last evening program was pOrnithology: The Birds and the Birds and the Bees by George Armistead. He provided an overview of the sexual side of birds. It was informative and quite humourous.
The entire 4 day rally was a great event. Hats off to the ABA. I met alot of people from all other the country. Everyone seemed to bond and it was interesting to observe how attendees interacted and got along.