SANDIA MTS AND TIJERAS CANYON, Sept. 13, 2014
With two Canadian birders, we headed south from Santa Fe to the desert foothills on the west side of the Sandia Mts. I decided to include a deciduous riparian stop along the Rio Grande River just north of Albuquerque. Among the species typical of that habitat, such as Black Phoebe, Blue Grosbeak, and Lesser Goldfinch, we also found a beautiful adult male Summer Tanager. Somewhat of a surprise as the sighting was a bit late in the season and near the northern limit of where the species occurs in NM. Continuing on to the canyons on the west side of the Sandia Mts, we added a number of desert species including Rufous-crowned and Black-throated Sparrows, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Gambel's Quail. My clients' most sought after species, Greater Roadrunner, still eluded us. Although I was aware that we were well past the breeding season, I decided to try playback anyway. Within a couple minutes, a roadrunner popped up among the boulders on a ridge in front of us. We watched it forage for about 15 minutes during which time the bird chased away the local Canyon Towhees on several occasions. Apparently the roadrunner did not appreciate competition for the ripe orange berries on a nearby shrub. We then moved higher to a spring in Tijeras Canyon finding some typical foothill species such as Plumbeous Vireo, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit and Western Scrub Jay. Still higher up in Ponderosa Pine we encountered other permanent resident birds that were new for my clients-Mountain Chickadee, Steller's Jay, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Townsend's Solitaire. A migrant Townsend's Warbler from the pacific northwest on its way to Mexico was a nice addition. The trip ended with a swing through prairie habitat near Stanley where we found Western Bluebird, scads of Vesper Sparrows, and a lingering Swainson's Hawk.