We are definitely in an El Nino weather pattern. We have seen lots of rain and snow this winter so far and no sign of it letting up anytime soon. Plus the temperatures have been low…even in Albuquerque. So it’s been difficult for me to get out hiking and birding. I especially don’t want to venture out early in the morning.
But I did manage to get out yesterday for a couple hours in the afternoon. I had heard there were Brewer’s sparrows at the Rinconada Petroglyphs area west of Albuquerque. This would be a new bird for me. The last posted sighting was over a week ago so I wasn’t sure if it would still be in the area. But I was willing to go as I had never hiked this trail before so it would be some new scenery.
The forecast said over 50% chance of snow or rain. And all around me the weather was ominous.
I decided to hike the trail backwards and go through the open sagebrush area first instead of hiking along the basalt Mesa where the petroglyphs are located. I figured I had a better chance of finding the sparrows in the foliage.
My first sparrow sighting was the Sagebrush Sparrow. I have only just seen these birds for the first time recently. So it was a real treat to see them again.
Continuing along the trail I saw one juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow (WCS) . Which was a shame as I understand a lot of migratory sparrows will flock with the WCS while wintering here.
Getting closer to the basalt Mesa I saw a large flock of Black-Throated Sparrows. I just love these birds. I think they are beautiful and they are usually not afraid of people. Making it easy to watch them and get some nice pics. They have a pretty voice too.
I finally made it to the petroglyphs. There were a few nice specimens but I felt the Piedras Marcadas trail is much better with a lot more specimens and you are able to climb the basalt Mesa there. This trail has a fence keeping you solely on the trail.
I saw a couple rocks with dates on them. This one was the most legible. It was carved into this rock almost 100 years ago.
Among the petroglyphs I saw six or so Canyon Towhee.
And a roadrunner ran across my path up into the rocks. He then stopped and fluffed up. Maybe trying to make himself look bigger?
Still no sign of the Brewer’s sparrow. Off and on I’d see the Black-Throated Sparrows and briefly saw a Rock Wren. I also saw a Crissal Thrasher. I have only seen this bird once before. I got a terrible photo then. And got a terrible photo now too. He wouldn’t come out of the bush he was hiding in.
By now I’m almost to my car. I had despaired I wouldn’t see the sparrow today. The weather was turning much colder. The weak sun had disappeared behind some ominous clouds. I could see it was snowing all along I40 so it was going to be fun driving through the canyon to get home.
Then I spied a bird quite a distance away in the top of a bush. I took a photo….zoomed it in to inspect…and what did I see? A Brewer’s Sparrow! Success! Not the best photo but I’m happy with it.
It was a great way to end the hike. Hopefully I can get out again soon. There are other birds out there being seen that I don’t have on my list!
6 thoughts on “El Nino Birding”
Great post, love the petroglyph shots!
Thank you! I’m glad you liked them.
I really enjoy your hikes, descriptions and photos. Seems like you can bird almost all year round out there in NM. That would be so nice. Since I do not like cold weather at all, miss three to four months of being out with my camera because of the Wisconsin Winters. C’est La Vie. Your Brewer’s Sparrow almost looks like a Pine Siskin. Thanks again for great pics.
Thanks Ed! I love the weather in New Mexico. You can bird here year round. Even though it’s cold it’s usually not bad to get out. Not for months on end like where you are. Plus we have over 450 species of birds throughout our state during the course of the year. I’m still hunting for many of them 🙂
Sooooo jealous of those sparrows!!! One of my favorite families or birds – such beautiful colors and markings. Great photos!!