Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bulletin #128 – Sandia Crest NM other birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
December 20, 2010

Bulletin #128 – Sandia Crest NM other birds

Thank you to all who sent me responses to last weeks bulletin on the finches at Sandia Peak NM. As I assumed, these birds are not well known to most birders and certainly not known among non-birders. I received more responses than for any other bulletin, so I wasn't able to reply to everyone individually as I like to try to do.

I was asked for further info on the area, so here is the unofficial web site for Sandia Crest Rosy-Finches. This site tells you when the Rosies are present by the waving flag in the upper right corner. There is also a mile-by-mile guide to spots on the way to the summit where different birds can be found. I didn't find it particularly helpful, as it is historical information. The best web site is the New Mexico bird alert. It is up to date.

Also, they catch and band the rosy-finches on Sundays at the crest lodge from 9:30am to 1pm. You have an opportunity to see the birds in hand and have the experts show you the plumage differences etc.

There were other birds on the mountain that I found. The first is the Juniper Titmouse (Baelophus ridgewayi). This plain gray bird with a crest is found in juniper forests in the interior southwest. Formerly it was known as Plain Titmouse, but the populations were split into coastal Oak Titmouse and this one in the interior. The sexes are similar.

I found him at the base of the mountain and brought him into photo range by tape.

His cousin on top of the mountain is appropriately called Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli). He was coming to the feeder at the lodge. This typical chickadee has a black cap and bib, but is IDed by the additional white line through the eye. 

The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a member of the sparrow family. Sibley list 6 color variations. This is the 4th I have seen a photographed, the Gray-headed form. This one is all gray except for white belly and reddish patch on the back. 

The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) was also frequenting the feeder at the lodge. I captured him in the typical head down on the tree trunk pose.

Next is the beautiful Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). This crested jay has gray head, back and breast, with blue wings, belly and tail. These birds in the interior have white on the face and around the eye. He was also seen at the feeder at the summit lodge.  Here are 2 photos with the second, a close-up of the facial pattern.  

Finally, there were several Common Ravens (Corvus corax) who were riding the thermals up the mountain. They passed close to the lodge at eye level. One can really see the wedge-shaped tail of the raven.

The only mammal I found was the beautiful Abert's Squirrel (Sciurus aberti). This is a large squirrel with 12" body and 9" tail. It has tassels on its ears and is also known as Tassel-eared Squirrel. It is gray bodied with brown on the back and black belly. The tail is white underneath and gray on top. As most squirrels, it was at the feeder as in the second photo. The bird banders were not impressed as they kept going into the traps and scaring off the rosy-finches.  

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,
David McDonald

email: davidkmcd@comcast.net

photos copyright 2010 David McDonald

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