New Mexico - Summer 2010
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June is the hot, dry season
in these mountains. Most birds seem to have dispersed into the
forest to nest. But they still return to visit my birdbath from
time to time
The rodents are everywhere. My backyard has
become a playground for all, especially the Colorado Chipmunks. A
dozen or so scurry about under the feeder and sip water at my water
trays. Enough, I say. When I stop putting bird seed on the
ground however, they do not give up and go elsewhere as I had hoped. Rather,
they wait for a grosbeak or Steller's Jay to knock seed from the feeder.
Knowing that food is above them, chipmunks and squirrels climb
nearby limbs in a futile effort to reach the feeder. They gaze longingly at what they
cannot have. But I learn, to my surprise, that red
squirrels and Abert's squirrels can shinny up the PVC post on which my
feeder is mounted. Time for counter-measures. After trial
and error, I discover that spraying PAM on the PVC is the ticket.
The squirrels climb part way up the oily, slippery post. But then they
come sliding back down, a puzzled look on their faces. Charlotte
gets a good laugh each time it happens.
In the end, I gave up and once more put feed on the ground.
The rodents are now happy, and so are ground-feeding birds like
Dark-eyed (gray-headed) Juncos and even an occasional Green-tailed
13 June 2010
Around our cabin are birds of the forest. But
many others can be found in the open country in Rio Arriba county:
Black-billed Magpies, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Common Ravens, and
the like. A house just south of Chama has feeders that attract
birds I do not have at the cabin. I get permission to park in the
adjacent storage facility, and photograph from the car.
Cassin's Finch, the western counterpart to our Purple Finch,
attends the feeder. The mountains of northern New Mexico are the
southern limit to its breeding range, which extends north into western
13 June 2010
The Chama valley near our cabin must be one of the best places in the
country to see Lewis' Woodpecker. They're quite at home among
human settlements. This one came to the seed feeder mentioned
above, and is often seen near the Chama Grill, a good place to stop for ice
cream. But they seem to be an open country bird. I've
never seen one near our cabin in the woods.
In between visits to the feeder, this bird perched on the
trunk of an aspen tree. I wanted to photograph it against the
smooth pale bark of the tree, but soon realized that it could only perch
on the rough surface where the bark had been damaged. Like its
close relative, the Acorn Woodpecker, Lewis' is fond of acorns, and also
stores them in tree bark cavities.
21 June 2010
The most unusual of the 3 squirrels around the cabin is Abert's
Squirrel, also called Tassel-eared Squirrel for obvious reasons.
This animal is something of a mystery to me - the mystery
being how it keeps from going extinct. Abert's is slow, unwary,
and very conspicuous in the forest, with its gray coat and white
tail. You'd think they would be easy pickings for the bobcats and
coyotes around here. But we often see as many as four behind the
cabin, happily chasing each other, dining on bird seed; occasionally
drinking at the water pans.
Out in the wild, Abert's is almost completely dependent
on ponderosa pine throughout its range, mostly Arizona and New Mexico.
In the winter it subsists on the inner bark and apical buds of the
pines. They are also fond of mushrooms.
18 July 2010
Independence Day brought visitors: daughter Mary again with boyfriend
Rick. As well, Ole Cinnamon, who was briefly seen ambling through the oak
and chokecherry undergrowth. Finally, the first Rufous Hummingbird of the
year visited my sugar water feeder. This hummer breeds from the Pacific
Northwest through Canada, all the way to Alaska. Adult males have already
begun their migration through New Mexico to wintering grounds in Mexico.
For me the Rufous is one of our most handsome birds, with his
bright plumage featuring a gorget that is ever-changing in color.
Seen in profile, it is dark. Then the bird turns toward you, and his
gorget bursts into a rich gold color, often with highlights of green. When
he looks down, the gorget appears bright red.
Alas, this fine-looking bird is a tyrant, a little monster
who, for the next 2 months, will dominate the feeders and drive away any and all
who dare trespass. He terrorizes the Broad-tailed Hummers. I haven't
seen the Black-chinned Hummingbird since the Rufous Hummers arrived.
I bought a second feeder and mounted it about 10 feet from
the first one in back. One Rufous immediately claimed both feeders.
So I moved the new feeder around to the front of the cabin and mounted it just
off the porch. Of course, another Rufous male then took it as his own. So now I'm
feeding two Rufous males; all other hummers must sneak it and grab a quick sip
before they are chased away.
As they are migrating, it seems that each dominant male
Rufous stays a few days; then, moves on. The top spot is then claimed by a
newly arrived Rufous, or maybe one who's been hanging around all along. On it
The hummer wars now rage incessantly, this being the peak of Rufous and
Broad-tailed Hummingbird migration. I've also seen a migrating male
Calliope Hummingbird. Most Rufous hummers now are females and
juveniles. The adult males have moved on, perhaps to the Gila Mts
in southern New Mexico, or even further south.
We've lots of other juvenile birds now. Both the Hairy
Woodpecker and Dark-eyed Junco parents have youngsters with them.
The Pygmy Nuthatches had a successful nesting as well.
Earlier in the summer we had two of these little sprites around; now we
see as many as five. They're quite fearless. In late
afternoon I sit on the deck, sip my Santa Fe Pale Ale, and enjoy a few
cheeses - Swiss raclette and manchego, perhaps. And of course
listen to the pleasant twittering of Pygmy Nuthatches as they flit from
the feeders to the birdbath and then back to the pines.