New Mexico - Summer 2010
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11 June 2010
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 Towhee.




Colorado Chipmunk

Cassin's Finch

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 Canada.


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.

Lewis' Woodpecker


Abert's Squirrel  

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 goes.





Rufous Hummingbird
Pygmy Nuthatch 25 August 2010
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.