Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Break in New Mexico- woot! Part 1: Rio Grande Nature Center

Spring break finally came, and unfortunately it has gone, but I had a rollicking time in between. My venerable aunt not only tolerates my birding bug, but feeds the flames. First stop: the Rio Grande Nature Center, which I soon found out was filled with ducks!

Ring-necked ducks!

Wood ducks- check out those hot eligible bachelors!

A female Hooded Merganser- she was on the market too!

The ducks looked peaceful enough, gliding serenely on the water, occasionally quacking irritably at most. But I soon saw their true colors when a staff member went in to refill their feeding platform- it was like a scene from The Birds.

They had no qualms about stomping on each other's backs to get onto the platform. It was like they hadn't eaten in weeks! This is the definition of the term 'feeding frenzy.'
There was an opening on the end of the platform but not for long- swooping in on the right is a female Mallard.

Other waterfowl I saw but didn't get to photograph were Cinnamon Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Bufflehead.

Ducks weren't the only attraction at the Nature Center. Behold the female Red-shafted Flicker. She stayed on the branch preening for a long time before finally flying off.

A female American Kestrel stopped me in my tracks when I saw her in a tree right in front of me. She flew off pretty fast but I managed to get a picture.

A pair of Greater Roadrunners were totally oblivious to people, which enabled me to get great looks at them carrying twigs back and forth, presumably to their nest site. One even dashed right up to me, I thought he was going to ask me for the toll to walk on the path.

Two Wood Ducks acting more like songbirds than ducks.
I also saw a Fox Sparrow in the brush around the feeders, which I later found out was an honor because it was only the second record of a Foxy in the Nature Center.
I spent my last day in New Mexico at the Nature Center helping out with bird banding, to brush up on the mad skillz I got last summer... did I remember any of it? To my relief, I succesfully extracted a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Bewick's Wren (everything except the poor guy's tongue- a toothpick had to be called in for that part). I guess it's like riding a bicycle- once you learn you don't forget. I wish I'd had my camera, because the Bird of the Day was a (previously banded) Swamp Sparrow! What a cutie.
Other birds seen:
male Cooper's Hawk
Spotted Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Canada Goose (plenty of 'em)

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