Joe Healy, Lawry Sager, Walt Teilmann
SFBG is blessed with two very distinct habitats: the montane of the Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve and the pond and riparian woodlands of the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP). In birding, as in real estate, it’s “location, location, location.” Sixty species are common to both locations but each site has birds not likely to be found at the other.
Commonly Seen at Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve
In the spring and summer, it’s Say’s Phoebe, a member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family. They catch insects in midair, usually in short sallies from a perch atop a shrub or fencepost. Adult Say’s Phoebes have a pale gray back and wings, a long black tail, a faint rufous belly and under-tail coverts. For the past two years, we’ve seen a pair around the bat cupola at the old mine site.
The Steller’s Jay, a member of the Corvidae Family, is a year-round resident at Ortiz. The Steller’s is bold and aggressive and scavenges at campgrounds and picnic areas. It has a long dark crest and black head, breast and back. Its wings, rump, belly and tail are a contrasting bright blue. Usually found in small groups, Steller’s feed on a variety of seeds, fruit and insects.
Infrequently Seen at Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve
The Plumbeous Vireo is a summer visitor and a small, relatively stocky songbird with a stout hooked bill and short strong legs. It shows a “spectacled” pattern around the eyes. It feeds on insects and larvae gleaned from leaves. This June, birding on the Loop Trail, we accidentally flushed a mother bird from a nest built near the end of a Gamble’s Oak branch that extended over our path.The Western Tanager is another fairly rare visitor. One of eight species of Tanager, the brightly colored tropical bird is one of only a few species to reach North America. Four of them are found in New Mexico. Common to both coniferous and deciduous woods, they feed on insect larvae gleaned from leaves. A summer migrant at the Ortiz, the Tanager is fairly slender with bright yellow plumage on belly, neck and rump, and black on its back, wings and tail. An adult male in breeding plumage has a brilliant red head. The female has similar plumage, but no red and a subdued yellow body.
Commonly Seen at Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve
The American Robin favors the trees of the riparian woodland. The Red-winged Blackbird dwells in the cattails and reeds of the wetland. While we think of these birds as resident, the individuals we see in summer may not be the same as those observed in winter.
Less Common at Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve
White-faced Ibises are colorful wading birds with long legs and long curved specialized bills. Migrating from Mexico, they were apparently attracted to the LCWP pond to forage on aquatic prey and rest. They probably continued their migration further northward to summer breeding grounds in fresh water marshes in the U.S. and Canada.The Virginia Rail, one of a group of Small Rails, is a small, thin, marsh bird. Its laterally compressed body is credited with the origin of the expression: “thin as a rail.” With a gray face, rich reddish breast, short tail, long bill and short rounded wings the Rail likes wet marshes filled with cattails and other reeds. Because of its usual secretive behavior, identification often relies on its habitat and call. On two occasions, we played a recording of its call and lured it out in the open so we could all observe it!
Birders will enjoy Bill Schmoker’s (Virginia Rail photo) bird photo site schmoker.org/BirdPics