Saturday, December 6, 2008

Embudo Canyon and ABQ foothills open space

I had the opportunity to meet another blogger who lives in Albuquerque. We arranged to meet each other in the early afternoon at the parking lot of Embudo Canyon, an open space preserve on the west side of the Sandia mountains. There are several canyons coming down from Sandia Peak that can be explored, and most of them are open space areas used for hiking, and some even have picnic tables near their parking lots. These canyons have a beauty of their own, and it's amazing how wildlife can abound knowing you are still within or just outside of the city limits of ABQ. Judy and Dave and I headed up the canyon hoping to find some birds, especially a few I may not have seen before. Knowing it was early afternoon and that's when birds seem to be least active, I still was hopeful to come across a few birds. Below is a photo I took of Embudo Canyon from the parking lot. (You can click on any of the photos for a larger image.) In the distance you can see what appears to be a water tank (center left) and another piece of concrete (center right). These structures are part of ABQ's arroyo flood control.
Here is a close-up view of the chute or channel. I'm not sure of its proper name. During the monsoon seasons fierce thunderstorms can occur and water rushing down from the canyons can be quite devastating and forceful, causing flash floods on the plains.
Prickly pear cactus found on the trail.
And a cholla found on the trail. But where were the birds?
We did see a few birds; canyon towhee, house finches, scrub jay, and a ruby-crowned kinglet that was impossible to get a photo of. Below is a white-crowned sparrow who was more accommodating. One bird that we should have seen, but had no luck finding was a Crissal thrasher. Oh well, maybe next time. It would have been nice to have seen any kind of thrasher. Sage thrashers and curve-billed thrashers are also to be found in New Mexico.
When we decided to call it a day, Judy also recommended to look around the residential area of the foothills where there is still some open brushy areas. On our way back down the hill from the parking lot we came across this bird feeder someone had set out across from their home. I never knew that scaled quail would come to feeders. I used to see them on my neighbor's roof when I lived in ABQ, but I never thought of putting a feeder out for them. The smaller brown birds feeding with the quail (I think) are female house sparrows.
There was a canyon towhee who came to visit the feeder, too. But he seemed to be camera shy. This was the best shot I could get of the canyon towhee.
Here is a close-up shot of the scaled quail. Be sure to enlarge the image so you can see the finer details of his feathers. I got a kick out of their behavior while watching them at the feeder. There was one quail (possibly this one) who was agressive at times and would chase the other birds away, and if they didn't get out of its way it would peck at them (like a chicken) on their heads. Too bad I didn't get a video of that.
As the daylight hours were waning we realized that there was an alpenglow around us.
Here is Sandia Peak just before sunset.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Gorgeous scenery. The Quail are a spectacular bird,I have not seen one so this is a great way to see it.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I'm glad you got a chance to do some bird watching.

Mary C said...

Ruth - thank you. I know there is beautiful scenery everywhere we look. But New Mexico has a beauty all it's own. That's probably why it is called the Land of Enchantment. I'm glad you get the chance to enjoy other birds in a virtual way. I know I certainly enjoy your photos, too.

Wren - thank you. I'm glad, too. Birding is usually my main focus when I vacation in New Mexico. Stay tuned, there will be more to come.

Linda in Erie said...

Very interesting. You almost can't imagine there is flash flooding there when you see the dried-out look of the landscape. That quail is quite beautiful! I love the feathers on this chest.

Ruth said...

Interesting birds. You are getting good pictures with your new camera. I like the warm glow in the last photos.

RuthieJ said...

That is one gorgeous quail!

Leedra said...

The Quail photo is great!

Mary C said...

Hi Linda - you're right! The landscape says it's a dry climate, but don't ever get caught in one of those afternoon "gully washers!"

Thanks, Ruth. I still need to learn how to use my new camera better, but it takes time and practice.

Hi Ruthie and Leedra! Those scaled quail may not have a top knot like the Gambel's or California quails, but they make up for the lack of it in that beautifully decorated scalloped-looking chest.

Shellmo said...

The feathers are very beautiful on that quail! Excellent shot of the the sunset!

Mary C said...

Hi Shelley - thank you, and I'm glad you could see how beautiful those feathers are on the quail.

Anonymous said...

Ah, you got the Scaled Quail. I have been looking for them for a long time in both NM and AZ. No luck for me yet. I'm so glad you shared your photos of them, I was beginning to think they were a myth. Bev

Anonymous said...
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Larry said...

The sun reflected off the peak nicely.-The Scaled Quail has very detailed feathers!

Mary C said...

Hi Bev - glad you stopped by. This has been a very busy week for me. I haven't been able to put up a new post much less reply to my comments. Anyway, I thought it was quite interesting that the quail were perched on that feeder. I've also seen scaled quail on a neighbor's roof when we used to live in ABQ. And when we have visited Phoenix/Mesa, AZ, I have also seen scaled quail. They are so cute, and look so different from CA quail, which I don't see as often anymore like I did about 15-20 years ago. Anyway, now you know they aren't a myth. ;o) Thanks for stopping by; please come back again.

Hi Larry. Sunsets in ABQ are so different from sunsets here in CA. I'm glad you liked that photo. I'm also glad you liked the scaled quail photos. They definitely have very interesting feathers - I think of them as scallops - or like "gingerbread" on old houses. ;o)


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