After the descent from Sandia Crest, Chris and I headed for the Rio Grande Nature Center which was highly recommended by Linda Rockwell. This place did not disappoint; cannot imagine what it would be like in spring or summer with everything showing up green. One of the first eye-catching birds we found were Wood Ducks. Obviously not a new bird to either one of us, but one that is not abundant in Arizona and one that I have never been able to obtain decent photos. This time there were a lot of them and this place has an inside viewing area that is really awesome. But even outside the Wood Ducks could be seen easily and this duck has to be one of the most beautiful ducks in the United States. Even the female is very stunning.
Wood Duck - Female
Wood Duck - Male
Wood Duck - Pair
Of course we found other birds while exploring this great spot including Black-capped Chickadee, White-crowned Sparrows, Canada Goose, and new bird for me the Cackling Goose. The chickadee is not a new bird for me as they were common in eastern Nebraska, but pretty rare in Arizona, so they were a welcome sighting. The Canada Geese approached us fairly closely as we hid behind the blinds near the ponds and allowed some up close photos. The Cackling Goose is one that I honestly never looked for very hard as they can be a bit difficult to pick out in large flocks of Canada Geese. But when I glanced out at this pond, there were 3 that just had a different look to them and it was clear that these were Cackling Geese. (Note the short stubby bill compared to the Canada Goose.)
Canada Goose - Close-up
After leaving this wonderful spot and since it was about mid-afternoon, we headed north through some residential areas near the Rio Grande River and we amazed at the Sandhill Cranes foraging in the small fields along the streets.
Our next destination was the Alameda Bridge over the Rio Grande River to finish out the day. We walked the canal on the west side of the river and then worked our way back along the bank of the river. The area along the canal turned out to be an interesting walk with some interesting birds. We found ourselves in the midst of Bluebirds and what was unique was we had both Western Bluebirds and Eastern Bluebirds in the same area. What a great way to see both so close together and see the differences in the two species.
Also in this same area we happened upon a Downy Woodpecker. This is another bird that I was familiar with in Nebraska, but in most of Arizona it is replaced with the Hairy Woodpecker, so it was another pleasant surprise to find this bird in New Mexico.
Once we started back along the river bank we had a few Ring-billed Gulls take flight and offering a few in-flight shots.
The final photo on this post is obviously not a bird, but a mammal and I was quite excited to see. As we were walking through the trees towards the lot where we had parked, Chris and his sharp eyes looked up and said "What's that?" and pointed up to where a ball of fur was resting on a branch. Immediately, I knew it was a Porcupine even though I had never seen one before. Obviously it was resting and we did not want to disturb it, so we settled for photos of it in its afternoon slumber. What a cool find and always exciting to see something new which is another one of the benefits of exploring nature. What is really spectacular is the fact that we found another one on the way back to Linda's home for the night. Having never seen a Porcupine before and then seeing two in the same day is quite remarkable. What a splendid ending to an awesome day!
So far we have had an amazing 2 days of birding and with more to come on day three. Stay tuned for part 3.