NEW birds in NEW Mexico?

Well, a few anyway.

We drove through Roswell – being careful to take the Bypass to avoid alien abductions – made it!  We drove through some much higher mountains on our way to Socorro.  Bill remembers coming here when he was young(er) with Ginny.  It is a ski area! A big surprise for me about New Mexico!  Every state seems to have something unexpected – I love it!

There is a large wetland area 18 miles south of Socorro – Bosque (boss-KAY) del Apache – encompassing a tributary of the Rio Grande River.  It is a wintering ground for Sandhill Cranes and Snow/Ross’s Geese (plus other waterfowl) – like Whitewater Wash in AZ.  Most of the cranes have left, but there were a few hundred Snow and Ross’s Geese left.  At the front of this photo are 3 different plumages of Snow Geese.  Ross’s Geese have a much smaller size, and an especially short bill – sorry, no obvious specimens in this photo.

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The canals throughout the area are bordered by glowing red-gold willow bushes.  Bill nearly got a photo of a female N. Harrier hovering just above them, but she was too quick.

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Nonetheless, we did find her (or her cousin) sitting on a bush a little later.  Such a distinctive face!

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Some of the canals have muddy banks and I spied a very large turtle – different from most I’ve seen so far (usually Snapping Turtles) and found out later it was a Spiny Softshell Turtle with a shell over a foot long, from neck to tail!

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There were ducks galore, but nothing we hadn’t seen before.  But we think Buffleheads show up so well with their black and white colouring.

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We saw a lot of raptors while driving around – Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, N. Harrier and Kestrel.  Found a Cooper’s sitting in a tree, but every shot Bill took has twigs obliterating it’s head.  Finally we saw one flying over – here he is!

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At the end of the day, just before we left, we found this Kestrel taking off from a stump into the blue, blue sky.

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It was a cool and breezy day, so no big hikes (high today was 17 C – Calgary was 14!).  A short walk onto a boardwalk beside a slough garnered nothing, so good idea to keep driving and stay warm.

Monday we had to be back for a conference call Bill has scheduled for 3 PM, so just an outing this morning to the same place.  Our first bird of the day was a Double-crested Cormorant – nothing new, but it was sitting on these picturesque twigs.

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Next was a sleeping Great Blue Heron.  They usually fly away when we get close, but this one (despite his “open” eye) just sat there in a stupor.  We also heard a Virginia Rail – but didn’t see it (it was a lifer early on in our trip at Patagonia).

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We saw this hawk sitting in a tree and both immediately thought it was a Red-tailed Hawk – right size – but it had such unusual marking we took some photos.  Pretty sure it’s a Harlan’s variety of  Red-tail (Don? Ron? Moe?).

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As we entered the boardwalk hike, we found this Say’s Phoebe glowing in the sun.  There are lots of Black Phoebes as well – but we restrained ourselves from adding any more of them, since I think they’re pretty well covered previously in this blog!

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Stopped at the visitor centre to cheek out the feeder, because a Golden-crowned Sparrow has been seen there.  We didn’t find it, but saw a lovely White-throated Sparrow in full spring plumage, along with this Spotted Towhee.  The feeder is located behind a pane of glass, hence a bit of a film in front of these two.

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pretty boy-5021A lovely morning, though it was just below freezing this morning – high toady scheduled to be 22 – and light winds.

Tuesday and Wednesday – full working days for Billy, so me too.

Thursday we headed 1 1/2 hours south to Elephant Butte Lake State Park as well as another state park.  I’m afraid we’re really too early to see much.  The odd Amer. White Pelican and lots of ducks, but no shorebirds.  However, we did see a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk, which we have never seen before.  They comprise only 10% of the population, hence the reason for not seeing them in 40 years!  Also added a Crissal Thrasher – so 2 more for the list.

Friday headed west of Socorro to check out a couple of canyons in the mountains.  The top of these mountains is snow covered!  Not much luck in finding anything new and the day was cloudy with scattered showers.  Twice we had to abort out hike into “The Box” where we knew there was a Canyon Wren – ACK!  Here are some caves at “The Box”.

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Down Water Canyon we found a beautiful picnic area, which sometimes holds the Red-faced Warbler (late April) – once again, we’re heading north too early!

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However, we did find a small flock of Steller’s Jays on the way out.  He has a white eyebrow and small white vertical lines on his forehead – looks like part of the grass, but it’s him!

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This view is seen as we return to the highway – dramatic skies.

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Back south to Bosque to ask about the sparrows seen there.  We saw 2 different White-throated Sparrows and finally found the Harris’ Sparrow.  He is a 1st winter specimen, but unmistakable – the largest sparrow in NA (7 1/2″).

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Also had a great view of this Ring-necked Duck – he is a beauty.

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We searched in vain for some longspurs, but no luck there either.  We did find a coyote who stayed put long enough to capture.

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New Mexico – “Land of Enchaantment” – as their license plates say.  Two of the brightest license plates in the country!

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Now, one night in Colorado then on to Utah and the Great Salt Lake.  Hoping to get 200 species, now at 193.

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