Up way before dawn last Thursday and off to the area around Socorro for the Central New Mexico Audubon Annual Birdathon, ending late in the day after having seen a good total of 134 species, especially given the late start of this year’s migration. The first stop was at Turtle Bay on the campus of New Mexico Tech that we’d scouted last weekend, and where we’d see a much large number of Cedar Waxwings, the Blue-winged Teal again, and several more species including the first of the season Western Tanager, this female Phainopepla acting like a flycatcher from an olive tree over the pond,
and also a first for the year, this nesting Black-chinned Hummingbird.
Turtle Bay proved to be more productive than expected from our earlier scouting trip, but it was soon time to move on to Water Canyon and the (successful) search for the Red-faced Warbler and Acorn Woodpecker. Along the way, we’d get a good look at an Eastern Meadowlark Rebecca was able to identify from its quite different song from the more common and nearly identical looking Western Meadowlark. We also managed to sneak up on a Swainson’s Hawk sitting near a power pole before it eventually flew off.
On the way to our next stop at the Box before heading to Bosque del Apache for the afternoon, we almost drove by a hawk perched in nearly the same spot assuming it was the same individual, but would turn out to be a Prairie Falcon, and ‘Bird of the Day’ as the first seen on the Birdathon which has been held every year since 1997.
The Bosque del Apache did not disappoint and we added quite a few species on the way there and then driving around the refuge checking out a variety of habitats. From the Flight Deck, we were surprised to see more than 20 Franklin’s Gulls and very large numbers of Wilson’s Phalaropes as well as various herons, egrets, ducks, ibis, and other species. Although the lagoon near the boardwalk was pretty much empty of birds, plenty of others would be seen on the Marsh and Farm Loops, including this Greater Yellowlegs
and American Avocet.
The flock of White-faced Ibis were in the same field on the Farm Loop as they were during our scouting trip earlier that week.
On our way back to Sofia’s Kitchen in Socorro for dinner and compilation of our full list for the day, just like last year our final bird of the day was the Lesser Nighthawk that takes to the sky just as the sun starts to set.
On Saturday, Rebecca and I headed up to Chama near the Colorado border on a butterfly hunt in search of Sheridan’s Hairstreak. Our first stop at Edward Sargent WMA was excellent for butterflies and would turn up 13 species before we moved on. Barely leaving the car, we’d spot our first of a number of Blue Coppers, a new one for me,
and just a few minutes later, a Western Pine Elfin, which I’d only seen once last year. This individual was much more colorful than last year’s and let us get close enough for a couple of good pictures.
It didn’t take long to spot our target Sheridan’s Hairstreak, with its bright aquamarine color, one of several individuals in the wildflower-filled wash, and a ‘lifer’ for both of us.
We soon noticed a few Checkered-Skippers flitting about, and would soon decide from its markings this was a Mountain Checkered-Skipper (another new one for me).
We then drove a short distance to the William Humphries WMA, which was blanketed with larkspur and other wildflowers including Pitcher Clematis.
There were fewer butterflies in that area and most of the same species we’d seen earlier in the day, but we were able to get better pictures of the small white ones that just wouldn’t land in the first area we’d visited. Another new one for me was the Large Marble,
and we had one rather cooperative Southwestern Orangetip nectaring on a rockcress called Drummond’s arabis.
I’d missed that butterfly all together last year, but have seen it a number of times this year.
On the drive back home, we also spotted several good birds. Black-billed Magpies were fairly common in the Chama area and much more approachable than the ones we’d seen a few weeks ago in Pena Blanca near Cochiti Lake. This one was apparently also well-fed.
The other good bird for the day spotted flying by the car near Brazos was a Golden Eagle that flew right by us to perch in a nearby tree for a bit before heading away.
Two really good all-day adventures this past week, with a couple more planned for the coming week – what fun!