Just after the first of the month, Rebecca and I headed out to scout birding locations for the Central New Mexico Audubon Birdathon for which she led our group of 20 birders from 10 a.m. on May 3 to 10 a.m. May 4. The goal of a birdathon is for the group to see as many bird species as possible over 24 hours and serves as a fundraiser for our local Audubon chapter. This year our group started at Bitter Lake NWR near Roswell NM and then drove to Carlsbad NM to bird several hotspots in that area, including Rattlesnake Springs, Slaughter Canyon, and Camp Washington Ranch. We’d end up seeing a good total of 103 species under okay weather conditions other than some pretty high winds especially at Slaughter Canyon. My friend, Judy Liddell, posted a detailed description of the event on her blog at https://wingandsong.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/24-hour-birdathon-raising-funds-for-audubon/ , so I’ll just post a few more of my pictures from the trip without too many words. Entertaining us at both Rattlesnake Springs and Camp Washington Ranch were large flocks of Wild Turkey strutting around and displaying most of the time we were there on both days.
Non-bird highlight of the trip was this large Gopher Snake sunning on the road into Bitter Lake NWR during our scouting trip. We finally convinced it to move off the road so it wouldn’t get run over, but it did take quite some prodding before it finally got upset with me and moved off after giving me a good hissing.
On both our scouting trip the day before and the start of the Birdathon, we saw a good variety of shorebirds, ducks, and such. One of my favorites, American Avocet, were present in good numbers and reasonably close enough to photograph.
Lots of Wilson’s Phalaropes also were around and one of the few times I’ve seen them walking along the shore rather than spinning around in the water.
Unbelievable numbers of Long-billed Dowitchers were present during the scouting day, but a pretty good number of them were out on count day, too.
Next it was off to Rattlesnake Springs where we were greeted by Vermilion Flycatchers,
including one that we spotted actively nesting.
The most common warbler out and about seemed to be Wilson’s Warbler, but several others were seen during and just after the official Birdathon period.
We got nice looks at a juvenile Gray Hawk late in our scouting day, and lucked out again the next day to add the species to our count list.
A ranger at Rattlesnake Springs told me about some young Great Horned Owls nearby on the way to Slaughter Canyon where we’d head the next morning. After we ended our active birding that first day, a few of us went to look for them. Quite surprisingly, there were three owlets Barbara Hussey first spotted all lined up together on a nearly leafless tree.
The next morning as the group headed out, we made a quick stop there and everyone got a look. Although they were in that same tree, they’d all taken up positions on different branches. Wind was blowing way too hard at Slaughter Canyon that morning so we didn’t add many birds to the list, but on calmer days can be a quite productive birding location with much different habitat than our other stops. We ended the Birdathon with a couple of hours spent at Camp Washington Ranch, adding a number of additional species feeding on mulberries in a big stand of trees, and others around the large pond, various trees and wetland areas, and surrounding desert habitat.
A couple of days later I made the rounds of a couple of my Great Horned Owl nests here in town, and was surprised to still see young owls around at several of them. This late in the season, the owls have mostly abandoned their nest sites and disappeared into the trees. At Pueblo Montano, the adults were off hiding somewhere but the little one was sitting out on a branch quite close to the nest high in a tall cottonwood.
At the National Hispanic Cultural Center, at first it seemed the nest was deserted and I didn’t see any owls in the area. Turning around to head back to the car, however, it was a treat to spot first the adult female and then her little one looking at me from a much lower position in a nearby tree.
My final stop that day was at Piedras Marcadas, where those owls always seem to start nesting much later than all the others. That day, both adults were in the nest tree leaving room in the nest for the two owlets. A week later the situation was pretty much the same with the adult female a bit farther away from the nest.
A couple of other birds from the last two weeks included this House Finch feeding its young,
and a Black-throated Sparrow that posed nicely for me in Embudito.
I’ve also been seeing a few new butterflies for the season just about every time I go out, but need to get back out there for better photos hopefully for my next blog post.