At the Belen Taco Bell

or the marsh nearby, anyway.

But first, a Greater Roadrunner nest update: one bird still sitting on the nest, so I’m not sure if any eggs have hatched. If they had, I’d expect more activity around the nest. Can’t be too much longer…

Depsite the strong winds today in the Rio Grande Valley, I ventured south to Valencia County to check for some early migrants. I also wanted to work on my Valencia County list, which trails other Middle Rio Grande counties. It lies between counties with more birding locales that are more accessible. Why would I want to work on a county list, when just a few weeks ago I declined a chance to go to New Mexico’s bootheel and add to my state list some birds found nowhere else in New Mexico? When my rationale was basically, what’s the point if these birds can be seen just a few miles over the state line? True, there were other issues such as saftey in a canyon the opening of which practically touches the Mexican border. But do quirks of geography matter (they do to some people, but the birds are none the wiser and most likely happier for it).

Whatever the reason, I did add three species to my Valencia list and the short trip allowed me to experience once again the lovely winds we get in this flat open landscape. Despite my dissapointment at missing a shamrock shake at McDonald’s (it’s only a few days after St. Patrick’s Day!) the trip wasn’t a complete waste.

No Burrowing Owls were out in the white-tailed prairie dog town west of the Belen Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, but the marsh down the road held some surprises. Yesterday, Lefty found a Wilson’s Phalarope and a Snowy Egret (Valencia bird 85). The phalrope wasn’t blown away by the winds, and a second egret had arrived. More expected migrants in March, but no less great to see, eight Black-necked Stilts huddled on the leeward side of some grass and one American Avocet huddled within the stilt flock.

Blue-winged Teal on the left, Cinnamon Teals on the right

On a tip from a passing local, I checked a large flooded field further south and was pleased to find many Cinnamon Teals along with a pair of Blue-winged Teal. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen the crisp spring plumage of the male. (He seemed to always have his head down when I took a picture!)

Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area had a few birds, but most stayed hidden from the wind. Exceptions were a singing Spotted Towhee high in a tree and many Western Meadowlarks belting out their sweet-yet-still-blackbirdy song. A Hermit Thrush (Valencia bird 86) dashed by in the wind and I’d apparently not seen Canada Geese (87) in the county before. A pair was on the large reedy pond, and they may nest there. Where were they late last summer and early fall?


An unusual but informative sign at Los Lunas River Park

A stop at Los Lunas River Park produced nothing. When some birders say nothing, they mean nothing interesting. But there were no birds today. Nothing for real. Not even any cow birds or fowl or the apparently single eagle. Thanks for getting my hopes up, sign.

I hope for calmer birding days ahead, but it looks like more wind.

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3 Responses to At the Belen Taco Bell

  1. John Fleck says:

    When Judy Liddell first took me to the Taco Bell Marsh, it was late morning, so when we were done we went over to the Taco Bell for lunch. I stopped by my car to drop off my binoculars, but she said, “Oh no, we should take them in with us.” A clever bit of marketing for the idea that birdwatching is good for the local economy. :-)

    • Matt says:

      I know I should do that too, but it seems so dorky. Birding wasn’t cool when I was growing up (and it’s only more so now) and I made sure to safely stow my binoculars before going in a store or restaurant. The only exception was with birding groups in Chincoteague, VA where we’d eat lunch in a restaurant that overlooked a channel and look for waterfowl while we ate. I don’t care as much now, but it’s still not something I think of doing.

      • John Fleck says:

        Matt – I totally understand the dork factor problem. I’ve started keeping a list on the business park around my office, and I still feel self-conscious sporting binoculars while wandering through the grassy, treelined paths that separate the office buildings. Trying to overcome, though, because nearly every time I do it, someone points out some cool bird they saw on their walk.

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