April 28th 2011–picking up where my blog left off last month
I had been looking forward to this years New Mexico Audubon bird-a-thon. When I was younger, I “competed” in a few birdathons in the DC area though the Audubon Naturalist Society in Maryland. I wasn’t competing against the really good birders, but I did win the youth category every time, I think. One of my early birding mentors (who is now in Sierra Vista, AZ and I should go visit sometime) sponsored me at $1 per bird during my first bird-a-thon; I think she was surprised but pleased at having to donate 70 some dollars! I got even more species as I picked better routes during later birdathons, with my parents always patiently driving me around northern Virginia and Maryland. My most recent birdathon was in State College with Melissa and some friends who had recently begun birding. So I’ve gotten back into the big day competitive birding.
The Thursday birder birdathon was a little different. Most birdathon teams are small, but we had about 21 people along for the trip in many cars. The rules were relaxed a bit–anything anyone saw counted, even if just by one person. We also split up in the afternoon to cover more ground. This strategy got the whole team 159 species, a new record for the Thursday birders. (I personally saw 120 species).
The day didn’t start so great. I was supposed to wake up early and get outside for when Gary picked me up. Easy plan. But I forgot to turn my phone back on, so the alarm didn’t go off. Gary arrived but couldn’t remember what apartment I was in. He had forgotten his phone and went home. He did come back and we got on the road about an hour late. Oh well. We got to Turtle Bay park in Socorro at about 7:20 but didn’t miss much. As it turns out, we first found the Northern Parula and Hooded Warbler (#260 and 261 for my NM list) and had to call the group over to see these rare birds for New Mexico. The park was hopping with birds, mostly Audubon’s Warblers, but we also got to see a Green-tailed Towhee (finally–NM bird 262), an empid that revealed itself as a Gray Flycatcher, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Orange-crowned Warblers. Then we were off to Water Canyon in the Magdalena Mountains west of Socorro.
On the road in, we picked up some sparrows and a pair of sharp-looking Acorn Woodpeckers (NM #263) which I haven’t seen since 1995 in Arizona. The picnic area in the canyon was slow, as was the road further up the canyon, but we found some more montaine species such as Grace’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Brown Creeper, Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Cassin’s Finch, and Townsend’s Solitaire. Most of the group missed the Red-faced Warblers and a Painted Redstart that about 4 people got to see. Next time. [ACWO by Steve Ryan, CC BY-SA 2.0]
Our next stop was the box canyon west of Socorro, a good place for rock climbing and Rock Wrens. Birds were sparse here, but a Canyon Wren sang from the rocky walls and a Dusky Flycatcher flitted its way through the scrubby bushes. Joe got a photo of the Canyon Wren. A few Gray Vireos breed in the area, but we didn’t search them out.
Bosque del Apache was next, at least for me. Most of the pools had water and shorebirds were plentiful. But we first stopped at the visitor center for Gambel’s Quail but were surprised with singing Lucy’s Warblers, a Scott’s Oriole, and a singing White-throated Sparrow sticking around very late in the spring. Shorebirds and swallows were plentiful on the refuge. A Marbled Godwit (NM bird # 264) posed near one of the main roads and I picked out some Western Willets and a Long-billed Curlew on the far side of one of the impoundments. As the sun was setting a Lesser Nighthawk (NM # 265) winged by giving us great views.
Everyone met up at Sofia’s in Socorro for dinner where I was served the spiciest huevos rancheros I’d ever had. I needed sour cream just to eat it. The whole group shared their bird sightings and stories from the day. It was a long day, but I was going to do it all again over the weekend.