Mountain Birding

November 18, 2012

At 4 am we were surprised to hear rain outside. And when we got up, the car and the ground were wet. Certainly people here would have been happy, because of the recent drought. But that was the only rain we would have. Although the day started out with solid cloud cover, as time went on the clouds burned off.

Our first program started at 8 am, up at the Macey Center, so we didn’t have to get up really early. The program was called “Mountain Birding”, and there were about 20 birders with two leaders. We headed out of town in a convoy, up Highway 60 towards Magdalena. The mountains we were going to were the Magdalena Mountains; before we reached the town of Magdalena we turned off the highway up a forest road to Water Canyon.



Hoping to see Chestnut-collared Longspurs, we stopped on the road by a stock tank, a pond in a cattle pasture. But there were none to be seen, so we carried on up the road until we got to the Water Canyon campground. From there we walked farther along the road, looking for birds. The forest was quiet, except for the White-breasted Nuthatches whose calls carried a long way. There were some Pine Siskins and some chickadees, but it wasn’t until we were going back down to the cars that we saw an apple tree with two Acorn Woodpeckers and two Red-naped Sapsuckers in it – quite a show!

Juniper bark

Juniper bark

The trip finished close to noon, so we headed back to Socorro. But we stopped again at the stock tank and this time there were grassland birds swirling around, only settling by the water for a few seconds and then flying up again. They could have been Horned Larks but after we got a fairly good look at them they were certainly longspurs. Normally longspurs at this site in November would be Chestnut-collared, but the leaders said they could hear some McCown’s in the mix. But since telling the difference would require seeing small differences in black feathers in the tails of the birds, we gave up on that.

High desert mountain

High desert mountain

Back in Socorro we did a bit of shopping and had lunch. We then headed back to the Bosque for the afternoon. First we stopped at the artists’ tent for last-minute shopping. Paul bought an agate with a Roadrunner etched on it, since that was one of our totem birds for the trip. Then we went back to the gift shop at the visitor centre to look at turquoise necklaces, but there wasn’t anything that Rosemary really liked.

Big Brown Bat

Two of these Big Brown Bats were roosting at the visitor centre

So we decided to go on one last driving tour around the refuge, this time around the north loop. We didn’t see anything particularly noteworthy – there were still crowds of cranes standing in the fields, harriers swooping over them, and the Bald Eagle surveying the flock of geese. Again we saw a little herd of mule deer, this time at the north end.

Sandhill Cranes in the field

Sandhill Cranes in the field

It was 4:30 pm, so we decided to head back to Socorro. Rather than having dinner at home, we went out to the Socorro Springs Brewing Company for dinner. The place was very busy considering it was only just after 5 pm. Rosemary had a chicken salad and Paul had chicken fajitas, and we were back home shortly after 6 pm. We had hot chocolate and watched The Amazing Race on TV.

November 17: Fly In At Sunset

November 19: White Sands

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