Tag Archives: Black-necked Stilt

A UFO Birding Festival in Roswell

Those of you who know me know that I am from Roswell, New Mexico. I grew up there, and it was a wonderful place in which to grow up. One of the best things about growing up in Roswell was that it is very close to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I have previously written about the refuge here and here.

When I learned that the United Field Ornithologists (UFO’s) of Roswell were to hold their very first birding festival, of course I made immediate plans to attend. I was excited about the opportunity to visit birding friends in Roswell and to visit a Lesser Prairie Chicken lek.

If you have ever visited a lek, you know that it involves getting up very early so that birders can be on the lek and well hidden before the birds come out onto the lek. True to form, we arose at 3:00 a.m. and left for the lek at 4:00 a.m. We were too excited to be tired, although that would be subject to change later on in the day.

We sat quietly, listening to the birds arriving on the lek. We could hear them, booming and dancing, long before we could see them clearly.

We strained to see the birds in the pre-dawn light, and I struggled to adjust my camera so that I could photograph them.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell birding festival

Lesser Prairie Chickens in the pre-dawn light

When the sun rose, we were able to get excellent looks at the prairie chickens.

United Field Ornitholgists of Roswell birding festival

Lesser Prairie Chicken at sunrise

We watched until the prairie chickens were finished with their display, and then we traveled to the Waldrop Park Rest Area, a birding oasis out in the very middle of nowhere. We had been there only a short time when we saw a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. This beautiful bird posed for us and allowed us all good looks at it.

Waldrop Park Rest Area

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

We saw a number of other flycatchers, among them an Ash-throated Flycatcher.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell birding festival

Ash-throated Flycatcher

We saw many Swainson’s Hawks in the area.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell

Swainson’s Hawk

It seemed that wherever we went, we saw pretty Wilson’s Warbler’s flitting through the trees. This one was in the small town of Caprock.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell bird festival

Wilson’s Warbler

On our way back to Roswell, our sharp-eyed trip leader, Steve Smith, spotted a Barn Owl napping in a tree near the Pecos River. Of course we stopped to admire the beautiful bird.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Barn Owl

After a short break, we left for an afternoon trip to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. We spent a pleasant afternoon viewing shorebirds at the refuge.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell birding festival

Black-necked Stilt

United Field Ornithologists of New Mexico birding festival

American Avocet

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Birding Festival

Flock of Western Sandpipers

That evening we were treated to a barbecue feast at Retreat at Enchanted Farms, the festival headquarters. Michael Richardson and Susan Alston-Richardson, Retreat owners, provided wonderful food in a beautiful atmosphere.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Delicious food in a beautiful setting.

Laney Wilkins from the Spring River Zoo in Roswell brought Frodo the Great Horned Owl for us to admire.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Birding Festival

Laney Wilkins and Frodo

Finally it was time for the evening’s entertainment. Michael Richardson introduced Professor Avian Guano, Bir.D, one of the many aliases of wildlife educator Denny Olson, also known as Doc Wild.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Michael Richardson introduces the evening’s entertainment

Denny Olson entertained us with Professor Guano’s antics, and we learned a great deal about bird behavior during the evening.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Denny Olson as Professor Avian Guano, Bir.D.

Susan Alston-Richardson appears to be a bit dismayed at being labeled a Brown-headed Cowbird.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Birding Festival

Susan Alston-Richardson is not really a Brown-headed Cowbird.

After the evening’s entertainment came to a close, we headed off to get a few hours of sleep before the next day’s activities, which would be a trip to Rattlesnake Springs and Washington Ranch.

I was very excited to go to Rattlesnake Springs the next morning, as there had been reports of Vermilion Flycatchers in the area. Rattlesnake Springs, part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is an Important Bird Area and outstanding stopover site for land birds. The historic 80-acre New Mexico wetland features up-welling groundwater that draws Mexican vagrants as well as eastern and western birds, such as Painted Buntings, Vermilion Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

We were led by Steve West, resident naturalist at Rattlesnake Springs, and surely enough, we saw a number of the little beauties. Although this image is backlit, I like the look of the sun shining through the bird’s wings.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Backlit Vermilion Flycatcher

We continued to see flashes of red throughout the morning.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Bird Festival

Vermilion Flycatcher

We saw flycatchers, warblers and tanagers at Rattlesnake Springs, but most of them were too deep in the branches of thick trees for me to get decent photos.

After a beautiful morning at Rattlesnake Springs, we had a lovely picnic lunch at the pond there. Everyone was much happier about the delicious lunch than this photo might suggest.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Birding Festival

Delicious picnic lunch at Rattlesnake Springs

Our last stop of the day was at Washington Ranch, another site near Rattlesnake Springs, to look for a Lewis’s Woodpecker. We found the bird almost immediately, although unfortunately it was almost beyond the range of my lens. I did get a photo that was good enough to identify the bird.

United Field Ornithologists of Roswell Birding Festival

Lewis’s Woodpecker

The Roswell birders were friendly and welcoming, and the birding festival was outstanding. It was difficult to believe that it was an inaugural event. Everything was beautifully organized, and we saw great birds. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival!

UFOHEADER

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Filed under Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico bird photography, New Mexico birds

A Return to Bitter Lake

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a relatively unknown wildlife refuge located on the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico. Because I am from Roswell, I grew up going to Bitter Lake on a regular basis. Last weekend I went to Roswell to visit with some friends, and of course I couldn’t wait to make a trip out to the refuge. Bitter Lake is a winter home to many Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and other winter migrants. I posted earlier this year about my trip to Bitter Lake in February.

I was surprised by the number of Black-necked Stilts that were at the refuge this past weekend. It appeared that there were at least 100 of them in the ponds. I had a lovely time watching and photographing them.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

There were other birds present as well, although many of them were in areas that were too far away for photographs. I am accustomed to seeing White-faced Ibis there, and I love the way that the sun highlights their plumage.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

White-faced Ibis

There were lots of Killdeer running around, and I was disappointed that I did not see any little fluffy chicks.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Killdeer

Red-winged Blackbirds sang from the marshy edges of the ponds.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlarks sang in the grass.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Western Meadowlark

I was interested to see Turkey Vultures walking around near one of the ponds.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Turkey Vulture

And it is always a delight to see Great Egrets.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Great Egret

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a very different place in summer than it is in winter. It is a lovely place to visit any time of year.

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A Birding Expedition on Laguna Madre Bay

A highlight of my trip to South Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was a pontoon boat trip on Laguna Madre Bay with Scarlet Colley of the The South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Nature Center. We arrived at the dock in Port Isabel just at sunrise on a cloudy morning.

Laguna Madre Bay

Sunrise at Port Isabel

Six of us boarded the pontoon boat with Scarlet and Dan Jones, an excellent local birding guide.

As we cruised slowly around the harbor, Brown Pelicans seemed to be everywhere.

Laguna Madre Bay

Brown Pelican

Black-necked Stilts waded in the shallows.

Laguna Madre Bay, Port Isabel, Texas.

Black-necked Stilt

A Great Blue Heron was fishing in the harbor…

Laguna Madre Bay

Great Blue Heron

… and a Common Tern hunted overhead.

Laguna Madre Bay

Common Tern

Black Skimmers were resting on the sand bars, occasionally making forays out over the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Black Skimmer

Once we were out on the bay, we saw many wading birds:

Laguna Madre Bay

Little Blue Heron

Laguna Madre Bay

Whimbrel

Laguna Madre Bay

Marbled Godwit

Laguna Madre Bay

American Oystercatcher

I am always excited to see Roseate Spoonbills with their lovely pink color and prehistoric faces.

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills

Laguna Madre Bay

Roseate Spoonbills fly overhead

There were groups of Red Knots feeding on the sand bars in the bay.

Laguna Madre Bay

Red Knots

As we headed farther out into the bay Rozzi, Scarlet’s dog, began to bark excitedly.

Laguna Madre Bay

Rozzi

We soon saw the cause of her excitement …

Laguna Madre Bay

Bottlenose Dolphin

… but I will save that for another post.

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An Early Spring Visit to Bosque del Apache

A couple of weekends ago Bosque Bill and I went to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Winter is the usual time to visit the refuge because of the many Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese that winter there. Because birding has been pretty slow in northern New Mexico lately, we decided to travel to Bosque del Apache to see if there were any interesting birds.

It was a gorgeous early spring day. The light was beautiful.

A beautiful day at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

A beautiful day at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

At one pond along the Marsh Loop we saw several Black-necked Stilts wading and feeding.

Black-necked Stilts

Black-necked Stilts

In another pond on the Marsh Loop we saw Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants.

Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants

Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants.

Neotropic Cormorants

Neotropic Cormorants.

Juvenile Neotropic Cormorant

Juvenile Neotropic Cormorant;

There were quite a few Painted Turtles sunning themselves in the pond where we saw the cormorants.

Painted Turtles

Painted Turtles.

We saw Redheads in still another pond on the Marsh Loop …

Males and female Redhead

Males and female Redhead

… and Cinnamon Teal in the same pond.

Male and female Cinnamon Teal

Male and female Cinnamon Teal.

There was a Pied-billed Grebe in that pond too.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe.

As we continued around the Marsh Loop, we saw a pretty Say’s Phoebe in a New Mexico olive tree.

Say's Phoebe

Say's Phoebe.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew through the cottonwoods.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk.

There were many Northern Shovelers in the Farm Loop pond …

Male and female Northern Shovelers

Male and female Northern Shovelers.

… and there were many more Cinnamon Teal in the Farm Loop pond as well.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

We had been told at the Visitors’ Center that the Sandhill Cranes had left for the year, and so we were surprised to see several hundred Lesser Sandhill Cranes at the Crane Pools as we left the refuge.

Lesser Sandhill Cranes fly in at sunset.

Lesser Sandhill Cranes fly in at sunset.

We went to Bosque del Apache with few expectations, and we had a lovely time. The green chile cheeseburgers that we had for lunch at the Buckhorn Saloon were outstanding too!

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Kaua’i Birds, a Retrospective

I recently spent almost two weeks on the lovely island of Kaua’i. My son and I relaxed, snorkeled, surfed, body boarded and enjoyed the beautiful sights of the island. I enjoyed the birds on the island too. Here are the birds that I saw and photographed.

These birds waited outside the condo every morning hoping to receive some breakfast:

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), introduced in 1865, native to India.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), introduced in 1865, native to India.


Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), introduced in 1865, native to India.

Common Myna flying in for a handout.


Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata), introduced in the late 1920's, native to South America.

Red-crested Cardinal (paroaria coronata), introduced in the late 1920's, native to South America.


Pacific Golden Plover, Kolea (Pluvialis fulva), native non-breeding visitor.

Pacific Golden Plover, Kolea (Pluvialis fulva), native non-breeding visitor.


Zebra Doves (Geopilia striata), introduced in the 1920's, native to Southeast Asia.

Zebra Doves (Geopilia striata), introduced in the 1920's, native to Southeast Asia.

There were urban and golf course birds.

Nene (Branta sandwicencensis)

Nene (Branta sandwicencensis). State bird of Hawai'i.


Nene chicks, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii.

Nene chicks, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii.


Common Moorhen, 'Alae 'ula (Gallinula chloropus) Native Hawai'ian subspecies.

Common Moorhen, 'Alae 'ula (Gallinula chloropus) Native Hawai'ian subspecies.


House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Introduced in late 1800's, native to Europe, Middle East.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Introduced in late 1800's, native to Europe, Middle East.


White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus), introduced in 1931, native to Southeast Asia.

White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus), introduced in 1931, native to Southeast Asia.


White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus), introduced in 1931, native to Southeast Asia.

White-rumped Shama near the Lihue airport.


Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis Cardinalis), introduced in the late 1920's, native to North America.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis Cardinalis), introduced in the late 1920's, native to North America.


Pacific Golden Plover, Kolea, (Pluvialis fulva) native non-breeding visitor.

Pacific Golden Plover, Kolea, (Pluvialis fulva) native non-breeding visitor.


Black-necked Stilt, Hawai'ian Stilt, Ae'o (Himantopus knudseni), native Hawaiian endemic.

Black-necked Stilt, Hawai'ian Stilt, Ae'o (Himantopus knudseni), native Hawaiian endemic.


Cattle Egret (Bulbucus ibis), introduced in the late 1950's.

Cattle Egret (Bulbucus ibis), introduced in the late 1950's.


There were wonderful birds in the mountains.
Erckels Francolin (Francolinus erckelii), introduced in the late 1950's, native to East Africa.

Erckels Francolin (Francolinus erckelii), introduced in the late 1950's, native to East Africa.


'Apapane (Himatione sanguinea), native Hawai'ian bird, endemic.

'Apapane (Himatione sanguinea), sipping nectar from`ohia-lehua blossoms.


When I drove down the mountains to the coastline near Kekaha, there were acres of sunflowers fields. The sunflowers fields were feeding thousands of house finches.
House Finch, Papaya Bird (Carpodacus mexicanus), introduced in mid-19th century, native to North America.

House Finch, Papaya Bird (Carpodacus mexicanus), introduced in mid-19th century, native to North America.


Perhaps my favorite birds were the seabirds. Our trip to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was memorable.
Great Frigatebird, 'Iwa (Fregata minor), native seabird.

Great Frigatebird, 'Iwa (Fregata minor), native seabird.


Laysan Albatross, Moli (Phoebastria immutabilis) Native Hawai'ian seabird.

Laysan Albatross, Moli (Phoebastria immutabilis) Native Hawai'ian seabird.


Red-footed Booby, 'A (Sula sula), native Hawai'ian seabird.

Red-footed Booby, 'A (Sula sula), native Hawai'ian seabird.


White-tailed Tropicbird, Koa'e Kea (Phaethon lepturus), native Hawai'ian seabird.

White-tailed Tropicbird, Koa'e Kea (Phaethon lepturus), native Hawai'ian seabird.

And of course everywhere we went we saw the Kaua’i chickens. We saw them in the cities …

Rooster in downtown Koloa, Kaua'i.

Rooster in downtown Koloa, Kaua'i.


… and in the mountains.
A hen with a large brood at Kalalau Lookout, Koke'e State Park, Kaua'i.

A hen with a large brood at Kalalau Lookout, Koke'e State Park, Kaua'i.

Other birds which I saw but was not able to photograph or neglected to photograph were: Spotted Dove (Steptopelia chinensis), introduced in the 1870’s, native to Southeast Asia; Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus), introduced in the 1930’s from Japan.

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The Belen Marsh

Last week I had a horrible day in court in Los Lunas, which is the county seat of Valencia County, south of Albuquerque. I lost a case I should have won. The preparation and presentation were as good as I could have possibly done. Some days the judge does not agree with you.

After a bad day in court I needed some time outdoors. The Belen Marsh is about 10 minutes from the Valencia County Courthouse, and I knew that I would feel better if I spent some time there.

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Tribune has written a nice article on the Belen Marsh, which is located right next to a Taco Bell and is sometimes known as the Taco Bell Marsh, and Ryan Beaulieu, the young man who is credited with discovering the Belen Marsh and bringing it to the attention of the birding public.

When I arrived at about 5:30 p.m. it was cool and very windy. The first thing that I saw was a Western Kingbird sitting on the fence next to the Taco Bell. The light could not have been more wrong for a photo but still, it’s a beautiful bird.

Western Kingbird

There were many male and female Red-winged Blackbirds on the cat-tails in the marsh, and I began to feel better as I listened to their beautiful song.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

There were many Black-necked Stilts walking around in the marsh. It was fun to watch them walking and picking through the marsh. I began to smile as I watched them.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

It was even more fun to watch the Wilson’s Phalarope spinning in tight circles as they fed. As I watched them I found that I was starting to forget all about my bad day in court.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

There were beautiful Cinnamon Teal, shy Ruddy Ducks and stately Northern Shovelers in the marsh. As I watched them swim serenely in the marsh ponds I felt the last traces of stress and anxiety slip away, and I began to truly enjoy the early evening in the marsh.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

Ruddy Ducks

Ruddy Duck

Northern Shoveler

I began to prepare to return to what these days passes for civilization and noticed a group of Short-billed Dowitchers feeding near the edge of the marsh.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Watching these lovely shore birds as they fed was a wonderful conclusion to a pleasant visit. I left the Belen Marsh with my mind and spirit refreshed.

Here is a short video of Black-necked Stilts and Wilson’s Phalarope feeding in the marsh. I did not have my tripod with me and the wind was pretty fierce; still the video does show the feeding behavior of both species.
(Best viewed at 720p.)

The Belen Marsh is a small 16.5 acre “accidental” depressional wetland that occurred when a high water table in the area caused water to seep into an area that was excavated to obtain dirt for a nearby road construction project. It is a small but important birding area, and New Mexico birders appreciate the efforts of the Belen Marsh Committee, the Valencia County Fair Association and the Central New Mexico Audubon Society to maintain it as a marsh.

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