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!



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

13 responses to “A UFO Birding Festival in Roswell

  1. cindy

    UFOs .. good one! What a spectacular outing! Love the Barn Owl & super Vermillion Flycatcher! Beautiful as always my friend!

  2. Lovely photographs, Corralena! The festival looks like a lot of fun.

  3. Looks like a fine adventure, Linda. You had some great highlights. The Vermillion Flycatcher is stunning.

  4. Wow! Looks like you had a fabulous day, Linda! How fun to see all your great photos of many birds that I’ve never seen.

    • It was a wonderful weekend Tami. I thought the UFOs of Roswell put on a lovely event. I’m planning to go back there next year. Happy that you like the photos! 🙂

  5. lizzie

    This had to have been a wonderful experience and such great photography, Linda – felt as if I’d actually been there. And, wouldn’t ya know..it would be just my luck to be named a Brownheaded Cow Bird ! :oD

    • It was a very fun weekend. Good to see Roswell friends, Roswell birders and southern NM birds. Susan was the only brown-haired woman in the group, and so Prof. Guano gave her that card. 🙂 Thanks for your kind comments about my photos. xoxox

  6. Every time you write about this location I drool Linda! Love this post.

    • Thanks Mia! It was a fun festival with lots of nice people. You’ll have to make it to Bitter Lake someday. Although it’s off the beaten path, it’s well worth the trip.

  7. Pingback: Birding Sandia Crest with Linda Rockwell

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