Monday, 24 November 2014

Heading South....

A great day today as we explored areas to the south of Socorro. It only took just over an hour to reach Las Animas Creek and we were grateful for the suns rays to finally reach our position beneath some huge Arizona Sycamore trees as it was decidedly chilly at dawn this morning. But we were soon warmed by the appearance of a cute little Bridled Titmouse that showed extremely well down to a few metres. 

Bridled Titmouse in the early morning light...

A cross between a Crested Tit and Tufted Titmouse, this is a really good bird to get in New Mexico and to say we were pleased is an understatement. There were also a few Acorn Woodpeckers here and some other commoner birds including lots of Gambel’s Quails and a Hermit Thrush, but we didn’t linger and headed further south to Percha State Park

Percha Dam State Park.

The temperature gauge in the rental car read only 28°F at 8am today – no wonder we were shivering as we walked around the RV Park here, but it soon warmed up and in just a few hours the temperature actually rose by 33 degrees!! Anyway, we saw several lovely Phainopeplas perched on the treetops, as well as a Green-tailed Towhee and the commoner Spotted Towhee, a flock of Brewer’s Sparrows, a nice male American Kestrel, and a Pyrrhuloxia.

Green-tailed Towhee


A short distance up the road was Percha Dam, another great birding location and a rarity magnet in the past. This was a particularly ‘birdy’ site as the numerous trees were attracting lots of Audubon’s Warblers. Along the creek we saw at least 3 Greater Yellowlegs and finally a pair of cute Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. 

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Then we drove up to Cabello State Park, again just a few miles away, and at the entrance gate the helpful lady in the kiosk told us about a good restaurant just a few miles away – which was in fact superb! Then we returned to Cabello but it was not particularly great, with just distant views across the lake to some distant grebes and ducks (including a flock of 18 Buffleheads and a few Common Mergansers, although we did see our first Chipping Sparrows here.

Elephant Butte State Park

Moving on to Elephant Butte State Park we drove down to the Marina where we had really close views of Western Grebes, some of which were calling and displaying – how weird! 

Western Grebes

In fact it was lovely and warm here so we watched the grebe’s antics for a while and a few of them came within 15 metres of us. Further out were some Clark’s Grebes and a pair of American White Pelicans. After our picnic lunch here we drove around the roads in the park and had a great time. At one spot we pulled over to look at a Northern Mockingbird perched up in a tree, and then noticed a Crissal Thrasher running into cover nearby. Hiding behind a bush we were delighted when the thrasher decided to pose on top of another bush quite near to us! Wow! There were also more Phainopeplas, Sage Thrasher, American Robin, and a superb flock of 40+ Mountain Bluebirds.

Crissal Thrasher

Mountain Bluebirds

Sage Thrasher

Then we left here and drove down the road, where a small lake held both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants. Nearby, Paseo del Rio held 3 Hooded Mergansers but the habitat looked really nice and I would have liked more time to check it out. 

Hooded Merganser

And that was our day as our proposed last-ditch visit to Three Sisters viewpoint higher up the lake was curtailed by a closed road. So we returned to the hotel in daylight for a change and then dinner at Denny’s.

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