Friday, 6 May 2016

A Day at Portal

Daybreak saw us trundling along Stateline Road that borders New Mexico which traverses excellent desert habitat and we picked up our first Scaled Quails quite easily here. Our other major target bird was Bendire’s Thrasher, and as luck would have it we bumped into another birder along here who gave us some valuable info. In fact as we were talking to this birder, a Bendire’s Thrasher hopped up onto a wood pile and onto our life lists! 

Scaled Quail

Bendire's Thrasher
We got really nice views of this bird before driving on a little further and seeing Brewer’s Sparrows, another Greater Roadrunner, American Kestrel, Loggerhead Shrike, Bell’s Vireo, Verdin and others.

The Road to Portal in the Chiricahuas

After breakfast we head up to the mountains and birded around Onion Saddle and Rustler Park with the intention of finding the elusive chickadee and Olive Warbler. Well, despite the strong wind we found several Olive Warblers after a couple hours of walking around in really cold conditions. What a great little bird, and apparently not a warbler and not olive – go figure! 

Olive Warbler

We also saw Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco, Western Bluebird, Steller’s Jay, Brown Creeper and a few Red Crossbills.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

So it looked like and I felt resigned to the fact we weren’t going to get Mexican Chickadee we visited a feeding station at the edge of the desert. Sitting in some chairs in the shade of a large tree we watched Lazuli Bunting, Green-tailed Towhee, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay and other commoner species feeding just a few metres away. At one point a Cooper’s Hawk flew in and scared everything to death, so we left and drove back into New Mexico to top up with fuel. 

Lazuli Bunting

Green-tailed Towhee

Afterwards we drove back along Stateline Road to Willow Pond, a recently established little reserve that holds the only water for miles around. There had been a number of good reports recently but the only shorebirds on offer were Killdeer and Least Sandpiper, but there was a flock of Mexican Ducks as well. But there were lots of Violet-green Swallows, and a Bank Swallow (Sand Martin for us Brits). Driving back through the desert we found a Crissal Thrasher, Western Meadowlark,  Say’s Phoebe and at dusk flocks of Barn and Cliff Swallows flew over.

I did make a visit back up to Rustler Park but no owls were ever going to be calling in the cold wind so I gave up after an hour and drove back, but did see another Ringtail Cat on the way down.

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