Williamson's Sapsucker - male, Doc Long picnic area, Sandia Mountains, Bernalillo Co., NM. Panasonix Lumix FZ7. What a treat for our group - stunning and approchable. We've seen Williamson's Sapsuckers in New Mexico before but not quite like this!
Arizona Woodpecker - Clanton Canyon, Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM. February 5th, 2013. Panasonic Lumix FZ7. Much to our surprise, we had no trouble in finding Arizona Woodpeckers in New Mexico! As soon as we reached the first belt of Chihuahuan Pines, Arizona Woodpeckers appeared within only a few minutes of searching. This particular bird was photographed at Turkey Seep where a pair was present with the male actively drumming.
This long staying Harris's Sparrow was discovered at the feeders of Bosque Del Apache Visitor Center some weeks before our Birdfinders tour group arrived in New Mexico. It certainly seemed to have become more aloof in the days preceding our visit but sharp-eyed tour particpants Barry Batchelor and John Rowe found it consorting with large numbers of White-crowned Sparrows in the main Visitor Center parking lot during an afternoon visit. Ironically, the bird showed brilliantly well for many at the Visitor Center feeders the very next morning after these images were taken! Somehow I preferred seeing the bird out in the Visitor Center parking lot - it was just a better, wilder experience.
Harris's Sparrow - Bosque Del Apache NWR, Socorro Co., NM. February 2nd, 2013. Digi-scoped using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski HD scope. On reflection, I realized that this was the first Harris's Sparrow that I'd ever seen on a Birdfinders tour despite averaging about twelve weeks of North American tours per year - a rare sparrow indeed.
I had an hour at Barton Cove on Saturday evening, hoping that the approaching weather event might bring a less-than-usual gull to the local roost. In the event, it was a little quiet with only a small number of gulls resting on the ice off Riverview Drive in Gill. However, there was some 'turn over', with birds resting and bathing with the main flock before moving off up river. A second, smaller gathering also developed way out on the ice, so I had two flocks to check at the same time. The end result was three Kumlien's Iceland Gulls (all first-cycle) and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Also still present, the seven drake Ring-necked Ducks from the previous week.
Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull - first-cycle, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. February 23rd, 2013. One of three first-cycle birds seen during the course of the evening, two individuals being rather pale with a third being darker and rather dusky in overall appearance.
Lesser Black-backed Gull - adult (center), Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. February 23rd, 2013.
Continuing bird, nicely sandwiched between two Great Black-backed Gulls.
Ring-necked Ducks -,all males, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. February 23rd, 2013
A pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches have been wintering in our yard. This is our third winter in Gill, but the first time that we've had Red-breasted Nuthatches stay throughout the winter. Doubtless these birds, and the birds still present in the woodlands around Gill, are related to the major Red-breasted Nuthatch incursion that we experienced last fall. It's a treat having them around. Lately, this pair seems to have developed a taste for nyjer seed where they 'wrestle' for dominance over the feeders with the many Black-capped Chickadees.
Red-breasted Nuthatches - male (upper two images) and female (lower). Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. Panasonic Lumix FZ7. Pair present virtually daily with regular visits to the nyjer seed feeders. The background gives the impression of being rather frigid but in fact, despite the fresh snow, it was a pleasant spring-like morning with lots of bird song in the surroundings including Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebird and House Finch to mention a few.
Wild Turkeys - Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. February 20th, 2013. Panasonic Lumix FZ7. Up to 35 turkeys have been visiting our yard over the last week or so. They've virtually cleaned up the remnants of seed below the feeders leaving the sparrows and juncos with very little at all.
Crissal Thrasher - Deming WWTP, Luna Co., NM. February 6th, 2013. Panasonci Lumix FZ7. Usually regarded as a skulker favoring dense mesquite and other types of desert scrub. Our experiences with Crissal Thrashers at Deming were rather different with this showy pair just south of the main waste water treatment plant. They were frequenting marginal habitat with only a few spindly mesquites to hide in, habitat also favored by the Sage Sparrow pictured below. We also found Crissal Thrashers in at least three other spots in the SW New Mexico. Yet another highlight from the recent Birdfinders tour of Texas and New Mexico.
Sage Sparrow - Deming WWTP, Luna Co., NM. February 6th, 2013.
What appeared to be 'just' a decent sized flock of Horned Larks turned out to contain plenty of gems. The more we looked at the flock, the more we discovered. The best method was just to sit back and let the birds come to us as the flock was easily flushed and could often take a while to settle. We ended up with about 15 each of Chestnut-collared and McCown's Longspurs and a single, rather unexpected, Lapland Longspur. This session provided a rare opportunity to see multiple species of longspur alongside each other in their rather challenging non-breeding plumages.
As it happened, unknown to us at the time, one or two Lapland Longspurs had already been reported from this exact location. The site was at the end of Three Sisters Road on the western shore of Elephant Butte Lake, just south of South Monticillo Point, Sierra County, New Mexico.
Chesnut-collared Longspurs - Three Sisters Point, Elephant Butte Lake, Sierra Co., NM. February 3rd, 2013. Digi-scoped shot using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski scope.
Lapland Longspur - Three Sisters Point, Elephant Butte Lake, Sierra Co., NM. February 3rd, 2013.
Digi-scoped shot using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski scope.
McCown's Longspurs - Three Sisters Point, Elephant Butte Lake, Sierra Co., NM. February 3rd, 2013. Digi-scoped shot using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski scope.
Short-eared Owl - Columbus, Luna Co., NM. February 4th, 2013. Panasonix Lumix FZ7. After the disappointment of a very parched and barren Pancho Villa State Park, our Birdfinders group found more success in the agricultural fields to the east of Columbus. This Short-eared Owl was one of several pleasing finds less than two miles east of town.
Sandhill Crane - white, leucistic bird left of center in the above three images. Columbus, Luna Co., NM. February 4th, 2013. Panasonix Lumix FZ7. Another extremely interesting bird. We wondered, if seen poorly or at distance on migration, if this white Sandhill Crane might be an identification pitfall for Whooping Crane? However, there appeared to be no size or structural differences compared to the surrounding Sandhill Cranes. Just for fun and comparison, here's an image of a genuine Whooping Crane photographed a week earlier at Aransas Bay, Texas on January 25th, 2013.
Glaucous Gull - adult (center bird in all three images), Rock Canyon Marina, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Sierra Co., NM. Digi-scoped shots using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski HD scope. Birdfinders tour participant Barry Batchelor first drew our attention to this large pale, gull which we quickly established as being an adult Glaucous Gull. Initially discovered bathing on the shore on the north side of the marina, it then moved closer to rest on the 'black tires' with Ring-billed Gulls where we had the best views. The bird was in full view when we left to take a break a 15:30hrs but was nowhere to be seen when we returned an hour later! We didn't hear of any subsequent reports of this bird from Rock Canyon Marina thereafter.
Lesser Black-backed Gull - third-cycle, Rock Canyon Marina, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Sierra Co., NM. Digi-scoped shot using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski HD scope.
Thayer's Gull - adult, Rock Canyon Marina, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Sierra Co., NM. Poordigi-scoped shots using Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and Swarovski HD scope. An unfortuante miss for our Birdfinders group - I'd just noticed this as a 'bird of interest' as soon as we arrived at the marina. In the same moment, Barry Batchelor called a large, pale gull which turned out to be the adult Glaucous. By the time I came back to the Thayer's candidate, the bird had gone and wasn't seen again despite a very thorough search by our group.
This evening I made a quick pass by Barton Cove whilst running some errands. It was good to notice a few new individual birds including a party of six drake Ring-necked Ducks, my largest group at the site since early December and perhaps early spring migrants? The gulls, intriguing as always, numbered about 400 individuals including two similarly plumaged Kumlien's Iceland Gulls and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Images below, all taken in fading light with a Panasonix Lumix FZ7.