Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 2

Day 2 started out very foggy.  After all the rain the day before, it was cold and wet.  But the forecast said it was supposed to not rain and clear up in the afternoon.   So I got up at 4:30 am and loaded up Scarlett and headed for the first route of our two surveys.

It was a difficult start to the morning drive with thick fog, cold temps just above freezing and no coffee.   Ugh!

But by the time I arrived at my starting point, I was awake and the fog had cleared quite a bit.  Just as I started my route the sky was beginning to lighten with sunrise…but not by much due to extremely thick cloud cover.

I drove my entire route and didn’t see any Lesser Prairie Chickens.  At the last of my stops on my route, I could hear some way off in the distance.  Of course, Scarlett was not holding up her end of prairie chicken survey duties….she slept the entire time….snored even!!!

As the daylight increased, I found lots to entertain myself while looking for those elusive chickens.  You know how I love to photograph horses.  At the last two stops on my route, I was treated to a nice herd of horses watching me.

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Now that I had completed my duties for the first survey, I was off to find some breakfast and coffee and then some more birds!

My first stop was at Oasis State Park outside of Portales, NM.  A lot of birds had been sighted there recently.  But the morning I was there, it was so overcast that the birds just weren’t interested in singing or showing themselves much.  I walked around the campground and let Scarlett stretch her legs.  Mostly saw sparrows and quail.  I heard some Northern Bobwhite but never could get a photograph.

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Curve-Billed Thrasher at the opening of their nest

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Scaled Quail

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Eurasian Collared Dove

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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White-Crowned Sparrow – a first year transforming into adult plumage

Before leaving the park, I walked around the small pond.  It’s a nice man-made pond with almost a swimming pool feel with flagstone rocks lining the edge.  But I thought it was very pretty.  Several birds were coming in for a drink at the pond.  They figured out there are a couple places with cattails enabling them to get to the water.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher – he’s got a tiny bug in his beak

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Chipping Sparrow

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler – Audubon’s Southwest Male – what a beauty!

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Killdeer

I drove slowly as I left the park.  The bird activity had increased quite a bit as the cloud cover was starting to thin and the temperatures were rising.  The long country road leading into the park was lined with barbed-wire fence with lots of prairie grasses and a few country homes.

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Northern Mockingbird

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Swainson’s Hawk

Not too many trees, just a few scattered here and there.  These trees were bird magnets.  There was a pair of Swainson’s Hawks that were hanging out in one tree.  I decided to stop and see if they were starting a nest.  When I zoomed in on the nest, I was surprised to see yellow eyes looking back at me!  And to my surprise it was a new bird! It’s a Long-Eared Owl.  Of course, with the wet fog that morning, it’s ears weren’t looking to perky.  It’s often confused with a Great Horned Owl, but it’s much smaller.  I was thrilled with my find!

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Long-Eared Owl

Next stop I decided to walk a few of the parks around Clovis, NM.  I saw lots of birds driving between parks, but most of the parks weren’t very productive.

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Western Meadowlark

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Horned Lark

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Long-Billed Curlew – my best photo yet!

My favorite park was about 7 miles north of Clovis.  It was a beautiful park with nice mowed grasses, lots of tall shade trees and several ponds.  Definitely an Oasis in the desert.  I could see how birds would be drawn here for miles.  Scarlett loved it too.  She had so much fun running and stretching her legs.  It was really nice that day we were there.  The sun had finally burned off the clouds and there wasn’t any other people at the park.  Perfect birding conditions!

The first pond we came to was very small with a tall berm on three sides.  But it was loaded with ducks and geese.  Upon closer inspection, I saw there were baby Mallards in the pond.  Adorable!  And every bird in that pond was protecting them.

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Female Mallard with a dozen babies

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Swan Goose helping to protect the babies

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So adorable!!!

As we rounded the pond, to the non-berm side, Scarlett was wanting to go swimming in the pond.  The temperature had risen quite a bit and she was thinking a cool dip in the water would be nice.  But I didn’t want her swimming in that pond because of the baby ducks.  There was a sign at the edge of the pond that said “No Swimming”.  I wanted to get a picture of Scarlett under this sign.   As I was taking a picture to look at settings for my camera because of all the shade, I caught an amazing photo.  Neither of us heard or saw this coming!!!!

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Scarlett about to be attacked by a Great Horned Owl!!!!!

Scarlett yelped and took off like a shot for the car!  I had no idea there was a Great Horned Owl’s nest next to the pond.  And those owls were defending that nest with a vengeance! They kept dive bombing her the whole way to the car.  Fortunately she’s such a sweetie and knows not to bother the birds that she never once tried to get those owls.  She was just very determined to get into the car.  🙂

After putting Scarlett in the car, I decided to find the nest.  Of course, they were nested in the largest tree at the park.  A very old tree with a giant trunk.  And the babies were all looking out wanting to see what all the commotion was about.  Just beautiful!

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Great Horned Owl babies

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Great Horned Owl

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Great Horned Owl

I took several photos of the angry owl.  I was very impressed with his bravery as I realized he only had vision in one eye.  It didn’t seem to mess with his aim.  He nailed Scarlett squarely on the rump!  And obviously has been doing a good job feeding his young because all three babies looked very healthy.

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Great Horned Owl

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Great Horned Owl – you can clearly see the bad eye

I tried to get a photo of the other owl, but she was staying very hidden.  I only saw her briefly as she joined in the chase of Scarlett when she was running for the car.

Not wanting to disturb the owls any longer, I moved us along to another area of the park.  It was so nice to walk around for several hours enjoying the warm sunshine and relaxing.

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House Finch

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Pine Siskin at the opening of it’s nest

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Common Grackle

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Hermit Thrush

After all that excitement it was time to head back to town and get some dinner and sleep.  It was going to be another early morning!

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Pretty nest built with Easter trimmings 🙂

 

 

11 thoughts on “Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 2

  1. Nice collection again. Beautiful shot of the Scaled Quail, and ya gotta love those baby owls. (owlets). Referring to your previous post, we visited Bitter Lake a few years ago. Our highlight of that visit was seeing a bunch of Burrowing Owls in downtown Roswell.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so happy that I stumbled across your blog! Your photos are fantastic! I am planning a trip to New Mexico this summer, so I am happy to see some of the birds I might spot while I am there. I look forward to following you on your outings! – Stephanie

    Like

    • Thanks Stephanie! New Mexico is a great birding destination. We have over 400 species throughout the year. And it’s much easier to photograph them due to the type of vegetation we have. I went birding in Georgia once and it was very challenging due to the dense foliage. If you’d like I’d be happy to recommend some birding spots based on what types of birds you’d like to see. Email me at nmbirdr@hotmail.com.

      Liked by 1 person

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