Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 3

My last day out searching for those elusive chickens.  Once again I woke up at 4:30 am, loaded up Scarlett, and headed to my second survey location – and no coffee….again….Ugh!

The conditions on this day were perfect. No rain, fog, clouds, or wind.  It was a beautiful morning.  As I was slowly driving down a remote dirt road to my starting point of my survey, I had a Barn Owl circle my car twice.  Gorgeous lit up with my headlights.

I made it to my starting point and Scarlett was snoring again in the back seat….slacker!

On my route I heard those chickens in 2 different areas – one of which was fairly close.  But I never saw any.  Disappointing but I knew there were no guarantees I’d see any. I might have been able to walk to one area I heard them in except I w0uld have had to cross a low electric fence containing cows and calves eating the winter wheat.  I just didn’t feel safe doing that.

I got to see a beautiful sunrise since it was going to be a clear day.

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Sunrise near Portales, NM

As the morning light increased, I watched a Sharp-Shinned Hawk chasing Horned Larks.  Those larks were fast and agile.  I never saw that hawk catch one.


Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was early dawn so I had to really lighten up this photo

After my survey was completed, I decided to head home….with a few stops along the way.  Since I was making a circular route, I drove home towards Fort Sumner.  And on the way to Fort Sumner is this awesome birding hot spot called Melrose Trap.  It’s a copse of trees and brush with a water source situated in an area that miles and miles of flat plains.  Migrating birds see it clearly from above and stop there on their journey.  Also, because of it’s close proximity to Texas (which seems to be a dividing line between western and eastern species of birds), this wooded area can hold some real rare gems for New Mexico.

On this particular day, the woods were pretty quiet.  I think it was still a tad early for migrating birds to show up.  I left Scarlett snoozing in the car and I starting exploring this area. I didn’t see or hear very much.  As I was heading back to my car, I heard something big fly in the canopy.

Movement caught my eye and I was surprised to see a Barn Owl looking down at me.  If it hadn’t flown, I would never have known it as there.


Barn Owl

It was an anxious bird.  When I moved in to get a closer photo, it flew to a denser part of the woods.  I managed to get one close-up photo before it moved to an area where it was very hidden.


Barn Owl – I love the coloring on their wings

I watched a Curve-Billed Thrasher sing for awhile, then decided to head down the road.


Curve-Billed Thrasher

I wanted to stop in an Bosque Redondo Park outside of Fort Sumner.  It’s a pretty little lake that you can drive around.  It has several types of habitat for birds.  As I was driving down the road, I saw lots of sparrows on the fences and telephone wires.  I also saw a lot of Lark Buntings.  They looked pretty scrappy getting their summer coloring.


Lark Bunting molting


White-Crowned Sparrow

While on this trip, I saw lots of Swainson’s Hawks alongside the road.


Swainson’s Hawk

Once again, it as quiet at the lake.  Not a good day for birding it seems.

I heard several Blue Jays but none were wanting their photo taken.  I also heard a Song Sparrow singing from deep within the cattails.

As I rounded the lake, I saw several Great-Tailed Grackles.  I managed to get one of them posturing for the ladies.  And of course, there were the ever-present Red-Winged Blackbirds.


Great-Tailed Grackle


Northern Shoveler


Red-Winged Blackbird

When I was leaving Bosque Redondo Park, I saw my first Western Kingbird of the year.  Always a cheerful sight!


Western Kingbird

Next stop – Lake Sumner.  It was quiet there too.  🙁

I let Scarlett play in the water for awhile.  She loved it.  This was the first time she’d ever seen waves in the water.  She didn’t know what to think at first.  But she eventually realized they wouldn’t hurt her and she quickly turned them into a game.


Scarlett playing in the water below the dam at Lake Sumner

There’s a wall that slows the water down after the release from the dam.  I made Scarlett pose on the wall.  She’s such a good girl.


My sweet Scarlett

While photographing Scarlett, a Belted Kingfisher landed briefly on an antennae nearby.


Belted Kingfisher

I then drove to the lake.  I was hoping to see some waterfowl or shorebirds there.  But it was very quiet.  I threw a stick for Scarlett and let her play in the water.

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Scarlett playing in Lake Sumner


While watching Scarlett play I saw one cormorant fly over.


Neotropic Cormorant

I stopped in at Santa Rosa for a bite to eat.  There’s a  Car Museum there. I just had to stop for a few photos.  It was the Edsel Backhoe that caught my eye LOL!


While driving home I couldn’t resist taking a scenic photo.  I felt it was a typical New Mexico landscape complete with arroyo, blue skies and puffy white clouds.



So even though I didn’t see any Lesser Prairie Chickens, I still had a great time birding and exploring.  Maybe next year I will have better luck!





2 thoughts on “Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 3

  1. It sounds like you had a very full day! Your photos are so beautiful…the landscape is simply breathtaking! What do you have planned for your next adventure?

    • Thanks Stephanie! My next adventure is in 2 weeks! I’m going on a 24-hour birdathon starting in Roswell and ending near Carlsbad. I can’t wait!!!

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