2016 Birdathon

I attended this year’s Birdathon organized by Judy Liddell and Bonnie Long.  This is the second birdathon I have attended.  The purpose of the birdathon is to count as many species of birds as we can find in a 24-hour period (10 am to 10 am).   This is also a fund raising event for the Central New Mexico Audubon Society.

On my drive to our meeting point, I saw a very cooperative male Antelope.  He let me take lots of photos.


Pronghorn Antelope

We started this event at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Roswell, NM.  I have been to this refuge several times in the past and am never disappointed in the amount of birdlife there.  This visit provided me with lots of opportunities to get some really good photos of birds.

There were Barn Swallows nesting at the visitor center.


Barn Swallow

As always there were lots of White-Crowned and Lark Sparrows about.


White-Crowned Sparrow


Lark Sparrow

The many ponds at the refuge contained lots of great birds.  While watching some Eared Grebes someone in the group spotted some Snowy Plovers with a couple of babies.  The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get one passable photo.  The babies were so adorable!


Snowy Plover adult with baby – these birds are very tiny!


Eared Grebe

At the oxbow of the refuge, there were quite a variety of birds gathered there.  I was a very happy birder!


Long-Billed Dowitcher


American Avocet


Blue-Winged Teal


Black-Necked Stilt


Wilson’s Phalarope


Cinnamon Teal

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Kelly (me) at the Oxbow at Bitter Lake NWR

While hiking around the refuge, I saw this beautiful lizard.  I can never resist photographing them. I have never seen this species before.  Such a gorgeous teal color.


Pai Striped Whiptail

After spending the morning at the refuge, we headed further south to Brantley Lake.  I had never been to this lake before.  The area we stopped at provided some good opportunities to see shore birds.  One of which was a Sanderling.  A lifer bird for me!


Snowy Plover




Semipalmated Sandpiper

At the lake we drove out to a point and were greeted by a flock of Forrester’s Terns.  And much to our delight, someone spotted at Black Tern and a Least Tern.  Both lifer birds for me!! I got some good photos of the Black and Forrester’s Terns, but sadly couldn’t get a pic of the Least Tern. Which is a shame because this was a rare sighting for the area.  Luckily my friend Joe got a photo.  🙂


Forester’s Tern


Black Tern

Next we headed to Rattlesnake Springs near White’s City, New Mexico.  I have never been here before.  I have to say, this place was truly gorgeous.  It is a wonderful oasis in the desert.  Birds everywhere!!!!

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Rattlesnake Springs

I was greeted by a Wild Turkey posing for the ladies.


Wild Turkey

And I was thrilled to see Vermillion Flycatchers everywhere! 🙂


Vermillion Flycatcher

As I was walking the park, I saw something ahead getting a drink from one of the irrigation channels.  When I looked through my camera lens, I realized it was a Javalena! I have never seen this animal in the wild before.  I soon realized there were three of them.  I stood very still as they moved toward me.  They walked within 5 feet of me! They must have poor eyesight because they were sniffing the air trying to figure out what I was.  When they got a good scent, they took off into the brush and disappeared.  Whew!





Soon the sun was setting and it was time to go.  But i was looking forward to returning to the springs the next morning.

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Sunset at Rattlesnake Springs

As I was leaving the park, I saw several birds flying low over the grasses.  By this time it was almost dark so I knew these birds had to be a nighthawk.  I surprised myself when I got a fairly decent photo of these birds as they flew by quickly in the very low light.  When I looked at the photo, I realized it was a Lesser Nighthawk.  Another lifer!


Lesser Nighthawk

The next morning, before returning to the springs, we headed to a place called Slaughter Canyon.  We had hoped to see Gray Vireo and Varied Bunting there.  We arrived at dawn.

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Entrance to Slaughter Canyon at Dawn

We hiked for about an hour.  We thought we heard a Gray Vireo but it turned out to be an Ash-Throated Flycatcher.  Just before getting back to our vehicles, someone spotted a Varied Bunting.  Yay!! A new bird for me! I was at the back of the line, so I didn’t get a very good look at the bird.  So I decided to stay a while longer and see if I could get a better photo of this gorgeous bird.

And it paid off big time to stay a little longer.  The bird flew past me and landed not too far away and with the sun behind me! 🙂 I was thrilled to see and hear this beautiful bird!  He was top of my “want to see” birds on this trip.


Varied Bunting

After that excitement of the morning, I headed back to Rattlesnake Springs.  When I arrived, there was birdsong everywhere.  I knew it was going to be a good morning for birding.

Surprising was the amount of Yellow-Breasted Chat singing a the tops of trees and bushes.  They are usually so shy.  So I had some great opportunities to photograph them.


Yellow-Breasted Chat

First I headed over to this area that had some reeds growing in the shallow waters of the spring.  I had heard some Common Yellowthroat singing.  And I was thrilled to see one singing on a tree branch just above the reeds.  This is another difficult to photograph shy bird.


Common Yellowthroat


While watching the Common Yellowthroat, I saw a first year male Indigo Bunting.  As he grows older he will eventually become all blue.


Indigo Bunting

I walked the entire length of the park and here’s some of the birds I saw.


Northern Mockingbird


Western Tanager – female


Wilson’s Warbler – female


Summer Tanager


Great Horned Owl


Northern Cardinal


Lesser Goldfinch


Black Phoebe

While enjoying the fish and turtles in the clear spring water of the pond, I heard a bird singing in the bushes next to me.


I didn’t recognize the song, so I knew it was a new bird for me.  When I saw the bird, I was excited to see it was a Bell’s Vireo.


Bell’s Vireo

While photographing the Bell’s Vireo, I heard yet another new birdsong in a bush behind me.  I managed to get one photo before the bird flew away.  It was an Orchard Oriole!  Another lifer!


Orchard Oriole

As I was heading back to my car, someone told me a Painted Bunting had been spotted.  I was thrilled!!!  I wanted to see this bird! I started looking in the area he was last spotted and soon heard him singing.  He would sing and then fly to a branch, then sing, then fly.  Eventually he flew to a branch that afforded a good view of him.  A stunning bird!


Painted Bunting

Just before the birdathon was to end, someone spotted a Gray Hawk flying overhead.  Everyone was excited as this was a lifer for most of our group, including me.  The hawk was soaring very high in the sky.  I managed to get one photo that shows the distinct tail bars of the hawk.


Gray Hawk

We then gathered together to go over the birds sighted by everyone over the last 24 hours.  We managed to tally 122 bird species! I got so many lifer birds on this trip.  It was so exciting to see new and beautiful birds.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s birdathon!

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15 thoughts on “2016 Birdathon

  1. You have some wonderful photos – especially the Varied Bunting. Several are misidentified:
    The photo labeled Pectoral Sandpiper is a Semipalmated Sandpiper. The streaking goes further down on a Pectoral.
    The photo labeled Yellow Warbler is a female Wilson’s Warbler. Notice the olive ‘cap’.
    The spelling the tern is Forster’s.

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! What an exciting post. I was grinning from ear to ear as I read it. Fantastic birds and fantastic photos. I am so envious. Ann and I can’t hike much anymore, as we have to bird from the car now. I wish we could have able to walk that birdathon with you. We have seen most of those birds, except for the Black Tern and that beautiful Varied Bunting, but as you know, it is always to see a great collection of birds. Wow! again!!!

  3. Kelly, Your pictures are fantastic! I loved so many of them, but I have to mention the Painted Bunting and the Varied Bunting in particular.

  4. What a wonderful adventure for you! Your photos are fantastic, and the variety of birds that you were able to capture is simply amazing! I can’t wait to visit New Mexico!!

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