Late Winter Birding in TorC – Day 2 (Part 2)

Last time I wrote, I had left off around mid-day on my second day of birding near Truth or Consequences.  I had decided to eat my picnic lunch back at the Caballo Lake State Park where I had birded earlier that morning.  I was hopeful that there was still a lot of bird activity there even though it was later in the day.

I wasn’t disappointed! Upon arriving back at the park, I saw a pair Cinnamon Teal in the river. Yes! This was a duck I was really hoping to see.  Such a beautiful bird.


Cinnamon Teal


While walking along the river trying to get a decent photo of this duck before they decided they didn’t want me to photograph them, I saw lots of activity in the bushes.  There were lots of sparrows flitting around in the shade of the bushes.  It was a challenge getting some decent photos, but I had lots of fun trying.  I was surprised by the variety of sparrows in one small area.


Savannah Sparrow


Vesper Sparrow


Brewer’s Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


White-Crowned Sparrow adult


White-Crowned Sparrow juvenile

Hanging out on a wire, I spied a Loggerhead Shrike.  I love seeing these birds.  I think they are so unique in how they have learned to hunt and save food.


Loggerhead Shrike


There were lots of Yellow-Rumped Warblers flitting among the trees.  They were so busy it was a challenge to get a photo.  But I managed to get a pic of a male Audubon variety.  I think they are very striking.


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Taking another peek at the river I saw there was a Green-Winged Teal this time.  He was very skittish.


Green-Winged Teal


The day was getting on.  I wanted to visit Elephant Butte Lake while I was in the area. So I left Caballo Lake State Park and headed north.

On the road to the lake, I spotted a kingfisher hanging out on a wire above a creek flowing into the Rio Grande.  I had to stop on the bridge and take a quick pic.  Thankfully there wasn’t any traffic!


Belted Kingfisher – male


I wanted to bird below the Elephant Butte dam before I went to the lake.  I had never birded this area before but had heard it was a good location.  As soon as I parked and looked out the window, I saw several Pyrrhuloxia feeding on the ground right next to my car.  I was so excited! I love these birds but have been challenged in the past to get a good photo.  I was afraid to open the car door, fearing they would fly far away never to be seen again.  So I carefully eased open my car door, softly stepped out of my car, and slowly brought my camera up for a photo.  Snapped a few pics before they flew to a nearby tree.






I walked slowly to the tree and saw a male sitting sweetly on a branch.  Not a care in the world.  I realized I didn’t need to be so cautious.  These birds were obviously used to people in the park.  So I relaxed and enjoyed this moment.  He was happy to sit there and look at me while I photographed him.  I took a bunch of photos, then just stood there and watched this beautiful bird until he decided he wanted to go feed some more.  It was a fabulous moment!  And I was rewarded with some great photos.




Pyrrhuloxia – my favorite pic!



I walked the park looking for other birds, but it was fairly quiet.  Just before getting into my car, I saw a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet flitting among the trees.  He was calling and looked agitated about something.  Which was good for me because I got a photo of him clearly displaying his ruby crown.  These colorful feathers aren’t always displayed.


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet


From there I drove up to the lake.  I was hoping I would see some of those White Pelicans on the water, but they weren’t there.  I saw several Ring-Billed Gulls and Neotropic Cormorants.  Otherwise, the lake area was pretty quiet.


Ring-Billed Gull


Neotropic Cormorants


I decided to call it a day.  I was pretty tired.  I had been birding for almost 12 hours straight! But before leaving the lake, I took one landscape photo from a high vantage point.  The view was amazing.

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Elephant Butte Lake

As I headed back to TorC for a hot meal, hot soak and comfy bed, I had to stop as several deer crossed the road in front of me.  Just beautiful!


Mule Deer


When I got to the hotel, I saw the Curve-Billed Thrashers were out enjoying the late afternoon sun.  These birds are so used to people around that they didn’t mind my photographing them.  I thought to myself… next time I come I’m bringing a tripod.  I’d love to get some sharper images of these guys.


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Another great birding day.  One more day of birding ahead of me before I had to head home.  Stay tuned!





Late Winter Birding in TorC – Day 2 (Part 1)

I woke up very early the next morning.  I was too excited to sleep 🙂

I knew I wouldn’t be meeting my fellow birders for a few hours so I decided to find an area called the Palomas Marsh.  I had noticed several sightings of birds in this area that I’d like to see, specifically the Cinnamon Teal.

As I meandered the roads along farming country, I was greeted by a very friendly billy goat.


Well, either I didn’t find the marsh, or it’s really not a marsh after all.  It was basically a spot along the Rio Grande River that had a huge sand bar and a few cattails.  It’s located next to a huge farming area so there were few trees about.  I ended up birding along the river next to a field that had been burned of weeds recently.


Turtle Mountain on the Left.  Burned field in the foreground.


There was a large flock of birds feeding in this burnt field.  I tried for quite awhile to get a photo of these birds to find out what they were.  It wasn’t until I was heading back to my car that a few landed near enough to get a half decent pic.  I realized it was a flock of American Pipits.


American Pipit


While perusing the water, two White Pelicans flew right over me.  I’m always surprised at seeing pelicans in the desert.


White Pelican


All I could see in the water was a bunch of Mallards and one Pied-Billed Grebe.  So I decided to head over to Caballo Lake State Park.  There’s a great spot to bird along the river just below Caballo Dam.

As I was driving back through the farming community, I saw this grackle singing away.  I think they are pretty birds with the iridescent black feathers.


Great-Tailed Grackle


When I reached the park at Caballo Lake, I was greeted by beautiful birdsong all around me.  I had to smile big at this 🙂

I saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers hanging out below the dam.  First time I’ve seen this species this year.


Male and Female Hooded Mergansers


As I drove through the park I was thrilled to see a male Phainopepla.  I love these birds! And nearby was a female.  Both were at the tops of trees and I had a difficult time getting a decent photo.  Only the male’s photo was worth sharing.


Male Phainopepla


I heard a Northern Mockingbird but try as I might I never saw him.  Too bad, fun birds to watch sing.

I heard an interesting song in the trees along the river.  I usually bird by ear, and I knew this one was different.  After hunting for a while, I finally got a photo of the singing bird.  To my surprise, it was a Bewick’s Wren.  It didn’t sound like any of the Bewick’s Wrens I have at home.


Bewick’s Wren


While birding around the park I got a call from the birders I was supposed to meet up with over at Percha Dam State Park.  So I headed over there hoping there would be more activity in this location than the night before.

Upon arriving at Percha Dam, I was greeted by about 20 Phainopeplas singing in the trees at the park entrance.  They were way up high and flying about, so it was impossible to get a photo.

I met up with the group and we started birding along the river heading south.  By the time I met up with them it was about 10 am.  So a lot of the birding activity had slowed way down.  It was warming up quick and would be a hot 80 degrees before days end.

In the bushes I spotted a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I don’t see these birds very often.


Lincoln’s Sparrow


There was a Ladderback Woodpecker busy in the dead cottonwoods.


Ladderback Woodpecker


Just before leaving the park, I spotted a female Phainopepla right at eye level.  I was thrilled.  Got a pretty decent pic, considering she was among lots of small branches giving off lots of shadows.


Female Phainopepla


I decided to leave the group at this time and do my own thing.  They were moving pretty slow and I was feeling lots of birding energy yet in my bones!

I decided to head back over to Caballo Lake State Park.  There was a lot more bird activity over there.

To be continued……..