Easter Weekend – Sunday – Prospecting and Birding

We didn’t have any specific plans for our trip after going to see Kilbourne Hole.  So since we had to drive back through Truth or Consequences, we decided to stop there and let Tim have some coil time on his metal detector.  We first went to a canyon hear Hillsboro, NM.  We both struck out…no birds….no gold.  So we got back in the car and headed towards Caballo Lake.  While heading out of Hillsboro, we saw several cars parked along the highway and you could tell they were working dirt looking for gold.

Tim pulled in and spoke briefly to a couple about what they were finding.  I stayed in the car.  When he came back, he told me it was a husband and wife he spoke to.  He said they were camping at Percha Dam State Park.  The wife was a fellow birder and she said she had seen a Black Hawk and a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers.  WHAT!!!???!!!  I need both those birds!!!!!  So, of course, I told Tim we had to go there before leaving town.

Since it was around noon, I knew the birds would be quiet at this hour.  We headed over to the Caballo Mountains so Tim could do some prospecting.  While he metal detected, I went searching for birds.  By this time the temperatures were warming up.  Scarlett was looking for every patch of shade she could find.

I didn’t see many birds.  Mostly my favorite Black-Throated Sparrows.  They always seem to be about all times of day.

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Black-Throated Sparrow

I walked to a natural waterfall hoping for a trickle of water there but it was dry.  I sat awhile and let Scarlett enjoy the cool sand and shade.

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Miss Scarlett

After looking vainly for any birds, I headed back to the vehicle for some shade and comfort.  Scarlett immediately crashed in the back seat enjoying the shade and cool breeze coming through the truck.  I worked on editing photos from the day before.  Then I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.  When I looked down, I saw a lizard camouflaged in the bushes.  I love the turquoise coloring on him.  Soon he darted away never to be seen again.

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I believe this is a Common Sagebrush Lizard

Tim came back to the vehicle after a couple of hours.  He found one tiny piece of gold.  At least he didn’t get skunked!

We finally got to head over to Percha Dam State Park.  I really wanted to see if I could find that Vermillion Flycatcher.  When we arrived I walked the park by myself while Tim relaxed in the vehicle and kept Scarlett with him.  I immediately saw several Phainopepla.  I tried getting some good photos of the male, but it was extremely windy.  So the bird moving around on a swinging branch in the wind made for difficult photography.

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Phainopepla

While I was looking for that flycatcher Tim called me over to the truck.  He said he had something he wanted me to photograph.  He got out of the truck and pointed out a huge bullfrog in the grass.  I mean huge!

He said while he was relaxing in the truck, he watched this bullfrog leave the dry canal and was slowly make his way toward the river.

I took a few photos of this bullfrog.  He wasn’t moving very quickly but was clearly heading straight for the river, which was more than 100 yards away.

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American Bullfrog

We decided we needed to help him get to the river.  He was on the far side of the park and the gauntlet he would have had to traverse was crossing two roads, a playground, several campsites and the woods before he even got to the river’s edge.  I figured he would have a better chance of surviving if I just carried him to the water’s edge.  Being Easter Sunday, that park was pretty crowded.  It took both hands to handle this giant.  He was very cold so I figured he must not have been out of his hibernation spot very long.

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Kelly with the Giant Bullfrog.  You can see his hazardous path to the river behind me.

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Once we got him to the river’s edge, he still was reluctant to move much.  But we wanted to make sure he was safe.  So I found an area along the river that had lots of cattails so he could be at the water but also hidden from view.

After a little prodding on my part, he finally jumped into the water and safely out of harm’s way.  He briefly stayed above water for a quick photo, then shot away with one powerful kick!

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Tim stayed there a little while longer to make sure the bullfrog got safely away.  There were lots of fisherman at the water’s edge.

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Tim keeping a watchful eye on the bullfrog until he swam safely away.  You can see the cattails I left him in. 

That bit of excitement over, I was back to looking for that flycatcher.  After about 10 minutes, I gave up and we got in the car to head home.  We were both tired and hungry. Then just as we were driving out of the park, I saw a flash of bright red fly down from a tree and grab a bug on the ground.  I yelled out “STOP!!!!”  I jumped out of the vehicle and made my way over to the bird.

By this time the wind was really blowing.  And that Vermillion Flycatcher male was not letting me get very close for a photo.  So my pictures weren’t very good.  But I still remember the joy and excitement I felt at seeing that gorgeous red bird come into focus in my viewfinder.  Just breathtakingly beautiful!

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Vermillion Flycatcher male

Shortly after seeing the male, I spotted the female.  She’s very pretty as well.  I was thrilled! A new bird for me!

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Vermillion Flycatcher female

It was a great Easter Sunday adventure.  We had a great weekend full of fun memories.

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American Robin

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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American Pipit

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

 

There was a Ladderback Woodpecker busy in the dead cottonwoods.

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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.

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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……..