• Bill West

LADDER RANCH MAY 08, 2010


I set out with two other intrepid birding souls for the "back 40" of Ted Turner's sprawling Ladder Ranch west of Truth or Consequences. We headed up Animas Creek knowing the previous week's windstorm might have produced significant blowdown of branches or even whole trees. Sure enough, sizable trees were across the road in several places forcing us to chainsaw some of them out of our way. Slowed by this extensive road clearing, we were forced to camp short of our original destination. As we set up camp, a lone Spotted Owl began sounding off, albeit in an area somewhat dry for this species. Before dawn the next morning we began our International Migratory Bird Day count. Still in pine/oak, we found two groups of Montezuma Quail, getting good looks at one male. Further down the creek, I noticed a different warbler which turned out to be an adult female Tennessee-unusual for New Mexico. A cold spring had held back migration a bit, but warmer weather today produced a surge of migrants such as Western Tanager, Virginia's Warbler, Hammond's Flycatcher, and numerous Dusky Flycatchers. Leaving the valley floor, we entered pinyon/juniper habitat where we had great looks at a pair of Scott's Orioles and a singing male Black-chinned Sparrow. As we descended into the lower valley near HQ, we encountered desert species such as Black-throated Sparrow and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. A nesting pair of Zone-tailed Hawks foraged low over cactus covered hillsides. As daylight faded, we headed to the desert grassland portion of the ranch where we found some lingering Brewer's Sparrows and a recently arrived breeding pair of Burrowing Owls. Another day of great diversity in New Mexico


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