Ruby Ranch and Las Vegas Area
We left Santa Fe early and met a client at the KOA campround south of Las Vegas. The campground host had several feeders set up and, before we began our planned route, we were treated to a trinity of grosbeaks all on one feeder-Black-headed, Rose-breasted, and Evening-and all adult males! Then we headed out on the short grass prairie to a steep canyon on the road to La Liendre where we found regulars such as Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Juniper Titmouse, and a surprise pair of Hepatic Tanagers. As we returned we found several male Lark Buntings in full breeding plumage on a roadside fence line. Continuing on to Ruby Ranch, we found typical montane migrants-Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, MacGillivray Warbler, Lincoln Sparrow-all using Sapello Creek as a corridor to higher elevations. Moving to the lakes on the ranch we observed another trinity, this time of kingbirds-Western, Cassin, and Eastern. The lakes themselves revealed a nice mix of shorebirds-several adult female Red-necked Phalaropes in breeding plumage (most sightings of this species in NM are wintered plumaged birds in the fall), 4 Marbled Godwits, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper in breeding plumage and close enough to compare to nearby Western and Baird. A lone White-rumped Sandpiper was unusual this far west in New Mexico as they usually pass through only the extreme eastern part of the state in spring migration. Also present were a few late migrant Franklin Gulls in breeding plumage with some individuals sporting pinkish breasts-an indication of their brine shrimp winter diet on alkaline lakes in the Andes. With tour time running low, we headed back west toward Santa Fe with a last stop at Rowe Mesa where we located both Grace and Virginia Warblers recently returned to their pine/oak breeding grounds.