Las Vegas, NM August 30, 2017
With fall migration gearing up, we headed east of the Rocky Mts to Las Vegas, NM. At this time of year there is a mix of songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors on the move. At dawn at Las Vegas NWR, while checking the treeline near HQ, we found Wilson's, Yellow, and MacGillivray's Warblers heading south. A "getting-a-bit-late" Calliope Hummingbird was a nice surprise. Several post-breeding Blue Grosbeaks were present as well as newly arrived Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Clay-colored Sparrows. Heading further into the refuge we had great looks at an early Prairie Falcon, a species that often winters but does not breed in the area. Numerous Swainson's Hawks, both adults and juveniles, were fattening up on grasshoppers in advance of their epic migration to the pampas of southern South America. Our last blessing was a flock of Long-billed Curlews passing overhead, their haunting calls heard long after they passed out of sight to the south.
Later in the morning we traveled north of town to Ruby Ranch. The lakes there hosted thousands of waterfowl, most notably a very early Common Loon in non-breeding plumage. This bird was a full month earlier than expected. Significant numbers of both Western and Clark's Grebes were in attendance as well. In a small migrant trap near the lake, activity was strong even in mid day with Townsend's and Virginia's Warblers and a small group of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The nearby riparian area along Sapello Creek sheltered both Great Horned and Barn Owls and the resident Black-capped Chickadees, hear at the extreme southern edge of their range. We cut short our visit due to commitments back in Santa Fe but totaled over 50 species in less than two hours of birding. Diversity should increase as we head into peak migration in late September and early October.