YELLOW-HEADS AND SUNFLOWERS, RUBY RANCH 9/19/2018
Migration is always an exciting time to visit one of our favorite birding spots, Ruby Ranch just north of Las Vegas, NM. Although no weather fronts had moved through, we felt as though there would be some choice migrants as it was mid-September. Indeed, that was the case. As we entered the ranch, a Merlin was high in a dead cottonwood, feasting on some prey that it had secured. The bosque along the Rio Sapello was quite active with numerous montane species in evidence such as Green-tailed Towhee, Lincoln's Sparrow, and MacGillivray's Warbler. An added bonus were a quartet of Barn Owls attempted to roost in the massive Gooding's Willows.
Heading out to the ranch lakes, we encountered several flocks of migrant Yellow-headed Blackbirds amid a flush of native sunflowers. I marveled at the random (as far as Nature is concerned) interplay of those blackbirds balanced on the temporarily spectacular sunflower blooms. Had Nature meticulously planned this in advance, it could not have been more perfect.
Once at the lakes, there was bird abundance to be seen in all directions. Waterfowl, mostly of the dabbler variety, was on full display. Numerous gulls were in attendance including 3 sub-adult California. 6 Forster's Terns worked diligently over the lake. Three Peregrines occasionally made forays over the throng, although seldom successful in their endeavors.
Heading further east on the ranch, we discovered a flooded playa (normally dry). The first pay-off was a migrant flock of White-faced Ibis, probing diligently in the flooded grass. As I scanned further, I noticed a familiar silhouette. In the relative open, an American Bittern was alternately freezing, then foraging in the same tall grass. To see this normally secretive bird in the relative open was a birding treat indeed. As we exited the ranch, we were impressed with the sparrow show
dozens of Lar, Vesper, and Savannah. A sparrow paradise indeed.