LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO MAY 28, 2019
Always a pleasure to bird the diverse landscapes around Las Vegas, NM. Starting east of town, out on the short grass prairie, we visited La Liendre Canyon, traveling down a steep escarpment all but hidden until right upon it. This unique habitat with Ponderosa Pine at the rim, juniper and oak scrub mid way down, and boulder strewn cactus lined slopes near the bottom is a composite of several major life zones. Near the rim we called in an Hepatic Tanager, a species approaching the far eastern edge of its range. Juniper Titmouse and Blue Gray Gnatcatcher were also present. A bit lower we found two very territorial Black-chinned Sparrows, another bird at the extreme northeast edge of its range. At our lowest spot, a pair of Scott's Orioles zipped in for close views. As we retraced our steps to Las Vegas, Cassin's Sparrows were doing their flight displays, looking like they could barely stay airborne.
On to Ruby Ranch north of town. Bald Eagles have made nesting attempts here (an unusual occurrence for NM) for several summers. We spotted a good size fledgling in the nest so we hope the parents will be successful this summer. Out at the lakes, we viewed several Cattle Egrets, a scarce migrant anywhere in NM, a late Northern Pintail, a late Franklin's Gull as well as a lone Willet. Back in the bosque (woodland) along Sapello Creek we found several Eastern Kingbirds (a breeder here for many years), a lone Red-headed Woodpecke-r, and several nesting Great Blue Herons. We then came upon a group of late migrants that featured a female American Redstart and a rather co-operative male Hooded Warbler-both eastern strays rarely seen in these parts.
Heading back into Las Vegas itself, we birded along the Gallinas River. Willow Flycatchers, likely breeders, were in evidence. A late Lincoln's Sparrow, headed to above 9,000' in the mountains, was skulking nearby. Then, within 50 yards of each other, we viewed male Indigo and Lazuli Buntings, both acting very territorial. Over the last decade, Indigo has been colonizing NM and I have personally seen several obvious hybrids. Oh well, the more songbird color the better I suppose.