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Las Vegas area 9/29/11

Following our first cold front of the season, we birded the east side of the Rockies near Las Vegas NM. On Ruby Ranch just north of town, we had good migrant activity with montane species such as Green-tailed Towhee, Red-naped Sapsucker, American Pipit, and White-crowned Sparrow all descending into the foothills. Amid the crush of Yellow-rumped, Wilson's and Orange-crowned Warblers I noticed a slower moving vireo which turned out to be an adult White-eyed, a county first. Hundreds of Horned Larks were in the grasslands accompanied by a few migrant Chestnut-collared Longpsurs and one McCown's. While driving to Las Vegas NWR, we saw a southbound flock of about 30 Sandhill Cranes, first ones of the season. Still zooming down the interstate, I noticed a raptor crossing the highway ahead of us. I was able to get into the breakdown lane so we could get good views of this Prairie Falcon as it continued out over the prairie. Although waterfowl numbers are starting to build, none of the far northern species had arrived yet at the refuge. Our last stop was La Liendre Canyon, further southeast of the refuge. Dozens of Vesper Sparrows lined the entry road as well as a trio of Sage Thrashers, newly arrived from their Great Basin breeding grounds. Activity in the canyon was minimal as 30-40mph winds had the birds hunkered down. As we departed the canyon, an adult Golden Eagle cruised along the ridge line, always a stirring sight in the canyon country of New Mexico.

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