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Lincoln County July 8-9, 2014

Lincoln County, best known for the mountain resort town of Ruidoso, is located in southeast New Mexico. As it is a 3 hour drive from Santa Fe, I decided to stay an extra day after my tour on the 8th. The highlight of that outing was a very close encounter with two juvenile Spotted Owls under the watchful eyes of the two vigilant adults. Often these birds nest in conifers that have had their tops blown off or hit by lightning. In this case, the adults chose a cavity about 5 feet down from the top of a 40 foot high "decapitated" fir. The two juveniles, still covered with beige down, were in separate trees. A local forester informed us that they have observed juveniles not yet capable of flight actually walking on the ground from one tree to the next! Needless to say, a life birding highlight for my client. On my own scouting day, I found a mix of both eastern and western species as Lincoln County is home to several species at the edge of their ranges. Birds such as Indigo Bunting and Common Grackle can be found within a few miles of Sierra Madrean Oak species such as Hepatic Tanager and Acorn Woodpecker. Some trip highlights included a very close view of 2 male Montezuma Quail one evening at dusk. Since the summer rains had started, the birds were beginning to be vocal as they entered their breeding season. The rest of the year they are silent and very difficult to find. Night birding was productive as well, with both N. Pygmy, Flammulated, and N. Saw-whet Owls all sounding off. A Mexican Whip-poor-will, responding to tape, even flew right in and landed in a low bush only eight feet away. Probably a good thing I was not camping at that spot or I would have listened to that bird for a very long time.

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