Fall Migration, eastern New Mexico 8/31/16

With a rain front moving through, we decided to head east from Santa Fe. Our first stop was Spirithaven Ranch along the Pecos River a few miles south of Santa Rosa. The rain held off during our stay and there was plenty of activity. North of the ranch we found a singing Carolina Wren with a juvenile nearby. This species has been colonizing NM as a breeder for the last couple decades. At the ranch we encountered western migrants such as MacGillivray's Warbler, Western Tanager, and Lazuli Bunting as well as eastern species such as Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Orchard Oriole, and two first year American Redstarts. A local Yellow-billed Cuckoo put on a nice display. A bit late for a bird destined to arrive sometime this fall in northern South America.

As the rain was still holding off, we decided to head east another 60 miles to Tucumcari. Rolling into town on I-40, we noticed a number of larger birds swirling in the air over the main part of town. Pulling onto the shoulder of the interstate, we jumped out in time to watch a major flight of Mississippi Kites. The passing storm system was stirring up a vortex of flying insects and the kites were doing their best to consume them all. We estimated about 80 birds, followed by another group of 50-60 several miles to the east. About 20 minutes later, the front had passed and there were no kites to be seen. Talk about good birding karma.

The rest of our time in Tucumcari turned up very little so we headed west back to Santa Fe via a different route that took us through Conchas Lake. The lake itself held few birds other than some migrating Ospreys, always fun to watch hunting. At a nearby migrant trap we found a Nashville Warbler and a first year Painted Bunting, a bird at the western edge of its range. Some fly over Yellow-headed Blackbirds added to the day.

Our final stop was along Corazon Hill, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas, NM. The edge of the escarpment here harbors regulars such as Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Juniper Titmouse. An added bonus was a pair of Hepatic Tanagers at the northeast edge of their range. A singing Canyon Wren at dusk was a rich end to a 117 species day.

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