One of the premier birding destinations in New Mexico is Rattlesnake Springs, a lush oasis in the middle of hard core Chihuahuan Desert southwest of Carlsbad. Arriving at nearby Washington Ranch at dusk on 6/24, we could hear the strange frog like vocalization of Lesser Nighthawk somewhere out in the desert. Later, I ventured on foot to adjacent Rattlesnake Springs. My playback of Elf Owl was rewarded with an individual who buzzed by my head. Fortunately, the bird stopped in a nearby hackberry, where I had a prolonged spotlight view of the smallest owl in the world.
Next morning we headed to Rattlesnake to enjoy the parade of breeding birds there. Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, and Bell's Vireo were all strongly vocalizing. No trip to Rattlesnake in the warm weather months is complete without an encounter with Painted Bunting. We had several close encounters with brilliant singing males. What a bird. As RSS is one of the premier spots in NM for Yellow-billed Cuckoo, we were hopeful for a sighting. We did have one bird come in to tape but only stayed briefly. Other specialties of RSS were in evidence including Lucy's Warbler and Orchard Oriole. When we packed up our gear at Washington Ranch we were treated to a pair of Bronzed Cowbirds strolling the lawn.
On our way north, we stopped in Walnut Canyon, the main road into Carlsbad Caverns. We were keen to see Varied Bunting and a lovely male responded immediately to playback. Also in evidence were Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Canyon Wren, and Black-throated Sparrow. As the time was approaching noon, it was time to leave the heat of Eddy County behind and head back north.