Sunday, March 9, 2014

Visiting Las Cruces March 2014

Our visit to Las Cruces was primarily to attend my father-in-law's 80th birthday celebration. Congratulations Roy!  In addition, we also spent an afternoon visiting my father, recovering from surgery, and his wife, about to start chemo. While in town, we took the opportunity to do a little walking and birding. All images taken with Canon SX-50 HS, most at full zoom.

Saturday morning, we spent an hour at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, a short walking loop near the Rio Grande. We didn't get any worthwhile pictures but we did see a Red-Tailed Hawk soaring overhead, a trio of Gambel's Quail ambling on a hill above use, several Western Meadowlark singing atop tall bushes, and a Say's Phoebe hanging out in front the park headquarters.

Sunday morning, we drove up Dripping Springs road towards La Cueva where we used to hike regularly as teens ... only to find a gate on the road with a "no pets allowed" sign.  Are you freaking kidding me, dogs banned in the middle of the desert?  We left in disgust refusing to give them any money for the new entrance fee.

Instead, we followed the Sierra Vista trail on BLM land further down slope.  Nice view of the Organ Mountains from here.

Vali appreciated the opportunity to stretch his legs as well

Birding in this area yielded a number of small brown birds hiding in the mesquite and creosote, mostly House Finches and White-Crowned Sparrows. We had hoped to see a roadrunner but no such luck.

We had a nice visit with my family during the afternoon ...

... and, as we drove out of the neighborhood, we finally saw our roadrunner, appropriately smack in the middle of the road.  We got a nice picture of this Greater Roadrunner in the landscaping once it left the road ... nicer picture that way.

We drove down to the Rio Grande for some more nature hiking.  Here is Danielle walking in the river basin. Not much irrigation water being released right now; the reservoirs up-river are almost empty this year. This is another part of the country that needs a lot of rain. There were a couple of water channels with a few inches of water flowing.

Nice assortment of birds as well. The most prevalent were crows. Not just a few, but thousands flying southward overhead. Wave after wave all evening ... worthy of a Hitchcock thriller!

Closer to earth, we saw several varieties of ducks including Mallards, Pinheads, and Northern Shovelers. We also saw American Coot and several Green-Winged Teal, a new one on our list

A couple of Great Blue Heron also flew by.  In the shallow water we also found several dozen Least Sandpipers probing in the smelly mud. They were easy to approach and I was surprised by how small they were.

We saw and heard a number of Red-Wing Blackbirds in the reeds and high in the trees. These seem to increase in quantity as sunset approached. A few even settled down near the water's edge making them easier to photograph.

As the sun set, a number of swallow-like birds began darting over the water hunting insects.  I listed them as probable Northern Rough-winged Swallows based on the region and the unmarked dusty colored bellies.

Finally, on a transmission line over the river, we saw a Belted Kingfisher. I couldn't believe it. Until a few months ago, I had never seen a kingfisher ... anywhere. Now I seem to be running into them everywhere we go and they have become a running joke.

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