Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trip Home through Eastern NM

Friday, September 24, 2010

Time to head back, packed and gone by nine, driving over the Black Range with a stop at Emory Pass, high enough, 8000+ ft, there was a chance for a Clark's Nutcracker, which I'd made a couple of tries at on the higher parts of the Gila, especially Signal Peak. It';s a bird in serious decline since it's primary food source, referred to as Rock Pines, trees with nuts in the cones rather than the usual light-weight seeds, are in decline due to a disease. Got to the parking lot, there was Forest Service guy working on the restroom, and a scan didn't find many birds. But I walked around the edge, then down a little side-trail a short ways, and when I came back out in the open, a Nutcracker landed close and beautiful in a snag about fifty feet from the lot. Good omen there for the trip home.

Drove pretty directly to Bosque del Apache NWR, it's not very interesting low desert this time of year, and the refuge wasn't very birdy either, though I did find two new NM birds there. But not the Aplomado Falcon that had been reported. Needed to be there earlier when the thermals are just starting.

The main goal for the day was to get in position to bird the Melrose Trap the next morning. Drove on up the Interstate from the Bosque, then east on US60. Made a few stops along the way, one in an area of dried up saline lakes hoping to find shorebirds, but got only a couple of Killdeer. Another stop was at the Headquarters of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The two folks in the office were knowledgeable and very helpful, the older gentleman looked up some god detailed info on the Trap, inviting me into the office to study the computer screen, then printing out the best pages. The woman was promoting The IMBD activities and gave me a spreadsheet of the past several years' results. Sold me a nice baseball hat of the old design for the old price. Great folks. I had visited the actual missions many years earlier when first getting into birding, and one held my lifer Blue Grosbeak. One of my favorite species, and now they sometimes nest on my land.

Anyway, I drove on into the town of Ft Sumter, gas and snacks, then up to the State Park on a lake. The book said it was good birding, but I was late and tired and fell out soon after dark, on the picnic table again. There were some really strange noises in the night, presumably birds, but nothing I was familiar with, and later an immense lightening bloated thunderstorm formed to the west. It first seemed to be approaching, so I went to sleep in the front of the car, but an hour later decided it was more comfy back on the table. It never arrived and not a drop fell on me.

Saturday, Sep 25

Slept a little later than usual and wasn't driving until there was light in the sky, so that when I got to the trap there were already six or eight cars there. Those folks must have left really early from the distant cities, or stayed in the area. It looks like it would be a good place to just stay for the night, and a lot of owls have been reported from there. It was a great place, the tree area was less than twenty acres but filled with action. And good birders so I was able to get some tics that would have escaped my limited familiarity with the western birds, like immature both Painted and Lazuli Buntings. What the day showed me, there and later, was that eastern New Mexico has clumps of vegetation that concentrate what are actually very low numbers of more eastern individuals on the edge, actually even beyond the edge, of the central flyway. Ended up adding eight tics there, and a couple more later.

One was a Blue Jay at Bosque Redondo Lake. Bosque Redondo was where the Navajos from Canyon de Chelly were forced after being driven out with scorched earth zeal by idiots in blue uniforms. They hated it, it wasn't quite desert, at least the day I was there, but was nothing like the wild Red Rock beauty that had been their home. Sad chapter. From there I cur back through Albuquerque, but that was a waste of time. I followed the Interstate on through Santa Fe to Las Vegas, which I'd never driven around in, and which seemed like a neat small city with several colleges it turned out. My goal was a National Forest campground about twenty miles up in the forest near El Povenir. But the CG was closed and I ended up sleeping in the car, not well either, as it was a cold night.

Sunday, Sep 26

I was up early for some breakfast and hot coffee, and a wifi check-in at Micky D's, and then about an hour at Las Vegas NWR. It was about the fourth time I'd been there, and was once again worth the stop, netting Red Phalaropes and a Chestnut-collared Longspur on a fenceline. From there I took a semi-direct route to Oklahoma.

A second eastern stray was an Eastern Phoebe I found at Conchas Lake in the trees across the highway from the office building. Twelve species in two days was enough to make the list for New Mexico with a little slack. From Conchas I ended up at Black Mesa State Park just inside Oklahoma at the west end of the panhandle. I left there early the next morning and was home before dark on the 27th.


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