Rough-legged Hawks at Bernardo Wildlife Management Area

“I think we have a Common Goldeneye,” Rebecca stated. She already had her scope set up. I quickly set up my scope so others could have a look.

“Cathy, you should definitely look at it since you see them frequently in Seattle,” I told a woman who was riding with me. She confirmed that it indeed was a female Common Goldeneye. While not prevalent, one or two are normally seen in central New Mexico each winter.

Other waterfowl present were Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, American Coot and one Eared Grebe.

Fourteen Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders were standing on the shoulder of NM-60 to enable us to see one of the largest ponds at the Bernardo Wildlife Management Area (WMA), one of the locations featured in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico.

Behind us we could hear gun shots ring out from the part of the WMA that was open to hunting, so we didn’t want to tarry.

“Loggerhead Shrike,” pointed to the power line on the other side of the highway.

And, then we were off to the main part of the WMA, where our first stop was next to the elevated viewing platform.

The fields were full of Sandhill Cranes busy probing in the mowed field beyond the viewing platform.

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane family


“I’ve noticed lots of groups of four,” Mike said. “It’s looks like many of the Sandhill parents were successful in raising both chicks.”

“Rough-legged Hawk,” Maurice signaled. The dark patch on the ‘wrists’ of the light wings was diagnostic. It was thrilling to see it, since it is not often seen south of the Las Vegas NWR.

Rough-legged Hawk - photo by Joe Schelling

Rough-legged Hawk – photo by Joe Schelling


At the next stop we spotted an American Kestrel. A Northern Harrier was dipping low over the fields as it flew. A dark morph Red-tailed Hawk was perched in a tree.

We started watching another raptor approach with large, graceful and shallow wing beats. Definitely an eagle.

“I think it is a Golden,” I said. “What do you think, Gary?”

He agreed. As it banked, we could see the whitish patches on the wings and I noticed the golden glint of its smallish head.

A steady stream of cranes lifted off from the nearby field and headed for another part of the wildlife management area.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

As we got out of our cars at the 3rd stop, we were treated to two Rough-legged Hawks circling over the corn field as if they were doing a duet.

And, later the Golden Eagle made an appearance – this time being harassed by a Common Raven.

Common Raven harassing Golden Eagle

Common Raven harassing Golden Eagle – photo by Bonnie Long


As we wound our way out through the farmland, we stopped to watch a field of Killdeer.
Killdeer

Killdeer – Photo by Bonnie Long


“There must be 30 of them,” Joe stated.

“Pretty accurate guess, I counted 28,” I laughed.

Interspersed between the Killdeer were American Pipits – about 12.

It had been a delightful day with lots of raptor viewing opportunities; however, at the conclusion of the trip we all agreed that the Rough-legged Hawk had been the ‘bird of the day.’

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