“Looks like Pinyon Jays on the right,” trip leader Rebecca called through the two-way radios. Bonnie and I could see about 6 or 7 of them flying over the junipers. Four cars of Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders were heading north from Cline’s Corners.
At White Lakes Road, we turned west and pulled over about a mile and a half along the road at a spot where cattle was grazing. Horned Larks were calling all around us, and occasionally one would fly up, hovering not too far above the ground, then drop back down in the grass.
“Joe heard a Mountain Plover calling as we pulled up,” Rebecca shared. The plover was one of our target birds for the day and this was the location where they had seen one on the scouting trip.
We spent about 30 minutes searching the grass. A couple of us could hear one calling at one point. Maurice thought he saw one do a display flight before plopping back down into the grass.
“Perhaps they have started nesting,” Rebecca stated, “and are keeping a low profile.”
We decided to move on.
As we drove the nine miles to NM-41, we encountered Western Meadowlarks, Northern Mockingbirds, kingbirds, Mourning Doves and a Loggerhead Shrike.
After turning west on NM-41, we pulled over to see a pair of Burrowing Owls perched on the fence. Bonnie and I had stopped to ID a pair of Chihuahuan Ravens, and by time we arrived, the owls had dropped down into the grass.
We drove to the Otto stock pond where Long-billed Curlews had been seen recently; however, none were present.
Our biggest thrill of the day was our stop at a Great Horned Owl nesting/roosting location near Stanley. There were three owl branchlings – two were roosting side by side
and one more was nearby. The mom roosted not too far away.
We located the male, almost camouflaged against the trunk.
At a private residence that has welcomed us every year, we searched for the Barn Owl that has always greeted us. What we found was its carcass.
And, not too far away was the dead body of a Great Horned Owl that had not yet been consumed.
“They were probably hunting along the side of the road,” Bonnie explained, “got injured by a passing car, and managed to make it into the yard.
Barn Swallows were busy building nests along the sides of the house, and numerous Western and at least one Cassin’s Kingbirds were chattering and building nests in the deciduous trees.
A Swainson’s Hawk sat on her nest along the front of the property, and the male perched on the crossbar of the irrigation system across the road.
After eating our lunches on their picnic tables, we headed south again on NM-41, stopping to view another Great Horned Owl nest. Three fuzzy heads were poking out from behind the mom in the nest, and the male roosted in the next tree.
“Almost every Great Horned Owl nest I have seen this year has three chicks – usually there are two,” commented Bonnie. “It must be a plentiful year for field mice.”
The Great Horned Owls were definitely the birds of the day.