Early Summer Birding at Maxwell NWR

As I drove along the main entrance road to Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, one of the locations featured in Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos and Northern New Mexico, just before 7:30 am, Western Meadowlarks were singing all around me. I headed straight for Lake 13 and was surprised to find a number of campers – many still asleep in their tents. With my windows open, I slowly proceeded along the levee road. Red-winged Blackbirds were singing from the marshy areas below the levee. A Yellow-headed Blackbird surprised me by landing near the road, and then flying down to the water’s edge.

I inched past two vehicles each with one or two people already fishing and parked beyond them at the end of the road. Cassin’s Sparrows trilled in the grasses, and occasionally one would do a display flight and land briefly on a shrub before fluttering back down into the grass.

Two Turkey Vultures, each on its own post, remained perched.


Turkey Vulture

I hadn’t brought my scope with me, so I had to look closely at the birds in the lake.

A group of cormorants rested along the shore a ways around the lake. When a couple of them took off, I could see that they were Double-crested Cormorants.

Several American White Pelicans were swimming languidly on the lake, along with some gulls


American White Pelican

– too far away to accurately identify.

Two Eared Grebes bobbed in the middle of the lake, before diving for food. Four American Avocets foraged along the edge of the lake.


American Avocet

A Great Blue Heron flew across the water, while six others were standing in a smaller lake to the south of Lake 13.

I turned around and made my way back to the main parking area, and then headed north,  west and then north again along one of the refuge roads.

Lark Sparrows were singing and occasionally flew onto the dirt road in front of me to snatch some tidbit of food. Pairs of Western Kingbirds chattered.

Along one of the side roads, irrigation water flowed along the side of the road. Birds from a nearby grove of trees, came into drink, including a Yellow Warbler and Bullock’s Oriole.

On County Road A-1, almost to Stubblefield Reservoir, I finally had an opportunity to photograph a Cassin’s Sparrow that lingered along a fence line after doing a display flight.


Cassin’s Sparrow 

When I entered the Stubblefield Wildlife Management Area, I first encountered Laguna Madre, which was bordered by marshy areas with displaying Red-winged Blackbirds. Roughly 75 American Coots were paddling in various parts of the lake, along with a number of Western/Clark’s Grebes – too far away to ID without a scope.

Next I drove along the dirt road leading to Stubblefield Reservoir. A larger and deeper lake, there were Canada Geese, Mallards and Blue-winged Teal.

American Avocets swished their long upturned bills in the water at the edge of the lake.


American Avocet

I returned to the refuge along NM 505. I had hoped that the tree-shrouded Visitor Center might be open, but had to be content to bird from outside the gate.

A group of Wild Turkeys rested in the shade of a small grove of trees.

Both Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds were chattering. I noticed a recently fledged Cassin’s Kingbird calling from the top of the fence.


Cassin’s Kingbird fledgling

I followed several of the refuge roads as I would my way back to the highway and discovered that the turkeys weren’t the only species resting in the shade.


Mule Deer

It had been a delightful morning of birding.








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