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An excellent day of target birding in the Atascosa Highlands and Pajarito Wilderness, with 95 species.
Las Lagunas/Palo Duro Creek Golf Course:
We were looking for BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK, and were just about to leave when three flew in and gave us great views.
A female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was a surprisingly late winter bird.
We also found ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, a surprisingly early, well grown juvenile PIED-BILLED GREBE, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, BANK SWALLOW, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, a late WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, and LAZULI BUNTING.
A BOTTERI’S SPARROW showed well near the Calabasas Campground. Further along the road we found ‘AZURE’ EASTERN BLUEBIRD near Yank’s Canyon.
We watched from Ruby Road with our fingers crossed as La Sierra Fire continued to smolder in the Peña Blanca Canyon area.
California Gulch Rd:
A NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET continues to show in the same place near Ruby Rd.
Ruby Lakes (aka California Gulch Dam):
A GOLDEN EAGLE drifted over and landed high on the cliffs at Montaña Peak, where they usually nest.
The pond also produced BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, SUMMER TANAGER, BLUE GROSBEAK, and HOODED ORIOLE.
Confluence of California Gulch & Warsaw Canyon:
We found a pair of FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS feeding on a slope, but they never came out for good views. Later we found another feeding high on a cliff.
The BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS that have been showing so well lately have suddenly gone very quiet and we never got a view, but we did hear a couple of tiny buzzy calls. Presumably they are on a nest. Also there, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, BLUE GROSBEAK, an early male VARIED BUNTING, and HOODED ORIOLE. We enjoyed watching a BELL’S VIREO nest.
Pleasingly, a pair of THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS has returned. Likewise, TROPICAL KINGBIRDS were back and vocal as usual.
To complete the set, CASSIN’S KINGBIRDS were present and WESTERN KINGBIRDS along the road nearby.
The lake also produced NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, GREAT EGRET, GREEN HERON, OSPREY, GRAY HAWK, BLACK-NECKED STILT, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, ABERT’S TOWHEE, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, BLUE GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, BRONZED COWBIRD, and HOODED and BULLOCK’S ORIOLES. A somewhat lost female RING-NECKED DUCK was a surprising find on a nearby cattle tank.
The evening LESSER NIGHTHAWK show was impressive, with at least 80 hawking for insects over the water at dusk.
Also there, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, GRAY HAWK, TROPICAL KINGBIRD, and a couple of BANK SWALLOWS mixed in with the regular BARN and ‘MEXICAN’ CLIFF SWALLOWS. Six BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS flew in just before sundown.