Birdathon 2019 report by Birdathon guide, Christopher Rustay
We started the 2019 Audubon NM Birdathon on the afternoon of April 26 at the entrance to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge with five eagle-eyed participants: Ruth Burstrom, Carl Caves, Desiree Loggins, Jon Hayes and our leader, Christopher Rustay. Our first bird was a Loggerhead Shrike, emblematic of the concern that National Audubon has for grassland species, many of which are in steep decline. Pulling into the Visitor Center and walking around in the brisk wind, Desiree spotted a red bird fluttering below us which turned out to be a Vermilion Flycatcher, certainly a treat! For most of the rest of the afternoon we toured the refuge, noting with increasing unrest the dark clouds forming to the west of us. Shorebirds were in abundance and the group got a good focus on Wilson's Phalaropes, Long-billed Dowitchers, American Avocets, and Black-necked Stilts. We were stunned when Ruth pointed out a breeding plumaged Horned Grebe with bright red eyes watching us. When we reached the end of the tour route, the storm looked as if it were going to hit Roswell soon and the wind was beginning to pick up. We decided to head east where we found a couple of Double-crested Cormorants flying over the road where the Pecos River crossed. The rest of the late afternoon we toured town, but wind and dark clouds precluded finding additional species. We stopped earlier than planned for dinner just as the first rain drops from an intense, but brief, storm began.
Starting the next morning bright and early, Carl noted Common Grackles and Ruth saw Canada Geese flying by. Driving through town, Jon really wanted to see Blue Jays and he found two speeching in a neighborhood. Heading west on highway 380, we rolled through grasslands before heading up into the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains. A brief stop at a roadside rest netted a Cactus Wren, a Cassin's Sparrow and a singing Eastern Meadowlark, along with great looks at the size difference between two Chihuahuan Ravens chasing a Common Raven. Hitting a few stock ponds at lower elevations the group uncovered a pair of Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks and saw singing Yellow Warblers and Summer Tanagers. Just before the town of Tinnie, participants were surprised when Christopher yelled "Pull over!" and grabbed the scope and trained it on a Common Black Hawk sitting quietly in the middle of a line of trees. Further up in the foothills, Carl was delighted to see another Common Black Hawk circling over cottonwoods at a marsh at the eastern edge of the Fort Stanton/Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area. The entire group was shocked to see a Palm Warbler in the same area. Moving higher into the mountains we saw a number of forest species: Desiree was particularly excited to see a Pygmy Nuthatch. We ended the day in the parking lot of Ski Apache and surprisingly enough, our 135th species was a Northern Flicker calling just as we settled down for lunch.
Muchas gracis to Christopher and the Birdathon team for helping raise awareness and funds for conservation causes that are so important in our state.
And thank you to you -- our supporters. On behalf of Audubon New Mexico, we're grateful for your support and our network of Audubon members, partners and advocates who work alongside our staff and volunteers to conserve and protect the health of New Mexico's rich biodiversity
List of 2019 Species
Hammond's Dusky Flycatcher