Date: 11/4/17 2:18 pm From: Wyatt Egelhoff <redknot42...> Subject: [AZNMbirds] [NM] Dona Ana County grassland birds
I spent the morning walking around in some of the grasslands that are a part of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDPNM). I began my day with a SHORT-EARED OWL that flopped its way across the road in front of my headlights. This species has been encountered in this area irregularly in the fall and winter. I did not find any roosting owls today, but I did not concentrate on the draw where they have been found in the past. Over the course of several stops I worked my way north along Dona Ana County Road C003. At the start of the road (accessed via the frontage road from I-10 exit 116) the area is private on both sides. After a few miles however, there is a cattle guard and it becomes BLM land. Just past the telephone wires that cross the road (further north) there is a sign telling you you're entering the national Monument. By the end of the morning I had encountered close to 100 Chestnut-collared Longspurs, about a dozen McCown's Longspurs, 2 LAPLAND LONGSPURS (unusual this far south, but they have been detected out here before), a single Grasshopper Sparrow, 2-3 BAIRD'S SPARROWS, a very late/lingering CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, and several dozen Sagebrush Sparrows, among other more expected grassland species. Most impressive however, were the ~20 SPRAGUE'S PIPITS I encountered as flyovers or flushed birds. Other birders have encountered high numbers of this species out in this area in November before, but this was my first time hearing and seeing so many. I have had singletons in these grasslands in the winter, so I imagine many of these are transients. Nevertheless, it was spectacular to experience so many.
On my way back into Las Cruces I found several Canvasbacks, 2 Buffleheads, and a female Wood Duck among the dozens of waterfowl at the West Mesa WTP.
A quick check of Mesilla Park yielded the continuing (and growing) flocks of roving Red Crossbills and Steller's Jays. I also heard several Red-breasted Nuthatches. Despite some searching I was unable to locate the Williamson's Sapsucker that has been photographed in this area within the past week.
Happy Birding, Wyatt Egelhoff Las Cruces, New Mexico