196 birds, 2650 miles, and one shower made this my most productive ABA area trip to date. I took a week to look for Mexican Chickadee in the Chiricahuas (AZ), Colima Warblers at Big Bend (TX), and eastern strays at migrant traps in the eastern plains of NM. I also birded as many spots as I could while I along this route. Feel free to email me (skater_ako1 at hotmail.com) if you have any questions.
5/21/07: I left Flagstaff late and drove to the Gilbert Water Ranch where I had 6 species of Heron! Interesting birds included Inca Dove, Least Bittern (heard), and Costa’s Hummingbird. After that, I checked the Brake check area along 77 for Gray Vireo but didn’t see or hear much of interest in the heat of the day. A stop at the San Pedro Rd. crossing in Dudleyville turned up soaring Mississippi Kites, Zone-tailed Hawk, and Gray Hawk amongst other nice riparian birds such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Bell’s Vireo. Wilcox Lake was unproductive (Wilson’s Phalarope) but a nice spot to view a sunset. I opted to take the dirt road from I-10 to Portal and had very brief views of Lesser Nighthawk and Barn Owl. This road is fairly wash-boarded but is passable by passenger car. Mexican Whip-poor-wills sang the entire night at Sunny Flat Campground ($10/night).
5/22/07: Started this day in the higher elevations. The road up to Onion Saddle is pretty good. Here I had a nice bunch of birds to start the day, including Magnificent Hummingbird, Red Crossbill, Hepatic Tanager, and Cordilleran Flycatcher. The road up to Barfoot Junction is worse but still passable by passenger car. However, I did not take my car on the poor road to Barfoot Park. Rushing up to the overlook, I was disappointed to find only cold wind. I waited for a while for Short-tailed Hawk but strong wings were keeping everything down (the bird was never seen). Walking the road from Barfoot Junction to Barfoot Park was very productive Mexican Chickadee, Olive Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, and Band-tailed Pigeon. The grounds at Southwest Research Station had a few birds but the feeders were the real highlight with an intermittent flow of Blue-throated and Magnificent Hummingbirds. The feeders at Cave Creek Ranch were quite extensive and had some good birds Scott’s Oriole, and only two Blue-throated Hummingbirds. The South Fork of Cave Creek was productive: Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Arizona Woodpecker, and Painted Redstart. But activity was low in the late afternoon and birds were generally pretty scarce.
5/23/07: Birded a bit of the drier stretches at the base of the Chiricahuas, Stateline Rd, and Willow Tank (which was almost dry, surrounded by dead trees). I spent the rest of the day driving to Big Bend NP. I had Cave Swallow at an inspection station and at several bridges. Swainson’s Hawks were common in the grasslands here and I even saw two Common Nighthawk doing display flights near Marathon. The undivided highways in this part of the state have little traffic, huge shoulders, and 75 mph speed limits. Watch for snakes in the road. Big Bend has a $20 per car fee that is god for a week. You can pay another $10 to camp for a week in the primitive sites. I opted to stay in the Basin Campgrounds (another $14 per night) and was serenaded by many Poorwills while setting up camp. I also heard a call that I couldn’t ID: A Screech-Owl like series of about 8 toots. They began and ended on a lower note, the 6 or so middle notes were of equal pitch and rhythm. This series was repeated ~6x/min.
5/24/07: I had a Black-chinned Sparrow in the campground in the a.m. while brushing my teeth! I then took the Laguna Trail where more Black-chinned Sparrows were found at the first obvious saddle in the trail. As I hit the aptly named Colima Trail, I tracked down a warbler chip note to find 3 Colima Warblers! Their chip notes were easy to hear but they are a bit hard to track down, as they will not easily allow close approach. I also had a nice singing male near Boot Springs. Black-crested Titmice were noisy and easy to get great looks at in this same area. I would definitely recommend walking the first bit of the South Rim Trail, the maples are beautiful and several Colima Warblers and a singing Painted Redstart were present. I was going to head over to Blue Creek Trail for Lucifer Hummingbird and Gray Vireo but the trail follows a slot canyon and a thunderstorm was rolling in. Instead, I checked the numerous springs in the lower elevations (Government, Sam Nail’s, Dugout). Birding was hard but not completely unproductive (Varied Bunting) in the increasing wind and rain but after the storm passed, it was amusing to see all of the birds drying out at Dugout Spring. Here I had a nice surprise, a calling Eastern Wood-Pewee.
5/25/07: I searched the dry hillside above the campgrounds but could not find the Black-capped Vireos that a Ranger had on a survey and a German Birder had seen on a previous morning. The Rio Grande Village Campsites and Day Use areas were very productive in the a.m.: Orchard Oriole, Vermilion Flycatcher, Indigo Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia, and Common Ground-Dove. The nature trail was amazing with a flyover Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and great looks at Painted Bunting and Yellow-breasted Chat. I then drove to Roswell stopping at the Marfa Sewage overflow for a few Wilson’s Phalarope. Rattlesnake Springs was a nice stop with Orchard Oriole, Painted Bunting, Gray Hawk, and Hooded Oriole rounding out a 4 Oriole day! I stayed in a motel in Roswell.
5/26/07: Bitter Lakes NWR was the first stop today. The old Headquarter buildings had a few expected birds. Least Terns were seen throughout flying overhead and calling. Along the Oxbow Trail, I found the biggest surprise of the trip, a stunning Hudsonian Godwit. It even flew around and called showing all of the pertinent field marks. Also present was a Lesser Yellowlegs. At a dry and barren portion of the reserve, about 5 Snowy Plovers and at least 3 Least Terns were seen. On the way out, I had 1 Mississippi Kite stooping along side the road. 16 birds were catching insects over an agricultural field. The highway to Boone’s Draw had 2 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. At Boone’s Draw, the first good bird was a lovely Red-headed Woodpecker. Empids were plentiful here and at Melrose Trap: Least, Dusky (6), Gray (2), and Willow Flycatchers (2) were seen. Warblers were scarce: Wilson’s (2), MacGIllivray’s (5). Melrose Trap also had a Swainson’s Thrush. As I drove to a Lesser Prairie-Chicken lek near Portales, a massive thunderstorm rolled in. I had a lightning strike about every 5 sec for an hour followed by constant lightning and intermittent rain/hail until I fell asleep on the side of the road.
5/27/07: The dirt road to the lek was the consistency of a slushy and instead of going to the lek in the morning, I drove to Bosque del Apache on the way home to Flagstaff. The undivided highways in NM are quite scenic but also have very fairly low speed limits. Bosque had a few lingering ducks also 10 Neotropic Cormorants, a Forster’s Tern, a Black Tern, and 2 Ring-necked Pheasants. Near Quemada NM, I got a (deserved) speeding ticket, the NM Highway patrol take their speed limits pretty seriously. I checked out Winema Wildlife Refuge on the way back and finally added Gray Catbird to my AZ list. This is an amazing riparian zone with beaver, ruins, pictographs, and lots of nice birding.
1. Eared Grebe: 1 at Bosque del Apache NWR (BDA)
2. Pied-billed Grebe: 2 at BDA
3. Western Grebe: ~10 at BDA, one at Wilcox Lake.
4. Clark’s Grebe: At least one at BDA
5. Double-crested Cormorant: Several at GWR and BDA
6. Neotropic Cormorant: 10 at BDA
7. Least Bittern: One heard at Gilbert Water Ranch (GWR)
8. Great Blue Heron
9. Great Egret: Numerous at BDA and present at Bitter Lakes NWR.
10. Snowy Egret: BDA
11. Green Heron: One at Bitter Lakes just before the Oxbow trail parking lot, one flyover at GWR.
12. Black-crowned Night-Heron: 3 at GWR, 1 at Bitter Lakes, 1 eating a snake at BDA
13. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: One flyover at nature trail starting from the campground at Rio Grand Village (RGV)
14. White-faced Ibis: Many at Bitter Lakes and BDA.
15. Canada Goose: Several lingering (summering?) at BDA
17. “Mexican Mallard”: pairs seen at RGV and Willow Lake (AZ).
18. Gadwall: Several at Bitter Lakes and BDA
19. Northern Pintail: Handful at BDA
20. American Widgeon: Handful at BDA
21. Northern Shoveler: Good numbers at Bitter Lakes, present at BDA
22. Cinnamon Teal: A few seen at Marfa Sewage, Abundant at Bitter Lakes and BDA.
23. Blue-winged Teal: One seen at Marfa Sewage, Abundant at Bitter Lakes and BDA.
24. Green-winged Teal: Common at BDA
25. Redhead: Several lingering (summering?) at BDA.
26. Ring-necked Duck: Handful at BDA from flight deck
27. Lesser Scaup: One at BDA from flight deck.
28. Ruddy Duck: Abundant at Wilcox Lake. Also Bitter Lakes, BDA.
29. Turkey Vulture
30. Northern Harrier: One female along TX 385. One male at BDA.
31. Mississippi Kite: Two birds soaring at Dudleyville San Pedro Rd. crossing. One bird stooping along Pine Lodge Rd. on the way back from Bitter Lakes. 16! Birds catching insects above agricultural fields near the intersection of Pine Lodge Rd. and the main rd. in Roswell.
32. Gray Hawk: On soaring at Dudleyville crossing. Brief look of one at Rattlesnake Springs.
33. Zone-tailed Hawk: One bird soaring at Dudleyville crossing.
34. Swainson’s Hawk: Most common hawk in TX and NM grasslands. One dark bird on I-10 east of El Paso.
35. Red-tailed Hawk
36. American Kestrel
37. Northern Bobwhite: A pair calling at Boone’s Draw, several flushed from agricultural fields in this area.
38. Gambel’s Quail: A covey at the BDA visitors’ center.
39. Scaled Quail: Wilcox Lake and appropriate habitat at Big Bend NP and Eastern NM.
40. Ring-necked Pheasant: One male and later, a female at BDA alongside the loop roads.
41. Wild Turkey: Singles along Rd. to Barfoot park, at Rattlesnake Springs, and at BDA.
42. American Coot: One in a small pond at RGV, common at GWR, Bitter Lakes, and BDA.
43. Virginia Rail: One at Bitter Lakes
44. Snowy Plover: Nesting birds at Bitter Lakes in the dry, beach-like habitat.
46. American Avocet: With precocious young at GWR, one flyover at Wilcox Lake. Common at Bitter Lakes and BDA.
47. Black-necked Stilt: GWR, Bitter Lakes, BDA
48. Lesser Yellowlegs: One along Oxbow Trail at Bitter Lakes.
49. Spotted Sandpiper: 5 at Wilcox Lake, several at Bitter Lakes and BDA.
50. HUDSONIAN GODWIT: Biggest surprise of the trip! One striking breeding plumage bird at Bitter Lakes, Oxbow Trail, 1st pond on the right. The bird even flew around once, calling and showing all field marks. Record photographs were taken.
51. Wilson’s Phalorope: Several at Wilcox Lake, Marfa sewage, and BDA.
52. Forster’s Tern: One at BDA.
53. Least Tern: Breeding at Bitter Lake. 3 seen at once in same habitat as Snowy Plovers. Several flyovers of calling birds with food.
54. Black Tern: 10 at Bitter Lakes, 1 at BDA.
55. Mourning Dove
56. White-winged Dove: Common throughout arid Southwest.
57. Eurasian Collared-Dove
58. Inca Dove: One at GWR
59. Common Ground-Dove: Several seen along the road at RGV.
60. Rock Pigeon
61. Band-tailed Pigeon: 2 at Barfoot Park.
62. Yellow-billed Cuckoo: 2 at Dudleyville crossing, 1 heard at BDA.
63. Greater Roadrunner: 1 along road in Dudleyville, many in arid parts of Big Bend, several along the road in BDA.
64. Barn Owl: One car headlight illuminated bird along the dirt Portal Rd. (from I-10 to Portal in AZ).
65. Elf Owl: Two heard and seen at dusk in Sunny Flat Campground (Chiricahuas) near the restrooms.
66. Whiskered Screech-Owl: Two heard at dusk in Sunny Flat near the campsites closest to the road.
67. Common Poorwill: Many heard at dusk near the Chisos Basin Campground.
68. “Mexican” Whip-poor-will: Many heard throughout the night along the road and at Sunny Flat.
69. Common Nighthawk: 2 displaying near Marathon. Several at Bitter Lakes. Common at Boone’s Draw and surrounding agricultural fields.
70. Lesser Nighthawk: One car headlight illuminated bird along the dirt Portal Rd. (from I-10 to Portal in AZ).
71. White-throated Swift: Several from Barfoot Lookout. Many along Pinnacles Trail in Big Bend.
72. Blue-throated Hummingbird: Common visitor to feeders at Southwest Research Station, mush harder to see at Cave Creek Ranch feeders.
73. Magnificent Hummingbird: 1 female near Onion Saddle. Common visitor to feeders at Southwest Research Station.
74. Anna’s Hummingbird: One heard at GWR.
75. Costa’s Hummingbird: One male at GWR.
76. Black-chinned Hummingbird: Most common hummingbird at feeders throughout.
77. Broad-tailed Hummingbird: Easily seen at feeders also heard and seen at higher elevations in the Chiricahua and Chisos ranges.
78. Elegant Trogon: Nesting pair along South Fork of Cave Creek. These birds can be seen best and more importantly, disturbed least by sitting still and waiting from a respectful distance.
79. Acorn Woodpecker: Common in lower elevations of Chiricahuas and higher elevations in the Chisos. The Texas birds seemed to have much browner wings.
80. Red-headed Woodpecker: A very nice surprise at Boone’s Draw.
81. Lewis’s Woodpecker: Flyover along 70 just east of the AZ/NM border.
82. Gila Woodpecker: Several seen throughout central AZ.
83. Golden-fronted Woodpecker: Abundant but local in the campgrounds at RGV.
84. Downy Woodpecker: One along road to Barfoot Park
85. Hairy Woodpecker: Several along road to Barfoot Park
86. Ladder-backed Woodpecker: Throughout arid and riparian Southwest.
87. Arizona Woodpecker: One seen in oak woodlands along road to Onion Saddle. Another seen along South Fork of Cave Creek.
88. Northern Flicker: One seen along road to Barfoot Park.
89. Greater Pewee: One heard and seen well at junction of FR42B and FR42 in Chiricahuas.
90. Olive-sided Flycatcher: Singles of these amazing birds throughout. 2 in upper elevations of Chiricahuas (one singing), 1 along Pinnacles Trail, 2 at Rattlesnake Springs, and 1 at BDA.
91. Western Wood-Pewee: Most common flycatcher throughout Chiricahuas, Chisos, and NM.
92. Eastern Wood-Pewee: Unexpected bird. Calling at Dugout Wells in Big Bend.
93. Cordilleran Flycatcher: Calling and common throughout Chiricahuas.
94. Willow Flycatcher: Singles at Boone’s Draw and Melrose Trap.
95. Least Flycatcher: One quiet bird at Boone’s Draw.
96. Hammond’s Flycatcher: One flycatching along the creek at the Southwest Research Center.
97. Dusky Flycatcher: 3 at Boone’s Draw and 3 at Melrose Trap.
98. Gray Flycatcher: 2 at Melrose Trap.
99. Black Phoebe: Several along the eastern edge their range at RGV.
100. Say’s Phoebe: Common in dry habitat.
101. Vermilion Flycatcher: Many males, females, and juveniles at RGV.
102. Dusky-capped Flycatcher: Several along South Fork of Cave Creek.
103. Ash-throated Flycatcher: Uncommon throughout drier areas.
104. Brown-crested Flycatcher: Uncommon along riparian zones in Chiricahuas.
105. Cassin’s Kingbird: Several near Wilcox Lake and in Chiricahuas.
106. Western Kingbird: Common throughout TX and NM grasslands. Abundant at Boone’s Draw and Melrose Trap.
107. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: 2 seen along 70, SW of Portales. One along 267, S of Melrose.
108. Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher: One actively calling by the first creek crossing in South Fork of Cave Creek.
109. Loggerhead Shrike: One at Wilcox Lake, uncommon through TX grasslands.
110. Warbling Vireo: One at Dudleyville crossing, 3 at Melrose Trap.
111. Bell’s Vireo: One singing at Dudleyville crossing, abundant and very vocal near water in lower elevations of Big Bend, one singing at Rattlesnake Springs.
112. Hutton’s Vireo: One at SW Research, several in higher elevations of Chisos
113. Plumbeous Vireo: Several heard and seen.
114. Steller’s Jay: Upper elevations of Chiricahuas.
115. Western Scrub-Jay: One along dirt road to the right of the cattle guard as you enter the Coronado National Forest from Portal.
116. Mexican Jay: Garrulous and conspicuous in Chiricahuas and Chisos.
117. Pinon Jay: One flyover along 70 east of the AZ NM state line.
118. Common Raven: Uncommon throughout.
119. Chihuahuan Raven: Uncommon in TX and NM grasslands.
120. American Crow
121. Horned Lark: Small group including juveniles at a cattle tank near Winema Wildlife Refuge.
122. Northern Rough-winged Swallow: Several at GWR.
123. Violet-green Swallow: Several at SW Research.
124. Cliff Swallow: Near bridges in TX and NM.
125. Cave Swallow: Small numbers with Cliff Swallows in TX. 3 at Rattlesnake Springs.
126. Barn Swallow: Uncommon
127. Bridled Titmouse: 2 at day use area at the end of Herb Martyr.
128. Black-crested Titmouse: Common in Chisos.
129. Mexican Chickadee: Easily heard and seen in higher elevations of the Chiricahuas.
130. Verdin: several at GWR and arid portions of Big Bend.
131. Bushtit: a small group at Sunny Flat Campground and another along the Pinnacles Trail.
132. Red-breasted Nuthatch: 3 Heard near Barfoot Park
133. White-breasted Nuthatch: several seen in lower elevations of Chiricahuas.
134. Pygmy Nuthatch: Many near Barfoot Park.
135. Brown Creeper: One near Barfoot Park.
136. Bewick’s Wren: Common along Laguna Meadow.
137. House Wren: Mexican, “Brown-throated”, singing in a.m. near Onion Saddle.
138. Cactus Wren: One heard in Central AZ. Commonly heard and seen throughout Big Bend.
139. Canyon Wren: Several heard and seen around Boot Springs and on the Pinnacles Trail.
140. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: Most common bird throughout Big Bend.
141. Western Bluebird: Only one seen along 70 west of AZ/NM border.
142. American Robin:
143. Swainson’s Thrush: One at Melrose Trap.
144. Gray Catbird: One heard near the bridge at Winema Wildlife Refuge.
145. Northern Mockingbird: Abundant throughout arid SW.
146. Sage Thrasher: Distant views of a bird on the NM side of Stateline Rd.
147. European Starling.
148. Phainopepla: Two at BDA visitors center. Surprisingly uncommon throughout SW
149. Cedar Waxwing: Two in a Mulberry at the Bitter Lakes old headquarters.
150. COLIMA WARBLER: About 10 birds visualized and about 30 detected along Colima Trail, the first part of the south rim trail and the upper reaches of the Pinnacles trail.
151. Yellow-rumped Warbler: Several near Barfoot Park
152. Black-throated Gray Warbler: One in scrubby lower reaches of Chiricahuas.
153. Grace’s Warbler: One quiet bird along road to Barfoot Park.
154. Painted Redstart: One heard along the upper reaches of South Fork of Cave Creek. One very noisy and conspicuous bird along South Rim Trail just upstream from Boot Springs.
155. MacGillivray’s Warbler: 2 at Boone’s Draw and 2-3 at Melrose Trap.
156. Common Yellowthroat: Heard and seen along RGV and BDA.
157. Red-faced Warbler: 2-3 vocalizing and subsequently tracked down along the steep hillside below Barfoot Lookout.
158. Wilson’s Warbler: 1 at GWR, 1 at Boone’s Draw, 1 at Melrose Woods, 2 at Rattlesnake Springs.
159. Yellow-breasted Chat: 2 at Dudleyville Crossing. Many birds were easily seen along the RGV nature trail, one was doing his display flight. At least 2 more were at Winema.
160. Olive Warbler: Male and female along road to Barfoot Park.
161. Hepatic Tanager: 3 Birds near Barfoot Junction.
162. Summer Tanager: 1 heard in dawn chorus at Sunny Flat. Several at Big Bend and BDA.
163. Western Tanager: Gobs of birds near Onion Saddle.
164. Pyrruloxia: One bird singing on a telephone wire along the dry side of the road at RGV.
165. Northern Cardinal: RGV.
166. Black-headed Grosbeak: Uncommon near water or greenery.
167. Blue Grosbeak: Uncommon along drier slopes of Big Bend, Bitter Lakes, and Melrose Trap.
168. Indigo Bunting: One male flyover at RGV.
169. Varied Bunting: One pished up at Government Springs and above the Basin Campground at Big Bend.
170. Painted Bunting: 2 males at RGV and 2 males at Rattlesnake Springs.
171. Spotted Towhee: One near Barfoot Junction. Common along Laguna Meadow and Pinnacles Trails.
172. Canyon Towhee. Uncommon around Basin Campground and in Central AZ.
173. Abert’s Towhee: One along Dudleyville Crossing.
174. Cassin’s Sparrow: Abundant along grassland and NW TX and SE NM.
175. Rufous-crowned Sparrow: 2 seen on drive into Basin Campgrounds.
176. Black-throated Sparrow. One at bottom of Chiricahuas and a handful in drier portions of Big Bend and SE NM.
177. Black-chinned Sparrow: One in the Basin Campground more heard above. Several heard and seen along first obvious saddle of Laguna Meadows Trail.
178. Lincoln’s Sparrow: One at Melrose Trap.
179. Song Sparrow: Several at Dudleyville Crossing.
180. Yellow-eyed Junco: Common around Barfoot Junction.
181. Western Meadowlark: NM, AZ, and TX.
182. Eastern Meadowlark: One in AZ and several in NM and TX
183. Brown-headed Cowbird:
184. Yellow-headed Blackbird: 2 at Marfa Sewage.
185. Red-winged Blackbird: Several at Marfa Sewage. Common at BDA and Bitter Springs.
186. Brewer’s Blackbird: Roswell.
187. Great-tailed Grackle:
188. Bullock’s Oriole: Common near water.
189. Hooded Oriole: One at Rattlesnake Springs:
190. Orchard Oriole: One male at RGV and several males and a pair at Rattlesnake Springs.
191. Scott’s Oriole: Uncommon throughout arid regions of Chiricahuas and Big Bend.
192. House Finch:
193. Red Crossbill: Small group ~10 at Onion Saddle.
194. Lesser Goldfinch: Uncommon in arid and at feeders. One Black-backed individual at Boone’s Draw.
195. American Goldfinch: Several females at Cave Creek Ranch and one male at BDA Visitor’s Center.
196. House Sparrow: