Monday, February 13, 2012

Elephant Butte State Park

Rainbow Over the Marina at Elephant Butte

 Yesterday we made plans to stop at Elephant Butte Dam and try and get some more birds! We were about thirty miles away and it was starting to sprinkle; not good for birding! But once we got to Truth or Consequences (yes that really is the name of the town) the sprinkles had stopped and the sun was trying to come out. We had phoned the park ahead of time and got the information we needed to get to the prime birding trail as the lady called it. That got us excited~prime birding trail sounds like a great time!
Brewer's Sparrows

As soon as we parked the truck I got out and could here birds singing. Simon went and paid the pay box; which was five for cars and fifteen for buses, we only had a ten dollar bill so I guess a semi is between a car and a bus. We headed over to the trail head and saw all these sparrows flying around in the bushes and then I spotted a Cactus Wren. After getting a couple shots of him he was tried of getting his picture taken and flew away. There was these camping sites along the river, next to the trail, so we decided to walk along the camp sites first and then make our way to the trail. Since no one was camping in this area there were birds everywhere. We spotted some Pyrrhuloxia, Spotted Towhee, and House Finch.
Cactus Wren
Male House Finch
The Pyrrhuloxia is a very interesting bird as you may have noticed it looks a lot like a Northern Cardinal. A few differences are the beak on a Northern Cardinal has a straight opening and the beak opening of the Pyrrhuloxia is slight curved downward. The males have a splash of red going down their bellies and the rest of their bodies are gray as with a Northern Cardinal the males are red all over and have black around the beak. With the Pyrrhuloxia the coloring behind the beak is a dark red. The females on the Northern Cardinal are brownish red overall. The female of the Pyrrhuloxia is grey allover with red only on sides of wings, crest and very little behind the beak. Also a person can only find a Pyrrhuloxia as known as the Desert Cardinal in three southern states: Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. With the Northern Cardinal it can be seen midwest to the east coast. Both are very pretty birds, but the Northern Cardinal is my favorite. Now getting back to our day.
Female Pyrrhuloxia
We started to make our way to the trail and we spotted some White-crowned Sparrows; these guys are everywhere it seems! We hadn't even gotten on the trail yet and we already saw six different species! Once we got on the trail the activity defiantly slowed down. There was some nice scenic shots along the river that I look advantage of which will be on my Flickr sometime hopefully by tomorrow. But anyways we did spot well, maybe hear a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. That little fella was making all kinds of racket as we walked by. We had a little trouble finding him in the thick trees he was hiding in but we only got 3 shots and he flew away. We went a little further and were coming to the end of the trail when we heard some chirping. We were able to spot a group of White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco taking a bath and decided to go down along the shore on the river. Then we saw a Song Sparrow and a woodpecker but were suddenly distracted with sighting a Phainopepla; which is and all black bird except for its red eyes with a crest. I think it the shape of a Northern Cardinal but no red. Also a southern bird only found in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Texas.
Spotted Towhee
We were walking up the bank to find that woodpecker when I pointed out to Simon the Crissal Thrasher on the ground. We followed him around for a little bit. Then don't fly away like some birds do it seems they prefer to walk. We saw the woodpecker and identified him as a Hairy Woodpecker. Then we headed back to the truck and didn't spot too much less but came across a Green-tailed Towhee on the ground searching for seeds. That towhee was very interesting to watch and let us get fairly close also.
Green-tailed Towhee
We then made our way to the Dam where we saw a lot of Ring-billed Gulls, Common Mergansers, and Western Grebes. This very nice man let us walk out on the marina dock and get some pictures of those birds. Hope you didn't find this entry too long but I found it such an exciting day.
Today we decided to take the day off and might have to take tomorrow off as we are actually taking a day off of driving to get some dental work done on both of us. So we will be a little sore and on Valentines Day not looking forward to it at all. Happy Birding!!
Western Grebe

Common Mergansers

Common Merganser Male(L) with 2 females
Male is in breeding plumage

Western Grebe, Common Merganser, and Ring Billed Gulls

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