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Guadalupe Mtns, New Mexico and West Texas Birding trip
October 24th - 29th 2002

This trip was intended to get some late fall migrants and early winter birds. It started off in the Guadalupe Mtns of West Texas and New Mexico then futher on into New Mexico to Bosque del Apache NWR to see the early stages of wintering Sandhill Cranes. (approximatly 2000 of them).
The first two days were spent in the Guadalupe Mtns and we covered areas such as Dog Canyon, Frijole Ranch, McKittrick Canyon and Rattlesnake springs. Target birds here included Stellars Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Sage Thrasher, Juniper Titmouse, Black-Chinned Sparrow, Rock wren, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pinyon Jay, Townsend's solitaires and all three species of Bluebird - Mountain, Eastern and Western.
On the third day we visited Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico. We arrived early to see the 2000 or so Sandhill Cranes take off at sunrise. It was a beautiful, crisp & clear morning with the cranes babbling away as they were getting ready to fly. There were also about 2000 Canadian Geese as well as Ross's and Snow Geese and assorted ducks such as Pintail and teal.
The other parts of the refuge also yielded good finds including Ring-necked Pheasant, Sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels, Gambel's Quail, Canyon Towhees and a difficult to find bird - the Sage Sparrow, which we were rewarded with after a lot of patient walking!
After here it was on to Water Canyon in the Magdalena Mtns. It was a chilly 48 degrees and the sun was just starting to come up over the mtns. Here were more Red-naped sapsuckers, showing us a great view as well as TONS of Ruby-crowned Kinglets! More Bluebirds, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches and Bushtits were flitting around in this pretty Canyon.
Then it was on to Elephant Butte Lake, also in New Mexico ... this gave us some much needed shorebirds for our trip list including good views of Eared, Clarks and Western Grebes, Marbled Godwits, Least Sandpipers, American White Pelicans, American Avocets, Ruddy duck and Gadwall.
The fourth day we came back into Texas through El Paso and headed to our first stop - Hueco Tanks State Park. This is in the Hueco Mtns just East of El Paso and has canyon and dessert habitat. Native American influence remains here in the form of ancient paintings on the many cave walls throughout the park. The "Tanks" are natural water pools scattered throughout which attract many dessert birds. Key species seen at this site were - Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Says Phoebe, Green-tailed, Canyon and Spotted Towhee, Lincoln's, White-crowned & Chipping Sparrows, Northern Flicker, Western-scrub Jay, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Pyrrhuloxia and Great-horned Owl. An Awesome, mysterious kind of place with lots of history!
The trip ended with a stop at Balmorhea State Park for any chance of last minute birds we could have added to our trip list. We ended with a list of 131 Species for 4 1/2 days of birding and a lot of driving (around 2000 miles)! We all had a great time with many "lifers" (ticks) added for most of us, 6 for me! :)
Here's some photos from this excellent trip. Not just birds, however, because the scenery was just as beautiful!

Entering New Mexico sign
Entering New Mexico...

We drove all day to get to the New mexico border, approximatly an 8hr drive from Fort Worth.

Finaly above the clouds!
We were all starting to get a little worried about the thick fog and drizzle we were having as we drove up the mountain. However after a while we began to see blue sky, the fog got thinner and then - there we were, above the clouds, fog and drizzle, with the most breathtaking view! The sun had just come up and a "fog bow" sat in front of us with its droplets reflecting colors just like a rainbow. I don't think any of us had seen a Fogbow before!
Above the clouds
Maple tree
The maples were beautiful in all shades of oranges and reds.
Fall colors .
The cooler Mtn air is able to change the trees to these colors,unlike many other parts of south where they normaly just turn brown.
Colors of Fall
Dog Canyon
Dog Canyon.
This is one of the meadow views in Dog Canyon.
Red-naped Sapsucker.
This Sapsucker, a lifer for many of us, gave us great views in Dog Canyon. Its faint red nape is just visible.
Red-naped Sapsucker
Canyon view from wilderness drive
Canyon View.
This is a wonderful canyon seen from Wilderness Ridge Drive.
El Capitan.
We saw this just at the right time, as the clouds started moving away from its peak!
El Capitan
Bosque del Apache before sunrise, waiting for the Sandhill Cranes to fly.
Off they go...
First they start their typical "babbling" sound then off they flew, in batches of a dozen or so at a time. Just beautiful to watch their silhouettes across the sunrise.
Sandhill cranes flying at Bosque del Apache
Bosque del Apache
Bosque del Apache.
Morning sun on the mountains.
Canada Geese.
Off for the day...

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