We are birding in January in New Mexico and Arizona

We are birding in January in New Mexico and Arizona

Last winter we stayed in Indiana, but this year we headed out to New Mexico and Arizona at the beginning of January.

Our first stop was at my brother’s place in Southwestern New Mexico. Their home is built on a mesa at the edge of the Gila Wilderness Area. There are always a lot of birds at their feeders in the winter.

One of my favorite birds there was the Townsend’s solitaire. This rather plain gray bird alerts you to its presence with a distinctive call. Other regulars around the house included rock wren, lesser goldfinch, western bluebird, Gambel’s quail, white-winged dove, house finch, white-crowned sparrow and lots of juncos.

Most unusual was a small flock of six or more Cassin’s finches. These beautiful finches are normally found at higher altitudes but migrate to lower elevations during the winter. I also saw one black-throated sparrow with the other sparrows and juncos.

A mile down the road at the fish hatchery in Glenwood, we found black phoebe, Say’s phoebe, juniper titmouse, Lincoln’s sparrow, several eastern birds, northern cardinal and American robin.

At the fish hatchery pond, waterfowl included American coot, pied-billed grebe, gadwall, wigeon, common merganser, ring-necked duck and one lone mallard. Driving through New Mexico on the way to Arizona, I was glad to see an adult golden eagle, several northern harriers and red-tailed hawks.

We camped for one night at Roper Lake State Park, just south of Safford, Arizona. There was excitement there when an Iceland gull showed up just before dark, along with 175 common mergansers and an assortment of other ducks. Not long ago the naturalist at the park found a ringed kingfisher, a first record for Arizona.

The rare kingfisher is still being seen in the area, often at small ponds. The best bird I saw at the park was a northern beardless flycatcher. Also unusual for the park was a yellow-bellied sapsucker, which has been staying in the same general area for three winters. Helen and I also enjoyed watching a greater roadrunner, which has evidently learned to hang around campers for handouts.

Our next stop was in Phoenix, where we had a family gathering including my brother and sister and their families. Paul is a birder, so we hiked the trails around north mountain, where we found an ash-throated flycatcher, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, lots of Anna’s hummingbirds, curve-billed thrashers, Abert’s towhees, yellow-rumped warblers, and a variety of sparrows.

Mourning doves, rock pigeons and Eurasian collared-doves seemed to be everywhere. A few Inca doves also came to the feeders at the back of the house.

The next day four of us biked for 12 miles on a bike trail that follows a canal through Phoenix. Along the trail we enjoyed seeing small flocks of rosy-faced lovebirds. These very small parrots are now common around Phoenix and in 2012 were added to the official American Birding Association checklist.

It felt like being in Central or South America with noisy flocks of parrots keeping us company as we biked along the canal. Black phoebes, vermilion flycatchers, verdin, northern mockingbird and ruby-crowned kinglets were common sights along the canal. An osprey flew over at one point, following the canal.

While in Phoenix I learned that a white-throated thrush was found in Madera Canyon, south of Tucson. This is another first for Arizona, and Madera is one of our favorite places. I hope the thrush is still there when we get there next week.

Good birding!

Email Bruce Glick at bglick2@gmail.com.

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