2020-02-29 & March 1 At Mesilla Valley

Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya
It was a clear calm morning, but a windy afternoon on the days I spent at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, near Las Cruces New Mexico.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park proved to be the best birding location in the Las Cruces area for my friend Jerry and I. I scouted the park briefly on Friday, spent a solo day there on Saturday, and accompanied Jerry there on Sunday. The drive to the park on Sunday provided a brief encounter with a White-Tailed Kite between Mesilla and Las Cruces. Later, on reaching the park’s gate, a Merlin flyby along the riverbed provided us with a little excitement, though neither bird cooperated for photographs.

The Rio Grande to the left of the road entering the park, had very little water flowing. As I looked over the sandy channel I saw very little in the way of bird activity on the water. There were Killdeer, a few peeps and swallows that I thought looked good as a tree swallows. Some of the swallows could have been Cave Swallows, but I wasn’t getting great looks at them. Somewhere on the sandy river edges I could hear male Red-Winged Blackbird singing. The peeps seemed like they should be Least Sandpipers, and a pair of ducks looked like Gadwall. On one of my drives along the river I spotted a Great Blue Heron in flight. Driving further along the river there were tons of Western Meadowlarks singing from the grassy fields, with Mourning Doves and White-Winged Doves zooming past over the roadway.

Near the visitor center I found White-Crowned Sparrows, White-Winged Doves, and rather cooperative Western Meadowlarks and Say’s Phoebes. On Saturday I walked out from the visitor center on the trails to the south and met Song Sparrow, House Finches, American Crows, Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk (Immature), Greater Roadrunners, Curve-Billed Thrashers and Crissal Thrashers.

For me, the Crissal Thrasher is one of the most frustrating of birds to photograph. Most often I’m only able to catch a glimpse of the birds ducking along the ground into a thicket. When they rise to a perch to check me out, they’re content to disappear again after a few seconds, not giving me much of a chance to capture their image. I believe my best images from the park here were the Western Meadowlarks and the Say’s Phoebes at the visitor center. The most surprising meeting was the murmuration of Sandhill Cranes flying high over us on migration from Mexico to their breeding grounds to the north. I’m sure they were working on a thermal column they flew into, but it looked much like a slow-motion murmuration.

In the gallery below you can review some of the birds I met during my stay here. As I sent out this report I’m still in Las Cruces visiting and exploring the area with my friend Jerry. I may have another post about this region before I head south into Texas. Stay Tuned!

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