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Melrose Trap and Eastern New Mexico

10/06/2013

I decided to head out to visit the Melrose Trap this past weekend.  I had been wanting to get there and time is running out for me in New Mexico.  Melrose trap is a small grouping of Cottonwoods and White Poplars near a cattle watering hole in an otherwise barren country.  The tall trees make a nice target for birds traveling through the area and so it boasts quite the list of birds and is a must-visit place during migration.  Well, I got there a bit too late, but still had a good day.  I ended up missing a Flammulated Owl by a week and a Northern Saw-Whet owl by a day.  I still got some lifers on the weekend and some ok photographs of some other birds.

I left late Friday night, after my kids were asleep, and drove 3 hours or so to Sumner Lake State Park.  I slept in our Honda Element underneath a pretty sky.  Not as nice as the sky in Alamogordo, but nicer than the city.  I woke the next morning before the Sun to get to Melrose Woods as early as I could.  I did stop by the water to see some gulls flying around.

Gull, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Gull, Sumner Lake SP, NM

And I was greeted by this awesome pre-dawn sky.

Pre-Dawn Sky over Sumner Lake, NM

Pre-Dawn Sky over Sumner Lake, NM

I quickly left the park and headed for the main road.  Along the way I noticed some Ravens sitting in a tree.  And then a raptor shape on a power pole.  I pulled over to get a closer look and it was a Prairie Falcon, lifer for me and the 3rd bird of the day.

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

Prairie Falcon, Sumner Lake SP, NM

It didn’t like me near it and flew a pole away from me.  I hopped back into the car and continued on my way.  I found where the woods were supposed to be, but didn’t see anything that looked like anything famous.  I turned down a farm-road and saw another Prairie Falcon flying low along the grassland.  But nothing that was taking me towards the woods.  So I went back to the highway and looked on my phone for a clue.  I found a blog post that mentioned a chained gate and the lack of signage.  So I really was there.

Melrose Trap from the road.

Melrose Trap from the road.

There were a few other birders from Albuquerque there, but nobody I really knew, other than the famous Jerry.  Who owns the biggest list in New Mexico, over 500 birds.  They had been there the day before and saw the Saw-Whet Owl.
The first bird that I saw was a Townsend’s Warbler way up in a tree.

Townsend's Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Townsend’s Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

The majority of the warblers there were Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

And another Townsend’s was nearby.

Townsend's Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

Townsend’s Warbler, Melrose Woods NM

A pair of American Kestrels flew into the top of one of the dead Cottonwoods.

American Kestrel, Melrose Woods NM

American Kestrel, Melrose Woods NM

And I also glimpsed an Accipiter through the trees, but it didn’t sit long enough for a better ID or a photo.  Jerry told me where to find one of the birds that I needed for my big list and for my guidebook challenge, a Red-Naped Sapsucker.  And the bird was exactly where he said that it would be.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Melrose Woods NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Melrose Woods NM

This would be the first of three that I’d see that day, but I’ll get to that later.  You can see the characteristic row of holes of Sapsuckers.  I saw a couple of American Goldfinches.

American Goldfinches, Melrose Woods NM

American Goldfinches, Melrose Woods NM

This Northern Flicker was making  most of the noise in the woods, other than the chirps from the various warblers and sparrows.

Northern Flicker, Melrose Woods NM

Northern Flicker, Melrose Woods NM

I found a few Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers in the fields surrounding the woods.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Melrose Woods NM

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Melrose Woods NM

Along with a picturesque fence.

Fence and Windmill, Melrose Woods NM

Fence and Windmill, Melrose Woods NM

And many, many sparrows. I saw Chipping, Song and White-Crowned Sparrows. in the fields and in the woods.  Some of these may be Clay-Colored Sparrows, but I couldn’t tell them differently from Chipping.

Chipping Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Chipping Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Song Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

Song Sparrow, Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Adult), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Adult), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Immature), Melrose Woods NM

White-Crowned Sparrow (Immature), Melrose Woods NM

There were even a pair of Hermit Thrushes in the leaf-litter near a huge, fallen Cottonwood.

Hermit Thrush, Melrose Woods NM

Hermit Thrush, Melrose Woods NM

And thus ended my morning at the Melrose Trap.  I really missed the hot time to be there.  Hopefully I’ll make it back in May some year.  I got to see some nice Sunflowers by the gate on the way out.

Sunflowers, Melrose Woods NM

Sunflowers, Melrose Woods NM

After leaving Melrose Woods I decided to play tourist a bit and see Billy the Kid’s Grave and the Trail of Tears memorial.  Driving around I saw signs for Bosque Redondo Park and remembered being told to check it out.  I found a series of lakes without any water fowl present at all.  I drove around one lake and then into some thicker brush when I saw lots of birds flying around one tree.  I got out and noticed a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers chasing each other in and out of the tree.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And, what I think was, a Virginia’s Warbler in with the others.

Virginia's Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Virginia’s Warbler, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

I saw a Northern Flicker flying around some other brush and then I thought that I saw it fly into the tree with all of the Warblers in it.  But looking closer it was a Red-Naped Sapsucker.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And then I thought that I saw a Hairy or Downy WP was in another part of the tree. But it was another Red-Naped Sapsucker.  You can see that this one has a cleaner breast.

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Red-Naped Sapsucker, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Other birds were flying into some Russian Olive across the road.  I looked and saw a Female Western Tanager.

Western Tanager (female), Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Western Tanager (female), Bosque Redondo Park, NM

And a very odd bird that may be an Immature Bluebird or an Immature Cedar Waxwing.

Imm Bluebird or Cedar Waxwing?, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Imm Bluebird or Cedar Waxwing?, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

There was a peculiar Turkey Vulture sitting in a tree during the middle of the day. Some of it’s cousins were circling overhead, but this one just sat there and let me get pretty close without doing anything.

Turkey Vulture, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

Turkey Vulture, Bosque Redondo Park, NM

This turned into an exciting visit to a place that I would have just drove past normally.  I stopped at one of 2 restaurants that were open in Fort Sumner for lunch (which would have me puking along the side of the road a few hours later) and then headed back towards Albuquerque.  I really wanted to see a Golden Eagle.  It’s been my nemesis bird since I moved to New Mexico.  I even detoured at Moriarity and drove to Estancia hoping to see one, but no luck.  I did see a couple of Red-Tailed Hawks on poles, and a 3rd Prairie Falcon for the day.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk feeding, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Red-Tailed Hawk feeding, Roadside Santa Rosa NM

Continuing my tour of New Mexico spots, I stopped by the Blue Hole at Santa Rosa.  It was a… Blue Hole with lots and lots of divers there.  I found out later that it’s a very popular spot to dive in the Southwest.  But I guess I don’t have the appreciation for it.

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa NM

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa NM

Another aerial display started this past weekend in Albuquerque, the annual Balloon Fiesta.  I’m going to wait and make a dedicated blog post after another visit at the end of the week, but here’s a teaser from this morning.

Angry Bird Balloon, Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque NM

Angry Bird Balloon, Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque NM

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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