Greetings from Las Cruces, New Mexico! I’ve been enjoying the first month of the New Year down in this beautiful, quaint, Southwestern city. I’ve been able to fit in a decent amount of birding in the last month, and I look forward to sharing some of my adventures! The easiest briding locale for me currently is the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. This is an excellent little park for birding, bird photography and walking. Its worth a quick stop if you are ever in the area. In this post, I wanted to share some of the photos of the birds I’ve seen. Hopefully, if you are a newer birder they can help you put a name to the… erm… face of the birds you see.
In January, when my visits have taken place, one of the most abundant types of birds I’ve encountered have been Sparrows. Seriously there are Sparrow’s everywhere and if you want to work on your Sparrow ID skills (as all birders should) this is an excellent place for it. So far I’ve encountered Savannah, Brewer’s, White Crowned, Black Throated, Swamp and Lincoln’s here. If I spent more time I would probably be able to eke out one or two more. Sparrow identification can be hard (as proven by the fact that every time I’ve seen a Vesper Sparrow I thought it was something else) and it’s a skill that you can spend a lifetime trying to hone.
When I visited recently I encountered a little ‘puddle’ on the side of the Rio Grande that was frequented by multiple Sparrow species. It was a great place to just relax, take some photos, and let the birds come to me. One of the highlights of this was getting great views at Marsh Wren and getting to watch some of its interesting behaviors. First off, in general, it’s rare for me to see Marsh Wren’s fully exposed. Every time I’ve encountered them they pop out only briefly, but this one stayed and worked the puddle openly and diligently.
It was then I noticed that part of the puddle was frozen, and the Marsh Wren proceeded to take one of its little feet off its mud stick and tap the frozen water. From what I could tell it was testing the sturdiness of the ice. It then hopped up, down, and around the ice eating insects for a while. What was also really interesting to me was that the Marsh Wren was the only bird that used the ice, and every other species stayed solely on the frozen areas.
In addition to being able to photograph the Sparrow species and the Wren, when I approached the puddle I also got great looks at a Leucistic Northern Harrier I had been seeing around the park. From Wikipedia (shoot me now as I know that it’s not a source but it was the most concise description I found possible):
Leucism (occasionally spelled leukism) is a general term for the phenotype resulting from defects in pigment cell differentiation and/or migration from the neural crest to skin, hair, or feathers during development. This results in either the entire surface (if all pigment cells fail to develop) or patches of body surface (if only a subset are defective) having a lack of cells capable of making pigment.
It really is a truly striking bird and every time I’ve seen it, no matter how near or far, I have to take a step back and admire it. For me, the most important part of birding will always be reveling in the natural beauty surrounding you. Every time I have encountered this bird I have been reminded of how unique and original the world can truly be. Part of the reason I enjoy birding Mesilla Valley Bosque is that it allows you to do just this. You can kick back, take your time, and just spend your day enjoying it.
I also wanted to give a shout out to the multiple gentlemen working the park on the day I was there. They were helpful, polite and kind. They were familiar with the different species, their habits, and were helpful pointing me towards different areas and optimal times for photography. Alas the Gambel’s Quail was on to my game and didnt come anywhere close to me, but hey. I had to try! On this note, if you have some patience I think this would be an excellent place to try and get some cracking Gambel’s Quail shots. Sadly I had to settle for this blurry photo:
To end Id like to leave with you with this note about walking. As I said this park is an excellent place for it, and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I did.
The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along” – Rebeca Solnt