New Mexico: Fall 2016

The Fall 2016, Aug. 1 – Nov. 30

Sartor O. Williams III
1819 Meadow View Drive NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104

Recommended citation:

Williams, S. The Fall 2016: New Mexico. <> North American Birds.

Autumn 2016 was characterized by encouraging precipitation across the south and east, including from remnants of a hurricane in early September, and by generally warm temperatures into October and November. On the birding front, an impressive number of rarities were found, including New Mexico’s fifth Black Rail at Carlsbad.


Michael J. Andersen, Jonathan P. Batkin, Matthew J. Baumann, Grant M. Beauprez, Dan Allen Belcher, Charles L. Black, Celestyn M. Brozek, Roger Clark, David J. Cleary, Janet L. Cook, Nancy S. Cox, Vicki R. Dern, Steve Drilling, Wyatt T. Egelhoff, Bernard R. Foy, Gary K. Froehlich, Coleman J. Goin, John M. Groves, David L. Hawksworth, Nancy E. Hetrick, Tom J. Hines, Will Jaremko-Wright, Judy B. Liddell, J. David Ligon, Carroll D. Littlefield, William E. Maley, Bernard L. Morris, Pauline Morris, James Nelson-Moore, Robert Nieman, Jerry R. Oldenettel, K. Bruce Ostyn, John E. Parmeter, Nicholas D. Pederson, Timothy Reeves, Rose Ann Rowlett, Christopher M. Rustay, Kim S. Score, Marcy T. Scott, John W. Shipman, Jarrod B. Swackhamer, Hira A. Walker, Twila D. Watkins, Mark L. Watson, Richard E. Webster, Douglas E. Weidemann, Marion Weidemann, Mara E. Weisenberger, Steve West, William F. West, Debra G. Whitecotton, Richard B. Williams, James E. Jabriskie.


B.L.N.W.R (Bitter Lake N.W.R.); Bosque N.W.R. (Bosque del Apache N.W.R.); E.B.L. (Elephant Butte Lake); L.V.N.W.R. (Las Vegas N.W.R.); N.R.T. (north Roosevelt migrant trap west of Melrose); P.O. Canyon (Post Office Canyon, Peloncillo Mts.); R.G.V. (Rio Grande Valley)

Waterfowl through Rails

Rare in Grant, a Greater White-fronted Goose was at the Moon Ranch ponds north of Cliff 8 Sep (MJB, ph. WTE); three were reported the same day in the Uvas Valley at the “Nutt-Hatch” playa, Doña Ana (ph. NEH, ph. WTE). Apparently expanding from feral populations in Clovis, two Egyptian Geese were at Ned Houk Park 1 Sep (CMR). Wood Duck is now widespread in the eastern two-thirds of New Mexico; this season produced reports from 17 counties from the R.G.V. eastward (m.ob.). A male Eurasian Wigeon was at Stubblefield L. 27 Oct-10 Nov (M.O. Hilchey, ph. RC). Noteworthy far east in the Pecos Valley, three Mexican Ducks were near Loving 20 Nov (SW). Surf Scoter is the most frequently encountered scoter in the state; this season found singles at Los Alamos 3-5 Nov (ph. JRO, ph. MJB, ph. NEH) and Cochiti L. 5 Nov (MJB) and three at Farmington 11 Nov (ph. NDP).

A Black Scoter at Storrie L. 18-19 Nov (ph. WJ-W, J. Szabat) provided a San Miguel first. Rare in New Mexico, a Red-necked Grebe at Ute L. 30 Nov (ph. DEW, MW) continued into Dec and provided the first verified Quay record. Both Western and Clark’s grebes produced young at Caballo L., where an adult Western was tending a chick 1-5 Aug (ph. DJC) and six pairs of Clark’s were with chicks 1-5 Aug (ph. DJC); some 3,000 Aechmophorus grebes were counted during an aerial survey at E.B.L. 22 Nov (MLW). Rare in eastern New Mexico, a Band-tailed Pigeon was below Sumner Dam 24 Sep (JEP, ph. GMB). Single Common Ground Doves were at Rodeo 5 Aug (JEP), Guadalupe Canyon 6 Aug (WTE), and Rattlesnake Springs 4 Aug (ph. RN). A vocal Mexican Whip-poor-will was along the Dome Road, Sandoval 12 Aug (WFW) provided a new Jemez Mts. locale.

Two Vaux’s Swifts were at San Simon Cienega 21 Sep (REW, RAR); the species is a rare but possibly regular fall migrant through the San Simon Valley. An adult male Blue-throated Hummingbird was in P.O. Canyon 4 Sep (CDL), where four Rivoli’s were tallied 2-21 Sep (CDL). Lucifer Hummingbird numbers peaked at 46 in P.O. Canyon 5 Aug (CDL); one in upper Cottonwood Canyon near Geronimo Pass, Peloncillo Mts. 5 Aug (WTE), furnished the only additional report. An immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was at N.R.T. 4-5 Sep (ph. JRO). Fall passage Anna’s Hummingbirds were detected in P.O. Canyon 8 Aug-12 Nov (CDL); elsewhere, singles were at Rodeo 8 Aug (WTE), Silver City 10 Sep (JBS) and 28-30 Nov (ph. B.R. Dolton), near Rockhound S.P. 2-30 Nov (ph. D. Gauss), and near Radium Springs 20-23 Oct (MTS, JEZ). Reports of Broad-billed Hummingbirds away from the Peloncillo Mts. and vicinity were singles found north to Santa Fe 16 Oct-2 Dec (L. Howard, G. Szpatura, ph. JPB, ph. BRF, ph. RBW), in the Sandia Mts. near Tijeras 1-15 Nov (ph. C.W. Smith, m.ob.,, east to Carlsbad 1-2 Nov (ph. E. Pierce), plus one near Radium Springs 22-28 Sep (MTS, ph. JEZ). Up to six Violet-crowned Hummingbirds were in Guadalupe Canyon 6-17 Aug (JEP, CMR, WTE, RC) where one lingered to 4 Sep (ph. RN, WTE).

A Black Rail found along the Pecos River in Carlsbad 22 Oct was taken to the Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (D.W.W.R.C.) that day (fide RN), where it was maintained through Oct (ph. D.W.W.R.C.) before being transported to Texas and released at Mitchell L. near San Antonio 1 Nov; it provided the fifth credible New Mexico record and the first to be photographed.

Plovers through Herons

American Golden-Plover is rare and irregular in New Mexico; one at E.B.L. 11 Oct (ph. DJC) furnished the only report. A Ruddy Turnstone at E.B.L. 1 Sep (ph. DJC) provided the first state record since 2013, while a Red Knot at E.B.L. 8-9 Sep (ph. DJC) was the state’s first since 2012. A Pectoral Sandpiper lingered at Caballo L. 21 Oct (DJC); and a late Western Sandpiper was among 680 Least Sandpipers at Caballo L. 11 Nov (DJC). A Semipalmated Sandpiper was at Lordsburg 5 Aug (WTE). Noteworthy at 3350 m were three Spotted Sandpipers at Williams L., Taos 13 Aug (BRF); a Solitary Sandpiper at the same locale 10 Sep (ph. HAW) provided an altitude record for New Mexico, while another Solitary was at 2560 m in Valles Caldera N.P. 27 Aug (ph. BRF).

Sabine’s Gull made an especially strong showing, with often multiple reports (totaling some 30 individuals) from 13 locales 17 Sep-16 Oct, including a high six at Santa Rosa L. 18 Sep (CMR) and three each at Sumner L. 24 Sep (JEP) and Caballo L. 2-7 Oct (ph. DJC, WTE) plus two at Bluewater L. 2 Oct (CMR), one in the Jemez Mts. at Bandelier N.M. 24 Sep (ph. RBW, ph. M. Brown), and one in the desert at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project,  Eddy 7 Oct (ph. RN). Two immature Laughing Gulls were found, one at Caballo L. 1-5 Aug (ph. DJC, ph. WTE, ph. DyC) and another at Brantley L. 3-30 Sep (CR, ph. SD, ph. JWS). A juvenile Thayer’s-type Iceland Gull was at the San Juan County landfill near Farmington 18 Nov (ph. TR).

Two Least Terns, reared from eggs taken at Brantley L. this summer, were released at B.L.N.W.R. 13 Sep (fide SW). A strong Caspian Tern season found two each at Cochiti L. 29 Sep (BLM, ph. JBL, ph. RC), Storrie L. 9 Sep (ph. WJ-W), and Sumner L. 12 Oct (ph. NSC), three at Conchas L. 18 Sep (WJ-W), and up to three at E.B.L. 8-15 Sep (ph. CLB, MJB, DJC). An impressive 350 Black Terns were at Brantley L. 3 Aug (SW), one of the largest concentrations seen in New Mexico in many years. Historically scarce in New Mexico, Common Terns were found at four sites, including up to eight at Sumner L. 18 Sep-10 Oct (m.ob.,, six at E.B.L. 18 Sep (ph. DJC), two at Santa Rosa L. 18 Sep (CMR), and four at Brantley L. 25 Sep (ph. RN) plus a late one there 28 Oct (ph. RN). The long-staying Brown Pelican at Eagle Nest L., first reported 15 May, was seen through Aug and was last reported 15 Sep (JLC); one was at E.B.L. 19-29 Nov (MJB, DJC).

Noteworthy for Lea, an American Bittern was near Milnesand at the Conoco Pond 7-15 Oct (BLM, PM, SW). Great Egret was rarely reported but singles were  at Bluewater L., Cibola 2 Oct (CMR) and in the Sacramento Mts. at Mayhill 2 Aug (SW). A Green Heron was late at Albuquerque 15 Nov (ph. BLM, PM). Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have become a regular feature across much of New Mexico during the warm months; this season produced reports of up to three at Clovis 14 Aug-7 Oct (JEP, JRO, ph. KSS), up to four at Oasis S.P. 5 Aug-7 Oct, where a popular food item was crawfish (ph. DGW, m.ob.,, and singles at Rattlesnake Springs 12 Aug (ph. SW) and Mesilla Bosque S.P. 3-7 Sep (ph. A. Puglisi, ph. WTE).

Vultures through Parakeets

Single Turkey Vultures were late at Carlsvad 13 Nov (RN) and L. Avalon 19 Nov (TJH). Two White-tailed Kites were found north in the R.G.V. to Bosque N.W.R.10 Sep-7 Nov (m.ob., Noteworthy Mississippi Kites included one west to Rodeo 5 Sep (REW, ph. RAR), one in Santa Fe north of Edgewood7 Sep (P.L. Noble), and one north of Trementina, San Miguel 14 Aug (WJ-W); numerous reports from the R.G.V. eastward included high counts of ten at Santa Rosa 6 Sep (C. Grindle), 14 at Conchas L. 14 Aug (ph. WJ-W), and an impressive 133 at Tucumcari 31 Aug (JN-M), these last in two kettles feeding high in front of advancing storm cells. Common Black Hawks were in the middle R.G.V. at Albuquerque 4 Aug-17 Sep (m.ob.), Belen 6-31 Aug (DLH), and Bosque N.W.R. 9 Aug-15 Sep (m.ob.); farther south, an adult and a juvenile were on Palomas Creek west of Williamsburg 13-16 Aug (ph. J.B. Absher) and a late one was at Percha S.P. 13-14 Nov (m.ob., ph. RC, ph. DJC). Harris’s Hawks were reported across the southern tier of counties (m.ob.); in Eddy, however, numbers continued well below historical levels, likely owing to increased oil and gas activities (SW). A juvenile Gray Hawk was at San Simon Cienega 5 Aug (JEP), where the species has gone unreported in recent years. Single Broad-winged Hawks were at Granite Gap, Peloncillo Mts. 10 Sep (MTS) and San Simon Cienega 21 Sep (REW, RAR). Noteworthy was a Zone-tailed Hawk in the northeast at Bueyeros, Harding 26 Aug (GMB), as was one at the White Sands Missile Range golf course, Doña Ana 29 Aug (ph. CJG); the latest credible report was one at Percha S.P. 10 Oct (CLB).

A Flammulated Owl was on the eastern prairie at N.R.T. 6-9 Oct (ph. JRO, KSS), where the species is now understood to be a regular migrant. Noteworthy for the Sandia Mts., a Spotted Owl was found dead, apparently of starvation, along the Bill Spring trail 23 Nov (ph. S. Vender). Red-headed Woodpeckers nesting on the western edge of the breeding range were two adults with a juvenile in the R.G.V. at Algodones 10-20 Aug (ph. WTE, ph. BLM, PM, ph. C Harris, DLH) and two adults with two juveniles at Ruby Ranch north of Las Vegas 19 Aug (WFW). A female Red-bellied Woodpecker x Golden-fronted Woodpecker was at Portales 14 Sep (ph. TDW), where the same or another had been present the previous winter. Single Williamson’s Sapsuckers were found in the plains at Boones Draw 18 Sep (MJB) and the Conoco Pond near Maljamar 16 Sep (ph. RN). A Merlin at a Santa Teresa turf farm 26 Aug (ph. JMG) provided the earliest fall record ever to be confirmed in New Mexico; another early Merlin was confirmed at Mora 5 Sep (ph. JLC). On the exotic psittacid front, a flock of six Monk Parakeets was feeding on mesquite beans at Santa Teresa 14 Oct (ph. S. Wood), while farther north in the Albuquerque area, a flock of eight Rosy-faced Lovebirds was at Rio Rancho 4 Aug (ph. J. Olivieri).

Flycatchers through Gnatcatchers

Two Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets lingered in Guadalupe Canyon 17 Aug (RC) and 4 Sep (RN). Single Eastern Wood-Pewees were vocal at Rattlesnake Springs 4 Sep (CMR) and Boones Draw 10 Sep (MJB, NDP). Late empidonax flycatchers included a Hammond’s Flycatcher at Percha S.P. 19-22 Nov (MJB, ph. MJA, DLH); a Dusky near Radium Springs 29 Nov (MTS, JEZ) continued into Dec. Surprisingly early for southwestern New Mexico were three Eastern Phoebes on the lower Mimbres R., Luna 22 Sep (ph. MLW). A Vermilion Flycatcher wandered north in the R.G.V. to Albuquerque 14 Aug (GKF); in the northeast, one lingered at Conchas L. 8 Oct (WJ-W). Up to two Great Crested Flycatchers were at Boones Draw 10-11 Sep (MJB, NDP) and one was there 16 Sep (JEP, ph. NEH). A Great Kiskadee discovered at Percha S.P. 12 Nov (ph. CJG, ph. J. Williams) continued to 30 Nov (m.ob., A Couch’s Kingbird was at Bosque N.W.R. 5-12 Nov (ph. A. & K. Wright, m.ob., ph. RC, ph. JRO, v.r. MJA, ph. RN); in New Mexico, confirmed Couch’s now outnumber confirmed Tropical Kingbirds by 11:1. A pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds was feeding a nestling in Guadalupe Canyon 6 Aug (JEP, ph. NEH, ph. WTE, CMR). An adult Eastern Kingbird was feeding a recent fledgling at Ruby Ranch, San Miguel 19 Aug (WFW); another at Los Alamos 16 Aug (ph. RBW) provided a Los Alamos first. A very late Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was at Dexter 15 Nov (ph. B. Franco).

Noteworthy for the Organ Mts., two Hutton’s Vireos were at Aguirre Springs 25 Sep (CMR). Late Cassin’s Vireos were at Percha S.P. 25 Nov (JEP, ph. VRD) and Rattlesnake Springs 20 Nov (ph. RN). A Warbling Vireo was at 3780 m on the summit of Lake Peak, Santa Fe on 21 Aug (BRF). Two or more Clark’s Nutcrackers were at Emory Pass, Black Range 13 Aug (ph. DJC), 22 Sep (K. Holladay), and 23 Oct (ph. JBS). Black-billed Magpies south of their expected range were 5 in the Pecos Valley at Dilia, Guadalupe 14 Aug (CMR) and several in the R.G.V. at Rio Rancho 19 Aug (ph. M. Lord). Two Purple Martins were at Red Cloud campground in the Gallinas Mts. near Corona 19 Aug (JDL), where the species has nested in recent years. Five Tree Swallows and a Barn Swallow were late at Six Mile Dam 21 Nov (SW); another Barn Swallow was late at Bosque N.W.R. 13 Nov (CMR). Scarce south to the Peloncillo Mts., a Juniper Titmouse was in Clanton Canyon 5 Aug (JEP). Two Verdins were in the R.G.V. at Belen 11 Sep-20 Nov (DLH, ph. NEH, VRD, A. Warner).

Two Pacific Wrens were reported at Rattlesnake Springs 9 Oct (CMR, v.r. RN, ph. L. Wilson, ph. S. Griffith, ph. BLM) where one lingered 10 Oct-20 Nov (ph., v.r. RN, v.r. DLH). Single Winter Wrens were reported at Rattlesnake Springs 13 & 20 Nov (ph., v.r. RN); others were singles at Los Lunas 24 Sep (ph. NEH), La Union 24 Nov (DAB), N.R.T. 21 Oct (ph. JRO), Conoco Pond near Maljamar 23 Nov (ph. RN), and below Brantley Dam 23 Nov (ph. RN). Singing Carolina Wrens were singles at Santa Fe Canyon Preserve 11 Sep-23 Nov (ph. BRF, m.ob.), Cedar Crest 22 Sep-2 Nov (ph. WEM), Belen 21 Aug (CMR, NEH), and Percha S.P. 9 Sep-30 Nov (ph. CLB, m.ob., ph. MJA, ph. MJB, ph. T.B. Godfrey), and at least three were at Bosque N.W.R. 5 Aug-12 Nov (m.ob.). Cactus Wrens continued to spread in Santa Fe, where one was at Eldorado 12 Sep (C. Beidleman), and in San Miguel, where a family of four was found southeast of L.V.N.W.R. 15 Nov (WJ-W). Two Black-tailed Gnatcatchers were at San Simon Cienega 5 Aug (JEP); the species has been scarce throughout its New Mexico range since the Feb 2011 freeze. Continuing from 31 Jul, a Black-capped Gnatcatcher was in Guadalupe Canyon 6 & 17 Aug (JEP, CMR, ph., v.r. RBW, ph. NEH, RC); together, these reports documented the first occurrence there since the freeze of Feb 2011.

Thrushes through Dickcissel

Rare but regular in New Mexico, a Wood Thrush was at N.R.T. 6-9 Oct (JRO, JEP, ph. JWS, ph. GMB, m.ob.). Providing a first record for Luna, a Rufous-backed Robin was near Deming 24 Nov (ph. D.A. Williams). A Varied Thrush at the Maljamar rest area 18-19 Nov (KBO, ph. D.B. Newman) furnished a second record for Lea. Continuing a recent trend, several Gray Catbirds were found late into the fall, with singles at Albuquerque in Old Town 13-20 Nov (D. Weissman) and Knob Hill 15-20 Nov (ph. HAW), plus singles at Percha S.P. 25 Nov (VRD) and Carlsbad 21-27 Nov (SW). Curve-billed Thrashers at the northern edge of their range were one near Echo Amphitheater, Rio Arriba 16 Oct (CMR) and two near Ojo Caliente, Taos21 Aug (W. Russell). Brown Thrashers were reported from ten locales in nine counties from the R.G.V. eastward 17 Sep-26 Nov (m.ob.,, including up to seven at Rattlesnake Springs Oct-Nov (m.ob.). Crissal Thrashers continued their northward spread, with one singing at Ojo Caliente, Taos 19 Aug (K. Dunn), one at Conchas Ranch southeast of L.V.N.W.R. 15 Nov (v.r. WJ-W), and two near Santa Rosa 21 Oct (WFW).

Evidence of late nesting Lesser Goldfinches near Radium Springs included a female gathering nest material 16 Sep, a stub-tailed fledgling 11 Oct, and three very recent fledglings begging from adults 25 Nov (MTS, JEZ). Up to five Rufous-winged Sparrows were in Guadalupe Canyon 6 Aug-4 Sep, including singing individuals (JEP, CMR, RC, ph. RN, ph. NEH) and one carrying insect food, presumably to young, 6 Aug (ph. WTE). A Field Sparrow in the west at Manzano 8 Sep (BLM, PM, JBL) provided a first for Torrance; one at Milnesand 26 Oct (GMB) furnished the only additional report. Three Baird’s Sparrows in Luna grasslands south of Nutt 20 Nov (ph. MJA) were the only ones reported. A Swamp Sparrow was at Capitan 12 Nov (RN); there are very few Lincoln Sparrow records. A surprising three Harris’s Sparrows were at Lovington’s Chaparral Park 18 Nov (KBO); one reached L.V.N.W.R 20 Nov (ph. WJ-W). Single Bobolinks were at Rattlesnake Springs 21 Aug (RN) and Rodeo 15 Sep (REW). A male Orchard Oriole was west at L.V.N.W.R. 2 Aug (WTE) and a female was there 20 Aug (ph. WJ-W); another female was farther west at Albuquerque 31 Aug (CMB). A male Hooded Oriole was far north at Albuquerque 1 Aug (ph. R. Simpson). A good season for Baltimore Orioles found singles at Ramon 3 Sep (CMR, ph. SD), Boones Draw 10 Sep (MJB), N.R.T. 16-17 Sep (JEP, ph. JRO), and Milnesand 3 Oct (ph. GMB).

Among the highlights of an active warbler season were a Louisiana Waterthrush at Rattlesnake Springs 21-28 Aug (ph. RN), a Golden-winged Warbler at N.R.T. 10 Sep (GMB, KSS), a Blue-winged Warbler west at Guadalupe Canyon 4 Sep (ph. WTE), and a Swainson’s Warbler at Rattlesnake Springs 3 Aug (SW). Noteworthy were a Black-and-white Warbler at Los Alamos 23 Sep (ph. RBW) and a Prothonotary at Leasburg S.P. 20 Oct (CJG). Providing a new San Juan locale, a Lucy’s Warbler was at the Cottonwood Day Use area below Navajo Dam 29 Aug (CMR, NEH, ph. RBW). A Northern Parula at N.R.T. 30 Sep-1 Oct (JEP, ph. JRO) furnished the lone report, as did a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Conchas L. 8 Oct (ph. WJ-W). Single Magnolia Warblers were at Boones Draw 10 Sep (NDP, MJB), N.R.T. 1 Oct (JEP, ph. JRO), and again at N.R.T. 9-10 Oct (KSS, ph. WEM, ph. JWS). Additional very rare warblers were a Blackpoll Warbler at Mesilla Bosque S.P. 23 Sep (ph. WTE), a Pine Warbler at Ute L. 30 Nov (ph. DEW, MW) that continued into Dec and provided a first record for Quay, and a Yellow-throated Warbler at Rattlesnake Springs 3 Aug (SW). A Grace’s Warbler near McGaffey L., McKinley 2 Oct was late (CMR). Scarce on the eastern plains, a Black-throated Gray Warbler was at N.R.T. 20 Aug (JEP). East of its expected range, a Hermit Warbler was at Valles Caldera N.P., Sandoval 22-23 Aug (ph. NDP). A surprising two Black-throated Green Warblers were at Rattlesnake Springs 9 Oct (CMR, BLM, ph. RN) where one lingered to 10 Oct (RN).

Scarce in fall, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was at N.R.T. 8 Oct (JEP, JRO). An impressive flock of 80 Blue Grosbeaks was in a grain field near Rattlesnake Springs 3 Aug (SW). A Varied Bunting was banded at San Andres N.W.R. 16 Aug (MEW), a known Doña Ana breeding locale; up to six were in Guadalupe Canyon 6 Aug (JEP, CMR), where a male lingered to 4 Sep (RN, WTE). Painted Buntings were conspicuous in the east and across the south in Aug, including up to five at Gage, Luna 5-10 Aug (CMR, JEP, ph. WTE, ph. NEH).; noteworthy for Catron was one at Quemado L. 8 Sep (MJB, NDP). At Belen’s Whitfield Wildlife Center, an adult pair of Dickcissels was present, giving alarm notes, and carrying food to a hidden spot 29 Jul (DLH), where on 21 Aug a begging juvenile was associating with an adult (ph. VRD, v.r. NEH, CMR); the species breeds irregularly at scattered locales in eastern New Mexico, but this was the first solid evidence of nesting in the R.G.V.

Photos–New Mexico: Fall 2016

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