New Mexico: Summer 2021

Summer 2021: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Matthew J. Baumann

Raymond L. VanBuskirk

Jodhan Fine

Recommended citation: 

Baumann, M. J., R. L. VanBuskirk, and J. Fine. 2021. Summer 2021: New Mexico. <> North American Birds.

Summer 2021 started hot and remained dry across the region. The Johnson fire, which started in May, continued to burn in the Gila Wilderness throughout the season and grew to nearly 90,000 acres before monsoon rains were able to provide relief in late July. Large swaths of the state were covered in smoke and haze from this and other fires in the region throughout June. The monsoon rains were a welcome reprieve in July and the southern half of the state benefited most. Breeding bird survey routes, especially in the grasslands on the eastern plains, were notably quiet with large reductions in overall numbers of birds recorded. Notable records this season included Red Knot, multiple Laughing Gulls, Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, and a Great Kiskadee.

BLNWR (Bitter Lake N.W.R., Chaves Co); BdA (Bosque del Apache N.W.R., Socorro Co); WWCA (Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, Valencia Co).

Waterfowl through Woodpeckers 

A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with a missing foot was at J Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary, Chaves Co 6 Jun (ph. P. Collins, J. Badon). Presumably a returning bird from last summer, a female Rivoli’s Hummingbird was at the Terrero General Store, San Miguel Co 16 Jul (J. Parmeter). A female-plumaged Costa’s Hummingbird was photographed at Upper Cottonwood Canyon, Hidalgo Co 8 Jun (ph. A. Theus, ph. J. Fine, D. Tønnessen, A. Bock). A Red Knot was at Elephant Butte, Sierra Co 23–26 Jul (ph. D. Cleary, m.ob). White-rumped Sandpipers made a nice showing during the first two weeks of June, with reports of five at Lake Avalon, Eddy Co 1 Jun (B. Nieman), and two at BLNWR 3 June (J. Padon and P. Collins). An impressive 31 White-rumped Sandpipers were on Lake 13 at Maxwell NWR, Colfax Co 1 Jun (N. Pieplow, A. Spencer). By the next day there were up to 54 individuals (J. Parlapiano, O. Sinkus), representing the highest count of individuals in the state since 4 Jun 2000 when the late Jerry Oldenettel recorded the state’s high count of 70 individuals at BLNWR. A single individual lingered at Maxwell NWR on 11 Jun (N. Pederson). Single Laughing Gulls were seen at Brantley Lake, Eddy Co 2 Jun (ph. D. Kelly), Elephant Butte, Sierra Co 5 Jun (J. Parmeter), and Lake Roberts, Grants Co 11 Jun (ph. D. Buckley). New Mexico’s first summer record of a Lesser Black-backed Gull (first cycle) was seen at Elephant Butte, Sierra Co 5 Jun (J. Parmeter). Two Caspian Terns were at Elephant Butte, Sierra Co 8 Jun (ph. D. Cleary). Late Common Loons were at Clayton Lake, Union Co 2 Jun (S. Pedane) and Ohkay Owingeh Fishing Lake, Rio Arriba Co 1–5 Jun (ph. R. Guenther, m.ob). A Brown Pelican was at Morgan Lake, San Juan Co 18–22 Jun (ph. N. Pederson, m.ob). Neotropic Cormorants were widespread across the state with singles in Luna Co and Rio Arriba Co, up to three in Grant Co and Chavez Co, two in Otero Co, over a dozen in Eddy Co, and hundreds of confirmed breeding birds in Bernalillo Co. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at BLNWR, 13 Jun (ph. P. Collins). Single White-tailed Kites were at BDA, 29 Jun–30 Jul (A. Walker, ph. J. Gilb, m.ob) and south of Animas, Hidalgo Co 8 Jul (ph. A. Theus, ph. J. Fine, D. Tønnessen, A. Bock). Notable outside of Hidalgo Co, a Gray Hawk was at River Ranch WMA, Luna Co 5 Jul (ph. J. Gilb). Noteworthy anywhere in the state, especially outside of Hidalgo Co, an Elegant Trogon was in Santa Teresa, Dona Ana Co 15–16 Jun (ph. S. Wood, J. Groves). It seems possible that the ongoing severe drought caused this trogon to wander from usual breeding areas. An out-of-season male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was at Galisteo, Santa Fe Co 8–10 Jun (ph. R. Laubach, R. Guenther, T. Adams). 

Flycatchers through Swallows 

At least two pairs of Dusky-capped Flycatchers were at Big Dry Creek, a notable breeding location, Catron Co 11 Jun (ph. M. Baumann). In Sierra Co, likely two pairs returned to the Middle Percha Creek area for a second consecutive year 15 Jun–24 Jul (ph., rec. D. Cleary, K. Stinnett). One near Kingston was observed entering a nest cavity with nesting material in May. A Great Kiskadee was photographed in Carlsbad, Eddy Co 12 Jul (ph. P. Mendes). This individual may have been wandering the general area for over a year now. Two of the six Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers that were found along the Gila River near Hells Canyon, Grant Co on the last day of this year’s spring reporting period were still present the next day on 1 Jun (ph. R. VanBuskirk, S. Drukker). These individuals represent the first solid evidence of breeding in the state. An Eastern Kingbird was at BDA, 6 Jun (ph. R. Hawthorne, A. Hawthorne, N. Ulrich, P. Ulrich). Three White-eyed Vireos were in central New Mexico this spring with singles at Ridgecrest Park, Bernalillo Co Jun 4–8 (T. Kennedy, ph. m.ob), a private residence near Edgewood, Santa Fe Co 27 Jun (P. Noble), and a private Albuquerque residence, Bernalillo Co 4 Jul (rec. C. Witt). Single Red-eyed Vireos were at Sevilleta NWR, Socorro Co 4 Jun (D. Tipton) and the Bosque south of Montaño, Bernalillo Co 23 Jul (B. Morris). Two Clark’s Nutcrackers, very unusual along the Rio Grande during summer, were in the Bosque south of WWCA, 16 Jun (ph. O. Sinkus, J. Parlapiano). Up to four Purple Martins were photographed entering nest cavities in an aspen (Populus sp.) stand at Jacks Creek Campground, San Miguel Co 28–29 Jul (J. Allen). 

Vireos through Finches

In recent years, Carolina Wrens have become summer residents at BdA and were first confirmed breeding in 2014. Surprisingly, there was only a single report from the refuge this season on 6 Jun (J. Glib). The species presence at BdA will need to be monitored carefully in the future. Another Carolina Wren was heard singing and photographed west of Hondo, Lincoln Co 18 Jul (N. Hetrick, C. Rustay). Breeding season Gray Catbirds continue to increase in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. There were numerous reports throughout the season along the Rio Grande corridor from Socorro Co north to Sandoval Co (m.ob) with up to four reported at Riverside Park in Los Lunas, Valencia Co 27 Jun (B. Medley). A male Phainopepla was around a private residence for a few days in Lobo Canyon on the west side of Mount Taylor, Cibola Co 7–12 Jul (C. Roberts). The only Botteri’s Sparrows reported away from Hidalgo Co were several singing birds near Pitchfork Ranch, Grant Co 30 Jul (D. Griffin) where the species has been reliable in recent years. Summering Fox Sparrows were found in several locations this season, all from Taos Co: at least one continued near Costilla for the second consecutive year 7–17 June (ph. B. Friedrichs, T. Jackman, rec. K.M. Dunning), a separate singing individual was found upstream from the Costilla bird 8 Jun (rec. K.M. Dunning), likely two separate singing males were near Serpent Lake, 13 Jun–3 Jul (A. Meyer, S. Robinson, A. Johnson, ph. K. Oliver), and two separate singing males were along the Middle Fork of the Red River 13 Jul (ph. B. Friedrichs). A type 6 (Sierra Madre) Red Crossbill was recorded in the Gila Wilderness near Indian Creek, Catron Co 13 Jun (rec. M. Baumann). This is the third record of this taxon in the state and the first from the breeding season. The other two records have come from January and all records are from the southern tier of the state. 

Orioles through Dickcissel 

A male Baltimore Oriole was photographed at Ruby Ranch, San Miguel Co on 15 Jun (B. West, L. Farrington, M. Lewis, D. Lewis). Notable for Bernalillo Co, a male Bronzed Cowbird was at Tom Tenorio Park in Albuquerque 26–30 Jun (ph. D. Hawksworth, m.ob). A vocal Ovenbird was found along Cienega Canyon in the Sandia Mountains, Bernalillo Co 3 Jun (rec. A. Kraynik, A. Theus). Male Hooded Warblers were found in Galisteo, Santa Fe Co 10 Jun (ph. T.J. Adams) and another was along the Rio Grande in Belen, Valencia Co 16 Jun–13 Jul (ph. O. Sinkus, J. Parlapiano, m.ob). A second-year male American Redstart was at Montessa Park, Bernalillo Co 21 Jun (N. Pederson). A Chestnut-sided Warbler in prebasic molt was found in the Sandia Mountains, Bernalillo Co 25 Jul (ph. K. Oliver, M. Williams). A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was in Ruidoso, Lincoln Co 29 Jun. Continuing from the initial discovery of an apparent small breeding population in the southern Manzano Mountains, Valencia Co in May, a Red-faced Warbler was relocated in the area 27 Jun (C. Rustay, A. Theus). Dickcissels were not nearly as widespread across the northern tier of the state compared to recent years. In Colfax Co, up to three were encountered near Maxwell NWR throughout the season (m.ob) and two were at Vermejo Park, 26 Jul (rec. J. Bushong, R. Bushong). A recently reliable location, one was photographed near agricultural fields along Mascarenas Road in northern Taos Co, 20 Jun (B. Friedrichs). Notable south to Chaves Co, one was recorded singing at BLNWR (P. Collins). 

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 12 Feb 2022.

Photos–New Mexico: Summer 2021

This male Fox Sparrow was singing on its territory just below treeline near Serpent Lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico in early July 2021. Photo © Kristen Oliver.

This male Elegant Trogon was quite a surprise to residents of a private community in Santa Teresa, New Mexico for two days in mid-June 2021. The ongoing drought in the region may have been responsible for this individuals wandering out of suitable breeding habitat. Photo © John Groves.

Notable outside of Hidalgo County, this Gray Hawk was quite the surprise at the River Ranch WMA in Luna County, New Mexico in early June 2021. Photo © Joel Gilb.

This White-eyed Vireo was present at Ridgecrest Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico for five days in early June 2021 where it was seen by many. Photo © Owen Hilchey.

This Black-bellied Whistling-Duck that was missing a foot was in Roswell on 6 July 2021. This species tends to wander into the southeastern part of New Mexico during the warmer months of the year. Photo © Patrick Collins.