Birding, ever a popular hobby, is a great activity for fall through spring, not only due to the diversity of species that can be spotted, but because the bare trees make it easier to spot birds.
Written and photography by CHERYL FALLSTEAD
Southern New Mexico has a multitude of birding hotspots as well as an active chapter of the Audubon Society ready to help beginning birders distinguish a finch from a sparrow. With the annual Great Backyard Bird Count coming up February 15 – 18, it’s a perfect time to dive into birding (more information on the count at http://gbbc.birdcount.org).
The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society holds monthly meetings, field trips, and other activities, such as the annual Christmas Bird Count. Get started at the beginner bird walk at Tellbrook Park, 4290 E. Winchester Rd., the third Wednesday of each month at 7:45 a.m. There is more information about the club’s activities as well as bird checklists for several of the locations listed here at new-mexico-birds.com. Wild Birds Unlimited, 2001 E. Lohman, is another excellent resource for birders.
Notepad to record sightings or access to eBird on phone
Camera to photograph birds and identify later
Water and snacks
FAVORITE BIRDING SPOTS TO EXPLORE
Las Cruces Dam Flood Control Area
There are miles of trails benches, and a waterfowl viewing blind in the area east of the Las Cruces Dam. There are numerous access points, includingat Sagecrest Park, which is an easy walk to the duck blind. See water birds at the wetlands and a variety of specides in the rest of the dam area, including Gambel’s quail, phyrroloxia (desert cardinal), sparrow species, roadrunners and much more.
601 Roadrunner Parkway
Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
This lovely natural space features easy trails from which 259 specides of birds have been recorded on eBird, a citizen science website and app. A variety of waterfowl can be seen, plus shorebirds like curlews, avocets, and sandpipers. There’s also plenty of sparrows, woodpeckers, warblers, and nut-hutches can be spotted. A Golden Eagle was reported there and ibis and migrating sandhill cranes enjoy the marshy areas
5000 Calle del Norte, Mesilla
Dripping Springs National Recreation Area
Abundant grasslands and trees provide food and shelter for a wide range of birds. Hummingbirds are common in summer. Look for frosbeaks, many types of sparrows, thrushes, kites, hawks, thrashers, and phainopepia, a handsome black bird with red eyes.
15000 Dripping Springs Road
Leasburg Dam State Park
Twenty miles north of Las Cruces, this State Park is a birding jewel. Spot water birds such as Wilson’s snipe and American pipits in the flooded fields. Along the river trail you can find rock wren, verdin, Crissal thrashers, towhees, and ladder-backed woodpeckers. Among the 166 species recorded are also pines siskins, broad-tailed hummingbirds, Woodhouse’s scrub-jay, blue-birds, and cliff swallows.
12712 State Park Road
Percha Dam State Park
A premiere birding spot in the state, this state park on the Rio Grande north of Hatch offers open woodlands, plenty of water and a river trail. Spot phainopepla, woodpeckers, vermillion fly-catchers, and vireos. The willow and cottonwood habitat provide excellent warbler watching during spring and fall migrations. There is also excellent birding at nearby Caballo and Elephant Butte reservoirs.
Highway 187, Caballo
Holloman Lake is on the way to White Sands National Monument and is a hidden jewel for easy birding due to the important wetlands it provides for migrating birds. You may see a wide range of water birds such as yellowlegs, curlews, gulls, sandpipers, avocets, and plovers. There are also plenty of other birds such as warblers, swifts, and swallows.
About four miles after White Sands National Monument Headquarters on Highway 70
Bosque del Apache
Synonymous with Sandhill Cranes, but this birder-friendly refuge features driving tours and viewing platforms that allow you to spot many other species that are drawn to the water. Snow geese, Canada geese, American wigeons, pintails, white-faced ibis. American white pelicans, are especially abundant, but you may spot a bald or golden eagle, great blue herons, and wood ducks.
101 NM-1, San Antonio