North American Migration Count: Dona Ana County Results

By Marcy Scott, DAC compiler

Our terrific team of 16 veteran migration-count participants covered a good bit of the better habitat in the county and, with the help of some pretty decent weather on May 11th, resoundingly smashed seven years’ worth of both species totals and numbers totals! We logged a whopping 27 species more than in 2012 and nearly twice as many total birds, for a total of 157 species and 12,226 individual birds.

Migrants were much more in evidence than last year, probably in large part because of the extreme scarcity of water throughout the county appears to be concentrating birds in irrigated landscapes and the few wet spots that do exist - where we counters mostly were too. Two observers mentioned numbers of birds feeding upon flying ant or termite swarms, in one location where light rain the previous night had moistened the ground. The Rio Grande (as it has been for several months) largely dry, save for the springs at Leasburg Dam SP and the few sewage treatment plant inflows near Las Cruces and El Paso (all of which held good numbers and diversity of birds.) Swan Pond, Burn Lake, both ponds at Mesilla Valley Bosque SP, most natural stock tanks, and the entire network of irrigation drains and canals throughout were totally dry.

Rarities included Tricolored Heron (continuing bird along the river at Leasburg Dam SP) and Common Ground-Dove (one of a pair of continuing birds at a residence near Radium Springs). Other somewhat rare birds found were Least Flycatcher (Broad Canyon Ranch), Swainson’s Thrush (2 near Radium Springs), Brown Thrasher (Swan Pond), Hepatic Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (this and the former at a fruiting mulberry near Radium Springs), and Clay-colored Sparrow (Broad Canyon Ranch & Las Cruces Dam). Noteworthy (particularly given the parched conditions) were Horned Lark (47, Corralitos Road, where they have bred in recent years). Other nice finds included Neotropic Cormorant (8, Sunland Park), Virginia Rail, Sora (this and the former in the riverbed at Leasburg Dam SP), Black-necked Stilt (35), American Avocet (9), Mississippi Kite (southern Mesilla Valley), Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon (both falcons near La Llorona), Common Nighthawk (2), Broad-tailed Hummingbird (3), Olive-sided Flycatcher (5), Cassin’s Kingbird (4), Cassin’s Vireo (2), Northern Waterthrush (2, Leasburg Dam SP & LC Dam), Black-chinned Sparrow (3), single Lazuli and Indigo Buntings, Painted Bunting (a pair in the North Valley), and Easter Meadowlark (1 singing at La Cueva, 1 a MVBSP).

Some numbers worthy of mention are White-throated Swift (7 compared to 47 in 2012), Black-chinned Hummingbird (207 compared to last year’s 194), Western Wood-Peewee (81 compared to 11 in 2012), Bell’s Vireo (8, half of what was counted in 2012), Bank Swallow (33), Northern Mockingbird (282 compared to 204 in 2012), Phainopepla (37), Chipping Sparrow (204 compared to 9 in 2012), and Bronzed Cowbird (4 compared to 7 in 2012).

Lucky finds considering the scarce habitat were Cinnamon Teal (2), Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Great Egret, Green Heron (3), White=faced Ibis (17), Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher (2), Wilson’s Phalarope (16), and Ring-billed Gull.

The unusually large number of late of latish birds tallied included Northern Harrier (4), single Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Belted Kingfisher (2), Red-naped Sapsucker (very late), Northern Flicker, American Crow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick’s Wren (4), Marsh Wren (2), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2), American Pipit, Black-throated Gray Warbler (7), Spotted Towhee (12), Brewer’s Sparrow (177), Vesper Sparrow (4), Lark Bunting (12), Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow (4), Swamp Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed form), Yellow-headed Blackbird (6), Brewer’s Blackbird (13), and Pine Sisken (42).

With their canals and river course largely dry, the only Cave Swallows tallied this year were 8 at Leasburg Dam SP. Notable misses this year include Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Great Horned Owl and American Goldfinch.

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