Winter New Mexico Jan 03—09, 2018

Posted by Barry Zimmer


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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As we pulled into the driveway of my house, we were greeted by an adult male Hooded Oriole on a front yard hummingbird feeder (before we could even get out of the van!). This species is quite rare here in winter, but I had four that had settled in for the season. We enjoyed great views of this orange and black beauty, and then headed to the upper deck patio to view the backyard. A rare female Broad-billed Hummingbird hovered practically in our faces before we could even get in place along the railing. Almost immediately an even rarer Ruby-throated Hummingbird (virtually unknown in the western U.S. in winter) buzzed in and chased the Broad-billed. Lesser Goldfinches swarmed the thistle feeders. A third species of hummingbird appeared, a brilliant male Anna’s with its rose-colored head gleaming in the morning light. I headed down to restock the feeders when a female Costa’s Hummingbird, accidental in the state, came in to the feeder right in front of me and drank for a couple of minutes, while the group enjoyed scope studies. We had seen four species of hummingbirds in the first five minutes of our visit! Three more Hooded Orioles arrived as a group, and a Steller’s Jay sailed over the mesa behind our house. A noisy pair of Cactus Wrens were coaxed into full view, followed by a handsome Spotted Towhee. A dapper little Verdin appeared on the orange slices and posed for scope views as well. Hummingbirds continued to swirl around us allowing repeated views of each species. A Ladder-backed Woodpecker joined the parade of birds, and soon a brilliant male Scott’s Oriole (also very rare in winter) magically appeared. In a short hour, we had seen many rarities, as well as some fine southwestern regulars. It was hard to tear ourselves away from my house, but we had many other areas to visit. As we exited the driveway, both Steller’s Jay and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay sailed in for a final send-off.

Mixed rosy-finch flock

Mixed rosy-finch flock— Photo: Barry Zimmer


Of course, the visit to my yard was just a tiny part of our very successful Winter New Mexico tour. We began in west El Paso the first afternoon with swarms of Yellow-headed Blackbirds (an estimated 5,000 seen) heading off to roost sites, and a rare and spectacular Lewis’s Woodpecker foraging on a golf course. Other El Paso area highlights on Day Two included a rare Greater Scaup, handsome Hooded Mergansers, three Harris’s Hawks, a close Burrowing Owl, a roosting Barn Owl, a pair of Monk Parakeets, a “Prairie” Merlin, Broad-tailed and Rufous hummingbirds (giving us an unbelievable six species on this winter day), a family of Acorn Woodpeckers, a Mountain Bluebird, and two very rare Fox Sparrows among others.

Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.