Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bushels of Sagebrush Sparrows

This morning we headed for Guadalupe Mountains National Park and planned to hike Devil's Hall. It snowed late in the date yesterday and while it was bright and sunny this morning it was also 24 degrees when we set out on the trail. There was about an inch of snow on the ground making the park look like a powdered sugar donut.

Almost first thing on the trail we ran into a Rufous-crowned Sparrow for Year Bird 283. A bit further down the trail we had a pair of Phainopepla for Year Bird 284. When the sun started to hit the upper canyon walls Canyon Wren called for Year Bird 285.

We continued and made the Devil's Hall itself, a narrow canyon of layers. There was enough ice on the rock to make us be very careful as we went.

Above the hall is the area where Spotted Owl is known have breed in the past. We searched all of it with no luck, just a few nuthatches and a Red-napped Sapsucker.

We head back down. The snow is melting and its getting really slick though, slow going.

We find a flock Western Bluebirds. With them we find a Townsend's Solitaire for Year Bird 286. While trying to relocate the solitaire we find a flock of Mountain Chickadees for Year Bird 287.

Sagebrush Sparrow
We have lunch and head for the sand dunes section of the park outside of Dell City. Not far down the road we find a flock of Sagebrush Sparrows for Year Bird 288. In the same spot we find a Crissal Thrasher for Year Bird 289. We push on to the park entrance outside of Dell City. All along this road we see small flocks of Sagebrush Sparrow, especially after the end of the agricultural area. From Dell City to the park entrance it is actually the only species we encounter. Once at the park entrance we see a smaller thrasher on a bush. We have to get the scope out to id it, but Sage Thrasher is Year Bird 290.

Sage Thrasher
On the one mile of road from the park entrance to the parking area for the sand dunes we had 8 Sage Thrashers, 1 Crissal Thrasher, and 29 Sagebrush Sparrows. We had a total of 48 Sagebrush Sparrows for the day! The sparrows were easily seen from the car and getting out and pishing when a couple were seen usually produced a half dozen.

The road to the sand dunes is not as well known as the Balmorhea Cemetery, but for my birding time its much better Sagebrush Sparrow. There are just a lot more there on that road. Plus you have Sage Thrasher and Crissal Thrasher here!

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