IMG_0229Rattlesnake Springs and adjacent Washington Ranch (Just 30 miles south of Carlsbad, New Mexico) offer a dream-scape oasis in the Chihuahua Desert. Both are noted for the high concentration of bird species they support with lush, watery habitat of ponds, wetlands, streams and a historic spring, all shaded by groves of tall Fremont Cottonwoods.

IMG_0269IMG_0253A magnet for birds…and birders alike.

IMG_0258Male Summer Tanager

I have long known of Rattlesnake Springs.  Listening to stories of rainbow-feathered birds dropping from the trees during spring migration, I wanted to be there. Last weekend, I packed my binoculars and headed south to see for myself.  I was about to experience the birding trip of my life.


My friend and bird guide, Cheryl Grindle (, knows how to work a habitat, stay focused and make sure I “stay on the bird” long enough to get the hard-earned ID.  Cheryl’s excitement and passion for every bird, whether rare or ordinary, treated me to an experience I will not soon forget.

Thanks to Cheryl’s scouting out the trip in advance, her organization and close attention to trip details, like choosing hotels and restaurants, we pushed through the day dusty, “good tired” and hungry knowing a hot shower and a good meal would be close at hand.

We enjoyed getting “good looks” at more than 116 species, ten of those were life birds for me. I would not have seen half as many birds had I not been birding with Cheryl as she networked in person and electronically with other expert birders in the area getting tips and alerts to rare bird sighting.  I felt privileged to share in the warm camaraderie and cooperation between and among some of the best birders in New Mexico.

Nick's Painted buntingPainted Redstart
(Photo courtesy of Nick Pederson)

Broad Winged HawkBroad-winged Hawk
(Nick Pederson)
Black Pol WarblerBlackpoll Warbler
A rarity in New Mexico
(photo courtesy of Matt Baumann)

Gray Hawk 2010May13Gray Hawk
Another New Mexico rarity
(Photo courtesy of Jack Holloway)

A much-loved New Mexico summer resident
(Photo courtesy of Richard Dickerson)


Like Pete Dunn, my favorite bird is always the one I’m looking at right now.  Even if it’s something as unlovely as a gaggle of wild turkey hens.

At the end of the day, we celebrated amazing sightings and the pleasure of time well spent and a job well done.  No regrets. No disclaimers. No disappointments.  Just an overwhelming longing to stay where we were and keep on doing what we were doing.

I wanted to turn around and do the same trip all over again.


IMG_0227A Great-horned Owl greets the sunset over the Guadalupe Escarpment. 



  1. One more reason that New Mexico is a very special place. So many of God’s winged creatures – you enjoy and love them all. I’m very happy for you.

  2. Jan- I can’t get over your travels, the photographs and your experiences- so beautiful and the shared experience of nature is so peaceful for me. Thank you for making this all available to us. Just looking at the photos feels like a nature’s lullaby tonight! Nancy

  3. After visiting Rattlesnake Springs and the Washington Ranch for the first time in April 2014, I share your bliss. I’m sure the beautiful male Streak-backed Oriole I saw will be my Bird of the Year, and the numerous Vermillion Flycatchers were dazzling. I’ll return next year.

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