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East of Las Cruces Dam

Birding in New Mexico

East of Las Cruces Dam
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88011

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eBird Hotspot

Dona Ana County

East of Las Cruces Dam
Coordinates: 32.323151, -106.743014
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Tips for birding East of Las Cruces Dam
More technically called the Las Cruces Dam Restoration Area, this hotspot is a unique parcel of restored riparian habitat surrounded by the city of Las Cruces. The main attraction here is the Nancy Stotz Wetland (a small constructed pond) as well as a few miles of walking paths that offer access to restored vegetation and desert arroyos. A wide variety of bird species can be found in the area year-round.

Access is possible from Lohman Avenue or via Sagecrest Park along Frontier Drive. There is a paved lot at the south end of the Las Cruces dam, accessible from Lohman Avenue just east of South Telshor Boulevard, that is open 24 hours. You can park here and walk down the entrance ramp to the trails that lead through the restored area. Alternately, park along the edge of Sagecrest Park, located at the intersection of Roadrunner Parkway and Frontier Drive, and follow the paved path that leads south from the park. Sagecrest is generally the preferred starting point for birders since the park itself can offer some decent birds and places you slightly closer to the wetland. There is no fee associated with either site.

If starting at Sagecrest, poke around the park initially, as it will become busy with dog walkers and children as the day progresses. Phainopepla are regular here, in addition to other common local birds. Anna’s Hummingbirds (and occasionally other hummingbird species) may frequent this area in winter.

Walking south along the path from Sagecrest, you will eventually spot a utility hole cover on the left side of the path that is painted pink; veer left from the path here and walk through the desert towards the small patch of cottonwood trees that is visible to the east. You will soon reach the Nancy Stotz Wetland, a small, constructed pond surrounded by a bit of riparian vegetation and a few bird blinds. This pond is the most productive area of the hotspot, attracting waterfowl in winter and migrant passerines in spring and fall. Approach the pond carefully in order not to flush any ducks or other birds that may be present. It is worthwhile to reach the pond early in the morning before dog walkers and other visitors flush the birds that landed there overnight. Despite its small size, the pond can be very birdy at times, probably owing to its location in an otherwise arid and urban setting.

From the wetland, you can either cut back to the paved path or head south along a dirt path towards the dam. The desert in this park offers the usual local species, including Verdin, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed and Crissal Thrashers, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Pyrrhuloxia, and Gambel’s Quail. The denser vegetation closer to the dam offers a better variety of birds and can be especially attractive for migrating passerines. Check the numerous cottonwood trees, as well as dense patches of Johnson Grass (which can be nearly shoulder-height in places) for birds. These grasses are particularly attractive to buntings (Lazuli, Painted, and Indigo), as well as the occasional Dickcissel, during fall migration. A variety of sparrows may inhabit the grassy spots in winter. A few playa wetlands near the dam may seasonally hold water (usually during the late-summer monsoons), attracting various shorebirds and egrets.
From Joel Gilb