New Mexico

A trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week was not, needless to say, without a bit of nature.

I explored the Randall Davey Audubon Center, and the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, adjacent properties both an hour-long walk from the Plaza, the center of town. A mule deer — check out those big ears, white-tailed deer-people — greeted me near the entrance of the Preserve (the day before, a black bear had wandered into town; mountain lions have been known to do the same thing). Three species of hummingbirds were all over the feeders at the Audubon center, including the little Calliope pictured above, which fearlessly perched an arm’s reach away.

But a rather richer experience was to be had further afield, where I ventured with Bill West of Wings West Birding Tours. This was the first time I’ve ever hired a guide like this and it was well worth it. West’s been in NM for 30 years and is a fount of natural history. He’s also good company on the road. He took me to several spots east of Santa Fe, away from the mountains, including the Las Vegas NWR anda working spread near the town of Las Vegas (locals like to call New Mexico’s Las Vegas the original; also, there are no meadows, vegas, in the more famous Nevada mirage). The Ranch has a wonderful sun-dappled riparian bosque habitat of cottonwoods and multi-boled Gooding willows that was positively saturated with birds. Although the stream was dry, the area had seen recent rains — Northern New Mexico, high desert, gives you a real appreciation of the importance of water out west — so flowers and insects were abundant. I could barely take notes fast enough, so quickly were the birds appearing. We flushed a Barn Owl and something darker and larger, possibly a Great-horned Owl. I found a handsome mule deer antler. We side-stepped ant hills and cow pats, fresh and dry, since the area was used by the ranch for its bulls; one big boy with a gorgeous walnut brown coat was there that day, and we kept a safe distance from him.

I had wanted to see Swainson’s hawks and we had half a dozen over the day, with a nice variety of light and dark morphs. Yellow-headed blackbirds were also on my must-see list, and we saw first a smattering then a good flock of mostly juveniles on some barbed wire fencing, with one old boy in the mix.

Here’s the list of everything avian seen while in NM, with new species or subspecies noted with an *: Double-crested Cormorant, Clark’s Grebe*, White Pelican, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk*, Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine, Baird’s Sandpiper*, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Barn Owl, Calliope Hummingbird*, Broad-tailed Hummingbird*, Black-chinned Hummingbird*, Red-napped Sapsucker*, Lewis’s Woodpecker*, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (Red-Shafted*), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Peewee*, Say’s Phoebe*, Western Kingbird*, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub Jay, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Barn Swallow, Violet-Green Swallow*, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee*, White-breasted Nuthatch, Juniper Titmouse*, Rock Wren*, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire*, American Robin, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Virginia’s Warbler*, Black-throated Gray Warbler*, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s*), Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee*, Spotted Towhee*, Canyon Towhee*, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow*, Lark Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Lark Bunting*, Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed)*, Black-headed Grosbeak*, Blue Grosbeak*, Yellow-headed Blackbird*, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Pine Siskin, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow.A different excursion, to the west of Santa Fe, led to this juniper-dotted valley: the Rio Grande flowing south, as viewed from the overlook at White Rock, NM. Some more pictures to follow soon.

3 Responses to “New Mexico”

  1. 1 Out Walking the Dog September 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Welcome back!!! Sounds like a great trip with great birds. What is a yellow-headed cowbird? I know yellow-headed blackbirds (they blew my mind the first time I saw them) but what’s a y-h cowbird? That mule deer looks pretty patchy – is it molting? I love the photos, including the “sun-dappled riparian bosque habitat.” Nice.

  1. 1 Antlered Associations « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on October 15, 2011 at 8:15 am

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