New Mexico Rosy Finch Trip Summary & Photos ~ Jan 26th-30th '06
At the end of January I went on a trip with some friends to New Mexico, the target birds being the three species of Rosy Finch at Sandia Crest. After a long drive over night we arrived at 8am the next morning and entered the building as soon as the doors were open. We didn't have to wait that long before all three species flew onto the feeder, which we viewed from the comfort of the restauraunt with mugs of hot chocolate in hand! The Gray-crowned, Brown-capped and Black Rosy Finches were also accompanied by the sub species "Hepburn's", giving us one in the bank if they eventually split the bird into a separate species. Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Hairy Woodpeckers and Red-tailed Hawk were also up on the Crest.
Our next stop was in Albuquerque where a Yellow Grosbeak had been visiting some front yard feeders. We waited here for about an hour or so before the bird finally showed but the wait was worth while. He was beautiful! We watched him at the feeders and bird bath for about 30 min's. A Road Runner preened himself on the side of the road and a Coopers hawk flew in just to stir things up.
Moving on we went to the Rio Grand Nature Center, a neat place with lots of birds. Canada and Cackling Geese were here accompanied by Mallard, Coot, Gadwall, Canvasback, Bufflehead, Hooded merganser, Wood duck, Ring-necked duck and Shovelers. Sandhill Cranes were out in the field and the wooded areas included Mourning doves, White-crowned Sparrow, House Finch, Ruby-crowned Kinglets & White-breasted Nuthatches.
This was our last stop for the day which was a long one! We stayed in Santa Fe for the remainder of the trip as it was a good central location for where we wished to bird.
The next morning we set out for Cochiti Lake which is about half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Our target here was to find a Red-necked Grebe which had been seen and we located it quickly. Other birds on or around the lake included Bald Eagle, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Buffleheads, Western bluebirds and American pipits. On leaving the Lake we stopped to look at some Western Bluebirds and had a great view of two Sage Thrashers, the one sitting up on a sign post calling to another in the shrubs behind. Always a nice bird to see!
Next we headed for Bandelier National Monument where we met up with some friends. The birding was pretty slow although a few good birds showed including American Kestrel, Townsend's Solitaire, Western Scrub-Jay, Bewick's Wren, Dark-eyed Junco, Pygmy & White-breasted Nuthatch, Williamson's Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Common Raven and Juniper Titmouse.
We were unable to locate any Red Crossbills which had been seen earlier in the day but a quick trip to Jemez Falls afterwards did produce a small flock, some of which were very vocal with their calls and one was even singing. A brief view of a couple flying was all we were able to see. The falls were completely frozen but you could see the water flowing beneath the ice which was very cool. It was wonderful walking through the crisp snow overlying soft pine trails even though it was pretty cold. Birds along the trails included Hairy Woodpecker, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and Common Ravens sounding off in the distance.
The following morning we headed off in search for an American Dipper. Frequent stops along the Pecos River produced some nice birds and Monastery Lake was a good spot for American magpie, Juniper Titmouse, Steller's Jays which were constantly fussing, Townsend's Solitaire singing his beautiful and clear, warbling song, Mallard, Belted Kingfisher, American Robin, Spotted Towhee and Red-breasted Nuthatch. We moved on further downstream, stopping off in several places to check the mostly frozen river. In several places you could literally walk on the ice, standing in the middle of the river to look in both directions for any sign of movement. Finally, in the Dalton Canyon area the river was unfrozen enough in one spot to produce the Dipper! Quick, must take a photo - where's my camera? My camera, at some point had come loose from my belt without my knowledge. And there was the Dipper just WAITING for his photo! There was nothing else we could do but to back track our steps and return to the previous stops. We knew which areas we had visited but it all looked the same with snow on the ground. I traced my steps to the edge of the River where I had stopped to look at a what would have been a great walking stick and there it was, lying on the ground right on the edge of the frozen river! Needless to say I was relieved as it had a lot of photos of the trip on it! We then returned to where the Dipper was and he was still there and although I was at a distance I was able to get a shot of him.
The Dipper was our last target bird so for the rest of the afternoon we decided to return to Bandolier National Monument to explore the Pueblo Indian cliff dwellings. It was such a fascinating place and I was so excited to be able to finally see this site as its something I've wanted to see for a long time. We walked the trail into the canyon so we could visit the "Alcove House", a large natural cave reached by climbing up 140 feet by means of four ladders! We made it and the views from up there were awesome! There was also a small "Kiva" inside the cave which we went into. I was incredible to imagine the people who lived here and carved out these living areas.
Alcove House was just one cave & the trail led past numerous other living spaces carved into the soft canyon walls which had been formed by volcanic ash. More rooms with more ladders, all facing south to make use of the suns warm rays during the winter. We went into each of them and enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs which were set into the cliff as well as inside the rooms on the celings. Thankfully the best of the caves and petroglyphs are not open to the public out of respect for the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there and which will hopefully be preserved for many years to come. It was well worth taking the time out of our birding to visit this special place.
We left the following morning, a 9 hr drive back to Fort Worth.