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Spending an evening with thousands of Sandhill Cranes is a spectacular sight and one that ranks highly for any birder! Our group enjoyed incredible scenery at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge where many birds, including these two cranes, came in to roost for the night. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
With sunsets over ancient vistas, thousands upon thousands of cranes and geese lifting into the dawn sky, and rosy-finches swirling through the thin air of 10,000 ft, this short tour through New Mexico had a plethora of special moments, amazing sightings, and lots of fun birding!
We started out by heading east out of Albuquerque, finding Evening Grosbeaks and Townsend's Solitaires near the church, before driving up to Sandia Crest where we were in for a treat. From the warm comforts of the indoors, we were able to watch as three different species of rosy-finches attended the feeders! Not only that, but the banders gave us an informative presentation and even let us release a few of the rosy-finches ourselves. If the elevation didn't take our breath away, the sheer beauty of the place surely did.
The following morning we birded the dry habitats of Embudito Canyon where Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow, and Canyon Towhee stole the show. We even had a bonus Fox Sparrow at the feeders. We continued east and enjoyed Ferruginous Hawks and Chihuahuan Ravens in the open country near Estancia and Mountain Bluebirds even made an appearance! We ended the day watching Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge where dozens wheeled in right in front of us. It was a magical end to a fun day of birding!
The next morning found us at Elephant Butte Reservoir where we had side-by-side comparisons between Western and Clark's grebes. They were really close too! Las Animas Creek was hosting Acorn Woodpeckers, Bridled Titmice, and even some Gambel's Quail during our visit. Percha Dam gave us our first Black Phoebe, a wintering Hammond's Flycatcher, and a dapper Red-naped Sapsucker. After our amazing lunch at Latitude 33, we headed back to Bosque del Apache where we spent the dusk soaking in the Bald Eagles, massive swarms of Ross's and Snow geese, and even some Elk!
Returning to Bosque del Apache NWR for one last morning of birding there, we made good use of it and found point-blank Ross's Geese as well as the Golden-crowned and Harris's sparrow mixed in with all the other feeder birds. In fact, we had the 4 Zonotrichia sweep from one spot! Down the road, we enjoyed scope views of singing Crissal Thrashers and a Green-tailed Towhee just in the nick of time. After lunch in Socorro, we headed up Water Canyon where we had a few Chestnut-collared Longspurs in the grasslands, a flock of siskins swirling along the roadside, and a very nice "Prairie" Merlin perched atop a telephone pole.
We headed north out of Albuquerque the following morning and climbed our way up to 10,000 feet at the Santa Fe ski area. An impervious Clark's Nutcracker, a hungry Hairy Woodpecker, and colorful Steller's Jays were waiting for us! Black Canyon Campground was hosting a flock of Pygmy Nuthatches on our way down, and we even found a flock of the tough-to-find Pinyon Jays at the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve. After lunch, we enjoyed some downtime in downtown Santa Fe to enjoy the various museums and shops before heading back to Albuquerque.
Although our final morning was short, we packed in lots of goodies that included the very birdy Tingley Lagoon which was loaded with Ring-necked Ducks, Wood Ducks, Canvasbacks, a few Neotropic Cormorants, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron. Our final stop, Valle de Oro NWR, provided us with Cackling Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, and a last-second Prairie Falcon! Whew. Before long though, it was time to bid each other farewell and head our separate ways.
We have lots of folks to thank for making this a successful tour. At the top of the list is Karen who managed this tour from our home base in Austin. A big thanks also to Michael Hilchey and the banders that showed us rosy-finches at Sandia Crest! And of course a big thanks to you for joining Doug and me on this Field Guides tour through New Mexico! We certainly had a blast and we hope you did too.
Until we bird together again someday, stay safe and happy birding!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
SNOW GOOSE (Anser caerulescens)
ROSS'S GOOSE (Anser rossii)
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser albifrons)
CACKLING GOOSE (RICHARDSON'S) (Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)
The most numerous birds at Bosque del Apache NWR were probably "white geese", a mix of Ross's and Snow. Here is a comparison showing the tiny Ross's Goose in front with the larger Snow Goose in the background. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)
CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
The crane and goose spectacle was picked as a favorite moment by many of us. We couldn't have asked for better views of cranes in flight, standing, feeding, roosting, you name it! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)
GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
We all enjoyed the point-blank views of grebes at Elephant Butte Reservoir. Especially interesting were the side-by-side comparisons we had of Western and Clark's grebes. Here's a Clark's Grebe, showing all the features, photographed by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)
Besides of the spectacle of cranes and geese, this tour had a lot of other offerings including some great looks at uncommon open-country species. For example, the tour enjoyed an impressive selection of the regal Ferruginous Hawk. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
FERRUGINOUS HAWK (Buteo regalis)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)
AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER (Picoides dorsalis)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)
We were lucky to see a couple of cool woodpeckers too like this female Red-naped Sapsucker at the Percha Dam area. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dryobates scalaris)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)
NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (PRAIRIE) (Falco columbarius richardsonii)
PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER (Empidonax hammondii)
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)
SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)
Our first birding day took us to the breathtaking Sandia Crest where the views of the surrounding flatlands were amazing! This scenery, paired together with all three species of rosy-finches, made for an unforgettable day. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)
WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (WOODHOUSE'S) (Aphelocoma woodhouseii nevadae)
BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (Pica hudsonia)
CLARK'S NUTCRACKER (Nucifraga columbiana)
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
Being in the southwest provided some perks including some classic desert species. For example, this Cactus Wren seemed determinded to be the center of our attention! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)
BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)
JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis nelsoni)
PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Our time exploring some of the dry, canyon country was often spent with Canyon Towhees. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)
TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)
CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) [*]
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)
Some of the stars of the tour came in the form of rosy-finches; we got to see all three species at one spot! We were fortunate that researchers were present and doing some capturing and banding. This allowed for up-close views and they even allowed us to release some birds back into the wild. This Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in the hand was photographed by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
EVENING GROSBEAK (Coccothraustes vespertinus)
GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte tephrocotis)
BLACK ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte atrata)
BROWN-CAPPED ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte australis)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
CASSIN'S FINCH (Haemorhous cassinii)
PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR (Calcarius ornatus)
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri)
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)
FOX SPARROW (Passerella iliaca)
Sometimes the trickiest of the rosy-finches to see, the Black Rosy-Finch was actually the most common for us at the Sandia Crest House! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (OREGON) (Junco hyemalis montanus)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (PINK-SIDED) (Junco hyemalis mearnsi)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (GRAY-HEADED) (Junco hyemalis caniceps)
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii)
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
HARRIS'S SPARROW (Zonotrichia querula)
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)
SAGEBRUSH SPARROW (Artemisiospiza nevadensis)
Surely one of the sharpest-looking sparrows is the Black-throated Sparrow, a denizen of desert habitats of the southwest. Our group had stunning looks at this particular one near Albuquerque! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)
RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)
GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)
The tour had other interesting animals as well including this group of Elk that came out behind a flock of geese and cranes at dusk one evening at Bosque del Apache NWR. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)
COYOTE (Canis latrans)
COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)
ELK (Cervus canadensis)
A speedy denizen of open-country, Pronghorn were seen and enjoyed by all. Thankfully, they weren't in a hurry. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)
PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)
Totals for the tour: 128 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa