A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


January 8-15, 2022 with Doug Gochfeld guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment, as we were reminded at every turn by magnificent landscape after magnificent landscape. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Winter in New Mexico! It was a real treat to be back in the Land of Enchantment once more, with beautiful landscapes, cool birds, and great company to boot. New Mexico was its usual January self, with a wintry feel to the mornings and very comfortable mid-days. The crisp, clear air over the plains at this time of year afforded us excellent views of the soul-stirring mountain, canyon, and desert scenery, along with a few excellent fiery sunrises and sunsets.

The geology of the place is the most reliable of the attractions, but the birds, who can be unpredictable, performed great too. We started off in the Pinyon-Juniper habitat in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains, and we immediately got into a collection of common juniper inhabitants including Bewick’s Wren, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Canyon Towhees, and highlighted by a rather curious and relatively showy Juniper Titmouse! Just as we were getting ready to head up the mountain, we heard the distant calls of Pinyon Jays, and within a few minutes, after repositioning, we found ourselves surrounded on three sides by a roving flock of twenty or so of these fascinating corvids. Satisfied with our early morning, we ascended the Sandias with hopes of rosy-finches dancing in our heads. This year though, the rosy-finches had yet to arrive en masse, and we felt fortunate to squeak out a group of five Black Rosy-Finches that briefly alighted by the feeders alongside the building at the crest (prior and subsequent groups completely missed them!). Despite the low numbers, Black Rosy-Finch had been a much-desired bird for several folks, so it was great to connect with it, and we descended the mountain for a delicious lunch in the foothills. Our afternoon trip to Embudito Canyon didn’t feature a lot of birds, but it did provide a lovely stroll in the late afternoon light and a very fun experience with a pair of Cactus Wrens hopping around and posing on Cholla cacti.

The next day started out with a chilly desert sunrise, but eventually some of the denizens of the area woke up, including a pair of Crissal Thrashers, who were foraging out in the open for a change, putting on a great show, and a Coyote that looked like it had rather not woken up, as it got mobbed by five ravens as it made its way across the canyon rim. Williamson’s Sapsucker was next up on the target list, and we had seen an amazing male within a minute of leaving the vehicle in Tijeras—everything was coming up aces! We then made our way east and south through the Estancia Valley, having a phenomenal raptor-filled couple of hours featuring a roadside Prairie Falcon, a migrating Rough-legged Hawk, and a barrage of Ferruginous Hawks of all colors, ages, and morphs. Add to this a group of nearly 600 Chihuahuan Ravens, a handful of Mountain Bluebirds, and a point-blank roadside adult Golden Eagle (!!), and it was a phenomenal day. Our “travel day” wasn’t over quite yet, as we rolled into Bernardo WMA in time to watch several thousand densely packed Sandhill Cranes feeding in a field, and we then followed that up by watching a spectacle that made our hearts flutter—thousands upon thousands of cranes heading to the river to roost against the backdrop of desert mountains set against a pink and purple dusk sky.

Once we'd settled into Socorro, our next two days were devoted to areas directly influenced by the Rio Grande. Bosque del Apache NWR (BdA) is of course the most famous of these, but we also set our sights on Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes to the south, which are reservoirs that were created when the river was dammed many, many years ago. These lakes are exceptionally productive oases for waterbirds, and we were especially taken by the stellar comparison views of Clark’s Grebe and Western Grebe at close range. We also saw several thousand American Wigeon and a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Caballo Lake, and had a pile of Phainopepla feeding on the burgeoning Mistletoe berry crop at nearby Percha Dam State Park.

Our time up at the refuge itself provided another bona fide spectacle—Snow Geese. We arrived dark and early in the hopes of finding them flying in to stage at a pre-sunrise roost. The sky was clear and we could still see stars, and the only noise was from the few ducks that were already awake in the impoundment (I’m looking at you, Northern Shovelers!) and a light breeze. All of a sudden, the silence was intruded upon by a low volume murmuring in the distance, but this steadily became louder and louder until it resolved itself into the cacophony of thousands of geese taking off from their night roost in the Rio Grande and heading our way! They dropped into the pond near where we were standing, and we took a short stroll down the dike until we were merely tens of meters away from an incredible aggregation of white geese. They were mostly Snow Geese, but there were a few Ross’s Geese mixed in, and, as the sun broke the horizon, groups of them were noisily taking off to go about their busy days. A truly memorable experience!

While on the refuge we also made a couple of stops in the gift shop and bookstore, and at the very active feeders and cactus garden there. We also were able to find a couple of Sagebrush Sparrows (which we had whiffed on a couple of times over the past couple of days), much to everyone’s delight. We had a lovely lunch in Socorro before setting our sights on Santa Fe, on en route making a brief stop in southern Albuquerque where we saw lots of Cackling Geese and finally got our first good views of Greater Roadrunner.

Our day and a half in the Santa Fe and Los Alamos area was a nice combination of birding and culture, with one afternoon open for folks to explore the (currently sleepy) streets of historic Santa Fe and its museums. On the birding side of things, our morning around Los Alamos started out positively frigid, but it warmed up quite rapidly once the sun hit, and we had several highlight wildlife experiences, the most magical of which was where we came across two Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the company of a few Acorn Woodpeckers, a loose roving flock of 40-50 Steller’s Jays, and a nice herd of 15 Elk, all in an unbeatable setting—a sunny, snow-covered, winter mountainscape. After our final group breakfast of the tour, we headed over to the Santa Fe River, where the birds of interest came one after another. In a relatively short period of time, with just a short stroll, we found Rusty Blackbird, Harris’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow (scarce here in winter), Marsh Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, and a surprise Northern Shrike! Buoyed by this great start, we made our way down to Albuquerque, where we had just a couple of additional birding stops in store.

Our time at Alameda Open Space was highlighted by our first Wood Ducks, a great view of Wilson’s Snipe foraging in the open, an even better view of a Greater Roadrunner (almost running between our legs), and, of course, the gulls. We saw over a thousand gulls there, and of those, all but four individuals were Ring-billed Gull, but those four individuals were each something different. We had an adult California Gull, an adult Herring Gull, a second-year Lesser Black-backed Gull, and the most surprising, a juvenile Cook Inlet Gull (Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull), the latter of which was the first record ever for New Mexico! Our final birding excursion was a repeat visit to Embudito Canyon, where we found a very cooperative Black-throated Sparrow and a very hyperactive Texas Antelope Squirrel, and we finished up with yet another heart-stirring New Mexico sunset, making the Cholla glow yellow and bathing the Sandia Mountains looming over us in a pink evening glow.

It was a wonderful trip, and I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for accompanying me on this exciting exploration of New Mexico—Land of Enchantment indeed! I look forward to seeing you all somewhere else on this magnificent planet of ours. Until then, be well, and good birding!


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)

Wow, what a spectacle we were treated to by the thousands of these at Bosque del Apache (BdA) NWR on our early morning. All with the backdrop of a brilliant, clear sunrise over the mountains to boot!

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The sunrise Snow Goose spectacle at Bosque del Apache NWR was one of several magical episodes on this tour. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

ROSS'S GOOSE (Anser rossii)

We picked out a few of these in with the much larger number of their larger cousin Snow Geese at Bernardo and at BdA.

CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii)

A nice aggregation at Isleta Lakes provided good side-by-side studies between these and Canada Geese.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Common at BdA, and also around Albuquerque.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

We saved these gorgeous ducks for our very last morning, when we got to see a dozen or so of them up close and personal from the blinds at Alameda open space.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

Watching them swirl around and around in circles as they used their large spatulate bills to feed at BdA was a fun highlight.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

Common in appropriate habitat.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

We saw them commonly in appropriate habitat, but the most impressive aggregation were the hordes and hordes of them at Caballo Lake, where we had on the order of 3,000 individuals!

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

Common in appropriate habitat.

MALLARD X MEXICAN DUCK (HYBRID) (Anas platyrhynchos x Anas diazi)

We saw a few of these regionally common hybrids, including at Bosque del Apache and at Alameda open space.

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

One very good pure-looking bird was along the roadside at Bosque del Apache.


Common in appropriate habitat, and abundant at BdA.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

Scattered groups around BdA.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)

A crispy clean male was at Isleta Lakes, and at one point it even swam to the shore, got out of the water, and went to sleep.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

A nice group close to the roadside during our morning at BdA was a real crowd-pleaser!

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Our most common Aythya of the trip, seen in several locations over the course of our two days in watery habitats.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

Our best view of the few of these that we saw along the route was the up-close experience at Paseo del Rio.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

Three at Caballo Lake, and then a handful at BdA.

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)

Good views at Isleta Lakes, including a nicely-plumaged male.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

A few here and there.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

A few around BdA.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

A few fairly cooperative birds were coming to the feeders at BdA.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We experienced an idyllic evening with thousands of Sandhill Cranes feeding and then flying by in flock after flock as the sun set behind the desert mountains. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

Heard by some in the evening at Bernardo refuge, and then seen strutting across a closed dike at BdA, before it flew across a field and into the shelter of the forest edge.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Some around BdA, but our best views were the couple of very close ones at Paseo del Rio.

WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

Lots and lots of these down on the reservoirs along the Rio Grande south of BdA.

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

The scarcer of the two Aechmophorus grebes in the region, but they are still fairly common among the rafts of large grebes at Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes. We got some especially good photo ops and side-by-side comparisons between them and Western Grebes at Elephant Butte.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Every day of the tour.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Every day of the tour except for our day in Los Alamos.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Quite a few flying by at Bernardo WMA, and then some around BdA.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Most days of the tour, with highest numbers in the Bernardo and BdA areas.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

We had a couple of brief encounters with road-crossing roadrunners before we finally were able to view one at leisure (at the golf course at Isleta Lakes). Then we got one more fine experience with a much less shy roadrunner adjacent to the parking lot at Alameda open space!

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This "Cook Inlet" Gull we found along the river in Albuquerque was the first of its kind recorded in New Mexico. Since Cook Inlet Gull is a hybrid (Glaucous-winged Gull x Herring Gull), it doesn't "count" as a new species, but it was a really neat bird, and it was also interesting to work through the identification of this fresh juvenile bird. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola) [*]

We heard one of these make one series of grunt calls while we were trying to see Marsh Wren along the Santa Fe River.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

A nice surprise was one of these foraging under a bush at the edge of one of the many water control ditches at BdA!

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Plenty, on water bodies both big and small.

Gruidae (Cranes)

SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)

One of the primary reasons for this tour is the crane spectacle along the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. This year, we had our best crane viewing (and it was quite magical) north of BdA, at Bernardo WMA.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Just a couple of brief sightings.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

We had brief flight views of one that flushed along the Santa Fe River. Then we had great studies, from the blind at Alameda open space, of one intently foraging along the water's edge, totally out in the open. What a fantastic plumage pattern!

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

One each at Percha Dam and Caballo Lake.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

The default Larus gull in New Mexico, and we ran into especially large aggregations at Caballo Lake and in Albuquerque, and both of these groups held interesting gulls of other species.

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Clark's Grebes showed quite well down at Elephant Butte Lake, sometimes even swimming alongside their closely related cousin Western Grebes for excellent comparisons. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)

An adult was briefly in the flock at Alameda, but it took flight and flew northward and out of sight just after we spotted it.

HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)

Single adults at Elephant Butte and Alameda open space.


A first-winter/juvenile was a nice surprise down at the dam at Caballo Lake, and then we also had a very cooperative second-winter bird along the river in Albuquerque. This Eurasian species has been steadily becoming more common in the US over the past couple of decades, to the point where now one wouldn't be crazy to look for them in any state at any time (though they are still uncommon or rare across much of the west)!


This was a doozie! One of the first gulls we saw when we arrived at the roost along the river in Albuquerque, this juvenile large gull immediately stood out from the assembled adult Ring-billed Gulls. It's black bill, bulky structure, gently sloping, rather than rounded, forehead, milky brown primaries and overall mocha-colored plumage led us away from any pure species and to this identification - a hybrid combination which had not previously been recorded in New Mexico!

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Nice side-by-side views with Double-crested Cormorant during our exploration of the lakes south of BdA.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Lots on Elephant Butte, and then also a few down on Caballo Lake, where we could compare them with the former species.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Seen on three days, and common at all our sites along the Rio Grande.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

A write-in was this unseasonable Cattle Egret hunched down at the end of the tired off the marina at Elephant Butte.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

A couple of these were patrolling the south end of Elephant Butte Lake.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

This wintering rarity was one of our goals at Bosque del Apache, and we found it after we completed our circuit of the wildlife drive on our morning at the refuge. We even got to see it drop into the grasses and grab a small (as yet unidentified by us) rodent, though while it was perched, a Northern Harrier came over to harass it, and this seemed to prevent the kite from finishing its meal.

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)

Excellent up-close views of one perched atop a utility pole alongside the road as we made our way west through the grasslands back towards I-25.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Especially abundant at BdA.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

A spiffy adult male was perched on a rock at Embudito, and then a bit later we saw it causing alarm in the local Feral Pigeon population. Also a juvenile at BdA.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Lots and lots at BdA, where there are plenty of ducks and geese for them to go after!

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

It was fun to see such a wide array of color morphs throughout our travels (seen every day of the tour) through the state, and this even included one very Harlan's-like bird,

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus sanctijohannis)

A light morph was cruising by heading south as we were piling out of the van to get our first good views of Ferruginous Hawk.

FERRUGINOUS HAWK (Buteo regalis)

A great experience with these in the Estancia Valley, where we had double digits. We also had one around our crane spectacle viewing that same evening at Bernardo.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Paseo del Rio and Isleta Lakes.

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Cholla, cholla everywhere. Tree cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata) is surely one of the most recognizable plants of the Desert Southwest, though it's also one you want to be careful around! We enjoyed an ocean of these cacti being bathed in low afternoon sun at Embudito Canyon—a quintissential desert scene. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)

Whoa! A great experience with a male at point blank range in Tijeras. The first time I can recall experiencing this species as a true drive-up bird.


One of these eastern sapsuckers was hanging out outside the visitor's center at BdA, on our second visit there.

LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)

A wonderful experience with a couple of these in the Jemez Mountains outside Los Alamos with an idyllic winter montane forest backdrop.

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

A couple of these were keeping the Lewis's Woodpecker company, and we also found one or two over at upper Water Canyon.


Lengthy scope views of a female perched up in a dead Pinyon Pine at Embudito Canyon.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

We had a few encounters with the extensively dark-backed Rocky Mountains form up in its high elevation habitats.

NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)

Seen on all but one day of the tour, in various habitats.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Pretty common along our route through open country in the "lowlands" (which are still thousands of feet above sea level).

MERLIN (TAIGA) (Falco columbarius columbarius)

One shot across over our heads as we watched the sunset spectacle at Bernardo.

PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus)

Our very first raptor as we headed south into the Estancia Valley was a Prairie Falcon perched on a utility pole - what luck! After we disembarked, it did the same, and we got to watch it circle over our heads for a few minutes, showing its distinctive dark armpits and broad wings.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

We had one or two at BdA, but our best views by far were the day prior, when we had one virtually at our feet at Percha Dam.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

Our first was on a sprig of grass in front of several thousand Sandhill Cranes at Bernardo, and we also encountered the species at BdA and in Santa Fe.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Multiples out in the Creosote flats at BdA.

NORTHERN SHRIKE (Lanius borealis)

Another write-in, and a nice surprise. One was perched up on a small piece of metal protruding from a dirt mound adjacent to where we parked along the Santa Fe River. It was in view for long enough for everyone to see it, register our surprise, and then watch it fly off!

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

A flock of 21 of these excellent jays was perhaps the standout among several highlights of our first morning at Tijeras. What great birds!

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Lewis's Woodpecker is one of the birds that can be quite tricky to track down, but we found a perfect mountain meadow where a couple of these bizarre woodpeckers were showing off their many shades of pink and red and their very crow-like flight style in the company of Acorn Woodpeckers and a herd of Elk. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

STELLER'S JAY (INTERIOR) (Cyanocitta stelleri macrolopha)

A couple coming into the feeders at Sandia Crest, and then a flock of 40 or so individuals in the open area where the Lewis's Woodpeckers were, before finishing off with a few more up at the Pajarito ski area at the top of the mountain!

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (WOODHOUSE'S) (Aphelocoma woodhouseii nevadae)

Several scattered through the lower elevations, especially in juniper-rich habitat.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Every day of the tour.

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

One of the less well-known highlights of this tour is the high aggregation of Chihuahuan Ravens we encounter, and the opportunity to compare Chihuahuan Raven and Common Raven side-by-side, and repeatedly. This year, our big flock numbered around 585 Chihuahuan Ravens visible in a single scan!

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

We saw these largest of our passerines on every single day, and they were findable in most every habitat we explored.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Our only ones were along the Santa Fe River on our final morning.

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

We encountered these, as one could expect, in the mountains, at both Sandia Crest and at Pajarito Mountain.

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

A very cooperative one spent some time giving us good views on our first morning in Tijeras.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Two of these were flitting around the dry scrub near the dam at Caballo Lake.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Lots of these were flying hither and yon in the Estancia Valley, though we never came upon any particularly large flocks.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)

Small groups at Tijeras and Embudito on day one.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) [*]

One was heard calling from dense conifers on Pajarito Mountain, but we never did lay eyes on this pajarito.

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We had a spectacularly sunny morning up at Sandia Crest, which made it much more comfortable to be outside than it often can. Here's the view looking down from the crest, across some of the mountain's outcroppings and down to Albuquerque below. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)

Percha Dam, Paseo del Rio, Pueblo Canyon, and Santa Fe.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

Finally got some excellent looks up at the top of Pajarito Mountain.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis nelsoni)

We saw this taxon (different than the coastal forms of White-breasted Nuthatch, and maybe a potential split possibility down the road) at a couple of spots around Los Alamos and the Jemez.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

A small group of these came chattering through the conifers at the bridge at Pueblo Canyon.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana) [*]

One of these was repeatedly calling from the tree line along the shore of the impoundment at the flight deck at BdA, but we never could lay eyes on it!

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

Some folks got on one of these on the rock wall at Rinconada Canyon, and we also heard them singing upslope of us at Paseo del Rio. They tend not to be particularly showy in the winter months.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

Some folks got on one that was chattering away at BdA, and still others saw one quite well along the Santa Fe River, though neither visual encounter was particularly long-lived.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

One of the first birds which we saw as a group, providing excellent views in the junipers at Tijeras, and then we had a cooperative pair along the Santa Fe River.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Wonderful views of one intently foraging at length in a Cholla cactus at Embudito Canyon, in the perfect late afternoon light!

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Every day.

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Gray-headed Junco was one of several taxa of Dark-eyed Junco we encountered. These are montane breeders, and we found them in a few locations in the Sandias and the Jemez. We even got to see one in hand that the rosy-finch researchers banded. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

Chris spotted one which was in view briefly on our first visit to Embudito Canyon, but then everyone got good scope views of one teed up on a Cholla along the Santa Fe.

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

A most excellent experience with a pair of these oft-skulky thrashers during our chilly morning at Rinconada Canyon.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

We saw these on each of the first five days of the tour, and they were especially tied to juniper-rich habitats.

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)

A nice group of these along the roadside near Mountainair included some drop-dead gorgeous males.

TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)

One perched up nicely for scope views on our first morning in Tijeras, and then we had a few calling back and forth during our frigid morning in Pueblo Canyon.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Just a couple, on our fist and last days.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A good flock of over thirty of these at Percha Dam, clearly attracted by the plentiful mistletoe berry crop.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Perhaps up to ten of these at Percha Dam, which by historical standards, is a very good number of these for the winter months. A clear indication of the success of mistletoe here.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Every day except day 1.

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Williamson's Sapsucker is another low density target that was much desired on this tour, and so when we saw this male at point blank range, there were plenty of oohs and aahs. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

We heard a flyover or two at Bernardo, and then we saw at least one calling flyover at Percha Dam.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

BLACK ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte atrata)

A flock of five of these came in to trees at Sandia Crest, and perched for a minute or two before dropping down over the side of the cliff when a couple of civilians walked under them.

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Widespread, and we encountered them in all but the most extreme (high elevation, true desert) habitats.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

A group of three briefly alighted in some of the conifers at Sandia Crest on our first morning of birding.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Nice views of a small group around the BdA visitor center, where they were going to roost in conifer at the end of the day.


A nice group hanging out with House Finches near the mostly dried up pool at Percha Dam.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

Percha Dam.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

Good views during our afternoon visits to Embudito Canyon.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)

This taxon is on the list in addition to the following ones because there are plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos that we saw which defied certain identification to subspecies!

DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis)

BdA and Santa Fe.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the pair of Crissal Thrashers that was just going about their morning business during our visit to Rinconada Canyon. It's a rare thing for a group to be able to watch them feeding and perching out in the open for such a long time. We actually had to walk away from them while they were still in view! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (OREGON) (Junco hyemalis montanus)

Fairly widespread.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (PINK-SIDED) (Junco hyemalis mearnsi)

The most numerous junco taxa in the Pinyon Juniper habitats around Tijeras.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (GRAY-HEADED) (Junco hyemalis caniceps)

This high elevation breeder was up at Sandia Crest, but was also a bit lower down at Upper Water Canyon and Tijeras - they often come down in elevation during the winter months.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii)

White-crowned Sparrows were widespread in all habitats away from the high elevations, and we didn't encounter any that we could conclusively say were not of the Z.l.gambelii subspecies.

HARRIS'S SPARROW (Zonotrichia querula)

A nice addition to the trip list was this individual that was spending the winter around the Santa Fe wastewater plant, and though our view was brief, it was close!

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

One was amidst the flock of White-crowned Sparrows (along with a Pyrrhuloxia) at Percha Dam.

SAGEBRUSH SPARROW (Artemisiospiza nevadensis)

We finally connected with this species on our third attempt, and got cracking views at that!

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

A couple around BdA.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Encountered on the majority of our birding days, always near some open water, and usually close to marshy pockets of habitat.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

Good looks at one during our walk at Percha Dam.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

Great, close views of one of these low density regional winterers along the Santa Fe River.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

Excellent looks on day one in several locations: at Tijeras, in a parking lot in Cedar Crest, and then in gorgeous evening light at Embudito Canyon.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Encountered in several places, with the best views coming at Paseo del Rio and the BdA feeders.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)

The default meadowlark in most locations we visit, and we had an especially large flock right near the entrance to the wildlife drive at BdA.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Phainopepla is a scarce winterer around the southern part of our tour route, but there are almost always a handful around Percha Dam because of the proliferation of Mistletoe growing on the old growth Cottonwoods there. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Especially large numbers at Bernardo and BdA.

RUSTY BLACKBIRD (Euphagus carolinus)

This is a New Mexico rarity, but it had been spending the winter along the Santa Fe River near a wastewater treatment plant. It had been difficult for many folks to see prior to our visit, but we found it teed up and spontaneously singing when we started to walk down the stream, and it was actually quite showy for us!

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Our first were in the Estancia Valley, and then we had better views at Elephant Butte Reservoir. We then had large flocks of them flying over us around sunrise during our white goose viewing at BdA.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

A bunch around Isleta Lakes, and then scattered around Albuquerque, most often seen while we were driving.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

At least one bird that both sounded and looked like a Myrtle Warbler on our final morning along the Santa Fe River.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

The more common and expected of the Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies along our tour route, and seen very well at Percha Dam, and then again along the Santa Fe River.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) X YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (INTERGRADE) (Setophaga coronata coronata x Setophaga coronata auduboni)

An interesting example of this intergrade was a bird along the Santa Fe River that was giving calls sounding closest to Audubon's Warbler, but physically appearing as if it were a normal Myrtle Warbler!

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Some fleeting views of hiding birds at Percha Dam, but then excellent views of at least one more habituated individual around the Bosque del Apache feeders.


DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

A couple were chasing each other all over the place in Tijeras.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The sunset bathed the eastern sky and mountains in a pink glow as the Sandhill Cranes streamed by towards the roost along the Rio Grande. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)

A nice surprise bounding away from us down a side road amid the chaparral at BdA.

TEXAS ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus interpres)

Another surprise was one of these hyperactive squirrels with a white blaze down the flanks on our final evening at Embudito Canyon.

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Present at high elevations, and several were very vocal up at Pajarito Mountain, where we got some good views of one or two of these vicious little cuties.

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

Our first experience with Coyote was one slinking, stalking, or strolling (it's all in the eye of the beholder!) along the ridge at Rinconada Canyon, all the while drawing the concentrated ire of 5 Common Ravens. Then, at BdA, we heard them on our evening at the refuge, and then saw a couple near a dead goose along the wildlife drive the next day.

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

A group of three were feeding in a field towards the end of our morning loop around the wildlife drive at BdA.

ELK (Cervus canadensis)

A herd of fifteen or so were amid the pines set against a wonderful winter wonderland background above Los Alamos.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

Our first were a couple at Embudito Canyon, and the last we saw of them they were being chased up the slope of the canyon by someone's off-leash dog. Several scattered elsewhere throughout the tour.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This herd of Elk was keeping careful eye on our group as we birded near Los Alamos. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Totals for the tour: 135 bird taxa and 8 mammal taxa