A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

New Mexico: Birding the Land of Enchantment 2023

January 7-14, 2023 with Doug Gochfeld guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The fiery sunrise at Bosque del Apache was one of the stars of our morning watching the geese and cranes ready themselves for the day ahead. Here is one of those Sandhill Cranes dropping into the marsh amid the huge gaggle of white geese. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Scenery is often considered the mere background to the birds we’re looking at, but while exploring New Mexico, you could argue that the backdrop is the real protagonist of the story. In the south it was the beautiful red rocks, intricately designed by eons of changing water flow, and now left to sparkle in the clear desert sunshine. In the north there were the snow-capped peaks ensconcing Santa Fe in their chilly embrace, and in between the high desert and the isolated Sandia Mountains, its sprawling eastern slopes of spruce and fir coming to an abrupt end at the sheer cliff looming over Albuquerque. Passing through Pinyon-Juniper foothills and expansive grasslands and into the Rio Grande Valley opened us up to a sensory overload of geese and cranes honking and bugling in dawn and dusk spectacles fit for the finest nature documentaries. Against these breathtaking backdrops unfolded a week of interesting birds, delicious food, and a sprinkling of the region’s culture and history.

One bird theme that was a constant throughout, and the most unusual facet of this year’s tour, was the presence of birds of the pinyon-juniper woodlands being widespread away from their normal habitat. This was most obvious in our repeated out-of-habitat encounters with Juniper Titmouse, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, and especially Townsend’s Solitaire.

Our birding started off at Sandia Crest, where we watched a flock of Rosy-Finches, including all three possible species. They floated around back-and-forth overhead on their silvery wings as they made sure it was safe to land at the feeders, before gorging themselves on the seed. The numbers and species breakdown varies year-to-year, and so far this year the flock consists of mostly Black Rosy-Finches, but we saw a few Brown-capped and a Gray-crowned during the flock’s visits as well. After this, we explored the foothills east of the Sandias, encountering a flyby adult Northern Goshawk and a social flock of Pinyon Jays. We then shot across town to check out the wide array of up-close-and-personal wintering waterfowl at a popular Albuquerque fishing lake, where we drew lots of human inquisitiveness at the fact that we were packing binoculars rather than fishing rods.

The next day we traveled down to Bosque del Apache via the Estancia Valley, getting excellent looks at Horned Larks, and repeated views of Ferruginous Hawks of all morphs. We would visit the refuge several times over the next 48 hours, and each time exceeded the last, with each spectacle of numbers overshadowing the last. An afternoon with thousands of geese on the roadside (and in the road!) gave way to an evening of cranes and geese feeding and staging and flying towards roosts in the hundreds and hundreds, creating an unforgettable soundscape, and this scene gave way to the next morning’s goose spectacle spectacular. In between and around these jaw dropping moments were thousands of ducks, a smattering of shorebirds, a showy Crissal Thrasher, and the delightful activity around the refuge’s bird feeders. While in this part of the state, we also made a journey to the south: at Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes we found Western and Clark’s grebes, Rock Wren, American White Pelican, Common Mergansers, and a hodgepodge of other denizens, and then Percha Dam SP provided a retina-searing Vermilion Flycatcher, Phainopeplas and Western Bluebirds galore, and a lovely flock of Cedar Waxwings.

When we were at last done with our time south of Albuquerque, we headed back north, through the city, and up to the state capital of Santa Fe. We took in some of the cultural attractions of the city, with some folks enjoying either the New Mexico Museum of Art or the New Mexico History Museum, and others just walking around this very old (by American standards) town and checking out the distinctive art and indigenous craft sellers. The next day was spent doing some higher elevation birding, and we birded around the famous “Atomic City,” Los Alamos, finding a great trio of woodpeckers (Lewis’s, Acorn, and Williamson’s Sapsucker) as well as a nice supporting cast of high elevation birds, and finishing up with a walk at a Santa Fe area preserve which was quite birdy, and at one point included a single binocular field with both Green-tailed and Spotted towhee.

Our final day started with a clear, but breezy and frigid morning, and our first couple of stops around Santa Fe produced a few fun birds (including a marsh bird symphony of Virginia Rails, Soras, and Marsh Wrens) and more than a few shivers. We headed south to Albuquerque, dropping lower in elevation and leaving the winds behind us, and had a lovely walk in a desert canyon at the foot of the Sandias. The great scenery was a backdrop for excellent views of Crissal Thrasher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, and even a cute and quick Texas Antelope Squirrel. After lunch we finished off the tour’s birding with a delightful American Dipper which had descended mountains from the north and was spending the winter in town, before one final stop at the nature center feeders and ponds.

The week was over before we knew it, but the memories of all the birding and scenery that we packed into it will last for a long time. Enjoying the geese and crane spectacles at the bosque, the ghostly rosy-finches on the mountaintop, and all the great birds and moments in between was a joy, and even more so because I got to spend it with a group of fine and fun folks. I genuinely hope to see you all again, and in the meantime, bird on!


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)

Definitely THE biggest spectacle of the tour. We first encountered them in a big afternoon resting flock near the entrance to the wildlife drive at BdA, with several thousand birds at point blank range seeming unconcerned with our presence. A couple of mornings later, however, was when we had our magical pre-sunrise red sky arrival and departure experience with them at the refuge.

Enjoy these couple of minutes of reflection on our lovely week in the land of enchantment. From the rosy-finches, Steller's Jays, and pocket gopher of the snow-capped Sandias to the impressive biomass of geese and cranes at Bosque del Apache, and standouts like Lewis's Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, and American Dipper, there were plenty of great moments! Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.

ROSS'S GOOSE (Anser rossii)

Hundreds of these smaller, cuter versions were mixed into the thousands of Snow Geese, and we were able to see them beautifully from close range several times.

CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii)

We started off with excellent close up views of a family group of 4 at the small pond at Tingley Lagoon, allowing us a great opportunity for comparison with their larger cousins.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Scattered through many of our encounters with water bodies.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

Especially abundant at Tingley, but also at several other locations, mostly around Albuquerque.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

Very common at BdA.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

Good numbers at BdA and a nice close pair at RGNC.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

First bunch at Tingley, and then common at BdA, and also seen on a couple of other occasions (including a small group hopping off the frigid golf course pond near Santa Fe).

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

Lots at Tingley, and lots more at BdA.

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

We mostly noticed a few of these at the refuge, but we also doubtless glazed over some at Tingley.


Holy guacamole what a spectacle these ducks put on at BdA. Amazing to see these above-elegant ducks stretching through the impoundments as far as they eye could see. They seemed to be the most common species of duck at the refuge during our visit by a wide margin, and we never tired of looking at the stately males, nor the understated but still beautiful females.

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

Plenty at BdA, but especially good views later on at RGNC.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)

Excellent close up views of multiple drakes at Tingley was by far our best experience with this great Aythya duck.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

A couple of small groups at various places around the refuge.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Excellent close views at Tingley, and then some at BdA and the golf course pond n Santa Fe.

GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila nearctica)

One female at Tingley Lagoon is a scarcity in New Mexico in winter.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

A dozen or so at Tingley and a few at BdA and a roadside pond near Elephant Butte Reservoir.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

Most numerous at BdA.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had a nice experience with rosy-finches on our visit to Sandia Crest. Black Rosy-finch was the dominant species, but we also saw Gray-crowned and Brown-capped in the flock as well. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)

An atypically close female was swimming around with the ducks at Tingley, though it unfortunately had some fishing line around its leg, and maybe its wing.

HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)

A couple at the marsh deck at BdA, and then some more in the pond at RGNC.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

Anne spotted the first ones we saw as a group, way down below the impressive dam at Elephant Butte, and it was a good thing too, because we saw only a couple of others around.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

A couple here and there, including at the pond in Socorro, but not at all common.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

We certainly got our share of quail at BdA. At one point it seemed as if Richard had become a part of the covey back at the cactus garden feeders.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus)

A couple of these were startled out of a tall field of grain while we were watching geese and cranes, and flew right by us calling their heads off.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Several at Tingley.

WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

This was by far the dominant Aechmophorus on Elephant Butte Lake, and we even got to see them doing some of the head bobbing, neck craning, and running-on-the-water display that the species is well known for. I hadn't seen this much courtship in any of my previous winter trips here, so it was quite a treat!

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

We had okay to reasonable views of a couple at Elephant Butte, but then these were supplanted at Caballo Lake, where it seemed to be the more common of the many Aechmophorus, and we got some killer up close views of them, being able to repeatedly study their bright orangey-yellow bills, extensively white faces and necks, and very pale flanks.

Field Guides Birding Tours
American Dipper was a nice bonus bird on our final afternoon of the tour, right in Albuquerque! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common around settled areas.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Likewise common in towns.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Seen in several spots, but especially abundant at the BdA feeders.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Most were at BdA, and it was the least numerous dove species we encountered.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

On our second day, we had a great observation of a couple of roadrunners along the roadside in the Estancia Valley. They appeared to be half-heartedly foraging, but the coolest behavior we saw them perform was when they were basking in the sun, fluffing up to expose their heat absorbent darker down feathers and skin to some nice solar radiation.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola) [*]

We heard Virginia Rails twice around Santa Fe. One bird vocalized a couple of times ten or fifteen minutes apart at Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, but the real rail treat was the next morning. We got to hear a concerto of Virginia Rails upon our arrival at the marsh downstream of the sewage plant near town, and they were spontaneously calling and counter calling during the entirety of brief stop there.

SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]

At least three of these were joining in in the above-mentioned symphony of Virginia Rails, giving all three common call types ("keep," "kerwee," and "whinnies").

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Common and widespread, but never extremely abundant.

Gruidae (Cranes)

SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)

Another of the great nature spectacles, most of the cranes were roosting fairly far from the wildlife drive at BdA during our trip, but we got to see them departing their feeding fields in the late afternoon, and flying in flocks right by us and overhead, filling the beautiful New Mexico evening with their resonant bugles.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

A handful around BdA.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

We spied a large flock in the distance as we drove by the refuge on Rt. 1, and we headed out on the wildlife drive and looped all the way around to the pond where they were to get closer looks and listens. This was a surprisingly large flock for winter here, and we ended up counting 44 individuals.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

A couple of these were last second bonuses of our dipper walk, with one even posing very nicely for frame-filling scope views.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

A few around the large reservoirs and along the river at Percha Dam.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

A bunch of these were loafing in the distance at Elephant Butte, and we also saw a handful flying around, but this was a very tepid trip on the seagull front.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Lots lined up on various tires and buoys around Elephant Butte.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

A half dozen of these slim, long-tailed cormorants from the south were hanging around Tingley Park, giving excellent views.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We only saw a couple of Desert Cottontail on the tour, but this one at the Bosque del Apache feeders was very confiding as it gnawed its way through its spiky breakfast. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

We had one of these floating around on Elephant Butte Lake south of the main marina during our first morning stop in that area.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Scattered here and there, with a few very good views.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

A couple of these were roosting in tree directly opposite our picnic lunch site along the Rio Grande in ToC.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

One was flying around the Elephant Butte dam with a fish, and another was perched on a utility wire as we drove away from that area.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)

An adult was perched on a large utility pole as we drove north back towards BdA after our Sierra County birding. It took off shortly after we stopped to look at it, and we watched it powerfully fly away from us for a minute or so.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Lots of these around the refuge, and a couple scattered elsewhere, including a close one near the entrance to Percha Dam.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

A quick flyover as we drove through ABQ on our final day.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

Circling over the parking lot as we walked into lunch at Socorro, and then another adult perched in a tree in White Rock.

NORTHERN GOSHAWK (AMERICAN) (Accipiter gentilis atricapillus)

It's always amazing to see one of these, even when it is just a fleeting glimpse. In fact, most encounters with this ghost of the northern forest are fleeting. This adult flew down the road towards us and directly over the van below the Sandias, and thankfully it started circling as it moved slowly to the SW, and so we got to watch it from the van as it drifted away over the Pinyon Juniper foothills.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

A couple of immatures around BdA, but seemingly fewer overall than usual.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

The most widespread of our raptors. We saw them from the arid Sevilleta Grasslands all the way up to nearly 10,000 feet up at the top of Pajarito Mountain.

FERRUGINOUS HAWK (Buteo regalis)

We had a fantastic string of Ferruginous Hawk sightings as we made our way through the Estancia Valley and then through Sevilleta Grasslands on our second day of the tour. We even saw a beautiful chocolate dark morph adult in the valley, and got some very close up roadside views of light morphs.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Sunset at the refuge. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Best views were of a very obliging individual at Percha Dam SP.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)

After a bit of sweating we ended up finding a very striking male with rich yellow below on our way to Los Alamos.

LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)

A stroke of luck that these pink and red and black woodpeckers were on the "right" side of the road, across the street from the edge of the outermost of the Los Alamos laboratory tech areas. This meant we could drink in this unusual somewhat corvid-like (in flight) woodpecker at our leisure. One turned into two which eventually turned into four, and in addition to great views of these birds in good light and from all angles, we got to watch a little bit of interspecific aggression as one escorted an Acorn Woodpecker away from the dead trees it was basking in. What a fantastic bird!

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

These started off farther from the road than the Lewis's Woodpeckers, but eventually we got quite nice views of them just outside Los Alamos.


One very good roadside view of a bird foraging near the ground in the Estancia Valley, and then heard in several places.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

Great views of one of the large, dark backed, Rocky Mountain forms of Hairy Woodpecker hanging around and repeatedly visiting the feeder at Sandia Crest.

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

Scattered throughout.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Most were roadside, but a nice male perched up for great scope views in a dead snag at Pueblo Canyon.

PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus)

One flyby in the Estancia Valley, and then a distant perched bird on our first evening at Bosque (while watching geese and cranes do their thing).

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

Especially good views along the ditch in ABQ.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

Widespread, with good views of this peachy phoebe in several locales.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

A phenomenal male at Percha Dam SP was a big highlight for all, especially because it was so showy and confiding. One of the most brilliant reds in the bird world for sure.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay was one of the juniper dwelling species that we saw all over the place on this tour because of the drought-induced juniper crop failure. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it was because they (along with Juniper Titmouse, and Townsend's Solitaire) had to leave the juniper foothills in search of food. This jay was coming to seed at the Bosque del Apache visitor center, where they are unusual. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

A bunch (over ten) on our drive through Estancia and Sevilleta, and some very good views - one good enough that Terry put it into his top 3 birds of the trip because of how close and clear it was.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

Another great nomad of the west, these jays can be very difficult to track down, and we did in fact have but one encounter. That one encounter though, was with over fifty birds on our first birding day, and they were all around us and vocalizing and flying hither and yon, making for a great experience.

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

The brilliant blue and black jay of the montane forests of the west. We had some really fun views at Sandia Crest and at Pajarito ski area.

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

We had the highest number of these we've ever had on the tour, in large part because they have moved down out of the vast pinyon-juniper foothills and into the valleys, town edges, and feeders. We found them in a few of their normal haunts (and in higher numbers), as well as a bunch of places where I had not previously encountered them.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

A daily staple of the tour, including hundreds heading to and from roosts in the evenings and mornings.

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

Best views of the most birds were in the Estancia Valley, but we also had them around BdA and along I-25 south of there.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Widespread and nearly a constant companion.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

We saved these for the last couple days of the tour, at our "lowland" and foothill feeders.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE X MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (HYBRID) (Poecile atricapillus x Poecile gambeli)

One chickadee up at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area had intermediate characteristics between Mountain and Black-capped, with a shorter, thinner white eyestripe than typical Mountain Chickadees, as well as extensive white in the wings, pointing to a hybrid ancestry.

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

Sandia Crest and Pajarito Mountain were best.

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

Our first couple were in the lowlands east of the Sandias, and then we just kept on seeing these evacuees from the depauperate Pinyon-Juniper habitat throughout the tour. We had great views in several places, but the best was perhaps the ones at Turtle Bay Park in Socorro.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This is usally a cold tour, but it was war enough during our midday visit to Percha Dam SP that we saw a couple of species of butterfly out and about. We saw several each of Sleepy Orange and Reakirt's Blue, and one of the latter is pictured here. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Brief views of one for some folks in the BdA cactus garden.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Abundant in the Estancia Valley, and we even got some really good scope views of a flock that was foraging in a dirt field close to the road, heedless of our presence.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

We had these amazingly hardy tiny puffballs in quite a few places, with several along the ditch in ABQ.

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) [*]

This was heard only up at Pajarito Mountain.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

One at Sandia Crest. It was actively and adorably foraging on fir trees, rather than the feeder, and watching it hanging upside down as it noshed was a very fun highlight.

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

Randall Davey and RGNC provided the best views of this mountain race of the familiar White-breasted Nuthatch.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

A really fun wing-shivering interaction between three birds on the road down from Pajarito, and then a bunch frequenting the feeders and trees at Randall Davey.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Vermilion Flycatcher gave us a jolt of brilliant red druing our walk at Percha Dam. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

A very cooperative bird perching on a jersey barrier and road guardrail at the Elephant Butte dam site.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

Good views for some in Pueblo Canyon, and several heard (including a songster) at close range just outside Santa Fe.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

One on our first afternoon in Albuquerque, and then brief views a couple of other times through the week.

Cinclidae (Dippers)

AMERICAN DIPPER (Cinclus mexicanus)

A fantastic write-in for the list was this American Dipper that is spending its winter along a riverside ditch in Albuquerque. This is an uncommon bird in the valley and this far south, but they do drop down in elevation in the winters, and so are irregular winter visitors.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Common and widespread.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

Great walk-away views at the cactus garden at BdA.

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

This can be quite the difficult bird to find, especially in winter. Despite this, we got two really nice views - one on our way our of BdA on our last morning there, and then at the end of the tour the bird that perched up on the rocks and bushes in Embudito Canyon spontaneously singing its moustached long-billed head off.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We didn't see many Curve-billed Thrashers, but after this one at the Bosque del Apache cactus garden, we couldn't have improved our views anyway! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

Pretty widespread, and surprisingly our only species of Sialia of the tour.

TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)

Another juniper bird that was exceptionally common and widespread along the tour route this year. They seemed to be everywhere we went!

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

One on the final afternoon. It flew in from the river on its own to drink with robins along the ditch.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Common in a couple of places, and especially abundant along the ditch south of Montana bridge.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A good sized flock of several dozen were voraciously feeding on mistletoe berries and drinking at Percha Dam.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Another bird best seen at Percha Dam, where we had a half dozen or so of these standing sentinel atop their mistletoe laden domains.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


Field Guides Birding Tours
Pinyon Jays are often difficult to track down in winter, as these nomads cruise around the juniper foothills in large flocks, rather than being distributed evenly throughout the habitat. Luckily, we connected with one of these large flocks on day one, and got a satisfying helping of this fantastic corvid. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH (GRAY-CROWNED) (Leucosticte tephrocotis tephrocotis)

A couple of these longer distance (compared to the other Rosies) migrants were mixed in with the rosy finch flock at the crest.

BLACK ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte atrata)

THE abundant species of Rosy-Finch up at the crest this year, though their abundance was tempered by the fact that they were in just one flock, so we got to see many, but only when the one flock paid visits to the feeders. What incredible finches!

BROWN-CAPPED ROSY-FINCH (Leucosticte australis)

Four or so of these US endemics were mixed into the Rosy-Finch flock up at the crest.

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Common and widespread. Another that was everywhere except for on the highest peaks.

CASSIN'S FINCH (Haemorhous cassinii)

A good year for them around central New Mexico, and we started off with over twenty at the feeders atop the Sandia Mountains right off the bat.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

A couple on the first day, but not a whole lot around.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Some good views at the golf course edge in Socorro.


Percha Dam.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Green-tailed Towhee was another bonus bird that we encountered, this time on the outskirts of Santa Fe, where it even posed briefly next to a Spotted Towhee (not pictured here). Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri)

A flighty group of these desert-colored Spizellas popped up briefly in a desert wash near Elephant Butte Lake.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)

We had these all over, and many weren't seen well enough to identify to subspecies.

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

A couple of these were at Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (CISMONTANUS) (Junco hyemalis cismontanus)

We had one of these Cassiar Juncos (a hybrid swarm of Oregon x Slate-colored) amidst the big flock of juncos at Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

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

Several spots around Los Alamos and Santa Fe.

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

The most widespead junco form we encountered, though it didn't edge out Gray-headed by too much.

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

Generally a high-elevation junco form (and we did see them atop Sandia Crest), some descend to foothills during winter, and so we saw them in several places around Santa Fe and Los Alamos as well.

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

Common and widespread.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

One of these roadside near Percha, and then one or two at the feeders at RGNC.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Just a few around, including at Santa Fe Canyon and Pueblo Canyon. Somehow we escaped from BdA without experiencing it as a group there.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

One popped up briefly in the large flock of roadside sparrows at Percha.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana) [*]

One chipping away at the roadside marsh in Santa Fe, though it only showed briefly.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

Common and easy to see in the right habitats (which were several).

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

A nice surprise was a bird popping up and perching prominently above the rocks at the beginning of Embudito Canyon of the final day.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

A fantastic pickup in Santa Fe Canyon, where the bird is a nice rarity in the wintertime.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

We had some most excellent views of them hopping around on the ground around the cactus garden feeders at BdA, and a very memorable view of one that teed up behind the Green-tailed Towhee, so that they were both in view at once. Also easy to see at the RGNC feeders.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Santa Fe is well known for its historical buildings and rich arts scene, and the doorway at the classic La Fonda is a great example of both. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)

Abundant at BdA and also a big flock roadside in the Estancia Valley.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Common in the two cattail marsh habitats in Santa Fe, a bunch at Elephant Butte, and also some scattered elsewhere.

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Scope views at Elephant Butte, and also some around BdA.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

A bunch at Elephant Butte, and more than a bunch at BdA.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

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

One on our final afternoon along the ditch in ABQ looked like a classic Myrtle, and also gave call notes consistent with this taxon.

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

The common "butterbutt" in this part of the world. We had them in several spots.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Excellent views of both female and male around the VC at BdA.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Pyrrhuloxia gave us eye-popping views of its big honkin' bill at Bosque del Apache. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.


DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

Gnawing away adorably on a cactus in the cactus garden at BdA.

TEXAS ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus interpres)

Our last day's walk at Embudito Canyon gave us one of these perched up on a dead cactus before it dropped down and then bolted across the desert.

ABERT'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus aberti)

We got to see this massive and pointy eared squirrel having its way with the bird feeder at Sandia Crest on our first morning.

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

One ran across the road as we drove up to the Sandias, and we also heard it at Pajarito.

NORTHERN POCKET GOPHER (Thomomys talpoides)

Totally adorbs, as the kids say these days. It was coming out of its snow hole to gnaw on some grass seeds at the parking lot edge at the crest, and then would bolt back out of sight. But it could only keep itself away from those delicious grass seeds for ten seconds at a time, before it would warily re-emerge. This is apparently Thomomys talpoides, as this is the dominant species of Thomomys at high elevations in New Mexico.

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

One wandering around one of the fields at BdA, seemingly being ignored by the nearby cranes, then one roadside near Los Alamos, and a troop howling away in the hills above the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

Lynette smelled one of these during our pre-dawn watching the goose spectacle at BdA. Though we never did catch sight of one of these crepuscular critters, they are certainly around the refuge in numbers.

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

A large troop was behind one of the ponds at BdA, and we then quickly passed a few in the shade that we couldn't go back for as we were driving around the auto loop shortly after.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

BdA and Los Alamos.

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)

One single animal out in an irrigated field in the Estancia Valley was our only encounter with this "goat-antelope" of the American West.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Northern Pocket Gopher was coming up out of the snow to nibble on grass seeds at the edge of the parking lot at Sandia Crest, and then disappearing back into the snow whenever it was startled. The hunger seemed to overcome the wariness though, as it spent a good amount of time out like this and nibbling just feet from our giggling gaggle of grownups. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Totals for the tour: 130 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa