We were away by 7.15am and heading to a scenic valley and a search for our main target bird, American Dipper. Along the way we had seen our first Western Bluebirds and Black-billed Magpies – and quite bizarre too seeing this latter species in the US.
|This scenic valley was home to American Dipper.|
Once in the valley, the road meandered its way up alongside the river and there were many places to stop and scan. We paused briefly from dipper duty to check out a lake but only found Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (a recent split from Western Scrub-Jay), a flock of Bushtits and a Slate-coloured Junco so didn’t linger. Anyway, after about our 12th check of suitable river stretches we finally managed to find an American Dipper bobbing on a rock mid-stream.
|Loved this American Dipper.|
It wasn’t that bothered by our presence and we watched it for quite some time. Our next stop was at the delightfully named Holy Ghost where the deserted campsite set amidst large pine trees was practically devoid of birds, apart from several Brown Creepers and Steller’s Jays.
|Close views of Brown Creeper.|
Oh and Townsend’s Solitaire was very common here. So we decided to return to the main road and check out Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, which was only 40 minutes from the start of the Pecos River Valley. This turned out to be a good move as once on a quiet road in the rolling grasslands we found a flock of Mountain Bluebirds and stunners they were too!
|Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.|
Overhead we saw Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, plus there were several Northern Harriers quartering the vast open prairie.
|Red-tailed Hawk is common.|
A marshy area held some Snow Geese and a flock of 50+ Sandhill Cranes, whilst a lake held a pair of Clark’s Grebes. Then we drove back to Santa Fe and drove up into the Santa Fe Mountains where some recent snowfall created another wonderful wintry scene.
|Santa Fe Mountains.|
We didn’t get much up here, apart from a fine male Cassin’s Finch, but we had just came to check the site out, although a Northern Flicker was very obliging. This is meant to be a good site for Grey Jay and Clark's Nutcracker but there was no sign today...