Monday, May 19, 2014

Santa Fe NF 5/15--Northern Goshawk, WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, Pygmy Nuthatch, AMERICAN DIPPER, Townsend's Solitaire, Orange-crowned Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee

Santa Fe National Forest, atop Elk Mountain
Photos: Shari Zirlin
on aspen tree
Most of the snow that had fallen on Tuesday had melted by Thursday, though there were patches in shady areas and in the distance, higher peaks were snow-covered and would probably stay snow-covered throughout the summer, according to Bill. We started out on paved roads, looking under bridges along the Pecos River for dipper nests. We had a few birds targeted, though a couple, like Dusky Grouse, we knew were going to be just a matter of luck.

One of our highly-sought birds we got pretty quickly--Bill heard the yelp of a WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER and very quickly called in a pair. This gives us all the sapsuckers, at least in North America. It was interesting to see the pair, both because they seemed to be involved in courtship, but mainly because, unlike most woodpeckers, Williamson's is sexually dimorphic. You'd never recognize the female as a Williamson's if you only knew what the male looked like, unlike, Downy, or Hairy Woodpeckers for instance, where the difference is just a patch of red on the head.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds
We were up around 9000 feet. Bill stopped at general store he likes to patronize because the owner keep hummingbird feeders up during three seasons. It is actually quite an operation. When we were there they had 4 96 oz feeders out and there were at least 20 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds buzzing around including one that looked me right in the eye. The owner said that at the height of the season they had about 13 feeders (all 96 oz) and could barely keep up with the hummers. He was asking Bill if he knew where could get more big feeders, since the model pictured has been discontinued.
Our most sought-after bird was still proving elusive. Bill stopped at every bridge and overhanging rock formation along the Pecos without finding our target bird until he was crossing a bridge and suddenly shouted out, "There they are." Standing on a rock in the stream were two AMERICAN DIPPERS.

These are birds that can actually walk under water, where it picks up aquatic insects and larvae. Bill
Pointed out the "nictitating eyelid" the bird has, a membrane similar to those of ducks, which protects its eyes under water:
Nictitating eyelid
Shari was responsible for one of our most spectacular finds. While we were walking through a campground, Bill in front, me in the middle, and Shari a little behind both of us, she called out, "Behind you, low, hawk!" Bill & I turned to see a gray hawk swoop low to the ground then disappear over a ridge.

"Wow," Bill said, "That was a NORTHERN GOSHAWK." I'm putting the bird in bold caps because, although, many years ago, Shari & I saw one distantly in our scope at Montezuma NWR, I have never been happy with the look (or at times the identification). Bill played the goshawk cry and miraculously, the bird flew back over the ridge and right by us, giving us a good few seconds to really look at it. I told Shari that this sighting was so much better and with a positive i.d., that we should really consider it a life bird.

So, while we missed a few birds I would have liked to see (the biggest disappointment was not finding a Clark's Nutcracker), we had a fabulous outing with a great guide. We finally turned around at 11,600 feet when the track (to call it a road at this point would be sheer aggrandizement) became too muddy for even his 4WD.
Our list for Santa Fe NF:
31 species
Turkey Vulture  2
Cooper's Hawk  1
Northern Goshawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird  20
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  3
Steller's Jay  5
American Crow  2
Common Raven  3
Violet-green Swallow  10
Mountain Chickadee  5
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Pygmy Nuthatch  3
Brown Creeper  1
House Wren  2     Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
Western Bluebird  3
Townsend's Solitaire  1
Hermit Thrush  1     Heard
American Robin  10
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)  10
Green-tailed Towhee  1
Chipping Sparrow  20
Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed)  25
Evening Grosbeak  2     Heard
Green-tailed Towhee

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