San Mateo Mts and Black Range 08/7-8/10
The San Mateo Mts, just 1.25 hr drive west of Socorro, are a seldom visited but spectacular mountain range in southwest New Mexico. Venturing to the top of Mt. Withington (10,119') I found not only relief from the summer temps along the Rio Grande, but a unique blend of Rocky Mt and Sierra Madrean birdlife. Along the highest ridge were the likes of Clark's Nutcracker, Red Crossbill and Band-tailed Pigeon, while in Bear Trap Canyon below, I found many Red-faced Warblers and Hutton's Vireo. Above 9,000' feet while camping, I heard the plaintive, descending whistle of Montezuma Quail. The 360 degree view from the top of Mt Withington is stunning to say the least. Next day I ventured into the northern end of the Black Range, with my destination being Lookout Mt (8,900'). On the way, I noted several territories of Purple Martins, including one with 14 birds around the Poverty Creek area, When I reached the top of Lookout Mt, I was treated to a dance between a Common Raven and a Golden Eagle far below. By the time I finished watching these two, they were spiralling high above me, with the raven still nipping at the wings of the eagle. I felt blessed to be able to witness this chance encounter. Descending back toward the Rio Grande, I saw a group of Common Nighthawks, already beginning their return journey to South America.