Chloride Canyon/Lookout Mountain Aug. 4-6, 2012
Inspired by the recent book describing Stokely Ligon's 1200 mile pack trip documenting birds for the USBS in 1913, we started out at the tiny town of Chloride, NM (yr round population of 7) in the northwest corner of Sierra County. Camping out a short distance into the canyon, we retraced our steps after dark to encounter a local Elf Owl, perhaps at the northern most breeding spot for the species in NM. Always a treat to see this feisty, smallest owl in the world. Back at camp we listened to a juvenile Great Horned Owl doing its mournful begging call well into the night. In the morning, we started our trek across the northern end of the Black Range. While in juniper/oak covered canyon sides we found Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned Sparrows as well as Juniper Titmouse. As the Ponderosa Pine zone kicked in, we encountered Painted Redstart (with a bird of the year that showed no red whatsoever) and Red-faced Warbler. We found ourselves, almost at mid-day, in a lovely, steep walled part of the canyon with a grove of fir trees on the north facing side. On a whim, I did my best Spotted Owl hoot and got an immediate response from close by. We were a bit stunned to get a response at that time of day, much less from so close. After about 5 minutes of searching I could see two shapes in the shade of a rather meager oak-a pair of adult Mexican Spotted Owls. We watched the preening of one of the pair for about 10 minutes and then left their haunt. What a gift from the birding gods. As we neared the head of the canyon, the road left the stream bed to go over the pass. After a few tense sections in my trusty Subaru, we began to descend the west side of the Black Range. We came upon a field of purple flowers, easily the size of a football field, and watched dozens of hummers (Rufous, Broad-tailed, and Calliope) working the area on their way to Mexico. Several Olive Warblers, 3 Clark's Nutcrackers, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher were bonuses at the same stop. Later, we crossed the Continental Divide and stopped in a burn area. Although we did not find the Three-toed Woodpecker territory we were treated to the sights and sounds of Purple Martins in the air above us.