Upper Pecos River June 24, 2014
With breeding season in full swing in northern New Mexico, we set out to sample 5 major habitats. Before crossing Glorieta Pass into the Pecos River drainage, we stopped briefly at a desert grassland and found Curve-billed Thrasher, Scaled Quail, and Canyon Towhee. Once on the east side of the pass, we headed to Los Trigos Ranch on the Pecos River just east of Rowe. There we surveyed pinyon/juniper habitat and found Black-throated Gray Warbler (at the extreme eastern edge of its range), Juniper Titmouse, Gray Flycatcher, and Pinyon Jay. Next we dropped to the cottonwood/willow habitat along the river and were entertained by Yellow-breasted Chats doing their floppy display flights as well as the choruses of Blue Grosbeak and Gray Catbird (at the western edge of its breeding range). The surrounding sandstone cliffs are home to not only a swarm of Cliff Swallows but White-throated Swift as well. Next we ventured closer to the headwaters of the Pecos finding cooperative MacGillivray's and Grace's Warblers along the way. Slightly higher in ponderosa/oak we encountered regulars such as Plumbeous Vireo, Pygmy Nuthatch, Dusky Flycatcher, and Virginia's Warbler-the latter almost always associated with oak in NM. (A birder friend says it should be renamed "Oak Warbler" since there has never been a record in Virginia!). Moving higher into the lower end of spruce/fir/aspen we located both Hammond's and Cordilleran Flycatchers (to complete our 4 "empid" day), Williamson's Sapsucker, Green-tailed Towhee, and Evening Grosbeak. As our tour time was up, we made an attempt for one last specialty of the Pecos-American Dipper. Heading to an active nest on a large rock overhang that I had found about a month earlier, I realized the young had fledged and gone. Dippers can be hard to find when not going back and forth to a nest but we started downstream on foot anyway in hopes of a chance encounter. That's exactly what we got at the junction of the first sidestream. As we crossed a small footbridge, an adult dipper was posing on a rock 6 feet away. We were close enough to see its extra eyelid blinking every time it popped back out of the water. And to think, this bird does not migrate even in below zero conditions with the river partially frozen. A true icon of the Rocky Mountains.