Normally by late November the road up Elk Mt. (elev. 11,660') near the headwaters of the Pecos River is closed due to snowpack. Because of lack of snow the road remained open through Christmas in 2012. We passed through the lower elevations of the mountain seeing little. Higher up our fortunes began to shift as we encountered a boisterous group of Clark's Nutcrackers caching food. Higher still, a number of Red Crossbills were busy ripping apart cones at the top of spruce trees. Once we passed treeline, bird activity ceased except for a lone Golden Eagle soaring majestically far above the top of the mountain. Before our descent, we checked a side road in spruce forest and were rewarded with great looks at a family group of 3 Three-toed Woodpeckers (actually counting the toes on one!). Several Gray Jays came in as well and I sacrificed the last of my granola bars for them. The trip down included a close encounter with a group of 7 Pine Grosbeaks (most I've seen at one time) and inspired the following poetic burst by yours truly.
it is late fall the days plunge shorter yet the sun is as bright as any summer day the leafless aspen twigs, devoid of insects somehow feed this grosbeak flock quietly murmuring, slowly foraging the male's red feathers screaming its cause to the sky blue sky despite the promise of breeding still so many months away