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Taos County 7/09/2013

With the Santa Fe National Forest closed due to wildfires, we headed north to Taos County. Starting in Arroyo Hondo, we headed downstream toward the Rio Grande River. In the meadow beside the creek we had long views of a Wilson's Snipe on a fence post. Here in NM we usually see this species in the central and southern parts of the state in late fall and winter so this was a treat to encounter it on its breeding grounds. Nearby, an American Dipper was busy working the cold creek waters, albeit somewhat far from its normal mountain haunts. The spectacular canyon of the Rio Grande had little activity other than some fly-over White-throated Swifts so we turned around and headed toward the mountains. At the mouth of the canyon that the ski basin road runs in we found the first of 4 Swainson's Thrush territories that we would discover. The local Red-naped Sapsuckers showed well despite the presence of a nearby Cooper's Hawk nest. Higher up we entered transition forest (mix of Ponderosa Pine and White Fir) and observed a mixed species flock highlighted by Pygmy Nuthatch, Green-tailed Towhee, and numerous Western Tanagers. Following the road to over 10,000' we entered the domain of high elevation breeders such as Wilson's Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow, Clark's Nutcracker, and Evening Grosbeak. Afternoon rains pushed us back lower. We made one last try for Lazuli Bunting and had an exuberant male sing in front of us for over ten minutes. Nice way to end the day.

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