Galisteo Basin Preserve, Los Trigos Ranch, Dalton Canyon, June 17, 2015
With some clients from Louisiana, we ventured through a mix of habitats east of Santa Fe. Part of my love for the west is the diversity of landscapes within an easy day's drive. Starting in the desert grasslands southeast of town, we had close views of Scaled Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher and cousin Crissal who lives here at the extreme northeast edge of its breeding range. The scimitar bill of the latter species and its scintillating song are impressive indeed.
After a drive over Glorieta Pass we visited Los Trigos Ranch along a wild stretch of the Pecos River. The lush willow/cottonwood habitat is free of the invasive salt cedar that plagues the Pecos for much of its length. Yellow Warbler, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Plumbeous Vireo are all thriving in the dense riverside vegetation. On the nearby sandstone cliffs we were treated to the ringing chorus of Canyon Wren and the aerial exploits of a group of White-throated Swifts. Hopefully this ranch will remain a vibrant wildlife preserve for years to come.
We then headed up the Pecos drainage and higher up in elevation. Our destination, Dalton Canyon, is a mix of four different habitats all in one canyon. A portion is the site of a severe fire that still shows the scars of dead standing conifers. The understory, however, is thriving with dense oak and emergent aspen saplings. Certain species, such as Virginia's Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, and Western Bluebird, all of which we viewed, find this habitat type to their liking. Along the creek itself, narrow-leaf Cottonwood, alder, and willow are all doing fine, especially during this atypically wet spring and early summer. This habitat is favored by Warbling Vireo, House Wren, and MacGillivray's Warbler, the latter somewhat hard to see but worth the effort. On the north side of the canyon (south facing) the dominant plant is ponderosa pine, where Grace's Warbler and Black-headed Grosbeak choose to make their homes. On the cooler south side of the canyon (north facing) various types of fir and aspen enjoy the somewhat more humid conditions. Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Tanager, Brown Creeper, and Mountain Chickadee all make this side of the canyon home. A pleasure to be able to experience these worlds within a world.