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Having lived on the edge of the national forest in the mountains east of Santa Fe for 8 years now, I have been blessed to witness the ups and downs of the breeding species in our valley. Additionally blessed this season as we avoided the fires on the other side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Once April rolls around, we generally do not have to wait long for the neotropic migrants to arrive. Early this year (and on a 39 degree morning) we welcomed the first singing Grace's Warbler on 4/10. Later in the month, first of season arrivals included Ash-throated Flycatcher and Gray Flycatcher (4/19), Black-throated Gray Warbler (4/21), and Plumbeous Vireo (4/22). By the first week of May the above species were joined by Black-chinned and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, and Common Poorwill. Right on time (5/13), the first Cordilleran Flycatcher arrived like clockwork. Bringing up the rear, as it always does, was our first Common Nighthawk on 6/05.

We noted a number of species not typically present at our elevation (7,650') in May and June: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red Crossbill, Hermit Thrush (singing at dusk no less), and Cassin's Finch. I suspect some of these birds were displaced by the extreme fires on the east side of the mountains behind us.

Western Screech Owls, annual since 2014 when we moved here, have been calling regularly from mid April until now (early August). I have yet to find a nest in almost a decade of searching. I must admit though, hearing their soft tooting at 3am when I can't sleep, is quite a treat.

Seeing hatch year birds from early July on is something I look forward to each year. This year, so far, in our yard I have seen fledglings of Juniper Titmouse, Mountain Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Woodhouse's Scrub Jay, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Pygmy Nuthatch. All I can say is long may nature thrive!


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