It's a Great Day to Bird

New Mexico

2 March 2017

We left the high plains of Texas and arrived on the high plains of New Mexico around 11:00 am Central time/10:00 Mountain time.  We had to decide whether to go north or to go south – eventually choosing to head to northern New Mexico.  We drove through Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the burial place of Billy the Kid, but didn’t stop to see his grave, eat any Billy the Kid burgers, or visit the Billy the Kid Museum.

We arrived at Santa Rosa Lake State Park (near Santa Rosa, New Mexico) around 1:30 pm – our campsite for the night.  This is a nice state park.  They have three campgrounds, but one is closed, the other is for tent camping, and the third one – the one we are in – has only one of two loops open.  And it wasn’t filled thank goodness.  At 6:00 pm there are six other campers in a loop with 20 sites.

We walked the Shoreline Trail (about 2.5 miles total) and checked out the scenery and birds.  Not many birds, but still fun to see species we haven’t seen in awhile – like Canyon Towhees.

After our walk, we chilled out at our campsite – me literally (cold wind).  The day was beautiful however with sunny skies.  We hadn’t seen much sun over the past several weeks so today was a treat.

The Shoreliine Trail – rocky in places

Santa Rose Lake (a reservoir lake)

I saw this impression in the rock. Not sure what made it???

Common Loon

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Santa Rosa Lake State Park:

  • American Robin
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Common Raven
  • Common Loon
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Canyon Towhee
  • American Coot
  • White-winged Dove
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Western Bluebird
  • Bushtit (one of my favorite birds)

There were a number of waterfowl on the lake, but this is one large lake and they were too far away to identify, even with binoculars and I left my spotting scope back at the campground.

3 March 2016

Another cold morning.  Ate a quick breakfast and then drove to the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.  This 8,672 acre refuge was established in 1965.  We drove the roads (there aren’t many), stopping at a few viewing locations.  We saw 29 species, but it helped that many of them were waterfowl.  We did have a large flock  of Sandhill Cranes foraging on the refuge.

Refuge sign – note the winter boots and coat

Plenty of grasslands …

… and a few lakes and ponds

American Tree Sparrow

This lake is near the visitor center. When we first arrived the lake was occupied by two swans and a lot of waterfowl.  As we were walking the trail at the visitor center, several large flocks of Snow and Canada Geese flew in to the pond.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge:

  • Western Meadowlark
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Pintail
  • American Wigeon
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Gadwall
  • Redhead
  • Canvasback
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Tundra Swan
  • Mallard
  • Snow Goose
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • American Coot
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Mountain Bluebird
  • American Goldfinch
  • Northern Flicker
  • Common Raven
  • Greater Roadrunner (state bird of New Mexico – how fitting to see it in New Mexico)
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American Kestrel

From the refuge we drove about 90 miles north to visit another refuge – Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.  This 3,700-acre refuge was established (I think) in 1965, and is composed of short grass prairie, playa lakes, wetlands, woodlots, and agricultural fields.  They also have free primitive camping (vault toilets and garbage cans provided).  I had thought about staying here because, well its free, however, with the cold nights (high 20s, low 30s) I wanted electricity to fire up our electric heater.  So we had two options – Sugarite Canyon State Park and Cimarron Canyon State Park.  I had downloaded the maps for both parks and found that both campgrounds were open.  Since Cimarron Canyon State Park is located closer to our destination tomorrow I suggested to Jack that we go to this state park.  So we did.  When we got there (the park is at 7,800+ feet elevation, with snow on the ground) we found out that this campground does NOT provide electricity.  Guess I didn’t do my homework very well.  So instead of braving the cold and spending $10.00, we decided to drive into Taos and get a room at a motel – for ten times the amount.  I went on line a booked a room at the Sagebrush Inn and Suites.  If you like a big inn (i.e., lots of rooms), then this is the place for you.  I prefer much smaller accommodations.

We did see some good birds at Maxwell National Wildlife, including a number of Bald and Golden Eagles.  The Bald Eagles were circling over one of the lakes in search of a duck ala refuge.  While we were watching, the ducks were winning, although I did see a Bald Eagle in a tree munching on something – most likely a bird.  In all we had 30 different bird species.  While we had about 150 Sandhill Cranes at Las Vegas NWR we only saw 2 at Maxwell NWR.   Both refuges go on our life list of new refuges visited.

Mawell NWR refuge sign

Jack scoping (literally) out the lake for waterfowl

Bald Eagle

We saw these Pronghorn antelope near Taos

The “Palisades” along Hwy 64 (and within Cimarron Canyon State Park)

Mule deer near Taos

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge:

  • Western Meadowlark
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Redhead
  • American Wigeon
  • Northern Pintail
  • Canada Goose
  • Tundra Swan
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Canvasback
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Cackling Goose
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • American Coot
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Northern Harrier
  • Pine Siskin
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Mountain Bluebird
  • Common Raven
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Great Blue Heron

4 March 2017

Our destination for tonight is Los Alamos.  An Alaskan friend’s mother lives there and our friend was visiting and invited us to their ‘refuge.’  Along the way we stopped at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  We walked on the Rio Grande Gorge bridge sidewalks for a distance to check out the scenery and get photos.  If you don’t like heights, this is not the place for you.  On each side of the bridge they have these viewing decks — bump outs as I would call them, that are about 6 feet x 4 feet.  I was okay on the sidewalk, but I had a problem standing on these bump outs.  And I guess people have taken a nose dive off the bridge (suicide) as they have a device that allows you to push a “crisis” button if you are thinking about jumping.  It is a 565 feet leap (172 m) from the bridge down to the Rio Grande River.  Yikes!!!  Why would someone want to jump, although Jack did say he would bungee jump from the bridge.  Now that is crazy too.

There is a nine-mile trail (one-way) along the gorge.  We walked about two-miles out and back.  At one point a female Bighorn Sheep came towards us walking.  The sheep was between the trail and the edge of the canyon.  She quietly walked past  – maybe within 10 feet of us.  Amazing.  Guess she knew at that point the way down was suicidal even for a nimble sheep.  Further along the trail, I went to the edge to look over and down, and happened to see two Bighorn Sheep rams resting on the rocks about a 1/3 of the way down into the canyon.  Further out on this lip of the canyon were four female or young sheep.  Amazing creatures how they can travel so easy along these steep canyon walls.

Help anyone?

View of the Rio Grande River looking north from the Gorge bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn (Ram) Sheep


Sage Sparrow

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument:

  • Cactus Wren
  • House Finch
  • Common Raven
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sage Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco

We got to our friends’ home at Los Alamos around 1:30 pm, and upon our arrival Jack and I both decided this is a place we could live.  The town is built on top of three Mesa so growth is curtailed.  The Mesa canyons offer greenbelt trails.  Nice!  When we took our year-long trip around the United States we only came across a couple of places that really drew our interest in living should we ever decide to move from Alaska.  Los Alamos is now on our list of places worth pursuing further.  Whenever we go through a town we tell each other whether this is a town we could live in.  There have been a lot of resounding NO’s along the way.

View from a gorge trail in Los Alamos

Interesting rocks along one of the three gorges in Los Alamos

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Los Alamos, New Mexico:

  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Canyon Wren
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Flicker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Brown Creeper
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Steller’s Jay

5 March 2017

On the first Sunday of each month in Los Alamos there is a Sheriff’s Posse Breakfast.  For $7.00 (all you can eat) you get eggs, bacon or sausage, and pancakes.  Today they offered Blueberry Pancakes, Plain Pancakes, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Banana Pancakes, and a Key Lime Pancake with a special Key Lime sauce (St. Patrick’s).  I went for the blueberry pancakes, but took a bite of Jack’s Key Lime Pancake.  It wasn’t too bad.  Pretty mild regarding the key lime taste, but then he didn’t get the “very” green key lime sauce.  A good meal for a good price, and each month the proceeds go to a different non-profit group or organization.  Today the proceeds went to the Sheriff’s Department Scholarship Fund.  Education is ALWAYS a worthy cause.

After breakfast we headed towards our next campsite for the night.  We had originally intended to camp at Bluewater Lake State Park in New Mexico, but since they only have eight sites with electricity, and tonight is supposed to be in the low 30s, we didn’t want to chance not getting an electrical site.  I am becoming such a weather wimp.  So, we drove an extra 100 miles or so to Lyman Lake State Park in Arizona.  This is a nice campground.  We easily got an electrical site – we have the entire campground to ourselves.  I was surprised to find no one else here when we arrived.  And the winds are a whipping, a whipping good – 15-20 miles per hour.  One had to really hold on tight when opening the van door.  The campsite has a wind shelter, but still too fierce a wind so another night of no cooking.   A camper is looking better all the time.  The only disadvantage to staying here (AZ) rather than in New Mexico is it costs twice as much for an electrical site.  New Mexico at $14.00 per night for water and electric is VERY reasonable.

Tomorrow we arrive back in Sedona for the remainder of March.  I may post periodic blogs on any hiking or birding trips we take.  Until then ….

It’s a Great Day to Bird


1 Comment

  1. Nina Faust

    Great shot of a big horn!

Leave a Reply

© 2024 alaskabirder

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: