Champions of the Flyway!

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Mexico, July 2011 - part one

After a relaxing and slow-paced week in San Francisco, we travelled south overnight to Los Angeles, for a whirlwind visit spent on Sunset with friends before leaving in the evening (but we'd be back soon enough). And after numerous, increasingly colourful (and resolve-testing) Greyhound rides, depending on how one looks at it we either finally cracked, or took evasive action to rescue our sanity, and blew a couple of hundred dollars on the train to New Mexico....

And a very good call it transpired to be. The double-decker Amtrack was, relatively speaking, pure luxury, and allowed not only actual bouts of sleep but beautiful pre- and post-dawn views of the semi-desert, rock formations and one-horse towns outside, courtesy of the Next Generation-like observation carriage.

We spent the daylight hours of the journey kicking back in sleepy awe at the world outside, before arriving in equally sleepy Lamy, NM in the early afternoon. Our hosts and fine companions for the next few days, Charlie and Alice, were waiting for us in the searing desert heat, and soon transported us back to our next base in Eldorado, about 15km south of Santa Fe.

Say's Phoebe

Western Bluebird

Within a rural community set in the juniper & cactus semi-desert, and against a backdrop of shimmering mountain ranges on the horizon, the homestead at Eldorado provided numerous avian and wildlife memories over the coming days. The high-elevation, savannah-like habitat hosted a range of species well-adapted to the surroundings and conditions, most of which also happened to be brand new.

Curve-billed Thrashers

With surrounding habitat being mostly the same as far as the eye could see, the immediate area around the house was as good as anywhere for birds and wildlife - and with a feeding station, water sources and hummingbird feeders by the house, everything was on our doorstep.

Juniper Titmouse

Western Scrub-jays

Plenty of time was spent on the back porch, in and out of the shade, and plenty of species kept each session interesting. Non-passerines included fly-by Prairie Falcons, American Kestrels, Cooper's Hawks and numerous Turkey Vultures and beautifully ornate Scaled Quails, but it was mainly passerines which filled the notebook.

Ash-throated Flycatchers

Aside from the endlessly entertaining Hummingbirds (of which, more later), close-by species included Say's Phoebes, Lark Sparrows, Bewick's Wrens (breeding in the garden), House Sparrows (truly having conquered every corner of North America), Ravens, Western Bluebirds, Juniper Titmice, Mourning & Collared Doves, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Cassin's and Western Kingbirds, Western Scrub-jays, House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches and the omnipresent Cowbirds.


non-avian garden visitors

Returning home late one night after the evening in Santa Fe, we flicked the porch light on and illuminated an Olive-sided Flycatcher roosting on a hanging ornament (and again on two following nights); an early-morning visit from a gang of cowbirds, meanwhile, included the bizarre sight of a Peach-faced Lovebird in the desert scrub....

Two of the brashest and commonest species around the house were Canyon Towhees and Curve-billed Thrashers. Pairs and family parties of both were ubiquitous, visually well-camouflaged but aurally usually unmissable.

Canyon Towhees

Cassin's Kingbirds


more from New Mexico to follow....