Number of species: 77
New to count: Northern Saw-whet Owl
Unusual: Common Loon, Swamp Sparrow, Barrow’s Goldeneye
High numbers: (None to speak of)
Low numbers: Dark-eyed Junco, Lewis’s Woodpecker, House Sparrow
Missed birds: Mourning Dove, Pine Siskin
The Espanola count produced 77 species this year (see attached list below), the lowest in about 12 years, but still above the historical average. The count day was quite cold in the morning, but it followed a period of above-average temperatures. It seems that the warm weather had failed to drive northern birds down to our area. The new bird for the count circle was a spectacular Northern Saw-whet Owl that many of us got to see as it roosted in a Russian Olive thicket near the Rio Grande. A Common Loon flew into the Ohkay Owingeh Lakes, the second ever for the count. It even called! As in the last 3 counts, we managed to find Barrow’s Goldeneye, with two at their usual haunt on the river. A Swamp Sparrow was another good find at Ohkay Owingeh. They were reasonably regular in the 1960s but have since become scarce.
Waterfowl were about average this year. Colder temperatures (i.e. more normal temperatures!) might have yielded more numbers and a few more of the unusual species, but climate warming continues to have an impact here. Still, Barrow’s Goldeneye is now showing up consistently in this area, a welcome addition to the list. Quail and Pheasant were not found, continuing a trend for several years. Virginia Rail maintained its winter presence in the healthy marsh areas along the river. Red-tailed Hawks were slightly below average, but a dark form in Jacona was possibly a Harlan’s. Sandhill Cranes have made it on the list for 12 consecutive counts; this year a single pair was in agricultural fields in the El Guique area. Western Screech-Owls put in a good showing this year, at four different locations. Saw-whet Owls are considered to be fairly common in northern New Mexico, but rarely seen, so it was a thrill to find one roosting this year. Woodpeckers were about average, but Lewis’s Woodpecker continues to be hard to find. Oddly, both phoebes were absent, which has not happened in 20 years. Both Shrikes failed to show, which has happened for 3 consecutive counts. A Canyon Wren was found in the escarpment along the river. Dippers were absent again; we have missed them since 2011. Curve-billed Thrashers were found again in the Santa Cruz area, making it 7 straight counts for this new resident. Most of the sparrows and towhees were in low numbers; Gray-headed Juncos were not tabulated at all. But it was nice to find the rare species American Tree, Swamp, and White-throated Sparrow. Red-winged Blackbirds were low. “Winter finches” were essentially absent from the count, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that lingering Lesser Goldfinches were photographed.
This was the 62nd year for this count! The Espanola area continues to be a refuge for birdlife in all seasons, with Pueblo areas being the most important component. I hope you can join us again next year.
Remember that you can view these results and past results at the Audubon Christmas Bird Count website.
Santa Fe, NM
- Fairview bridge, Black Mesa trail, La Mesilla, McCurdy, FR 144, El Guique
- Jerry Friedman, Lucie Brennan, Carlos Garcia, Justina Thorsen
- Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, El Guique
- Bernard Foy, Sam Reed
- Jacona area, Rio Pojoaque
- Mike Williams, Karen Koch, James Dominick
- Rio Santa Cruz
- Steve Knox, Robert Templeton, Jonathan Batkin