Have to go back to the fall of 2013 to start this post, as that was when I mentioned to a few birding friends about the thought of taking a road trip in the winter to Sandia Crest in New Mexico in the search of the 3 Rosy Finch species. After much enthusiasm and agreement, we set a date for February 2014 to make the trek eastward from Arizona. By the time the date arrived, we were down to just 2 of us, Chris Rohrer and myself. Due to other obligations a couple of the original 4 was not able to attend. So Chris and I made our plans and headed out early on a Thursday morning with plans to stop in Whiteriver, AZ to try for a couple of other specialties along the way. Although we dipped on the American Dipper, we did find a new life bird for both of us, the Cassin's Finch. Along the rushing water of the White River, the Cassin's Finch arrived and perched in the trees and surveyed the area for a long time before finally dropping down to the stream to take a drink.
Cassin's Finch - Male
Cassin's Finch - Male and 3 Females
A couple of Townsend's Solitaires were also in the vicinity and gave us great looks and fairly decent photo shots.
Since we missed the American Dipper on this trip, we decided they will have to wait until a possible summer trip to the White Mountains. So from here we headed north and took some back roads towards Albuquerque making some short stops along the way to admire all the Mountain and Western Bluebirds that were found in various spots along the way.
Thursday night we arrived in the Albuquerque area and we were treated to a fabulous meal and offered wonderful accommodations with a new birding friend, Linda Rockwell. The next day we headed out early to our destination, Sandia Crest just east of Albuquerque and along the way, we had to make a brief stop to try and locate a Juniper Titmouse for Chris. Linda was not able to ride with us on Friday, but gave us a sure fire place to locate this bird and as soon as we parked the car, we heard them and it took us less than 5 minutes to locate them and get photos. They might be an all gray bird, but they are just about as cute as it gets.
After a long drive to the top of Sandia Crest, we arrived at the summit and we quickly discovered how cold it was at the top with that brisk high altitude wind. We quickly determined that the bird of the day was the Mountain Chickadee; they were everywhere and as usual very much on the move. Always a lot of fun to watch these small bundles of energy.
We also had visits by a Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Stellar's Jay.
After spending time outside we went inside of the Sandia Crest store and warmed up with some hot chocolate and coffee and watched for the Rosy Finches from inside and it was not long until the feeder had a visit from a Black Rosy Finch and a Brown-capped Rosy Finch. We were taking photos through the windows, so it was not the best conditions for photography. But adding two new life birds to our lists was an incredible rush. We had succeeded in our quest. The Gray-crowned Rosy Finch had not been seen this year, so we felt that our chances of seeing all 3 species were not that great.
Brown-capped Rosy Finch
Black Rosy Finch
Mission accomplished, at least for now. We started the trek back down the mountain and our next goal was the Rio Grande Nature Center along the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque. And that visit turned into quite an awesome ending for the rest of the day and will need to be covered in my next blog post.