A weekend in Santa Fe


Common Ravens were constant companions in the Santa Fe area. By the end of the trip, Common Ravens had been replaced by Chihuahuan Raven.

The start of our trip from Santa Fe to San Antonio was primarily a couple’s weekend rather than a birding weekend in Santa Fe. My primary target bird for the weekend was Lewis’ Woodpecker. I had not seen that species since the mid-1980s and I had never photographed one. I knew that I would have a chance for Lewis’s Woodpecker in Albuquerque, but they are much more abundant in northern NM. So on our first day of relaxed hiking and hanging out in Santa Fe, I suggested that we go to Pecos National Historic Park, which seemed like a prime Lewis’s Woodpecker area.

We had beautiful weather and on the drive to the historic park, from the back seat of Danny’s truck, I scanned telephone poles along the highway. Sure enough, I spotted a woodpecker and asked if we could go back and look at it. When we swung around, through the windshield, I could see that it was a Lewis’s Woodpecker. And then, stupidly, instead of snapping a poor photo through the windshield, I got out of the car to get my photo of the bird. It flew as I got out of the car and I got no image at all.

We had all three bluebird species at Pecos National Historic Park including this male Western Bluebird.

We spent the rest of the morning walking around Pecos National Historic Park, where we saw all three bluebird species and then driving to a disjunct and more remote part of the park. The drive to this back area took us through beautiful parkland and as we drove through this open woodland, I heard a jay-like call. We stopped and were treated to a stream of Pinyon Jays moving past.

In our search for Lewis's Woodpeckers we found a flock of Pinyon Jays.

Pinyon Jays are very different than any eastern birds. They are highly social and live in large stable flocks that move around a region looking for food. While there are core, best-habitat areas where they tend to be re-sighted, they can turn up literally anywhere in New Mexico on any given day. Back in the 1980s when I was a grad student living in Albuquerque, I once watched a large flock fly right over campus in downtown Albuquerque.

I wish I had gotten a photo of Lewis’s Woodpecker, but Pinyon Jay was a nice consolation prize. As it turns out, we missed Pinyon Jay everywhere else on the trip so it was a big deal that we saw then them when we did.