Birding in Taos, New Mexico – the Rio Fernando Wetlands

Birding in Taos, New Mexico – the Rio Fernando Wetlands

A guest post from our amiga Meg Scherch Peterson.

Birding in Taos, New Mexico is growing. For birders, the lure of viewing the amazing avian wildlife along the Rio Fernando in Taos, New Mexico has always been irresistible. During seasonal bird counts, we would sometimes hop the fence separating Fred Baca Park from what is now Rio Fernando Park. Our intentions were pure: to document the birds of the Rio Fernando wetlands. But that surreptitious birding is now officially ended. On June 1, some 25 to 30 birders unhitched a gate and made a bit of history: we participated in the first official bird walk along the wetland portion of Rio Fernando Park.

Birding in Taos, New Mexico

Photo courtesy Steve Knox

We were a large group for birding in Taos, New Mexico , and the birding was pretty quiet as the hub-bub of spring migration was over. (This May, though, saw a rare appearance of an eastern warbler—Chestnut-sided Warbler, a stunning chartreuse little bird that was spotted in the shrubs on the Rio Fernando Park side of the main beaver pond.)

Birding in Taos, New Mexico

Photo courtesy Steve Knox

But early June birding had its own rewards, and we were able to watch wrens, swallows, and house sparrows all busy making nests and feeding young in the knot holes of cottonwood snags. I caught an amazing glimpse of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a first-ever sighting of this species here. We did not locate the famed Lewis’ Woodpeckers that took up residence in the snags last year, but we hope everybody keeps an eye out for them. This woodpecker is a species of some conservation concern. It appears to prefer the Rio Fernando drainage and the dead cottonwood trees along it.

Photo courtesy Jim O’Donnell

One additional note: the New Mexico hotspot manager for eBird (an international web-based data bank of bird sightings that is administered by Cornell University) has re-named the Fred Baca Park birding hotspot to take into account the newly acquired adjoining Taos Land Trust Property. The hotspot will now be identified as Rio Fernando Wetlands. It’s a small step toward the full re-integration and restoration of this amazing ecosystem.  (check out Meg’s website here)

Birding in Taos, New Mexico

Photo courtesy Jim O’Donnell

For the record, here’s the list of species we ID’d in June 2018:

Yellow Warbler
Common Yellow-throat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Northern Flicker
Bewick’s Wren
House Wren
Song Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Eurasian-collared Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Orange-crowned warbler
Black-capped Chickadee
Western Wood Pewee
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Mallard (mom and three ducklings)
Western Tanager
Violet-green Swallow
American Robin
Great-tailed Grackle
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
American Crow
Black-billed Magpie
Hummingbird (particular species not identified)

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Jim O'Donnell

Jim was born and raised in southern Colorado. He obtained both a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. After ten years as an archaeologist and Jim served as the lead organizer for the Coalition for the Valle Vidal and after as the Northern Director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Today Jim works part time as a freelance journalist, conservation photographer and our communications lead. He is the author of “Notes for the Aurora Society” and leads yearly photography workshops to Havana, Cuba.