Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wild Rivers

Wild Rivers Recreation Area
Today we headed to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, operated by the Bureau of Land Management. This is the upper end of the area, where the Rio Grande canyon starts at about 329 feet down from the mesa. By the time the gorge reaches the high bridge, its depth is 800 feet.
Osprey at Red River Fish Hatchery
We knew the Red River Fish Hatchery was recommended for birding, and that was our first stop. Luckily, we ran into another birding couple, Ellen and Jip, who live in the area, and explored the fishery and Red River with them. They recommended that we visit the south end of the Wild Rivers area, which is much closer to town. Birders are like that - you meet strangers with binoculars along the trail, and become instant friends. The first bird we found was an Osprey, stealing fish from the uncovered portions of the fishery. Most had roofs and fences, to keep fish stealers out, but this girl took advantage of the free fish. Yes, the day is off to a good start! I never would have expected to find this bird in the mountains of New Mexico!
Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers sang and moved from willow to willow along the stream. All paths lead to the water, for the fishermen who come after trout. In Kentucky, we would not have called this stream a river, but it counts as a river here in the west, and ran high from the rain from the last couple of days.
Barn Swallows
Barn Swallows swooped around catching bugs on the wing.
Confluence of Red River and Rio Grande
After a few hours, we drove on down the road to the Wild Rivers area, where the Red River and Rio Grande merge, both in water and canyons! The trails are well marked by the Bureau of Land Management, and the elevation change is noted along with the level of difficulty. We took the first trail marked as Easy, with only a 329 foot change in elevation. I chose this one on purpose, guessing that the drop would not be gradual, and it wasn't. We hiked down the trail, carefully selecting where to put our feet on each step, since a twisted ankle or knee would not be good. At the bottom, the Rio Grande chuckled downstream, and the Yellow Warblers called from each willow tree. While at the river level, the afternoon shower struck but we just sat it out in a shelter. Then, of course, we had to climb back UP the same 329 feet.
Big Arsenic Trail
The trail that attracted us was the Big Arsenic Trail (I'm sure there's a story to that name!), but the elevation change was over 700 feet. Hmmm. From a nearby overlook, we could see the trail at the bottom, which looked do-able. But HOW do you get down that vertical cliff face, I asked? We walked down the trail for a bit, and found a well constructed path, much smoother than the one we took, but still fairly steep. By this time, the afternoon was almost over, so we decided to just head back, but I was glad to learn how they got down the cliff face.
Spotted Towhee
The Eastern Towhee is one of my favorite birds in Kentucky, and its cousin, the Spotted Towhee, was on my list of target birds for this trip. This beautiful guy perched at the top of a tree and put on a real show for us!
Bewick's Wren
The Bewick's Wren (pronounced like the automobile) seems to be the western equivalent of our Carolina Wren. I love it when birds sit at the top of a tree, otherwise they are almost impossible to find.
Black Chinned Hummingbird
At the visitor's center, Black Chinned Hummingbirds visited the feeders by each window. Another life bird, thank you!
Western Scrub Jay
 We saw both Stellar Jays and Western Scrub Jays today as well.
See the faces here?
Dick learned that his hero, Aldo Leopold, was active in this area 100 years ago, so we plan to look up his history, and visit his house. Also, Kit Carson is a big part of the local history. (Our grandson is Kittrick Carson, so we are especially interested). I've just learned about a birding outing early Friday morning at Angel Fire - a 24 mile drive that will take about 45 minutes through the mountains - and we plan to join them at 7:45 Friday morning. There's nothing like birding with the local folks who know all the best spots. They are always excited when someone finds a life bird!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The geology here is awesome. Volcanic remnants, ancient rifts, uplifted rocks, and some sedimentary rocks as well. Seeing two gorges converge was striking.
A traveling companion.