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Following Fred

December 3, 2015

For anyone who has seen The Big Year, and I doubt that any of you have, we just experienced A Big Week with our friend, fish biologist and birder extreme, Fred Yost.

Fred Yost

Brave soul that he is, he flew to new Mexico from Maine to spend a week sleeping in the camper with us and the dogs, in order hang out and bird New Mexico.

For seven days we got up before sunrise, donned our layers of silks and woolies and headed to various birding hot spots in a hundred mile radius around Albuquerque. The goal was to see as many rare and familiar birds doing their thing in their natural habitat as possible.

First day out, out we visited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Whereas the week before, Bernie and I had seen 24 species there, with Fred we saw 39, including a few Cackling Geese that were on Fred’s must-see list.

Next it was the long climb by car to Sandia Crest. Somehow, with Fred, walking two miles in the snow at 11,000 feet to see a rosy finch seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. And indeed we did see two of the three varieties ( the Black Rosy Finch and Hepburn’s Gray crowned Rosy Finch).

Gasping for air as we hiked along the cliff’s edge and through the snow covered forest, we listened happily to Fred explain the art of birding. “We have come to the right habitat, the birds have been seen here and we have shown up. That’s all we can do.”

(click to enlarge)

Monday, beautiful Bosque del Apache was our destination and we camped there overnight. Fred was in search of a Crissal Thrasher and we wanted to see the fly-ins and outs of the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. Bernie and I slept in while our stalwart birder left before dawn, walked out into the desert and succeeded in “getting” his thrasher right where eBird1 said it would be.

And so it went for the rest of the week. We birded the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, the Randall Davey Audubon Center and The Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon.

Traveling in our mobile bird blind (Fred’s rental car) we hunted futilely for a Sprague’s Pipit amongst the American Pipits in the new National Wildlife Refuge, Valle del Oro.

The weather was endlessly beautiful and sunny with the temperatures hovering around 65-70° every day. All together we saw 78 species of birds and Fred succeeded in adding four new birds to his Life-List, bringing that list to just short of 600.

Did I mention I love cottonwood trees? Quick sketch at the Nature Center with watercolor pencil and then watercolored when I got home.

1 eBird: "A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales."

What can I say! You two are true soul!


Hard to believe that birds evolved from the Dinosaur, even the cute little Finches! Sounds like you had a lovely time birding in Albuquerque.

Donna K

Prettiest dinosaurs I've ever seen!

Stan F

What a beautiful experience! Thanks for sharing it

Happy and safe travels,

Loved it !!! You know what a bird brain I am. lol Say hello to Sully.... (and stop by the stadium next time you're in KC.) I no longer work security for the Chiefs. I work for the Royals now. Good timing, huh ? What an exciting season!!!

Marty W

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