Yesterday, Jan. 15, 2016 (although my watermarks incorrectly state 2015), I made my first visit of the winter to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument stretch of the Rio Grande, also known as the Orilla Verde (“Green Banks”) stretch. On the way, I spotted two bald eagles, both in familiar hang-outs – one in a dead cottonwood in Rinconada, and the other, also in a dead cottonwood, in downtown Pilar.
There were many ducks in the Monument, but they were skittish. My only chance at photography was to shoot from my van, parked right in the middle of the road. Still, only ducks on the far side of the river stayed put. I’m using a Coolpix P600 Superzoom, which does a fair job, given the considerable distance from me to my subjects. Besides what is seen here, there were also common mergansers, buffleheads, widgeons and mallards present, along with an additional bald eagle that took off from the shore as I approached. From a highpoint over the river, I could, because of the exceptional water clarity, watch goldeneyes swim upstream underwater. I also observed that the ducks were less skittish when in the company of Canada geese. As to the one hooded merganser I saw, the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico appears to be the northern limit of its New Mexico winter range.