Come winter, I make it a habit to drive slowly up and down the 6-mile length of the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I do this primarily to spot and (attempt to) photograph the wintering bald eagles that arrive in December, but one never knows what other creatures one may encounter along the river.
Also now arriving are large groups of wintering ducks: lots of goldeneyes, buffleheads, ring-necked, mergansers (both common and hooded), gadwalls and others. I’ve photographed these ducks in past winters and expect to do so again this winter. Stay tuned!
A good number of Canada geese seem to be year-long residents.
This is the first Sharp-shinned hawk that I have ever seen and been able to identify – and photograph. This bird flew to and perched in a roadside cottonwood opposite the Pilar campground.
Re-introduced a few years ago, otters are now well-established, but you never know when and where you might run across them. They can be cautious, but are also curious about human observers. I got a photo of this otter through a screen of willows. When I took a step into the open to get a shot of a group of four, they panicked and dove, stirring up a big cloud of mud. Otters are masters of moving through the water and are forever playing. They “animate” the river like no other creature.
Bighorn sheep, also re-introduced to the Rio Grande Gorge, can be encountered along the river, seen on the rocky slopes of the gorge or grazing in the sagebrush on the rim. I’ve seen them a few times on the road that ascends from Taos Junction Bridge to the rim. Here’s a link to a blog post of a group observed on Dec. 5:
These photos and movie were taken over the space of two days, with my newly-acquired P900 Nikon Coolpix Superzoom (83X) camera.