Rio Grande Wildlife, December 5, 2016


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.

This eagle occupies a favorite perch, on a hillside across the river from the Rio Bravo campground, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

This eagle (the first that I have observed so far this winter) occupies a favorite perch, on a hillside across the river from the Rio Bravo campground, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

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.

Canada geese, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Canada geese, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

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.

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

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.

Otter, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Otter, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

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:

https://believesteve.org/2016/12/07/bighorn-sheep-put-on-a-show-rio-grande-gorge-nm/

These photos and movie were taken over the space of two days, with my newly-acquired P900 Nikon Coolpix Superzoom (83X) camera.

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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One Response to Rio Grande Wildlife, December 5, 2016

  1. Britt Runyon says:

    You know I have to ask…..
    What made you think this was a SS and not a coppers?

    Like

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