Update on the Rosy-Finches of Sandia Crest, New Mexico. The flag is waving– Rosy-Finches are now visiting the feeders at Sandia Crest House.
We time-shifted with our DVR and watched last week’s PBS Nature special on the Red Knots and the Horseshoe Crabs of Delaware Bay. There is a striking parallel between the Red Knots and the rosy-finches, as both species exist on the edge of survival. While the knots are in a more precarious situation, both spend relatively little time on their arctic and alpine breeding grounds, and both face formidable hazards during migration and on their wintering grounds. Both may be adversely affected by climate change. If you missed it, you can view a narrative and film clip here.
The banders had a good day on February 17, with repeated waves of rosy-finches spaced about an hour apart. They newly banded 28 birds (22 Brown-capped, 2 Blacks, and 4 Gray-crowned - all interior race). That brings the season total of newly banded birds to 408 birds (253 Brown-capped, 70 Blacks, and 85 Gray-crowned - 25 Hepburn’s). The total for all seasons is 1605 birds (355 Brown-capped, 927 Blacks, and 323 Gray-crowned.) They had had 64 recaptures (46 Brown-capped, 3 Blacks, and 15 Gray-crowned (12 interiors and 3 Hepburn’s). Of these recaptures, there were 3 that were from the 2006/2007 season. Two of them were Blacks and one was a Gray-crowned Interior. So far this winter, they have now seen 36 birds from previous seasons. The road was clear.
Last Sunday February 10, the day started slowly, but the team ended up newly banding 32 rosy-finches and recapturing an additional 21, all from this season. Brown-capped Rosy-Finches continue to predominate, as they have since early December, with today’s total being 27. For the first time, there were no Hepburns subspecies among the 4 Gray-crowned rosies newly banded.
The previous Sunday, February 10, the day started slowly, but the team ended up newly banding 32 rosy-finches and recapturing an additional 21, all from this season. Brown-capped Rosy-Finches continue to predominate, as they have since early December, with today’s total being 27. For the first time, there were no Hepburns subspecies among the 4 Gray-crowned rosies newly banded.
Banding was limited on February 3 due to 50 mph winds and blowing snow, yet the researchers trapped 36 rosy-finches, 25 of which were recaptures. See my Blog entry about the recaptured Brown-capped Rosy-Finch that was banded back in the winter of 2004-05, the late Ryan Beaulieu’s last year of banding. The prior week, Nancy Cox described the January 27 banding session in glowing terms. See Nancy and Steve Cox’s full reports on the Correspondence page.
Do read Derek Lovitch’s Blog with some beautiful photographs illustrating his Wings tour of New Mexico last week, highlighted by sightings of two very rare vagrants, the Barnacle Goose and the Rufous-backed Robin. Commenting on his visit to the Sandia Crest House, he writes: “Sure the view is nice . . . but the real reason for this trek to 10,678 was the Sandia Crest House, which, in addition to selling food and souvenirs, hosts some very famous feeders that host all three species of Rosy-Finch! Black, and Brown-capped (both lifers for me), and Gray-crowned (this year, also including at least two of the more coastal “Hepburn’s” subspecies)! This is THE location in North America for seeing Rosy-finches. While some visits are more productive than others, and sometimes one species or another is hard to find, this visit produced all three and a half subspecies in a feathered blizzard only a few minutes after we arrived.”
Unlike the last couple of years, the Brown-capped species is quite abundant, representing over half of the captures. The Hepburn’s (Coastal or Gray-headed) race, while not as abundant as last winter, are also quite numerous. Banding at the Crest House takes place most, but not all, Sunday mornings. Note that banding now begins at 9:30, when the Crest House normally opens to the public.
The rosies arrived on October 31st, 2007, the earliest arrival date for rosy-finches since we began keeping records in 1999. All three species are now present, with individual flocks of up to 100 birds! Fran Lusso and Dave Weaver put the feeders up on October 31 and had a Gray-crowned Rosy-finch feeding within 5 minutes. The first recorded flock of rosy-finches, numbering about 25, was seen on the afternoon of November 3.
The golf course camera has been updating irregularly. Even though snow may be melting down at the golf course, there may be frequent snow squalls up at the Crest. The parking lots are being kept clear at Crest House, the ski area, and the Snow Play area. The lower road down to the Capulin Spring “bird log” is closed. No reports yet of Northern Pygmy-owl sightings, either at the entrance to the Snow Play or the base of the ski area. Is anyone looking for them?