Rosy-Finch Correspondence Archives,  April 2006 - March, 2007

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[The rosy -finch flocks have disappeared and only a few stragglers seem to be present, and Dave will be taking down the feeders.  Ken]

Date: March 26, 2007
From: Dave Weaver

Hi Ken,

I have attached the most recent log update.  As you will note, the finches are getting pretty scarce.  The folks at the Crest think that they are (essentially) gone, and I tend to agree.  I plan to check again next week and if nobody has seen a finch during the intervening week I probably will take the deck feeder down.

The Crest did have 6 - 8" of wet, heavy snow Friday - Saturday, but most of it has melted already.  There are a few small slushy/icy patches above 10K but the road is clear enough for a sensible driver.  The number of finches sighted did not increase after the snow, as often is the case during the winter.  Spring runoff is in full swing in the Sandias.

So, I wonder if you should post something on the webpage to the effect that the chances of seeing rosies at the Crest have declined dramatically, or something of that sort?

Anyway, that's it for now.  Hope all is well with you folks!

Best,  Dave


[This is the final banding report for the Winter 2006-2007 season. We really appreciate the way Nancy and Steve have kept us all informed! Mary Lou and Ken]

Date: March 18, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

We were at the Crest today from 9 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  We only saw one flock of Rosy-Finches at 11 a.m.  There were about 25 birds in this flock.  The flock did not come in very close to the deck but there were definitely Blacks in the flock.  One or two people saw either a Brown-capped or a Gray-crowned within the flock.  About 5 more Rosy-Finches were seen around noon and again around one.

We did not capture any Rosies today and do not plan on being up there this season.  We look forward to seeing what next season brings.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped with this project.  It has been greatly appreciated.

Nancy & Steve Cox

Date: March 17, 2007
To: Fran Lusso
From: Steven Glynn, NJ Audubon Member

Subject: Rosy Finch/Sandia Crest Questions..

Hello...I was hoping to perhaps have some information about the Sandia Crest/Rosy Finch project.
I'm travelling into the area early next month (4/6) and wanted to know whether this season's Rosy Finch activity is expected to be active still at that time.  I've read so much about the occurances at the Crest House, but don't know when the feeders are taken down and when they are, if all of the Rosy Finch and other birding activity ceases.
Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time to respond.

Hello Steven,
The report from today at the Crest (the banding group) was that they saw only one flock today (about 25 birds) and then another two sightings of about 5 birds each.  They did not band any.  So perhaps they are thinning out.  We are planning to take down the feeder by mid-April.  However, if the sightings stop sooner or if bear activity requires it, then we may do it a bit earlier.  There is still snow on the Crest so today might have just been an odd day but it IS about time for the birds to head north and so the quantity and frequency of sightings will be decreasing.
Even if the feeder has come down, there is still good birding to be had at the Crest and the drive up is certainly worth the time if you are in the neighborhood.  Soon after the Rosy Finch feeder comes down, the Crest House puts up a Hummingbird Feeder in it's place...although early April might be still a bit cool for the hummingbirds.  Check the website for information on the other birds you might expect to encounter at the Crest or on the drive up.  As your time to visit approaches, check back in on the website as sightings will be recorded in the log.
If there is anything else, please feel free to contact us.
Fran Lusso and Dave Weaver


Date: March 11, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

We banded another 36 Rosy-Finches today and half of those were caught in the last half hour of our day.  We have now banded 773 birds this season consisting of 579 Blacks, 8 Brown-capped and 186 Gray-crowned including 104 Hepburn's.  Today's flock size was estimated at about 200 birds. They were not seen for 30 minutes at a time throughout the day.

Our cumulative total now stands at 1,197 birds!   We should have let Lee Hopwood and Steve Fettig trap 3 more birds.
We did recapture another Black Rosy-Finch that we had originally banded on 12/11/2005 and one Black Rosy-Finch that we had originally banded on 1/28/2006.  They makes 22 birds that we have seen this season that were originally banded in a previous season.

Raymond has said he would not mind if we banded while he and Michael are out of the country.  Therefore, our current plan is to be up at the Crest House again next Sunday.



Date: March 10, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

I just added up the numbers of birds banded while we were in Ecuador and the total for the 3 Sundays was 101 newly banded Rosy-Finches.  There were 81 newly banded Blacks, 19 newly banded Gray-crowned (9 Hepburn's and 10 Interior), and 1 Brown-capped.  That makes 737 newly banded birds during our winter 2006-2007 season (8 Brown-capped, 554 Blacks, and 175 Gray-crowned).  The number of Hepburn's is now at 97 newly banded birds!  Our total for all seasons for all species is 1161 newly banded birds.

We will be banding again tomorrow morning. It is likely our last day for the season.  Raymond and Michael will be out of the country for 3 weeks.

For those of you who will be joining us tomorrow, please don't forget about the time change.

Nancy & Steve


[Announcing research grant funded by Ryan Beaulieu Fund.]

Date: February 12, 2007
Subject:  New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) Research Grants available
From: Janet M. Ruth

The New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) is pleased to announce the availability of two $1000 research grants through the Ryan Beaulieu Research Grant to support research on New Mexico birds  The criteria for the grants are:
the grant money must be spent while conducting research on birds in New Mexico;
the recipient must either present a paper based on the research at an annual NMOS Meeting or submit an article based on the research to the NMOS Bulletin;
and precedence will be given to student applicants.

A short research proposal (2 pages maximum) must be submitted describing the nature of the project and how the allocated funds are to be spent (e.g., on gas, tape recording, specific equipment, etc.). Each proposal should include two letters of reference, one of which should be from a graduate advisor if the applicant is a grad student.  References should comment on the applicant?s commitment to New Mexico ornithology and ability to design and carry out creative, independent research.   Research proposals must be received by April 15, 2007.  Please submit your  electronic proposal, with "NMOS Grant" in the subject line, to:

Dr. Roland Shook
Western New Mexico University
Silver City, NM   88061

Grant awards will be announced at the NMOS Annual Meeting on 5 May 2007.

[The  team has surpassed its goal of  1000 newly banded rosy-finches for the isotope study! Ken]

Date: February 11, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

We did it!  We have now banded 1060 Rosy-Finches for the project since January 2004.  We did that by banding 74 more Black Rosy-Finches and 19 (12 were Hepburn's) more

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches today for a total of 93 more Rosy-Finches.  Michael Hilchey and Cole Wolf both saw several unbanded (3-5) Brown-capped.    Our season total is now at 7 Brown-capped, 156 Gray-crowned (includes 88 Hepburn's) and 473 Black Rosy-Finches for a grand total of 636 Rosy-Finches.

Carol Davis will be in charge next week while Steve and I are out of the country.  Please check with Raymond as to the following two Sundays.

Nancy & Steve

[Another successful banding session brings the grand total newly banded to 967! Ken]

Date: February 4, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

With lots of help today from several youngsters we newly banded 45 more Rosy-Finches.  There were 28 new Blacks, 1 Brown-capped and 16 Gray-crowned (10 interior and 6 Hepburn's). We have now banded 543 Rosy-Finches (399 Blacks, 137 Gray-crowned and only 7 Brown-capped).  We have now banded 967 Rosy-Finches since we started started this project in January 2004. We did not see any previous season birds today.

We will be banding next Sunday but after that please call Raymond VanBuskirk for the next three weeks for the schedule.  Steve and I will be out of town.

Nancy & Steve

[Cole Wolf, from the research team, sent some exciting action photos of a large flock of rosy-finches mobbing a Red-tailed Hawk at Crest House. See them on the Photo Page. Ken]

Date: January 31, 2007
From: Cole Wolf

Hi Ken,

Around 10:30 [January 28, 2007] a Red-tailed Hawk approached the Crest House from the south.  When it was within 40 meters of the feeders the entire flock of Rosy-Finches took off and started flying around it. The Rosy-Finches didn't touch the hawk but they came by within inches of it as they flew by. The hawk did not seem bothered by the flock of Rosy-Finches swirling around it, but it turned around and headed away from the Crest House. After it was about 50 meters away the Rosy-Finches stopped harassing the hawk and returned to the feeders. The whole confrontation lasted only two or three minutes, and no one got any pictures. While I was outside taking pictures of Rosy-Finches at 2:00, a Red-tailed Hawk (probably the same individual from earlier) came by and I got a few pictures of the Rosy-Finches harassing it.

-Cole Wolf

[This e-mail was posted to the  Arizona/New Mexico Rare Bird Alert. Ken]

Date:     January 29, 2007
From:    [BIRDWG05] Daniela Yellan, Phoenix

Last weekend (1-26 to 1-28) a group of birders on a field trip sponsored by Sonoran Audubon (West Phoenix area), led by Andree Tarby was blessed by incredibly beautiful weather and by getting wonderful looks at the three species of Rosy Finches and Hepburn's at Sandia Crest (Saturday).

Other trip highlights in the Sandia Crest area included Townsend's Solitaire, Cedar Waxwings, American Robins (Large flock!), and Western Bluebirds.

At the Rio Grande Nature Center both Common and Hooded Mergansers, numerous Wood Ducks, 9 other species of ducks, Sandhill Cranes, Hermit Thrush, and Downy Woodpecker are just some of the species enjoyed by the group. The challenge was the sorting out of geese, Canada and Cackling (Thanks, Gavin).

On Sunday the group went on for a quick drive through at Bosque del Apache. Although lacking the drama of dawn or dusk, the wonderful study of Snow and Ross's Geese as well as the many other species of waterfowl and hawks made this portion of the trip exceptional as well. A surprise was the presence of both D.C. and Neotropic Cormorants.

[The banders continue  to capture  Hepburns race, and the dearth of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches continues. The hawk encounter is very interesting.  Ken]

Date: January 28, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

We banded another 57 new birds today.  We had another 10 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches with the split half and half of interior vs Hepburn's.  That makes a total of 70 Hepburn's and 51 Interiors that have been banded this winter.  We also had another 46 Blacks but only 1 Brown-capped.  We should have let Bill pull the trap one more time.  Our season's total is now 498 Rosy-Finches (371 Blacks, 121 Gray-crowned and 6 Brown-capped).

We also had a total of 23 repeats, one of which was a repeat that we first banded on December 11, 2005.  This makes 20 birds from previous seasons that we have encountered this season.

We also got to see the Rosy-Finches mob a Red-tailed Hawk.  That was very exciting.  Cole Wolf managed to get a photo of this the second time he saw it happen.
Nancy & Steve

[This Sunday the banders caught 189 rosy-finches, of which 116 were recaptures. The Hepburns Gray-crowned subspecies is numerous for the third consecutive week. Ken ]

Date: January 21, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Today was another very good day of banding at the Sandia Crest.  We newly banded 42 Black Rosy-Finches, 29 Gray-crowned and 2 Brown-capped for a total of 73 birds banded.  This included 18 more Hepburn's.  For those keeping score, that means we have banded 65 Hepburn's this winter.  This season's totals are 5 Brown-capped, 325 Blacks, 111 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches (this includes the 65 Hepburn's) for an overall total of 441 Rosy-Finches banded.

We had 116 repeats, including 7 more from previous seasons.  There were 6 Blacks that were banded in the 2005-2006 winter and 1 Brown-capped from the same time frame...  [W]e have now seen 19 repeats from previous winters.

After we had packed up our gear for the day we were still seeing about 200 Rosy-Finches on the deck that were not banded.
Thanks again to all who have helped and who got this project going.

Nancy & Steve

[Rebecca Gracey provided this highlight report on the Sandia Mountain Christmas Bird Count, held on December 26, 2006. ]

Date: January 19, 2007
From: Rebecca Gracey

Dear Sandia Mountain CBC Participants,

Did we luck out with the weather or what?  Three days later the Sandias were covered with over two feet of snow. Thanks to your expert birding skills, we were able to total 70 species for the count, beating our pervious high of 69.

The groups that covered the foothills of the Sandias came up with some very good birds; a Prairie Falcon, two Northern Goshawks (an adult and an immature), a Black-chinned Sparrow, a Black-throated Sparrow, a Chipping Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrows and a Rock Wren. (The Rock wren is “occasional” in the winter.) 

Roger Hoppe always comes up with good birds from his home in the foothills and this year he had a Sooty Fox Sparow and two Great Horned Owls. Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were seen; one in Cedar Crest and one in Tijeras.  Birds that were once uncommon in Albuquerque such as the Eastern Bluebird and the Eurasian Collared-Dove were also seen. Audubon’s race of the Yellow-rumped Warbler made its appearance for the fourth year. It is normally expected at lower elevations.

The Gray-crowned and the Black Rosy-Finch species were seen at the crest but not the Brown-capped. The teenagers went owling early in the morning and came up with a Western Screech-Owl and a Great Horned Owl.

Some  birds missed were the Clark’s Nutcracker, Red Crossbill, Horned Lark, and Sage Thrasher...

Thanks to all 36 of you who helped with the count.
[The banding team set another record this Sunday. Coastal/Hepburns subspecies of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch continue to appear in unprecedented numbers. Their report includes updated totals.  Ken]

Date: January 14, 2007
From: Nancy & Steve Cox

Hi all,

Today was the coldest this season.  It started out well below zero with a stiff wind making it around -20 F.  Even with the cold temps we had another record day.  We banded 127 birds.  81 Blacks, 2 Brown-capped, and 44 Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finches (GCRF) were banded.  The GCRFs consisted of 21 Hepburn's and 23 interiors.  That means we have banded 47 Hepburn's this season!

In addition we had 49 repeats today.  This included 5 more Blacks that were originally banded in previous years.  The first one was originally banded on December 30, 2004.  We also caught it last March.  Two of the repeats were from Nov-Dec 2005 and two were from January 2006.  We have now encountered twelve Rosy-Finches from previous seasons...

This season's totals are 283 Blacks, 82 GCRF, and 2 BCRF.  For all seasons the totals are 561 BLRFs, 134 GCRFs, and 97 BCRFs for an overall total of 792.  Cole Wolf, the son of Blair Wolf who is doing the hydrogen isotope work for us, is hoping to hit 1000 by the end of this season.  That might be tough since we are getting a lot of recaptures now.

We have gotten some results back from the isotope work and it looks very interesting.  There are some GCRFs that are coming from very far away.  Steve will probably be sending you more on this.  I did not get to study the figures for very long.  We were also going to look up the band numbers associated with the GCRFs to see if the Hepburn's were the ones from the farthest NW.

We were not sure what the last storm was going to do for us.  We were afraid that the Crest road would be closed but they got no snow from this last storm in the way of snowfall.  There was plenty of cold and wind but the little bit of snow that fell was farther down the mountain.

Thanks to all that helped out.

Nancy & Steve

[Scott Rashid bands rosy-finches in Estes Park, Colorado. He sends this interesting update. While Brown-capped Rosy-Finches have been unusually scarce so far at Sandia Crest, Scott  has them in abundance, along with the Black-crowned species. Here is a link to his Web suite.  Ken]

Date: January 13, 2007
From: Scott Rashid

Hi Ken,

It's  been snowing like crazy here and we have been having lots of finches in the yard. The flock has been between 500 and 700 birds.  The flock is mostly Brown caps still, and oddly enough, most are not banded (yet). I'm doing my best to reconcile that. Since the first I've banded almost 70 birds.  This flock has lots more Blacks than normal, in fact, I've banded more Blacks this year so far than  I banded all of last year.

Date: January 11, 2007
From: Fran Lusso and Dave Weaver

Hi Ken,
Attached is the latest log.  I included the banding info from 1/7/07.  I went up to the Crest Wednesday - only had a few minutes so I didn't get to see any rosies but there were several people up there watching and waiting.  The road was clear but we are expecting something Friday and Saturday - maybe rain in Albuquerque but that will certainly be snow on the Crest.  Albuquerque and the East Mts still have LOTS of snow left from the last storm.  It seems that Rio Rancho doesn't even have any snow plows so they were in quite a pickle!  Hopefully, this next storm will be a manageable amount of snow!
Best to you and Mary Lou.
Fran & Dave

Melissa Howard forwarded this note:

Date: January 09, 2007
From: Bonnie Long

Subject: Rosy Finches

Hi Melissa:  I went up to the Crest with a couple of friends Tuesday [Jan 9] to go x-country skiing and check out the road.  The weather of course was beautiful and the skiing so so (a little icy).  The road to the top is clear with very few icy patches and the Rosy Finches are there in force. While we were eating lunch at the coffee shop there, 16 birders from Mass Audubon Society came in.  They were thrilled to see all 3 species of the Rosy Finches and so many of them!  Bonnie

[So far this winter, 241 rosy-finches (202 Blacks, 38 Gray-crowned, and one Brown-capped), have been newly banded, and 7 have been recaptured from previous seasons. Here is the latest report from the banding team, describing an unprecedented influx of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. Ken]

Date: January 7, 2007
From: Nancy and Steve Cox

Hi all,

We had an incredible day of Rosy-Finch banding today.  We banded 104 birds!  For us that is the most Rosy-Finches banded in one day.  The next amazing thing is that we banded 38 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and 26 of them were of the Hepburn's race. Cole thinks he saw at least 2 Hepburn's that were already banded before we had even banded any!  Last year we were happy with the 5 Hepburn's banded.

We also banded 65 Black Rosy-Finches and one Brown-capped.  We did see at least one previously banded Brown-capped.

We had 4 repeats.  They were all from this season.

The age break down was 65 second year birds and 37 after second year birds.  For this time of year (after the first of the new year), second year birds are birds that were hatched last summer.

Laurel [Ladwig] was again able to prove that she can record for multiple banders for many hours straight.  Steve Fettig took several photos of adult male and female Hepburns.  Thanks to all of you for your help.

Nancy & Steve

Date: January 4, 2006

Ryan Beaulieu's mother provided us with a copy of this beautiful essay and note written by Nicole VanBuskirk, whose brother Raymond was in the car wreck the night two years ago when Ryan was killed. Ryan and Raymond started the 5-year rosy finch research project on Sandia Crest, and Raymond is now carrying on the work.

Nicole wrote this as a school assignment on whom he admires the most, and concludes:

"...That night Ryan died and left all the memories of him with his loved ones. I believe that night it was supposed to teach his friends and family something, never lie an unlived life because you never know when it migt be over. He did his part in the world and I think it's our turn to finish what he started. That is why I admire Ryan, and why you should too."

READ FULL TEXT (PDF- Requires Adobe Acrobat)

Date: December 28, 2006
From: Fran Lusso and Dave Weaver

Hi Ken!
Well, the last snow had just about melted away (down at 7000 feet) and it's now snowing again.  Road to Crest was clear 12/23 and the Rosies were everywhere!  There is one listing that indicates 65 Red Crossbills...not sure if that's reliable but that's what was in the log....
Wishing you and MaryLou a Happy, Healthy New Year!
Fran & Dave

[Red Crossbills have come in this winter, unlike last year. They can be seen in impressive numbers. However, it seems we will have another winter without a Cassin's Finch invasion.  Ken]

Date:December 19, 2006
From: Chris Fagyal, Fridley, MN


Just an interesting Rosy Finch note.  Recently 2 separate reports of a total of 5 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches have been seen in Minnesota, representing the highest total ever in Minnesota in one year, with 3 being seen in Cloquet in Carlton county and 2 being seen in the far northwest corner of the state in Wadena County.  I know Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches tend to wander much more widely than Black or Brown-capped, and I'm wondering if they were much more migratory this year than usual and that may represent some of the disparity in numbers for Gray-Crowned this year at the crest.  I haven't done any checking around at other places where Rosy-Finches are common in the winter such as Colorado, but having 5 in Minnesota is pretty amazing.  It is only the 13th and 14th state records, both in the same year, and 3 at one location is a record high number.  Photos of the Gray-Crowned (interior race) that I saw in Cloquet, MN can be seen on my website at on page 2 of the Minnesota->Birds page.

Cheers, Chris

In this excerpt of a post to the AZ-NM Rare Bird Alert , <> Noah Gaines comments on the lack of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches at the Sandia Crest feeders.  During the winter of 2003-2004 there were essentially no Brown-capped Rosy-Finches among the many that visited Sandia Crest. So far this winter, 137 rosy-finches, all Blacks, have been newly banded, and 7 have been recaptured from previous seasons.  On December 3,  the banding team observed all three species (2 Brown-capped and 4 Gray-crowned, including one coastal or Hepburn's race) at the feeders. About 185 birds were counted, in three flocks, but they saw only Blacks on December 10. The only other reports of Brown-capped so far this winter were on November 18-20 when a single to a "few" were reported. There was a report December 7 that "BC" (the code for Brown-capped) comprised 90% of a flock that numbered 60-80, but this must have been a coding error, as it is inconsistent with other reports at that time. The code for Black Rosy-Finch is "BK." Link here to copies of annual logs at the Web site. Ken

Date:     December 18, 2006
From:    Noah Gaines [BIRDWG05 Post]
Subject: Flagstaff to Sandia Crest to Bosque del Apache to CA


On the beautiful drive up [to Sandia Crest], I found a small mixed feeding flock about 4 miles up that included several red-breasted Nuthathes. Near the top at the 19th Audio Stop, I had a very large finch flock that was mostly comprised of Red Crossbills (~50) but also had a few Pine Siskin hanging around. These Crossbills were different than those usual to Flagstaff being larger, redder, and having less bill overlap and a different call.

At the Crest House, I was pleased to find a lone male Black Rosy-Finch waiting for me at the top. The staff was very hospitable and the food and
coffee was excellent. The flocks would come about every half hour to the deck feeder. They ranged in size from 6 to ~150. There were a few
Gray-crowned mixed in and at least 2 Hepburn's which stood out very well. As much as I tried (7:30am till 1pm) I could not find a Brown-capped in the group although several juv/female blacks looked like good candidates.

At the base of the mountain, I ran into a nice mixed bluebird flock with many Mountain and several Western. Several very pale Scrub Jays were present as well.

Date: December 12, 2006
From: Dave Weaver

Hi Ken,

I went up to the Crest today.  Very little snow in evidence. The staff say that there have been "lots of birds", but there were only a few log entries.  I have attached a copy of the updated log [posted-- Ken]...

There was also a note from T. A. Duncan, Albuquerque -  "According to the Crest House staff, on December 5th a hawk (probably a Cooper's) made at least 5 attacks over a 4 hour period on Rosy Finch flocks at the deck feeder (the largest flock numbered more than 100 individuals) from its perch in a nearby aspen tree.  No finches were taken."  Dave

Date: December 11, 2006
From: Nancy Cox
Subject: Banding 12/10/06

Hi all,

It was a great day of banding yesterday.  We had 5 more Black Rosy-Finches that were banded during previous seasons.  Three of them were originally banded on November 27, 2005, and one was banded on December 11, 2005.  The fifth Rosy-Finch was originally banded on January 15, 2006.  So far we have encountered a total of 7 Blacks from previous seasons.

Another 41 new Black Rosy-Finches were banded yesterday.  There were 14 adults, 24 hatch years and 3 of unknown age.  Twenty-five were females and sixteen were males.  That makes a total of 137 banded this season.

No other Rosy-Finch species were seen during the banding (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Our next scheduled banding date is the 7th of January.  Nancy

Date: December 3, 2006
From: Nancy and Steve Cox, Rio Grande Bird Research
Subject: Banding 12/3/06

Hi all,

We had a very good banding day today with 61 new Blacks banded.  The sex ratio was much more even with 30 being female, 28 being male and  3 unknown sex.  The age ratio is still heavily hatch year with 43 being hatch year, 14 adults and 4 that were age unknown.

We did not catch any repeats from previous seasons.  They appeared to be in 3 flocks - one large flock (+/- 125 birds) and two smaller flocks with about 30 birds in each.
We finally saw two Brown-capped with at least one Brown-capped that was already banded.  We also saw about four Gray-crowns, two of which were Hepburn's.  We could not see if they were banded.

Michael Hilchey and Bill Talbot found out how long it takes to hike up La Luz trail with snow on the ground and found rides back to their vehicle.

Thanks again to all who have made this project possible.  Nancy & Steve

Date: December 3, 2006
From: Fran Lusso and Dave Weaver

Good Morning Ken!
Hope all is well down there!  The cold weather has arrived with a vengeance here with a little snow to boot...probably only about 4-6 inches on the Crest...
Last week we went to the Grand Canyon (South Rim) and before coming home we went up to viewing area for the California Condor release site at Vermillion cliffs.  We were delighted to be able to pick out the release complex up on the cliff and could see a few birds in enclosures.  We were really thrilled when two free ranging condors that were hanging around the site took flight and provided us with some good viewing.  What a treat!  If anyone needs clear directions to the viewing area, just let us know.
Regards, Fran & Dave
[Fran and Dave provided the directions, which they adapted from ]
Note: Good spotting scope/binoculars are needed.
To view the condor release site in Arizona, drive North on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Turn LEFT onto Highway 89A toward Jacob Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Drive approximately 40 miles (past the towns of Marble Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs and Cliff Dwellers.).
Turn RIGHT on House Rock Valley Road (BLM Road 1065) just past the House Rock Valley Chain Up Area.  (BLM Road 1065 is about 27 miles west on 89A from Marble Canyon.)   There is a small cluster of buildings here, one of which has a faded “House Rock” painted on its side. Travel on the dirt road for about 2.5 miles to the shaded viewing area (a ramada and picnic table) on the right. 
Atop the cliffs to your east is the location where condors are released, and a good place to see condors year round.  It is a cluster of buildings amongst some trees & shrubs, some attached enclosures and what looks to be a mock up of the top of a power line pole. 
Along the cliff top, to the far right of the cluster of buildings and just past a little red stone pinnacle, is another area with chain link fencing and what may be a small building. Perhaps a feeding site?
Notice the white areas along the cliff face from condor droppings.
In the winter, condors frequent the Colorado River corridor near Marble Canyon and in the summer months, condors are seen frequently at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Date: November 26, 2006
From: Nancy and Steve Cox, Rio Grande Bird Research

Hi all,

We banded 26 more Black Rosy-Finches today.  They were mostly females (8 males; 18 females).  There was only one adult in the bunch; the rest were hatch year birds.

We also caught 2 Black Rosy-Finches that we originally banded in Feb/Mar 2006.  They were both females.  One was a second year bird and the other was an after second year bird when first banded. We estimated the flock size to be approaching 90 birds.  Only Blacks were seen today. Our next banding date is scheduled for December 3.

Date: November 18, 2006
From: Joan Silagy, Leesport, PA

Ken:  Your blog about Ryan is beautiful.  I never met the young man and still I had to cry. What a terrible loss to humanity and the natural world. Thank you so much for penning your reminiscences of Ryan.  I've actually forwarded your info on to friends.  Thank's again and good birding.

Date: November 15, 2006
From: Fran Lusso & Dave Weaver

Hi Ken!
Went up to the Crest today and I've attached the latest log up through today 11/15/06.  Looks like there has been lots of activity.
Two items to mention:
1) Thanks to the person(s) who left a bag of hulled sunflower seed at the Crest House.  No idea who it was, but thanks!   A suggestion: if at all possible, leave the seed INSIDE the Crest House at the Forest Service Desk.  The bag left outside had been 'sampled' by critters.
2) The Crest House Staff allow the banding crew to enter the Crest House BEFORE opening time to set up , etc.  However, they would appreciate it if other visitors and observers would respect the 9:30am opening time.  Prior to the opening time, all the staff have not yet arrived and finished preparing the building for the day.  Some of the staff can be seen in the buildling earlier in the morning because some of them they live in the Crest House and because there are things they must do BEFORE opening the doors at 9:30am.   Please be considerate and do not plan to observe the banding or the birds from inside the Crest House until after the 9:30am opening time.
Thanks Ken!
Fran & Dave

Date: November 13, 2006
From: Steve and Nancy Cox

We managed to band 9 new Black Rosy-Finches yesterday.  We saw several previously banded Blacks but could not convince them to get in our traps.  The birds were swirling often and seemed to be in 2 flocks.  There were about 10 in one flock and up to 40 in another.  We couldn't get a good count on repeats though since they did not stay around long.

It was great to see the Rosy-Finches and the Crest House crew again.  We enjoyed their food and hospitality.  Our next trip up is scheduled for the 26th of November.

Nancy & Steve

Date: November 6, 2006
From: Nancy Cox (Rio Grande Bird Research, Inc)

We are good to band at the Bosque del Apache during the Festival of the Cranes.  We will be there on the 18th and 19th of November.
We are also going to band on the 12 of November at the Crest House.  The Rosy-Finches are here!  Nancy

Date: November 6, 2006
From: Tom Southerland , Princeton, NJ


Thank you for your reports via BirdChat on the Rosy-Finches at Sandia Crest. The Black Rosy-Finch is the only one my wife, Margot, and I have not seen (the Brown-capped in Colorado and the Gray-crowned in Washington and the Pribilofs).  Is it possible to still see them at Sandia Crest in late February or early March?  How is the road up there re snow or any other conditions at that time of the year?  And finally, should we need several days to insure the weather (road) is driveable and for the frequency of their coming to the feeders?

Many thanks,  Tom

Hi, Tom. The flocks usually dwindle and  disappear around mid to late March, with stragglers often persisting into the first few days of  April.

Check out the sightings logs at the link on for species mix. Black usually predominate.We usually have had the interior and the coastal (Hepburns) races of the Gray-crowned.

The road is paved, 2 lanes all 13 miles up to Crest House.Road conditions are usually pretty good except during snowstorms and the next morning after. Snowstorms may occur any time in Feb and (especially early) March. They try to open the road to the ski area (which is half way up) as early as possible in the morning, but the rest of the road sometimes may take a few hours longer. Blowing snow can create hazards, especially in shaded areas an at hairpins. Follow the links to road conditions and call the Ranger Station if there is a question. All weather tires and front wheel drive are usually sufficient even when there is snow pack, along with cautious defensive driving. They average 10-12 feet during the winter at the top, so they are used to handling it.

I alway recommend that visitors stay at least two or three nights, to provide slack in case of bad weather, and also to acclimate to the high elevation. Lodging is available in Albuquerque at one mile high, and Cedar Crest at 7100 feet. The birds usually visit the feeders at least once an hour, and actually more frequently (often  in smaller flocks) in late winter.  If you have questions, let me know, and please give me a report of your sightings (and enter in the log).  Good birding!  Ken

Date: November 6, 2006
From: David Z., Connecticut

I made it to the Crest house & was rewarded with seeing a rosy finch in  a feeder  as I was  looking up from the lower parking lot. Then I took a little walkon th eCrest Spur & saw a flock of fast flying (in formation -almost like shorebirds) silvery grey birds whistling  ""eep peep " They flitted rapidly across my view into the distance,then  flew  back in full force momentarily pausing on treetops then alighting  once again very briefly -on the feeder this time.!! I took a few quick pictures ...when I get homeI hope to email a couple for ID, please. Thank you so much for all your help . and thanks too for all the time you put into your fabulous website so full of useful & detailed info

PS....  On the road up I had a great close look at a Steller's Jay as well as Clark's Nutcracker. Thanks,  David Z

David Mark of upstate New York came to Albuquerque for a meeting and only had a few hours free on Saturday morning, November 4. He had seen the rosy-finches in previous years,  and had posted a request on the AZ/NM RBA for suggestions as to where to bird in nearby Albuquerque.

Date:    Sat, 4 Nov 2006
From:    David M Mark
Subject: Re: RFI: Birding new Albuquerque?

Thanks for all the suggestions! The majority suggested various points along the foot of the Sandias. So this morning I was at the Piedra Lisa
area near the east end of Candelaria, got there at 7:20, perhaps too early, it was cold, shady, and quiet. Then I went up to Elena Gallegas
picnic area, had lots of birds there including three for my New Mexico life list: Curve-billed Thrasher, Brewer's Sparrow, and one Black-chinned
Sparrow. Large numbers of Townsend's Solitaires,Western Bluebirds, House Finches, sparrows, juncos, some Cassin's Finches, one Juniper Titmouse.Lastly I went to an access point off Glenwood Hills Drive but I guess I did not go far enough, still, the canyon I birded was quite good. Thanks for all the good advice! David

Date: November 2, 2006
From: Molly McGrane, Sunwest Silver Co, Inc.
[Operators of Crest House Gift Shop and Restaurant]

Gene [Romero, Resident Manager of Crest House] wanted to let you know that he spotted 5 rosy finch's at the feeder this AM (11/2/06).  Get the word out to the birders.
Thanks,  Molly

Gene Romero has acquired several years of experience in identifying the rosy-finches. Though he did not report the species, he is a credible observer. Visitors are urged to record their observations in the log, maintained at the US Forest Service desk just inside the entrance to the Crest House. Ken

Date: October 30, 2006
From: Dave Weaver and Fran Lusso
Subject: The Feeders Are Up!

Hi Ken!
Just a quick note to let you know that we put the Rosy Finch feeders up today.  All went well - now we just wait to see when they start to show up!  The log book and seed supplies are at the desk and the usual signs have been posted.  The Crest Visitor Center desk is officially closed for the winter this year due to budgetary issues.  However, we'll try to get up there each week to check on the feeders and such (probably Wednesdays and more often as needed).  As in the past, the Crest staff will help keep the feeders stocked.  Let us know if there is anything else you would like us to do.
The Crest staff have reported seeing flocks of birds in the last week or so behaving in a manner similar to the rosies.  In fact, we've also seen them but none of us have been able to confirm whether or not they were rosies.  The weather has gotten more wintry and there have been a couple of light snows already.
Best regards to you and MaryLou.
Fran & Dave

Thanks, Fran and Dave! Well, let's hope someone gets a chance to identify those flocks. The rosies and Red Crossbills both move in flocks (as do Pine Siskins and juncos, but the latter don't wheel about in the sky as do the rosy-finches).. Here's hoping!

Ken and Mary Lou
Date: October 22, 2006
From:  David Zomick

I   will be visiting Albuquerque/Santa  Fe Oct 30  for a week.,Would you be kind enough to please  suggest birding areas? May I be so bold as to ask if there are any local birders  who might be willing to go birding with me as a "birding pal"? I appreciate your help. Thanks a lot, David Z

Hi, David--

There are many good fall/winter birding spots in the Albuquerque area, notably the Rio Grande Nature Center (Saturday and Sunday morning guided bird walks), Tres Pistolas and other places described on this link in the suite.  Of course, Bosque del Apache is great to visit at this time of year. Also see the guide to the Crest Road. Most of the places are open until the first significant snowfall.

I don't know your target birds, but if you want to find Sage Sparrow, a good place is the Petroglyph National Monument. Rufous-crowned Sparrows may be present along the trails in the western foothills of the Sandias (trail heads east of Tramway, e.g., at east ends of Indian School and also near Montgomery at Glenwood Hills and Trailhead Rd). For American Three-toed Woodpeckers the best spots are in the Dome Burn area or Apache Spring trail head in the Jemez Mountains (directions near bottom of above page). Use the search box on the main web page to enter species or location (e.g., Quarai National Monument in the Manzanos).

The Thursday Birders visit interesting places according to the season, and a schedule of their weekly trips is posted here:

I am copying [some local birders] just in case they may know anyone who might be available to do some birding with you. Bill West provides professional guide service out of Santa Fe. You may contact him directly if you are interested. Bill's Web site is   Also check out the links on  to the Central NM Audubon Field Trips page, and of course, the NM RBA for current sightings (e.g., Eurasian Wigeons have returned to the Rio Grande Nature Center this past week).

Good luck, and please let me know how things go. Happy Birding! [David's November 4 reply follows. Ken]

I made it to the Crest house & was rewarded with seeing a rosy finch in  a feeder  as I was  looking up from the lower parking lot. Then I took a little walk on the Crest Spur & saw a flock of fast flying (in formation -almost like shorebirds) silvery grey birds whistling  ""eep peep " They flitted rapidly across my view into the distance,then  flew  back in full force momentarily pausing on treetops then alighting  once again very briefly -on the feeder this time.!! I took a few quick pictures ...when I get home I hope to email a couple for ID, please. Thank you so much for all your help . and thanks too for all the time you put into your fabulous website so full of useful & detailed info
PS....  On the road up  I had a  great close look at a Steller's Jay as well as Clark's Nutcracker .Thanks David Z 

Thanks for the report, David. The rosy-finches typically fly back and forth in rather compact flocks and often alight briefly on treetops. Were you able to identify the rosy-finches as to species? [David sent photos of both Brown-capped and Black Rosy-Finches]  Ken

Date: September 17, 2006
From: Michael McClintock, San Diego, CA

 Hi Ken and Mary Lou,

 I’m curious. About how long of a drive is it from the airport in Albuquerque to Sandia Crest where the Rosy Finches are? Thank you.
Mike, It takes about 55 to 60 minutes to drive the 40 miles from airport to Sandia Crest. Half is on I-40 at 65-70 mph; about 6 miles on NM 14 at 35 mph or so, and the last 13 miles is on the Crest Road, which takes about 25 minutes under good weather conditions (if there are no Northern Pygmy-owls to catch your attention). In snow the Crest Road can be considerably slower, and during and right after a snowfall it may be closed for a few hours, especially above the Sandia Peak ski lift area. However, they are pretty good at keeping the road clear. If in doubt, be sure to check road conditions at the link on

Let us know about your visit, and good birding!

[To recap the directions, go East on I-40 to Exit 175/Cedar Crest. Exit right but keep left and then turn left (North) at the traffic light and go under I-40  on NM 14 (north) for 6 miles. Turn left (West) at the "Triangle" intersection on  NM  536 (marked as Turquoise Trail / Sandia Peak Ski Area)  and drive 13 miles to the top.  View the Rosies from inside the Crest House.]

Date: March 11, 2006
From: Frank Trotta

You have such a wonderful web site, I don't anything about birds but the pictures are really beautiful. I know You work very hard to make and maintain it. You are special people
 and I am sure it gives your viewers great pleasure.

 God Bless You     †  Frank

As "experienced" birders, we sometimes forget to reflect on how we started, and what drives us to continue to enjoy observing them, even the most common species.  Burton S. Guttman wrote, in the ABA publication  Birding ( February 2004): "Birding is a fascinating, exciting, challenging game.  It requires and encourages ever-growing skill.  It may involve us in great adventures and wide travel, sometimes in difficult terrain. Seeking new birds to check off on our life lists may draw us further into the lives of these birds, challenging us to learn more about their life cycles, their behaviors, and ecology; and as our ecological perspectives expand, we may be stimulated to become more involved in conservation work, to protect the habitats of the many species we enjoy."  Here is a note from a wonderful couple who do not have to travel far and wide to appreciate "their" birds, particularly "George."

Date: April 9, 2006
From: Rachele, Sandia Park, NM

I just wanted to write and thank you for the lovely pictures that you have on your site. My husband Michael and I recently moved to Sandia Park having lived in Albuquerque for quite some time. We are both disabled ( Michael is also retired) and we simply love watching all the birds that visit our yard. We have never been avid bird watchers and really don't know the names of most of the birds that visit us. We often spot a bird and then check out your site and are always delighted to find the bird in question pictured there!  We still have many birds that we can't identify and would like to know if you could recommend a book with pictures that would help us learn the names of these birds? We also would like a tape or CD if one exists that could help us identify the songs and calls.  

There is one bird who we have named George. He seems to want to live under our truck and he spends his days sitting on the tires or mirror. He is well rounded (almost fat actually but he was that way when we met him ) and has an orangish-brown tummy and crown. His crown is the shape of a military hair cut if you will. He does not fly much and we often throw seed under the truck and he has a little container of water provided for him and when either the seed or water runs out he flies up to our fence post that is just outside our mud porch window and starts talking to us as if to let us know that we need to get busy and put out some more feed. George seems to have a partner and I have a hard time telling them apart, so I am not sure if it is a mate or just another bird of his or her species. They have been here since we moved here in Oct. and show no desire to move on to another area. My husband seems to feel he may have been injured and that is the reason he doesn't fly much or perhaps he's just to fat! :)  Do you have any idea of what type of bird this may be? We have become somewhat attached to this little creature.

We also seem to have a pair of ravens, which I thought were just crows at first. My husband insists that ravens completely black including there feet and beaks as crows have an orange/yellow beak and feet. I thought for some reasons that ravens were very rare but that doesn't seem to be true in this area...are there a lot of ravens in this area?
Anyway, I really do appreciate your website and we check it out frequently as a source of information. As a rule we have three feeding areas and use the Purina Wild Bird chow as bird food. We have two watering areas which are really no more than rubber trash can lids placed under the trees.
So far we have a pair of road runners that come by almost everyday, four blue jays and a host of other birds we can't identify as of yet. All are spectacular! God sure did a wonderful job in his creation!
If you could recommend some other websites that may have other pictures we can check out, or if you could recommend a book or CD that would aid us in our learning process that would be wonderful.
Thank you again for sharing all your information. I never thought I would enjoy bird watching as much as I do, and I have to thank God for turning our disabilities into a chance to behold His marvelous creation!  It is also very nice to have someone to direct our questions to, so thank you for taking the time to read our email and sharing your knowledge with us.

Rachele, Thank you so much for your delightful note. It's great to hear from people who so enjoy the birds as we do.

First, your little puffy neighbors are very likely Canyon Towhees. The sexes are similar, but they almost always hang around in pairs. They liked to enter our garage as soon as we opened the door, and even got caught inside a couple of times. A pair once went down our neighbor's fireplace chimney. They like to pick bugs from the radiators of cars, too. They nest in odd spots, such as open yard sheds, bales of wire, etc.  They are very hardy, staying around all year. Most of the time they seem to like to run or flutter rather than fly. They sing very early in the morning, a kind of twitter. Go to this page and you can listen (but it is a VERY poor picture-- it looks more like a California Towhee-- our NM birds are quite dark, with reddish cap as you observed) <>

You will see both Common Ravens and American Crows in Sandia Park. Ravens like the mountains and are not seen down in Albuquerque very often. If the bird says "caw" it is a crow, while Ravens croak. Unfortunately, crows can make some confusing sounds so, to be sure you see a raven, look for larger size, thicker bill, sloping forehead, long wings and a longer, wedge-shaped tail in the raven.  Both have dark bills and legs, so this feature does not help. They fly quite differently-- a crow "rows a boat" and rarely glides, while the raven often soars like an eagle.

Your "blue jays" will mostly be Western Scrub Jays. They do not have crests. The Steller's Jay (which is more common at slightly higher elevations) has a black head and a long crest.  You may also be lucky to see Pinyon Jays in large flocks when the pine nuts ripen. They also lack crests and have shorter tails.

Glad you have roadrunners-- they are pretty scarce in the East Mountains-- they did not see any at all in the east Sandias this past Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Cornell Lab has a neat Web page that has better pictures of SOME of our common birds.  Go to to pick out their names and you can hear their songs. If you know the name of the bird you can Google its name + song. Of course, our "Backyard Birds" page that links to has the names and many pictures of the most common backyard birds in the East Mountains.

One book that we like is the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.  It has all the birds of the continental US, many more than you need, but the illustrations are very good.  You can pick it up at one of the wild bird seed stores or at the Rio Grande Nature Center book store and not have to pay tax...

Both Peterson and Stokes have CD collections of bird songs and calls.  There is also a "Birding By Ear" CD series. Get the Western versions to hear almost every species that may be found in New Mexico. These also may be available from wild bird stores or the Rio Grande Nature Center, or you can also order them from We played some of them and had birds (such as towhees, wrens, buntings, orioles and Blue and Black-headed Grosbeaks) actually come to our window! A caution-- never play them excessively with the windows open, as it makes the birds very anxious, especially during breeding season. It may even cause them to abandon their nests.

Again, thank you, and please let us know if you have any other questions... As nice as the Florida birds are, we miss New Mexico!

Ken and Mary Lou

The feeders at Crest House generally remain up until at least a week goes by without any rosy-finch sightings, or if bears start appearing in the higher elevations.  Take heart, as hummingbird feeders will then be attracting the spring arrivals (and these feeders can easily be taken in at night so as not to encourage "Bruin"). Last year the flocks persisted into mid-April, so here's hoping! Dave Weaver, USFS Volunteer Coordinator of the Rosy-Finch Feeding Project, provided this report, along with his latest summary of the observations recorded in the Crest House sightings log:

Date: April 6, 2006
From: Dave Weaver

Hi Ken,

I have attached a log update...  The rosies are still around, although the abundance certainly seems to have declined.  You may be right about the middle of April, and we will keep the feeders up until the birds have not been seen for a week, or if the presence of bears becomes clear.  As far as I can tell, at least a few of the bears are already leaving the mountain (poor forage due to the dry winter) and are working the lower elevations and even into Cedar Crest.  Could be a bad year to be a bear.

Rain and snow down here, and snow on the mountains, yesterday and last night.  First real moisture in a while.

We did see a large male turkey fly across the Crest road on the drive up.  Beautiful bird in full plumage.  Nice to see that the "transplants" are taking hold...

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