Looking south from Mission Road photo by Tim Avery
If you happen to be in Bluff during spring take a quick drive to the east along Mission Road/SR-162 towards Montezuma Creek. For the first couple miles the road is borders on the north by red rock cliffs, and on the south by agricultural fields. Further south is the San Juan River. There are a couple locations to access the river where lush riparian habitat dominated by cottonwood, willow, and russian olive provide great habitat. The fields along the road are often flooded in the spring providing wetland type habitat even if just for a few weeks. During the rest of the year birding along the river is also possible, but the fields won;t be as productive.
This quick drive is mostly birding by car, but you can get out and scope the fields to look for waterbirds during migration. If the fields are wet in April you will usually see a handful of WHITE-FACED IBIS, and may snag some shorebirds like MARBLED GODWIT, or even gulls like FRANKLIN'S GULL. Along the road there are usually SAY'S PHOEBE, WESTERN KINGBIRD, ROCK WREN, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. CHIPPING and BREWER'S SPARROW might be present, while LUCY'S WARBLER can usually be heard in the trees along the river. Overhead keep an eye out for WHITE-THROATED SWIFT and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW. One thing to keep an eye out for here is CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN which have been found mixed in with large flocks of COMMON RAVEN in the fields. The much smaller cousins are quite easy to pick out in a flock if present. Migrants along the river, as well as waterfowl can be found. Apparently during the winter, large numbers of WOOD DUCKS have been seen but are unreported here in eBird.
From the intersection of Red Rock Rd and Main Street in Bluff, head east on Main Street for .8 miles. Turn right onto Mission Road which you can take for 2.9 miles to the turn off to old swinging bridge on the right.
Labels: cliffs, corvids, desert, farms, gulls, migrants, riparian, river, San Juan County, shorebirds, waders, waterfowl
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