I’m visiting Santa Fe with family and friends this winter break (ie Christmas Week), and I’m from the DC metropolitan area. I’m looking to spot as many new species of vertebrate as possible while I’m in the area (I’m especially hoping for a chance to spot elk, magpies, golden eagles, and basically any mammals), and I’m looking for sites in the area where people have had good luck around that time of year. We’re already going to visit Bandelier and we’re looking into Valles Caldera but these are pretty far for us; closer to town we might check out the Randall Davey Audubon Center and the Dale Ball trails. Any input on any of these, from one iNaturalist to another? Any local’s tips?
Magpies - a little bit north towards Espanola/Chimayo
Eagles - a little bit *east to Las Vegas NWR
Elk - definitely Valles Caldera
Most forest mammals will be hibernating (under snow - knock on wood), but you might find Ermine at the ski area (plus mountain chickadees, chance of rosy-finches)
Valles Caldera is awesome but that drive might be hard in winter; I’ve made it in summer and fall. I don’t know how good they are about plowing in snowfall though and they’re some twisty mountain roads between there and Santa Fe.
I’d really try to make the Caldera regardless, it’s awesome. But it’s high altitude if you’re used to DC living and it’s high up enough it’ll be cold. Reminded me of where I grew up so I liked it.
Unless it’s changed in the last couple of years it’s not very heavily visited which is nice. We did have a slightly uneasy experience; found a elk that something had been eating on when walking there with my kids when they were toddlers (IIRC the guts had been eaten out, part of the haunch was gone. IDK if that’s enough to get an idea of what did it). As well as a skeleton of an elk (I think, based on size) that was kind of…strung out a bit along along the loop trail. If you’ve got young kids make sure they’re good at staying together with the adults.
Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely pitch it but I unfortunately don’t get the final say; seems my co-conspirators may be cautiously interested. Even still, we do have a younger kid to keep an eye on. Fingers crossed everything works out!
All good suggestion here by others. The good news is snow may not be much of a problem around Christmas, even at Valles Caldera, unless we see an early wet winter. I’ve seen magpies along the road to Randall Davey Aududbon Center, at least in summer. The road to the ski area above Santa Fe should be fairly well maintained if there is snow.
One of the issues I’ve encountered with visitors from sea level is the thinner oxygen at elevation – don’t plan any long hikes if you’re not adjusted to that, you can get winded rather quickly.
No issues usually. I’ve driven Albuquerque to Pajarito (ski hill in Los Alamos) after a foot of snow overnight. Depends where OP is coming from and if they can get an AWD rental to be safe.
Santa Fe Canyon Nature Preserve on the east side of town next to the Randall Davey Audubon Center will get you magpies and if you’re lucky a beaver. also seen raccoons there.
You should get elk at Bandelier, but not at Valles Caldera in the winter.
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