I woke up when it got light as usual, and went outside to look for birds. Too windy to really see much around the hotel, but I did find an Orange-Crowned Warbler and a couple of female Cassin’s Finches. We all met for breakfast and then headed to Tso’s Horse Tours, where we had made a reservation to take a 4-hour horseback ride up into Canyon de Chelly. Well, all their horses and guides were out. We’re sorry. Maybe you could come back at 1 PM? Robin was ticked; I just figured it was a laid-back operation, and we’d come back.
So we went to the visitor center and got a map of the overlooks, and decided to do the North Rim. This actually looks into Canyon del Muerto, which is the other fork from Canyon de Chelly, but it’s better lit in the morning. And there are several ruins and nice views.
At our very first stop, at Antelope House overlook, I saw a black-and-white bird soar by below us in the canyon, and although it was only a glimpse, I knew it had to be a White-Throated Swift. If I was sure, it would be life bird #500. I was reluctant to call it on a glimpse, and we continued to take pictures of the views.
Antelope House ruin:
Next we moved on to Mummy Cave. (The turn-off is labeled “Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave Overlooks”. Peggy said “Those are great names for kids.”. I said “You mean like Nick Cave could name his kids Massacre and Mummy?” She actually meant that kids would like the place names.) At Mummy Cave overlook, I saw a soaring bird come right up out of the canyon and over our heads, and got it in good binocular view. White-Throated Swift for sure. I did the chicken dance for my 500th life bird. Everyone else was going “where is it?” And Robin said “Is that one there?” We looked, and a raptor came soaring up out of the canyon and right over us — Peregrine Falcon! A beautiful view, and I think only the 2nd or 3rd one I’ve ever seen.
Then people wandered off to another overlook, but I was chasing a chip note in the bushes, and out popped two Rock Wrens! #501, and I played their call to get a better look since they were close. One of them came right out and flitted from perch to perch all around me. I missed some good photo chances because he was too close to get a pic, but I did get a few decent ones.
Eventually we headed back to the visitor center to eat lunch. Robin wasn’t feeling very good all morning, but she wanted to do the horseback ride anyway. That story next.