Albuquerque to Chinle

Acomita Lake

We took off right after breakfast this morning and headed west. We had a pretty ambitious plan, as we wanted to visit Robin’s old home town of Grants, New Mexico, go to the Zuni Pueblo, and then end up at Chinle so we could visit Canyon de Chelly the next day. First, though, I wanted to stop before Grants at Acomita Lake. According to ebird, it was one of my best chances for a Western Grebe on the trip.

It appears that Acomita Lake is part of an attempted housing development. There’s a small lake with a dam at its base surrounded by dirt “streets” laid out in a grid. And maybe a dozen houses plus a place to get fishing permits. Nevertheless, when you put a bunch of water in an arid landscape, birds flying over decide to drop in. We parked, I carried the scope down to the shore, and I could see that there were waterfowl out there. The first thing I saw was a group of Ruddy Ducks, which are familiar enough, but a couple were maes in breeding plumage that I don’t normally see at home. Then I saw something larger and lankier behind them just as it dove under. When it popped back up, it was an Eared Grebe in lovely breeding plumage, and a lifer.

At the upper end of the lake there were shorebirds in the shallows, too far to make out with the scope, so we moved down there. That turned out to be American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts. All in all, even if there weren’t any Western Grebes, it was a nice outing.

American Avocet

Next we headed down to the Zuni Pueblo, which was a substantial detour to the south. Worth it from Robin’s perspective, because she wound up buying an alarming amount of jewelry. Beautiful place; I’ll have to see if I can get one of her pics.

We then drove north to Chinle and our hotel. Nothing too remarkable, except that we are now definitely in Raven territory — big black birds you see from the road are almost always Common Ravens and only rarely American Crows.

Chinle doesn’t boast a whole lot of amenities. The Holiday Inn is fine, and it has a restaurant, but if you want to eat elsewhere you’re looking at Burger King or Church’s. We also discovered to our dismay – mine and Hamner’s, at least – that you can’t get alcoholic beverages here, it being the Navajo Nation. Hamner and I looked at the map to see if we could sneak some in from across the border, and from Chinle you’re looking at about 50 miles in any direction to get a beer legally. Oh, well.

In the morning we ride horses to Canyon de Chelly.

Leave a Reply