Terrible news, I’m afraid.
There’s a wildfire currently raging in the Atascosa Mountains/Pajarito Wilderness area and the indications today are that it has completely taken out the whole of my favorite birding site, Peña Blanca Canyon. Anyone reading this blog will know how often I go there and how special this place is to me. I’m absolutely heartbroken.
This year there were at least two pairs of Rufous-capped Warblers, seven pairs of Elegant Trogons, a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks, multiple Northern Pygmy, Whiskered Screech and Elf Owls, dozens of Hooded and Scott’s Orioles, loads of Montezuma Quail, etc., as well as some excellent mammals, reptiles and rare cacti. Let’s hope that the burn wasn’t too deep and that the habitat can recover relatively quickly. As for this year’s wildlife, I’d imagine that it’s too late for them unfortunately. It’s all very sad indeed.
This will have an impact on those wanting to bird the area in the near future, including clients I have booked over the coming weeks and months. There are other places to go birding, so we’ll still have a great day, but the time and effort I’ve put into knowing this place and its wildlife so intimately has been rendered redundant, unfortunately.
It’s worth noting that Peña Blanca Lake is closed until further notice, as is the whole area south of Ruby Rd from Walker Canyon to near Sycamore Canyon. Ruby Rd itself remains open but a travel warning has been issued because of the heavy equipment using the road. As far as I’m aware, Sycamore Canyon and California Gulch are still open to the public for the time being.
All we can hope for now is that the fire doesn’t reach Sycamore Canyon and beyond as it continues to spread west.