In the rocky crags above Williams Lake, three intrepid birder-scientists confirmed the presence of a bird species not observed breeding in New Mexico for nearly 30 years.
Luke George, Jill Wussow, and Raymond VanBuskirk hiked into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, camped overnight near the lake, then spent five grueling hours the next day inspecting the bowls and talus slopes of New Mexico's highest peaks. On June 13, VanBuskirk dispatched this report to eBird (an international database of bird sightings administered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and the news telegraphed around the state:
"We found ourselves above 12,000 feet in some of the highest reaches of the greater Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. It was here, amongst unstable scree, alpine snowfields, and inaccessible crags, that we found a pair of brown-capped rosy-finches carrying nest material to a crevice high on a 90-degree cliff face."
First in New Mexico in nearly 30 years, a breeding brown-capped rosy-finch near nest site. Note the black bill and rich rosy belly of this breeding finch.