Above: A Cooper's hawk checks out the view during a dinner break. Photograph by Jim O'Donnell.

A BEAVER MOVES from her pond—quick, smooth, and silent, cutting the water with just the crown of her head. I’m crouched behind a rotting log in Taos’s Río Fernando Park, camera in hand, snapping away at a Cooper’s hawk. The bird, perched on a branch not 10 feet from me, is having dinner, his face and chest smeared with blood, his meal grasped in one of his talons. 

The beaver pops up in front of me. Only her eyes and nose clear the surface. She watches me watching the hawk, which is now watching both of us. I put my camera down, suddenly feeling very, very spoiled.  

Río Fernando Park is considered a “hot spot” by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird, the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project. “Taos County has on record 276 species,” says retired teacher and avid birder Steve Knox. “And the Río Fernando hot spot has 186 species—two-thirds of the species that have been recorded in the whole county.”  

In 2015 the Taos Land Trust, a conservation organization, purchased the former Romo Farm—20 acres in the heart of Taos. Abandoned for 30-some years, the farm was a mess of weeds, barbed wire, and trash. The river had worn into channels that failed to slow the healthy flow of water. Invasive plants thrived.   

Over the past four years, the trust, its partners, and teams of volunteers have carefully restored the land, returning the river to its natural course and regrowing the wetlands.  

On a steamy May morning, Knox leads a group of local birders into a flowering stand of wild plum trees. He points out two song sparrows. The group notes several flickers, a Nashville warbler, and a rare pine warbler, blown off course by a recent change in the weather. The bird, like every person in our group, seems clearly happy with what it found. 

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The Taos Land Trust plans to officially open Río Fernando Park to the public this summer 
410 La Posta Road  |  575-751-3138  |  taoslandtrust.org